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ITINERARIES

Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is the glitzy big brother of Kowloon - a tightly packed, towering paean to market capitalism that hasn't been dented one jot by Chinese rule. The bustle of people living and working is the biggest attraction on the island, although many visitors head around to Aberdeen, on the southern side of the island, where 6000 people live or work on junks anchored in the harbour. Sampan tours of the Aberdeen Harbour are definitely worth the expense. The other major draw is the floating restaurants.

The most popular beach is Repulse Bay, also on the southern side of the island, but it gets extremely crowded on weekends. Stanley, with its laid-back atmosphere, is another good spot for escaping Hong Kong's hustle and bustle, although it is the hustle and bustle that brings people here in the first place - if you want real solitude, you've come to the wrong place. City attractions include the Central Market, which visitors will have no trouble finding (just sniff the air), the old Man Mo Temple and the Zoological & Botanic Gardens. Hong Kong Island is steep, so if your'e heading away from the harbour, do as the locals do and ride the 800m (870 yards) outdoor escalator.

Kowloon
Tsim Sha Tsui, at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, is the territory's tourist ghetto. It consists of one sq km of shops, restaurants, pubs, topless bars and camera stores. However, Kowloon is also home to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Space Museum, the famous Peninsula Hotel and the Museum of History.

The Promenade, in East Tsim Sha Tsui, is a great place for a stroll, and has wonderful views of Victoria Harbour, particularly at night. The liveliest night market in the territory is on Temple St in Yau Ma Tei.

Victoria Peak
If you're in Hong Kong, you'd be mad to miss a trip to the top of Victoria Peak, 552m (1810ft) above sea level. The views are giddyingly beautiful in every direction, with the vista of the business district, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon especially grand. In true Hong Kong style the main viewing deck is on the roof of a large shopping mall.

Join the throng of snap-happy tourists - you won't be disappointed. If you have time, it's worth making the trip to the top both in daylight (ideal to get your bearings) and at night, when the mass of lights around the harbour will take your breath away and make you wish you had a better camera. The actual peak is a ten-minute walk west and up.

Off the Beaten Track

New Territories

Although a third of Hong Kong's population lives in new towns constructed in the New Territories, the area has some scenic escapes, including the Sai Kung Peninsula, in the east, which is an unspoilt playground for hikers, campers, swimmers and boaters. Bird-watchers head to the Mai Po Marsh; cyclists and walkers head to Plover Cove Reservoir; hiking enthusiasts set out on the 100km-long (62mi-long) MacLehose Trail which spans the New Territories from Tuen Mun in the west to Pak Tam Chung in the east. Shui Tau, a walled village on the outskirts of Kam Tin, is one of several small communities in the area famous for its carved roofs and traditional-style Chinese houses.

Outlying Islands
There are 234 outlying islands, many of them little more than uninhabited rocks. However, Cheung Chau (2.5 sq km/1 sq mi) has 22,000 residents and is fast developing into a mini Honolulu, although there is no motorised traffic.

Lantau, the largest of the islands (142 sq km/55 sq mi) has a population of 45,000, a 933m (3060ft) peak, and a 70km (43mi) walking trail, but has avoided many of the development excesses of other islands. It is home to several important monasteries, including Po Lin Monastery with its enormous bronze Buddha. Thanks to the newish airport development, Lantau is now connected by bridge to the mainland. Other islands worth visiting include Lamma, Peng Chau, Poi Toi and the uninhabited Tung Lung Chau.

Shenzhen SEZ
While there are surely better places in China to find yourself, a daytrip up to the Shenzhen SEZ (Special Economic Zone) might be just the kind of culture shock you're after.

Regarded as an ugly, business-oriented and souless kit town (sound inviting yet?), Shenzhen is also increasingly geared towards travellers from Hong Kong. Shenzhen City, just across an always-crowded border point from Lo Wu in Hong Kong, is hardly a great place to discover the beauty and culture that China is famous for. But it is perhaps the perfect place to see China's emerging embrace of the free market in action; HK shoppers often find the bargains in Shenzhen that simply don't exist anymore in Hong Kong. Wander the streets, grab a real Guangzhou meal, fob off the pimps, check out the market stalls and bargain hard.



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