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8 facts you probably didn’t know about Hong Kong…and should

I spent 48 hours in Hong Kong prior to a mainland China trip a few years ago. The stopover was part of a birthday gift to myself and I maximized every single minute of my time there. I liked it…and oh, how I wish I could have done more! Its pulse and vibrancy reminded me of Manhattan, New York – on more hilly terrain.

Hong Kong Skyline

Hong Kong Skyline

Here are 8 random things that I learnt. Depending on the purpose of your trip, they could impact your business or personal travel plans:

1. Just over 7 million people live on the island named for a “fragrant harbor”.  So when you think population compared to geographic size, think DENSE. That’s about 6,000 people per square mile! Of course, such a big city implies tons of traffic, crowded spaces – the works.

2. Due to its British colonial history, English was the country’s official language from 1883 to 1974 and several of the hospitality staff and persons in the business community speak it well. Outside of that, most people speak Cantonese.  (Mandarin is the main language in China).

Shopping area

Shopping area

3. The number eight is held in very high esteem. It rhymes with the Cantonese word for fortune therefore people associate it with good luck.  And they take it seriously! Everything with eight carries more prestige. What that means is, if you’re in town for a long stay don’t even think about renting space on the 8th and 18th floor of a building unless you’re prepared to pay a premium.

4. Looking to impress someone while there? Choose your wardrobe and gifts carefully. The color white symbolizes death. When in doubt, go with red.  Red means good fortune and joy.

Worker at a jade factory setting a ring.

Worker at a jade factory setting a ring.

5. According to locals, jade brings energy so bear that in mind when picking souvenirs for any of your friends or business partners that need a picker-upper (lol). The country is one of the leading exporters of jewelry; 2nd in the world after Italy. You can get many lovely pieces there.

HK currency
HK currency

 6. Try not to get confused by the currency. Three different banks issue the HK notes; hence the lack of uniformity in appearance.

7. Jackie Chan, possibly one of Hong Kong’s most famous natives, has a beautiful house in Repulse Bay (House #99). Don’t go looking for a Hollywood type tour though, you’ll only get as far as the gate.

8. Feng shui, the art of aesthetics that brings about harmonious balance is extremely important in Hong Kong’s culture. You’ll see it in the décor around you, and businesses who ignore its principles suffer as a result.

View from Victoria Peak on a cloudy day

View from Victoria Peak on a cloudy day

My tour guide told us a story about a restaurant owner whose patrons had access to excellent food in a great location that boasted breathtaking views of the city.  Sounds like a perfect scenario for a full house every night, right? Well, it was not. The owner nearly had to close his doors because of a lack of meal-seeking guests.

When he did some research to find out the source of the problem, he found out that the white color of the building and its candle shape were deterrents. People saw those elements as bad luck and refused to patronize the business for those reasons. He later consulted with a feng shui expert who told him to change the color and build a swimming pool on top of the restaurant. That balanced out perceptions and the place was abuzz with activity after that. GO FIGURE!  [That’s why learning about different customs and traditions is so fascinating to me]

Editor’s Notes:

During my short stay I saw some of the Old Territory. I also went to catch the view from Victoria Peak, and see Aberdeen Fishing Village, Repulse Bay(named after a British battleship) and the Stanley Market. Along the way, I stopped at a jewelry factory and saw a floating restaurant that can seat 2,600 people at capacity.

Floating restaurant

Floating restaurant

I enjoyed my scenic ride through the hills and asked why so much of the hillside was covered in concrete. The answer? It helped to prevent landslides in monsoon season.

My ride on the traditional sampan (water taxi) in Aberdeen and views of Deep Water Bay Beach were the most unique parts of my trip. You should try that.  The sampan took us through a floating village where wooden boats and fishing were, and still are, the order of the day. I read that the area was traditionally home to the Tanka and Hoklo clans who originated from the mainland coastal areas of Guangdong and Fujian.

Traditional sampan (water taxi)

Traditional sampan (water taxi)

Easily recognizable by their large-brimmed hats, these boat-dwellers were once forbidden to live on land or marry land people. They gave birth, married and died aboard their sampans and junks. Since the early 20th century they have had equal rights with land-dwellers and most now choose to live on land in the high-rise apartment blocks for the benefit of their children’s education. But some still remain on houseboats in the harbor. [Source of Aberdeen history: hongkongextras.com]

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