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HONG KONG


USEFUL INFORMATION




Hong Kong is city-state a situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. Hongs Kong has a population of seven million people making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. As one of the world's leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture.


Location:
Eastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and China

Area:
1,104 sq km

Geography - note: composed of more than 200 islands

Regional border: China 30 km

Coastline: 733 km

Climate:
subtropical monsoon; cool and humid in winter, hot and rainy from spring through summer, warm and sunny in fall

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Tai Mo Shan 958 m

Population:
7,122,508 (July 2011 est.)

Ethnic groups:
Chinese 95%, Filipino 1.6%, Indonesian 1.3%, other 2.1% (2006 census)

Religions:
eclectic mixture of local religions 90%, Christian 10%

Languages:
Cantonese (official) 90.8%, English (official) 2.8%, Putonghua (Mandarin) 0.9%, other Chinese dialects 4.4%, other 1.1% (2006 census)

Getting to Hong Kong
Hong Kong maintains a separate and independent immigration system from that of mainland China. This means that, unlike mainland China, most Western and Asian visitors including Americans, Japanese and Singaporeans do not need to obtain visas in advance. However, it also means that a visa is still required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong. Those who require visas should apply for one at a Chinese embassy, but note that the Hong Kong visa has to be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese one; there is no single visa that serves both areas. Anyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport who requires an onward visa for mainland China can proceed to the desk manned by China Travel Services HK (CTS) found at the arrivals area. A photograph will be required and the staff will be happy to accommodate you. Note that leaving the mainland for Hong Kong is considered to be leaving China, so you should apply for a multiple entry visa if you wish to enter Hong Kong, then re-enter mainland China.

Hong Kong International Airport is the main port for visitors to Hong Kong by air. There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight, and flights between Hong Kong and other major Asian cities are also frequent. Cathay Pacific operates one of the longest air routes in the world, linking Hong Kong and New York (JFK). There are also flights between Hong Kong and several mid-Pacific islands and nations.

You may also wish to consider to travel by train or boat as there are numerous ways to get to Hong Kong Island. MTR Corporation runs regular Intercity Passenger Train services from Hung Hom station on Kowloon side. The destinations are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.

Customs regulations:
Entry : Tourists must fill out a baggage declaration form (in two copies) and hand it in to customs, retaining the carbon to show upon exit. Personal belongings will be admitted duty free, including food, two bottles of liquor and two cartons of cigarettes. Wristwatches, radios, tape recorders, cameras, movie cameras, and similar items may be brought in for personal use but cannot be sold or transferred to others and must be brought out of China. Gifts for relatives or friends in China, or articles carried on behalf of other, must also be declared. Visitors can bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency and Chinese renminbi traveler's checks, and the unspent portion can be taken out. Bringing in the following articles is prohibited :
1. Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
2. Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts
3. Renminbi (Chinese currency) in cash
4. Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China's politics, economy, culture, and ethics
5. Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroin, etc.
6. Animals, plants and products thereof infected with or carrying germs and insect pests
7. Unsanitary foodstuffs and germ-carrying food-stuffs from infected areas
8. Other articles the import of which is prohibited by state regulations

Exit: On leaving China, tourists must again submit the baggage declaration form for customs inspection (the second copy). Travelers by ship are exempted. Items purchased in China with RMB converted from foreign currencies may be taken out or mailed out of the country after receipts are presented for customs inspection. In cities where a Customs Office does not exit, this can be arranged through the local Friendship Store. Taking out the following articles is prohibited :
1. Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
2. Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts
3. Renminbi (Chinese currency) in cash and negotiable securities in RMB
4. Unratified foreign currency, foreign notes or drafts
5. Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China's national security
6. Rare and precious copies of books about Chinese revolution, history, culture and art that are not for sale
7. Valuable animals, plants, and seeds
8. Precious metals, pearls, and jewels (things declared to the customs are exempted)
9. Other articles the export of which is prohibited by state regulations

Health and safety:
Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency room (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians certifying in detail the treatments in progress or that may be necessary.

Electricity:
Electricity in Hong Kong is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Hong Kong with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in China generally accept 2 types of plug: Flat blade plug and V-shaped flat prongs. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.

Emergency numbers in China:
  • Emergency Service (Police, Ambulance, Fire) : 999
  • General Police Enquiries : 2527 7177
  • Department of Health : 2961 8989


    Buying in Hong Kong
    The Hong Kong dollar is the territory's official currency. In Chinese, one dollar is known formally as the yuen and colloquially as the men in Cantonese. Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted also. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards however are not widely accepted by retailers. The 'chip and pin' system for credit card authorisation is not used in Hong Kong and so customers must sign for their purchased goods.

    Fierce competition, no sales tax and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, camping equipment, jewellery, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine. There's also a wide choice of Japanese, Korean, American and European clothing and cosmetics but price are generally higher than in their respective home countries. Most shops in Hong Kong's urban areas open at about 10AM until 10PM to midnight every day.

    China has five major annual holidays:
  • New Year's Day - January 1
  • Chinese New Year - First day of the first moon (Chinese calendar)
  • Second day of the first moon (Chinese calendar)
  • Third day of the first moon (Chinese calendar)
  • Ching Ming Festival - April 5 (April 4 in leap years)
  • Good Friday
  • Day following Good Friday (Holy Saturday)
  • Easter Monday
  • Labour Day - May 1
  • Eighth day of the fourth moon (Chinese calendar)- Buddha's Birthday
  • Fifth day of the fifth moon (Chinese calendar) - Dragon Boat Festival (Tuen Ng Festival)
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day - July 1
  • Sixteenth day of the eighth moon (Chinese calendar)- Day following the Mid-Autumn Festival
  • National Day - October 1
  • Ninth day of the ninth moon (Chinese calendar) - Chung Yeung Festival
  • Christmas Day - December 25
  • Day following Christmas (Boxing Day)- December 26

    These are not one-day holidays; nearly all workers get at least a week for Chinese New Year, some get two or three, and students get four to six weeks. For Labor Day and National Day, a week is typical.

    World Cultural Heritage sites:
    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage List is a short index of some of the world’s most precious sites. It is no small feat to satisfy the stringent criteria of the UNESCO for any site to be included on this list. Monuments, groups of buildings, works of man or combined works of nature and man have to be of “outstanding value from the point of view of history, art or science.” This is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. China has 40, ranking third in the world. These sites comprise some of the most essential part of China's valuable and rich tourism resources. Of these 40 there are 28 cultural heritage sites, seven are natural heritage sites, and four are cultural and natural (mixed) sites.

  • Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Forbidden City and Mukden Palace
    - Beijing (the Forbidden City) and Shenyang (Mukden Palace)
  • Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor - Xi'an, Shaanxi province
  • Mogao Caves - Dunhuang, Gansu province
  • Mount Taishan - Shandong province
  • Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian - Beijing municipality
  • The Great Wall - Northern China
  • Mount Huangshan - Anhui province
  • Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Sichuan province
  • Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Sichuan province
  • Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Hunan province
  • Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
  • Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka - Lhasa, Tibet
  • Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples in Chengde - Hebei province
  • Temple and Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion - Qufu, Shandong province
  • Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area - Sichuan province
  • Lushan National Park - Jiangxi province
  • Ancient City of Ping Yao - Shanxi province
  • Classical Gardens of Suzhou - Jiangsu province
  • Old Town of Lijiang - Yunnan province
  • Summer Palace - Beijing
  • Temple of Heaven - Beijing
  • Dazu Rock Carvings - Chongqing municipality
  • Mount Wuyi - Fujian province
  • Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun - Anhui province
  • Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
    including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum - Beijing
  • Longmen Grottoes - Luoyang, Henan province
  • Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System - Sichuan province
  • Yungang Grottoes - Datong, Shanxi province
  • Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas - Yunnan province
  • Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
  • Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom - Jilin province
  • Historic Centre of Macau - Macau
  • Yin Xu - Henan province
  • Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries - Sichuan province
  • Kaiping Diaolou and Villages - Guangdong province
  • South China Karst - Yunnan, Guizhou provinces and Chongqing municipality
  • Fujian Tulou - Fujian province
  • Sanqingshan - Jiangxi province
  • Mount Wutai - Shanxi province
  • Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth” - Henan province
  • China Danxia - Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Guizhou provinces








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    Festivals & Events




    Chinese New Year

    Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration. In China it is known as Spring Festival. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity". Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies.


    Chinese New Year market
    Photo: Calvin Teo

    Mid-Autumn Festival

    The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China's Shang Dynasty. In Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.

    Mid-Autumn Festival
    Photo: Tango7174

    Dongzhi Festival

    The Dōngzh Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. Whilst in southern China people get together for the making and eating of tangyuan or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day.


    Photo: Formulax

    Lantern Festival

    The Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year in the Chinese calendar, the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. It is not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is sometimes also known as the "Lantern Festival" in locations such as Singapore and Malaysia. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. In some region and countries, this festival is also regarded as the Chinese version of St. Valentine's Day, a day celebrating love and affection between lovers in Chinese tradition and culture. Those who do not carry lanterns often enjoy watching informal lantern parades. In addition to eating 'yuanxiao (food). Another popular activity at this festival is guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival during the Tang Dynasty), which often contain messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love.


    Shanghai International Film Festival

    The Shanghai International Film Festival abbreviated SIFF, is one of the largest film festivals in East Asia. Along with Tokyo International Film Festival, the SIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in Asia. Since its beginning in 1993, Shanghai International Film Festival has grown to become China’s only A-category international film festival. The most prestigious award given out at Shanghai is the Jin Jue ("Golden Goblet") for the best film.




    Dragon Boat Racing at
    the Qintong Boat Festival

    Qintong Boat Festival

    Qintong Boat Festival is an annual event in Jiangyan, Jiangsu, China. It has a long history since Ming Dynasty, and it is becoming an important tourist destination in the whole eastern China with the highlight of the Dragon Boat Racing. Qintong Boat Festival is held in Qingming (around April 4–6) every year. During the festival boats from nearby villages and towns converge in Xique lake for a few days of rejoicing. Theatrical performances, dragon and lion dances, and other folk dances are staged right on board the boats. It gathers about 300,000 people every year during the festival.


    'Ice and Snow World' in Harbin, China
    Photo: Lin Yang

    Harbin International Ice and
    Snow Sculpture Festival

    The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1963. Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province of People's Republic of China, is one of the sources of ice and snow culture in the world. Geographically, it is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer as long as the weather is permitting. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.

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