I decided to take a short vacation before heading back home to Florida after wrapping things up on Guam.
I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, and something about the skyscrapers and sparkle of Hong Kong, also known as the “pearl of the orient,” drew me.
Hong Kong literally means “fragrant harbor” in Cantonese, its official language. The name comes from the 1840s when European traders coming to Hong Kong were lulled by the sweet smell of incense wafting from the incense factory near the harbor.
Today, Hong Kong is an island territory, a Special Administrative Region of China, made up of about 260 islands, dozens of which are uninhabited. This unique political status has allowed Hong Kong to operate under its own constitution and engage in free trade relations with other countries, while still falling under China’s wing for foreign relations and defense matters, according the U.S. State Department. Its largest industry is clothing/textiles, followed by tourism/service, and jewelry manufacturing, according to my tour guide, Ivy, who works for Splendid Tours.
The largest island, Lantau, hosts Hong Kong International Airport. The main languages are Cantonese and English, although students still learn Mandarin as a third language in school, as it’s more commonly spoken in mainland China.
With a population of 7.1 million and an area of only 1,100 square km, it’s no wonder that not only commercial buildings but residential buildings, too, reach toward the skies. It’s how Hong Kong “solves” its population problem, Ivy, explained. The tallest building, the International Commerce Center, is 118 stories high, and the second tallest, 88 stories high, is the International Finance Center. The locals believe “8” to be a lucky number, because the Cantonese word for wealth sounds a lot like the number eight.
Wealthy or not, the people of Hong Kong can afford to construct buildings so tall because earthquakes aren’t really a threat, according to the locals. On the other hand, typhoons are, which is why the buildings are required to withstand winds of up to 250 kmph.