Hong Kong Park

The story goes that until the 19th century, ‘Hong Kong’ referred to a small inlet between Aberdeen Island and the larger island facing it. Labelled in Ming Dynasty maps between 1368 and 1644, this small seaside village exported incense trees from the surrounding areas to the rest of China – a trade that soon earned it the name ‘fragrant harbour’. Later, in a twist of fate, the village became one of the first points of contact between the local fishermen and British soldiers, who upon landing nearby are said to have mistaken the name of the village for the entire island. In one irreversible act of mistranslation, the village of Hong Kong was no more, and the island of Hong Kong was born.

Today, the metropolis seems to have come a long way from the quiet village port and its incense-laden boats, which have since been replaced by bustling streets, neon lights and towering skyscrapers.

Or have they? Look a little closer and you will discover that three-quarters of the territory is countryside, with 26 nature conservation parks, four marine parks and one marine reserve. Hike to the south side of the island and discover the quiet seaside town of Stanley, or Shek O, a beach village surrounded by country parks nestled on a peninsula jutting out into the South China Sea. Take a boat and go further afield to the outlying islands, or cross through the bustling district of Kowloon –visiting a tailor and picking up some dumplings on the way – to the New Territories, where you can camp under the stars at the ‘big wave bay’. And if Hong Kong’s luxury hotels, shopping, fine dining and bars aren’t enough, the city is also home to some of the world’s best spas.

Full of history and character, Hong Kong has something for everyone. It’s unsurprising that visitors find it hard to leave – I still haven’t managed to tear myself away from this remarkable city.

Words by Pippa Lamb Photos by Tona Stell

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