Hong Kong

Electricity

For its electrical sockets, Hong Kong uses the British three-pin rectangular blade plug. Additionally, some hotels will have a bathroom with a parallel three-pin outlet which is designed for use with electric shavers, but might be used to re-charge a phone or rechargeable batteries. Electricity is 220 Volts at 50 Hertz. Most electronic stores will have cheap $15-20 adapters that will allow foreign plugs to fit into British sockets, but be aware that these will not convert voltage or frequency.

When to visit

Chinese New Year dates

2012 is the year of the Dragon

2013 Snake - 10 February

2014 Horse - 31 January

2015 Goat - 19 February

Weather— The time between October to December has the least rainfall, less chance of a typhoon almost non-existence after October, less humid and more sunshine see Climate section above for more details.

Events — During Chinese New Year, there are some extra celebratory events such as lion dances, fireworks, and parades. Many shops and restaurants close on the first three days, so it may not be an ideal time to visit, though larger department stores, supermarkets and Western fast-food restuarants generally remain open.

Culture lovers will be able to feast on a multitude of cultural activities from February to April. The Hong Kong Arts Festival, a month-long festival of international performances, is held in February and March. The Man Literary Festival, a two-week English language festival with international writers as guests, is held in March. The Hong Kong International Film Festival, a three-week event, is held in late March to early April.

Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens (http://www.hksevens.com). This annual event brings many visitors in from around the world to celebrate the most entertaining installment in the IRB Sevens Series. It is a giant three day sellout event that takes place between the last days of March and beginning of April.

There is a second round of cultural activities in the autumn lasting till the end of the year.

Christmas is also a nice time to visit as many stores and shopping centres are nicely decorated, and the festive mood is apparent across downtown areas of the city. Major buildings facing the harbour are decorated in christmas lights to add to the festive spirit.

As Hong Kong is a very crowded place, this is especially so during holiday seasons. Visitors should note that it could be very difficult to find a table in a restaurant during public holidays.

Orientation

Hong Kong Island is the island that gives the territory Hong Kong its name. Although it is not the largest part of the territory, it is the place that many tourists regard as the main focus. The parade of buildings that make the Hong Kong skyline has been likened to a glittering bar chart that is made apparent by the presence of the waters of Victoria Harbour. To get the best views of Hong Kong, leave the island and head for the opposite Kowloon waterfront.The great majority of Hong Kong Island's urban development is densely packed on reclaimed land along the northern shore. This is the place the British colonisers took as their own and so if you are looking for evidence of the territory's colonial past, then this is a good place to start. Victoria was once the colony's capital but has been rebranded with a more descriptive name, Central. Here you will find the machinery of government grinding away much as it always has done, except Beijing, not London, is the boss that keeps a watchful eye. Seek a glimpse of government house 香港禮賓府 which was formerly home to 25 British governors and is now the residence of the man they call Bow Tie, the Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang. Nearby, the Legislative Council LegCo continues to make the laws that organise the territory.

Leading up from Central is the Escalator and the Peak Tram. The famous escalator passes through the hip district of Soho and takes you into the residential neighbourhood known as the Mid-Levels because it is neither up nor down the mountain. Up top is The Peak, the tallest point on the island where foreign diplomats and business tycoons compete for the best views of the harbour from some of the most expensive homes to be found anywhere. Most tourists do not go much further than the Peak Tram, but take a short walk and you will escape the crowds and be rewarded with some of the best harbour views. It is worth investing in a good map from leading bookshops in Central if you want to enjoy some of the superb footpaths that crisscross the island.

The southern side of the island has developed into an upmarket residential area with many large houses and expensive apartments with views across the South China Sea. The island's best beaches, such as Repulse Bay, are found here and visitors can enjoy a more relaxed pace of life than on the bustling harbour side of the island. Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the most visited neighbourhoods on the northern side of the island.

Kowloon 九龍 is the peninsula to the north of Hong Kong Island. With over 2.1 million people living in an area of less than 47 square kilometres, Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and has a matching array of places to shop, eat and sleep. Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙咀, the tip of the peninsula, is Kowloon's main tourist drag and has a mix of backpacker and high-end hotels. Further north, Mong Kok 旺角 has a huge choice of shops and markets in an area of less than a square kilometre. Kowloon side, as it is often known, managed to escape some of the British colonial influences that characterise the Hong Kong Island side. Kowloon real estate prices are the highest in the world, with multiple flats in West Kowloon setting worldwide records for their multi-million dollar prices thanks to their panoramic views of Victoria Harbor.

The New Territories 新界, so named when the British took more land from China in 1898, lie north of Kowloon. Often ignored by travellers who have little time to spare, the New Territories offers a diverse landscape that takes time to get to know. Mountainous country parks overlook New Towns that have a clinical form of modernity that has attracted many to move here from mainland China. Public transport and taxis make this area surprisingly accessible if you dare to get out and explore this offbeat place. You will not find many idyllic villages, but once you get over the stray dogs and the ramshackle buildings you will doubtlessly find something that will surprise you and cause you to reach for your camera.

The Outlying Islands 離島 are a generic label for the islands, islets and rocks in the south of the territory. They form part of the New Territories. Lantau 大嶼山 is by far the largest of them and therefore often considered its own district. Most people arrive here, as Hong Kong International Airport is on a small island just north of Lantau. Lantau hosts some of the territory's most idyllic beaches as well as major attractions such as Disneyland and the Ngong Ping cable car. Other islands include Lamma 南丫島, well known for its seafood, and Cheung Chau 長洲, a small island that used to be a pirates' den, but now attracts seafood aficionados, windsurfers and sunbathing day trippers.

Books

Its quick rise as an economic power and unique mix of East and West has made Hong Kong an interesting destination to write about. Much has been written about its history, politics, economy, culture and social matters, and it has figured as an ideal background in many fictional works as well. Reading some of these books enables you to further understand the culture of Hong Kong before actually visiting it.

Myself a Mandarin Oxford in Asia, Austin Coates. This book contains the memoirs of Austin Coates. Each chapter is an entertaining episode of the Englishman's time as a colonial magistrate in the New Territories district.

East and West: China, Power, and the Future of Asia Macmillan, Chris Patten. The memoires of Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong. Published in 1998, Patten provides his account of Hong Kong in the final years before the handover to China.

Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood Bantam Books, Martin Booth. A well-written book that offers an insight into colonial life in Hong Kong through the eyes of a young English boy.

Hong Kong: Epilogue to an Empire Penguin Books, Jan Morris. In this well-written and detailed overview of the territory by a noted Welsh travel writer. Morris alternates chapters on Hong Kong's history with descriptions of its geography, economy, politics and society. The book includes descriptive portraits of some of Hong Kong's leading politicians and entrepreneurs.

The World of Suzie Wong Fontana Press Richard Mason. A classic novel published in 1957, later adapted to film in 1960. Set in Hong Kong, it is the fictional story of a young expat's romance with a Chinese woman.

Hong Kong Landscapes: Shaping the Barren Rock Hong Kong University Press, Bernie Owen and Raynor Shaw. Beautifully illustrated, this is a fascinating guide to the territory's geology and geomorphology.

People

The majority of Hong Kong's population are Han Chinese 95%, mostly of Cantonese ancestry, though there are also sizeable numbers of other Chinese groups such as Chiuchao Teochews, Shanghainese and Hakkas. A significant number of Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese live here too, and many have families that have lived in Hong Kong for several generations.

The largest groups of recent, non-Chinese immigrants are Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais, of which most are employed as domestic helpers. On Sundays, being the free day of these domestic workers, they congregate in their thousands - mostly Filipinas - in Central and Admiralty and spend the day there together, sitting talking, eating and drinking wherever there is free room. Lately whole streets have been blocked off for them.

The territory is also home to a significant number of people hailing from Australia, Europe, Japan and North America, making it a truly international metropolis.