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Hong Kong is one of Asia's most important commercial, business and trade regions. It ranks as the world's third-largest financial center, second-largest container port and number-one exporter and manufacturer of textiles, clothing and toys. Many consider Hong Kong to be the most beautiful harbor city in Asia. Whether all visitors agree or not is open to question, but few, if any at all, will dispute Hong Kong's reputation as one of the best places in the world for shopping.

The focal point of all commercial and tourist activity lies in the central business district. This area consists of two major regions: the northern coastal section of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula, located on the southern tip of Mainland China, just across Victoria Harbor from Central.

Executives and businesspeople wishing to stay close to the financial core of Hong Kong typically stay in Central on Hong Kong Island. The amount and intensity of activity occurring on a typical week day in this section are virtually identical to those of Manhattan Island.

Other visitors and tourists usually stay on the Kowloon Peninsula, which houses the majority of Hong Kong's hotels and shops. With Hong Kong's extensive ferry service, as well as its underwater tunnel connecting the two regions, it makes little difference where visitors stay, because the other side is only minutes away.

Named Asia's "Best City" by Travel and Leisure, Hong Kong will dazzle you with its vibrant energy, exotic history and heritage, and so much more.

Hong Kong is situated on the southeastern coast of China and spreads out over about 424 square miles, including more than 260 outlying islands. The main areas are Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories.

Hong Kong island sits just south of the Tropic of Cancer on similar latitudes as Calcutta, Havana, and Hawaii, and sharing the same longitude as Wuhan in central China, Bali, and Perth. Surrounding the country's southern coast is the South China Sea.

The country consists of a peninsular protruding from southeastern China and hundreds of islands scattered off the coast. Kowloon and the New Territories make up the peninsular, while south off the mainland is Hong Kong Island and various other remote islands.

Deep waters surround Hong Kong, and with its wide harbors protected by mountains in the north and south, the region is favorable as a passing point for ships. Its geographical location between the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean make it a strategic channel for sea traffic in Asia and the world.

Hong Kong is a small-sized island covering 1,095 sq. km (423 sq. miles). However, there are currently many reclamation projects at hand, thus expanding the land area. Hong Kong never used to be as big as it is now. From 1851 to 1997, the total area of land reclaimed from the sea measured to 60 sq. km (23 sq. miles). In area, the island of Hong Kong is 80 sq. km (31 sq. miles), Kowloon peninsular is 47 sq. km (18 sq. miles), the New Territories is 794 sq. km (306 sq. miles), and the remote islands total 175 sq. km (67 sq. miles).

Hong Kong stands on volcanic terra firma, with its landscape dominated by hills and mountains. A crest lining from the northeast to southwest forms the backbone of Hong Kong. Kowloon peninsular and the northwestern New Territories are mainly flat areas. Three percent of Hong Kong's total land area is agriculturally cultivated and this is mostly at the New Territories large alluvial plains.

A narrow piece of flat land between the mountains and the sea along the north shore in Hong Kong is vacated by most of the country's population, whereas the south shore has luxury residential buildings and some nice beaches, such as Stanley and Repulse Bays. There is a tunnel that was built through the mountains, which links the north and south shores.

The highest peak is Ta Mo Shan, located in central New Territories at 957 meters (3,140 ft) above sea level, while the lowest is Lo Chau Mun at 66 meters (217ft). Victoria Peak, or 'The Peak', is only 552 meters (1,811ft) but its spectacular view of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, and the Central and Wan Chai strip of Hong Kong Island has made an international reputation for itself.

In total, there are about 234 outlying islands in the country, with the island of Hong Kong being the most famous and populated. Even then, Hong Kong is not reputed to be the largest island around. Lantau Island is by far the biggest of Hong Kong's islands. It has now surfaced from its remoteness to becoming the site of the new, high-tech Chek Lap Kok international airport.

Although Hong Kong dwells on volcanic plains, there are only minor seismic activities, occasionally causing tremors. To date, no major earthquakes have been reported, but the last that occurred in the region was back in 1874, with a magnitude of 5.75 on the Richter scale, which caused only minor damages.

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate because of the wide temperature range and cooler winters. Even though Hong Kong's latitude is within the tropics, its seasonal changes are greater than in most places at similar latitudes. Monsoons and seasonal alternation of winds often dominate the climatic system of the country.

Spring occurs in the months of March to the middle of May. Temperature rises ranges from 18° to 27°C (64°-80° F) and humidity averages up to 77 percent. Some, with fog, constant rain and showers, and only a few moments of sunshine, consider the transitional period from winter to summer miserable. The average annual rainfall is 2,200 millimeters, with about 80 percent of the total falling occurring at this period. Higher statures, such as west of the New Territories and the southern islands, receive more rainfall than any other areas.

From June to mid September, summer takes over. The weather becomes hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 26° to 33°C (78°-91°F) and humidity level at above 86 percent. It is advisable to always carry an umbrella or to wear a hat to shield against intense sunshine.

The best times to visit Hong Kong would be during autumn and winter when the air is dry and cool. These times are between the months of mid September to February. In autumn, clear sunny days are usually expected and temperatures range from 18° to 28°C (64°-82°F). Humidity averages 72 percent. Winter, on the other hand, starts from mid December to February. January is normally the coldest month. Temperatures can drop from 20°C to about 10°C (50°F), with occasional chills.

Visitors to Hong Kong during the monsoon period should be wary and prepared with umbrellas at all times. Dress warmly, or carry along a jacket or sweater just in case there is a sudden change in weather.

Hong Kong has a multicultural population with Chinese, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Hindus, each with their own set of beliefs and philosophy. The Chinese have three primary religions, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, each with separate teachings and axioms that have made their way into belief systems throughout their long histories.

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