Our third new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is due to begin flights to China this month, flying via Bangkok to both Hong Kong and Guangzhou. To mark the occasion we’ve compiled 10 top highlights for each iconic city.
DREAM DESTINATION: HONG KONG
From humble pre-colonial beginnings as an island of fishermen and salt production, Hong Kong evolved into a strategic military port and then an international financial centre with the world’s sixth-highest GDP per capita. Today a third of foreign capital entering China comes through Hong Kong. The island’s wealth was boosted during the Communist era by Chinese and foreign firms relocating from mainland China. Under its British governors, Hong Kong became a centre of industry and manufacturing. The handover back to China in 1997 was regarded by many with anxiety, but since then more skyscrapers have been built around Victoria Harbour.
HONG KONG TOP 10
A Symphony of Lights
At 8pm every evening for ten minutes, 45 skyscrapers on both sides of Victoria Harbour are illuminated by a light and laser display which holds the world record for the largest permanent light and sound show. View it, drink in hand, from the Felix Bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel.
Hiking on Lamma Island
In contrast to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Lamma is a low-rise and almost rural island. There are also no vehicles apart from fire engines and ambulances. Everyone travels by foot or bicycle. Enjoy a tranquil day out visiting the Tin Hau temples dedicated to the goddess of the sea and of fishermen. www.lamma.com.hk
Happy Valley Racecourse
Happy Valley was built in 1845 by the British and then updated in 1995 to provide state-of-the-art facilities for Hong Kong’s avid race-going community. Races usually take place on Wednesday nights and are open to the public. There is also a Hong Kong Jockey Club Museum, cinema, and shop.
The world-famous waxworks offers all the usual suspects: Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana and Pavarotti, but 30 per cent of its figures are Asian, including Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping, actors Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, plus model Connie Chan and singer Andy Lau. www.madametussauds.com/hongkong
At 552m above sea level, The Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, with wonderful views over Victoria Harbour, Kowloon and Lamma Island. The wealthy English built their homes here in the nineteenth century but since 1888 a tram has brought visitors up to the restaurants and shops of Peak Galleria. www.thepeakgalleria.com
Ngong Ping Cable Car
Travelling across Lantau Island from Tung Chung to the top of Ngong Ping, this spectacular 5.7km cable car journey offers a 360-degree panorama taking in the airport, South China Sea, Ngong Ping Plateau and the 34m-high Tian Tan Buddha Statue. www.np360.com.hk
Dr Sun Yat-Sen Museum
Kom Tong Hall in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels has been converted to a museum celebrating the life of the revolutionary who is now revered both in Taiwan and Beijing as the Father of the Nation. The hall itself is also interesting. It was built in 1914 as the home for one of Hong Kong’s Chinese elite. http://hk.drsunyatsen.museum
On Ma Wan Island the world’s only full-size replica of Noah’s Ark has been built. Visitors can view 67 pairs of life-sized animal sculptures emerging from the wooden vessel. There is also a Solar Tower, which allows activity on the surface of the Sun to be viewed though a telescope. www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/
Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware
Flagstaff House was originally the office of the British Forces commander in Hong Kong. In 1984 it was converted into a museum to promote Chinese tea-drinking culture. As well as displaying many fine Yixing teapots donated by Dr K.S. Lo, the museum holds regular tea- making demonstrations, tea parties and lecture programmes. www.lcsd.gov.hk/ce/Museum
Hong Kong Disneyland
Every attraction you’d expect from Disney – Main Street USA, Mystic Manor, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Tomorrow Land, Big Grizzly Mountain and of course Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – are here on Lantau Island. There are also two Disney hotels and lots of fast food outlets, but Disney Dum Sum has to be pre-booked. http://park.hongkongdisneyland.com
HONG KONG: ON BUSINESS
Mix business and pleasure with our top tips
Rooftop views are a Hong Kong speciality. Meet clients at Felix (www.peninsula.com) or Ozone (www.ritzcarlton.com), which is located on the 118th floor of The Ritz-Carlton.
The Luxury Junk Michelangelo (www.luxurysuperjunk.com) can be hired for up to 59 guests. An evening cruise around Victoria Harbour is the perfect way to woo business clients.
Most of the major hotels offer a chauffeur service that will collect you from the airport. The cheaper but almost as quick option is the Airport Express Train, which will drop you at Kowloon for HK$90 or Central for HK$100.
DREAM DESTINATION: GUANGZHOU
Located on the Pearl River, Guangzhou is one of China’s five National Central Cities. Known in the West as Canton, it has been a major trading port for centuries. In the nineteenth century the French and British built ‘concessions’, European enclaves on the Pearl River from which they too could trade. In the twentieth century, as labour costs increased in Hong Kong, many industries moved to Guangzhou, making it the third-largest city in China. Today the city continues to suck labour in from the surrounding countryside. The recent opening of a superb opera house on the Pearl River has helped reposition Guangzhou as a cultural as well as a business centre.
GUANGZHOU TOP 10
Jiangnan Cantonese Opera Theatre
The Hongdou Cantonese Opera group performs regularly in this theatre in Haizhu district. Ancient Chinese music-dramas tell military or scholarly stories that emphasise loyalty to the emperor. Actors paint their faces dramatically and employ highly formalised gestures. Until the twentieth century all female roles were performed by men.
Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid
The first, long-awaited opera house by celebrity architect Zaha Hadid was built not in Europe, but Guangzhou. It cost in excess of US$200 million and opened in 2010 amid huge publicity. The interior has flowing lines and the exterior is intended to resemble giant granite rocks eroded by the Pearl River. www.gzdjy.org
The French and British trading concessions were established in 1859 on an island in the Pearl River. Soldiers guarded the bridges that joined the island to Chinese Canton. Today Shamian Island is a calm refuge dotted with old European mansions, churches and offices. There are also parks full of informal statues.
Built on the site of a royal mansion, this Buddhist temple was begun in the fourth century AD. Today it is especially revered because Huineng, sixth master of the Zen Sect of Buddhism and the most influential monk in the history of Chinese Buddhism, was a novice here in the seventh century.
At 600m, this observation tower in Haizhu district is now the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world. When it opened in 2009 it was the tallest, before being surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree in 2011. Until 2013 – when the Shanghai Tower opened – it was the tallest structure in China.
Pearl River Night Cruise
Starting at White Goose Pool, night cruises on the Pearl River pass under ten bridges and take in illuminated sights like Zhuhai Square, Aiqun Mansion and Shamian Island. Ships hold up to 300 passengers and food and drink are provided throughout the two-hour journey.
The Five Rams
Perched on top of Yuexiu Mountain, this statue of five rams commemorates a legend from more than 2,000 years ago: when Guangzhou was starving, five immortals arrived riding on five rams. The rams held sheaves of rice in their mouths, which they left behind. Guangzhou prospered thereafter and became known as the City of Rams.
According to legend Huaisheng, the oldest mosque in China, was built by the uncle of the prophet Mohammed in the seventh century AD. The unusual pointed minaret may have served as a lighthouse for boats in the past, which explains Huaisheng’s other name, Guangta (‘Tower of Light’).
One of the historic Eight Sights of Guangzhou, Mount Baiyun is now part of the Baiyunshan Resort, a park of hills and lakes consisting of Mingzhu Tower, Moxing Summit, Santai Ridge, Mingchun Valley, Fei’e Ridge and Luhu Lake. Recently a golf course and sculpture park have been added to the attractions.
This nine-storey, red sandstone tower was built in 1619 at the mouth of the Pearl River. According to feng shui, the pagoda should bring good luck to Guangzhou. By the 1990s Chigang Pagoda was leaning over one metre from the vertical, but its tilt has now been stabilised.
GUANGZHOU: ON BUSINESS
Our top tips for doing business in Guangzhou
There are three weeks every year when Guangzhou is closed for business – Chinese New Year, Labour Week (first week of May) and Golden Week (first week of October).
Most taxi drivers do not speak any English so make sure your address is written out in Chinese or use the HiGuangzhou Taxi Apple app which provides Chinese taxi instructions for over 1500 locations in the city. For public transport Yang Cheng Tong, an integrated transport smart card, is available.
Pack light – Guangzhou has a subtropical climate so June-August is humid, with temperatures as high as 35oC. From May to August, it can be pretty rainy too.
Fly KQ to Hong Kong & Guangzhou aboard one of our new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.