Hong Kong

Hong Kong has created one of the most successful societies on Earth. Prince Charles

When I lived in Hong Kong, I felt that Hong Kong is my family. Jet Li

Hong Kong photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22196001@N08/sets/72157626028332762/

Hong Kong is made up of the Kowloon Peninsula (the South Eastern tip of China), Hong Kong Island, and several outlying islands including Lantau, Lamma and Macau. If Beijing is the stern, militarian sister in the North, and Singapore is the conversative sister with a dark side in the South, then Hong Kong is the sister that parties all night and never wants to come home. It's a crazy city of high rise buildings and neon lights, set amidst rolling hills, suspension bridges and shipping lanes. Long gone are the wooden junks that cruised the harbour, replaced by cargo ships and ferries that run between Kowloon and Hong Kong, and outlying islands.

The energy is unstoppable. There are people EVERYWHERE, the result of over 7 million people being crammed into a small space. It's fantastically accessible, the MTR runs under the harbour from Mong Kok in Kowloon to Central on Hong Kong Island in less than 20 minutes. I spent a lot of time walking either below ground, trying to navigate out of the correct exit in the labyrinth warrens of the MTR stations, or above ground in long walkways that run for several city blocks, connecting office buildings, transport points and shopping malls. If you can navigate the bus system you can get anywhere.

Most of the expats live in or around Central, which is also the main business district as well as being home to Lan Kwai Fong (or LKF) and Soho, the best and most popular drinking spots of Hong Kong. You can get the Central Escalator up the steep hill, a long moving walkway that is broken up so that you can hop off for your favourite bar or restaurant in one of the many streets that wind up and around the incline. On weekends the streets are literally packed with people until the early hours of the morning. Whatever your bag is, you can find it in Hong Kong.

It was great to catch up with Olaf again (the friend I also met up with in Beijing) and Alex, who is someone I met travelling when I was in Vietnam and haven't seen in 3.5 years. Alex grew up in Hong Kong and Olaf has just moved here. Both sang the praises of the Hong Kong social scene, and I've added it to places I'd think about moving (an ever-growing list!) I stayed in Mong Kok on Kowloon, and my hotel was decent although the room was barely more than a cell.

I did most of the popular sights in Hong Kong, here are some of the highlights:

- Hong Kong harbour and lightshow: head down to the Avenue of the Stars in Kowloon for one of the most dramatic and well-recognised cityscapes there is. At 8pm the skyscrapers put on a lightshow - to be honest it's a bit like being in a nightclub and I'm sure more spectacular with sound. I experienced this in one of the best ways possible, sipping a mango daquiri at Aqua which is on the 29th floor of 1 Peking Street.

- Lamma Island: take a Thai fishing village, a Spanish coastal town, the Scottish Highlands, an industrial futurescape, pirate bays and smugglers coves, a hippy laid back atmosphere and mix them all together and Lamma is what you would end up with. The walk over the island from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan is gorgeous, if you can put the contant drone and ugly sight of the power station to one side. It reminded me of Springfield in the Simpsons! Yung Shue Wan is a narrow strip of restaurants and apartment blocks, with a hippy feel. There are no cars on the island although you have to consistently jump out of the way of the motorised carts that are relied on to move goods around. It takes an hour to walk over to Sok Kwu Wan and as you walk over the crest of the hill you are rewarded with unspoiled views of the mountainous terrain, glittering coves below, and in the distance cargo boats appear like eerie ghost ships through the haze. Sok Kwu Kan is a strange Waterworld, hundreds of delapidated boats and pontoons are strapped together in a kind of floating city. Seafood restaurants line the short promenade displaying large tanks fulls of every type of live fish or crustacean you could wish to eat, some of which I didn't even recognise. It's such a strange place that it's well worth a looksee, and on a warmer day there are more walks and beaches to visit without the sight of the power plant to mar the view.

- Lantau Island: Many expats live out here, and it's home to the airport. As well as several hiking paths which must be stunning in warmer weather, the main sight to see is the bronze Tian Tan Buddha which is a seated Buddha at the top of a hill, 34m tall and weighing in at a mere 250 metric tons. There is also a pretty Buddhist monastery. You can walk up and over the mountains to get to the site, but the best way is by cable car which takes half an hour.

- Stanley Markets, and Repluse Bay (southern side of Hong Kong Island: I was so lucky the day I did this, the weather was 25 degrees and it was a beautiful day. Stanley reminded me of Spain, lots of little cafes and pubs, a decent market, and a pretty small harbour. Repulse Bay has a decent beach and the view out over some little islands is lovely, only slightly spoiled by the constant sight of large cargo trawlers on their way in or out of Hong Kong harbour, and hundreds of day trippers arriving in coaches.

- THE PEAK: Accessible by tram, the view from the top is quite incredible and frankly, the one thing that you should do in HK if you don't have time for anything else.

Hong Kong is incredibly friendly, and if you are lost or in doubt someone will always help, many times without asking! There is every type of food you can think off, although some of the hawker centres so prevalent in Singapore wouldn't go astray here amongst the fast food chains. Hong Kong has everything: great night life, beaches, hiking, world-class restaurants, and a mixed community of wonderful people. I'll be going back!