Hong Kong Attractions - Sightseeing and top things to see  
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Hong Kong Attractions - Sightseeing and top things to see

Aberdeen lies tucked away on the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island. Two centuries ago it was a refuge for pirates. Later it became a centre for incense production. Later still its name - Heung Gong, or Fragrant Harbour was anglicised and applied to the whole city. More recently it was a simple fishing village. Today Aberdeen is a modern town, with streets full of high-rise buildings, and its vibrant waterfront home to the yachts of Hong Kong's rich and famous. Traditional and often impoverished ways of life still prevail, however, none more striking than the harbour's hundreds of junks and sampans, old-fashioned boats which provide floating homes for thousands of people. Taking a ride on one of the boats is a popular activity - you will inevitably be approached by people trying to sell you a trip - but try to stick with licensed operators. Alternatively take a shuttle boat to one of the harbour's famous'floating restaurants', vast and gaudily decorated affairs aimed unashamedly at tourists, but fun nevertheless.
Other things to see include the traditional boatyards of Ap Lei Chau across the harbour (access by boat or bridge) and the Tin Hau Temple (1851), the latter dedicated to the Queen of Heaven (or Goddess of the Sea), protector of seafarers. A statue of the goddess stands inside the temple flanked by two generals: one who can hear clearly and another who can see clearly. Hung Hsing, another small temple at the southern end of the main street, is also worth visiting.

Hong Kong Science Museum
Hong Kong Science Museum is situated in a suitably futuristic-looking building on the eastern fringes of the Tsim Sha Tsui district, and has managed in a short time - despite its slightly outlying location - to become one of the city's most popular sights. Children are likely to find it especially appealing. You could happily spend several hours exploring its three floors, either casting your eye over the 500 major exhibits or getting to grips with some of the many interactive and audio-visual displays. It's well worth avoiding some of the busier periods - mid-morning and most of Sunday - when you may have to wait in line for some of the more popular exhibits.
Almost anything with an even vaguely scientific bent qualifies for attention. The workings of the most basic everyday appliances are explained - items from your kitchen or bathroom, for example - as are the intricacies of more advanced disciplines such as robotics and computer science. Special attention is paid to branches of technology beloved of Hongkongers, notably cellular phones and fax machines: the city has the world's highest per capita number of cellular phones and pagers - 680,000 in 1995, or one for every five people - and the world's second highest rate of fax penetration (over 270,000 dedicated lines). Scientific history is not forgotten, however, and the museum's exhibits include a miniature submarine, several early computers and the DC3 aeroplane that launched the now famous Cathay Pacific airline.

Hongkong Park
Shopping and high-rise modern architecture can only hold your attention for so long, which makes Hong Kong's principal park a welcome and rather unexpected relief from the city's many urban distractions. Spread over 10ha, the park opened in 1991 on the site of the old Victoria Barracks, and in its layout deliberately avoided a strictly naturalistic appearance in favour of a partially artificial approach to landscaping (much of the area's original vegetation had long-since vanished in any case). Skilful design work has artfully folded the park into the contours of the surrounding hillside, dramatically juxtaposing the ranks of skyscrapers on one side with almost open hilly slopes on the other.
Among the park's many features are lakes, artificial waterfalls, numerous plants (look out for the giant bamboo in particular), a visual arts centre, children's playground, restaurant, viewing tower, tai chi garden and the outstanding Museum of Tea Ware in Flagstaff House at the park's northern tip. Museum aside, the park's highlights are its many peaceful corners, a large aviary and a modern conservatory, the last - the largest in Southeast Asia - home to 200 plant species divided into tropical and semi-arid varieties. The still more impressive aviary repli- cates a tropical rainforest habitat, tree-high walkways bringing you into close contact with some 150 species of (and 500 individual) exotic and brightly coloured birds as you drop down through the complex.

Hongkong Space Museum
HongKong Space Museum opened in 1980 and was an immediate success, especially among children, thanks largely to its fascinating exhibits and the wide range of its mainly hands-on displays. It has three principal sections: the Hall of Astronomy, the Hall of Space Science and the combined Planetarium and Omnimax Theatre (the Space Theatre). Most people are tempted by the last, and in particular by the Omnimax Theatre, where special-format films - mostly on space, sport and the natural world - are shown on a huge screen. The Theatre has around seven shows daily (except Tuesday), including some in Cantonese, for which headphone translations are available.
Elsewhere, the exhibits of the Space Science hall include pieces of moon rock, a mock-up of the Space Shuttle and the original Mercury space capsule used by astronaut Scott Carpenter in 1962. A variety of video, push- button and advanced audio-visual displays provides plenty of absorbing and educational titbits, with a particular emphasis on Chinese contributions to astronomy across the centuries.
Among other things you learn that it was the Chinese who first recorded Halley's Comet, were the first to use gunpowder (and thus lay the foundations of rocket science) and the first to map the movement of the heavens.
Other exhibits concentrate on solar science, providing background to phenomena such as sun spots and solar eclipses. There's also the chance to look through a telescope specially adapted for looking at the sun.

Man Mo Temple
Hong Kong's oldest and most famous temple (cl847) is dedicated to two gods, one civilian, the other military: Man, or Man Cheong, the god of literature, and Mo, or Kuan Ti, the god of war. Figures of each stand on the main altar, Man dressed in green holding a writing brush and Mo arrayed in red brandishing a sword. Man (literally 'civil') was a 3rd-century BC Chinese statesman, Mo ('militay'), a 2nd-century AD Chinese soldie. Man is the traditional protector of civil servants, Mo - worshipped by Taoists and Buddhists alike - the guardian of armies, policemen, secret societies and pawnbrokers. Lesser gods lie ranged beside the temple's altar statues, notably Pao Wong, the god of justice, and Shing Wong, a god who keeps watch over the surrounding district.
A visit here is a must if you want to savour the flavour of a Taoist temple (albeit one with Buddhist overtones), the atmosphere mystical but oddly casual, the dusky air pungent with the scent of incense burning from huge coils hung from the roof. A bell and drum by the entrance sound when a prayer or offering is made - usually fruit or sticks of incense. The large bell, cast in Guangzhou (Canton), dates from 1846, its smaller neighbour, on the left, from 1897. Also look out for the two antique sedans under glass by the altar, originally used to carry the statues of Man and Mo during ceremonial processions.

Visitors who take no other excursion in Hong Kong often make the effort to see Stanley, a coastal village on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. Most are drawn as much by the scenery en route and the reputation of its famous market as by any preponderance of attractions to visit or activities to do once they get there.
One of the island's oldest communities, Chek Chue (Robber's Lair), as it was then known, already had a population of around 2,000 when the British arrived in 1841 . Later it became an important British military garrison, becoming involved in bitter fighting during the Japanese invasion in 1941 . The poignant and beautifully kept Military Cemetery, a short walk north of the village, is well worth a visit.
Most people come here for the market, however, located just up the road from the harbour. Over the years it's become known for its bargain clothes, though these days prices are not as keen as they were. It's still fun to browse, however, and the stalls are as good a place as anywhere in Hong Kong to buy souvenir T-shirts or inexpensive Chinese artefacts and household goods. After seeing the market wander down to Stanley's waterfront Main Street, lined with bars, pubs and restaurants popular with ex-pats. At its western end stands the Tin Hau Temple (1767), one of the oldest in Hong Kong. Around a kilometre to the south lies St Stephen's Beach, which is nicer than the more convenient Stanley Main Beach.

Hongkong Museum of Art
The Hong Kong Museum of Art opened in 1989 as part of the city's superb new Cultural Centre. Ranged over five floors, it is divided into six separate galleries, the majority of which are devoted to Chinese art and artefacts from the past. Room is also found, however, for a range of contemporary and Western art, as well as for a variety of temporary exhibitions.
Among the art galleries the undoubted highlight is the third floor's Historical Pictures Collection, home to more than a thousand paintings, drawings and prints devoted almost entirely to topographical scenes of Hong Kong and its immediate surroundings. Among them is the first known painting of Hong Kong, an Aberdeen waterfall scene executed by William Havell in 1816. This and other paintings provide a fascinating documentary narrative of Hong Kong over the decades, from the days when it amounted to little more than sandy beaches and a handful of waterfront buildings. Elsewhere, be certain to some spend time in the gallery devoted to Chinese antiquities, a collection containing over 3,000 wide-ranging artefacts. Of panicular interest are two Tang Dynasty tomb guardians (AD 618-906), pot-bellied figures in the form of mythical beasts. Also look out for the almost translucent rhino-horn cups, prized for their reputed ability to advertise the presence of poison.
Other exhibits trace the development of porcelain and crafts such as bamboo carving, lacquer work and metal casting, while the Decorative Arts section contains, among other things, mouthwatering displays of jade, ivory, glassware and Ming Dynasty ceramics.

Star Ferry
The Star Ferry has linked Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since 1898. For just a couple of dollars you are treated to one of the world's most spectacular ferry rides, the robust little green and white boats dodging the intense water- borne traffic on what was once the world's finest and busiest deep-water anchorage.
Strictly speaking there are several Star Ferries, each plying slightly different routes across the harbour. The route everybody rides, however, is the one between the piers on Kowloon close to the Cultural Centre and the heart of the Central district on Hong Kong Island. The trip takes around seven minutes, and you can choose between upper and lower decks, the upper deck costing a few cents more. You enter the quay via coin-operated turnstiles, so be sure to have some change, and then wait with the chaotic-looking crowds for the next boat (queue at a ticket office by the turnstiles if you have no change). If boats are full - and numbers are monitored - simply wait a few minutes for the next ferry.
Once underway it's difficult to know where to look. Behind and in front of you skyscrapers rise from the water- front, combining with the hills behind to produce one of the world's most spectacula city skylines. Below and all around you the water is alive with countless boats, while on board the massed ranks of passengers provide a people-watching spectacle in their own right.

Ocean Park
Since its opening in 1977, Ocean Park has mushroomed into a vast complex of attractions overlooking the sea on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. Foremost among these are an amusement park, oceanarium and open-air theme park, an ensemble which together attracts well over three million visitors a year. It's a great place to visit with children, offering enough to keep you occupied for at least a day. It's also busy, however, especially in summer and at weekends and public holidays, when the chances are you will have to wait in line for the most popular rides.
You start at Lowland, offering many attractions, including parks, gardens, a butterfly house and an adventure playground. From here an exhilarating cable-car ride takes you over the sea to the Headland section, where you'll find many of the amusement park rides (notably the electrifying Crazy Galleon and 80kph Dragon roller-coaster), the Ocean Theatre {home to performing dolphins, killer whales and high divers), a large aquarium, a seal and penguin sanctuary, and the 72m Ocean Park Tower (which offers superb views of the coast). From here you ride down the world's longest outdoor escalator to the Middle Kingdom, a theme park which employs arts, crafts, live theatre, opera performances and other displays designed to provide a 'living history of Chinese culture'. Adjacent to Ocean Park and under the same management lies the equally popular Water World, a fabulous collection of giant water slides, chutes, swimming pools and other watery attractions.

The Peak
Few cityscapes are as spellbinding as the view of Hong Kong from the Peak (552m), the green-swathed mountain that looms above Central's tight-packed ranks of skyscrapers. Cool, clear and removed from the city's bustle, the area has long been one of the city's most exclusive retreats: the former British Governor had a summer residence here (damaged during the Japanese occupation) while the handful of grand houses scattered across the slopes are by far the city's most coveted.
A path was cleared to the summit as early as 1859 - a sedan chair was then the preferred mode of transport- while road access was secured in 1924. Most people today ride up on the famous Peak Tram, built in 1888, an impossibly steep but wonderful way to reach the Peak Tower, a small complex of shops, caf??|s and other minor attractions at the tram's upper terminal. Sit on the right of the tram for the best views, and be certain to wait for a clear day to make the trip. Do not leave the Tower complex - which is a little disorientating - without riding the escalators to the outdoor observation deck: the views are breathtaking.
Across the road from the Tower lies the Peak Galleria, another mall complex, though your time will be better spent walking all or part way around the Peak. The full walk takes around an hour, but is easy and straight- forward, and the views, not to mention the lovely wooded countryside, are a revelation.

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