Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hong Kong: City on Fast-Forward

HONG KONG - Until this month, I hadn't been in Hong Kong in a year and a half - long enough for this dynamic Asian city to dream up half a dozen new travel attractions I didn't see or even know about before my recent visit.

Some changes are relatively small, such as a new Big Bus tour like you see in many cities - you get on and off at designated tourist sites. The Big Bus rolled out in Hong Kong last December.

Some big dreamers in this metropolis of 7 million have got their show on the road, too. The expansive Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center has just expanded again, for one.

Moreover, the 1881 Heritage shopping complex was opened just this past June at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, very close to the Star Ferry terminal. This nicely done reconstruction and reinvention of the former Marine Police Headquarters has the inevitable Shanghai Tang showcase clothing store, plus a range of high-end designer shops. This month, a 30-room boutque hotel called Hullett House is scheduled to open in this crowded corner of the metropolis.

Of course, Hong Kong being Hong Kong, that's just the half of it.

A newly landscaped piazza is scheduled to open late this year or early in 2010 near the enormous Giant Buddha statue and Po Lin monastery at Ngong Ping, accessed by what promises to be a spectacular cable car ride.

By late next year, the 118-story high International Commerce Center will top out on reclaimed harbor land. It will be the fourth-tallest building in the world, with an observation deck on the 100th floor for those 360-degree, panoramic views. Occupying floors 102 through 118 will be a 300-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

And if you're really looking ahead, Hong Kong has promised to build its fourth big terminal for cruise ships, this one on part of the land used for runways at Hong Kong's former airport at Kai Tak, on the Kowloon side. That project is set to be operational by 2013.

Verily, Hong Kong is a city on fast-forward. But it looks to the past for a bit of its future, opening this year a replica of Noah's Ark, on Wa Man Island. Yes, Noah is back, complete with a Noah's Hotel, with 19 hotel rooms and 24 hostel rooms for people who aren't taking any chances when global warming causes sea-levels to rise.

For more information about Hong Kong, go to the Hong Kong Tourism Board's Web site,

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