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Moving to Hong Kong?
Until 1842, the name “Hong Kong”, which means “fragrant harbour” in Cantonese, referred
colloquially to a small inlet between Ap Lei Chau island and the south side of the
island which later became known as Hong Kong. The fragrance in the air was created
by the incense factories lining the coast to the north of Kowloon. In the aftermath
of the First Opium War between the British and the Chinese, British forces occupied
Hong Kong Island and were formally ceded control under the Treaty of Nanjing. The
Crown Colony grew during successive wars, becoming one of the British Empire’s most
important trading outposts, until in 1898 the British obtained a 99 year lease of
Landau and the surrounding islands, which became known as the New Territories.
During the first half of the twentieth century the British introduced their own
system of education but other than this there was little contact between the native
Chinese population and the wealthy European taipans who lived on Victoria Peak.
In 1941 Japanese forces successfully invaded the island, heralding a period of severe
deprivation; over half the population died before the UK took back control after
the end of the Second World War. A wave of migrants escaping the horrors of the
Chinese Civil War brought Hong Kong back to life and it rapidly industrialised,
starting with textiles and manufacturing and shifting to financial services during
the last decade of the twentieth century. Despite widespread fears of repression
following its reabsorption into mainland China in 1997, the island has retained
a good deal of autonomy and remains a dynamic trade centre with a fascinating culture
that is all its own.
Although it is famously built up, with more skyscrapers than any other city and
an arresting skyline that is widely acknowledged as the best in the world, around
40% of Hong Kong is given over to protected nature reserves and parks. The steep
mountains offer wonderful views over the Sea of China and the cool breezes of the
forests give respite from the humid climate that makes life in the city below so
steamy. Typhoons can be sudden and heavy, leading to unexpected landslides, so it
is important to take note of local advice. More popular, however, is the city itself,
where East meets West in a unique blend of cultures. The iconic modern buildings
are all designed with strict attention to feng shui, from the pyramid spired Central
Plaza to The Center with its spectacular light shows. The remains of Kowloon Walled
City offer a glimpse into the xxxxxxxx while the Old Police Station is a stunning
reminder of the British presence. Victoria Harbour is best viewed from the Star
Ferry, one of the most picturesque ferry routes in the world.
For many people, all these wonders pale beside the sheer excitement of wandering
the narrow alleys and markets of the city. Shops filled with foods and produce unknown
to Western eyes; tenements stuffed to bursting with people, with paper lanterns
and good luck charms hanging from every balcony; fake antique stores whose owners
claim to sell ancient Ming vases… And then there are the restaurants. Hong Kong
cuisine is deservedly famous