Hong Kong: A masterpiece in controlled chaos

By Mike Yardley

It's one of the great crossroads of the world - and one of the most affordable too.
Whether you're staking out a juicy stopover en-route to Europe, or a gateway into Asia, sensational Hong Kong is what memorable destinations are made of.
With a population of 7 million, and the third most densely inhabited place on the planet, this pulsating fusion of West and East is a masterpiece exercise in controlled chaos.
Swanky new monolithic skyscrapers jostle for attention among a tangle of traditional food stalls, frenetic street markets and timeless temples.
A great lead-in sampler to the city's many sights is to take to the water on Victoria Harbour.
The Star Ferry has been hop-scotching across the harbour with its eye-catching fleet of electric-diesel boats since 1888. Departing every 10 minutes, the Star Ferry connects Kowloon with Hong Kong Island and, at just $2 a trip, it's arguably the best bargain sightseeing cruise in the world.
If you have a head for heights and panoramic vistas, prioritise the Peak Tram on your checklist. Hong Kong Island's highest point has long been the most prestigious residential locale for the city's luminaries.
The taipans built their summer houses on the mountain, primarily to escape the heat and humidity, and it still remains the most expensive place to live. The 500m summit delivers one of the most tantalising cityscapes on the planet.
If you are travelling with children, a trip to Ocean Park and Disneyland are proven family-pleasers.
Both theme parks are easily accessible on the MRT pubic transport system.

Hong Kong has the most compact Disney theme park in the world, making it a fulfilling and navigable day's outing.
Located in Aberdeen, Ocean Park is Hong Kong's thrills-and-spills capital, with heart-thumping rollercoasters, the world's largest aquarium, a fabulous giant panda exhibition and a hair-raising giant cable car ride.
Another of my favourite Hong Kong haunts is a visit to the Museum of History. You can walk through 6000 years of history, complete with replica villages, shopping streets and antique trams. If the tropical heavens have opened up, this is a great place to seek shelter and be visually stimulated.
A de rigueur shopping experience is to encounter the heady aromas, sights and sounds of the Temple Street Night Market. The shopping arterial of Nathan Rd is a lively, lavishly neon-coated promenade, that overflows with activity around the clock.
A novel and delicious Hong Kong experience is to indulge in some yum cha. It literally translates as "drink tea", although the usual way to enjoy yum cha is take tea with a delectable range of dim sum dishes. Just ask your hotel for a recommendation.
TOP TIPS
Fly in style to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and experience their award-winning in-flight service, entertainment and comfort. The 2009 Skytrax Airline of the Year flies daily from Auckland to Hong Kong, with onward connections across Asia and Europe. Check out their current specials at www.cathaypacific.co.nz
The very best way to whisk around the city's top sightseeing attractions is to board the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus Tour. An off-shoot of the London enterprise, its passes also entitle you to free transport on the Star Ferry and the Peak Tram. www.bigbustours.com

- Bay of Plenty Times

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