What Makes Hong Kong Unique?

January 1, 1970

by Layal Hamdeh

If you’re looking for a place in the massive continent of Asia where you can enjoy diversity, food, people, and activities, look no further than ‘Asia’s World City’: Hong Kong.

I’ve just recently returned home to New York City, from a nine-day family trip to Hong Kong (we stayed in both parts of the island: Sheung Wan and Kowloon), which had a lasting impact on me because of its complex culture and distinct beauty. No city represents a fusion of two worlds better than Hong Kong: known as the city where East meets West, the principles of coexistence are embedded in every aspect of this city.

Quick history class: That’s because way back in 1841, Hong Kong became a British colony after the first Opium War. And then in July of 1997 – Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.

And so today, we can see how Hong Kong reflects the mix of Chinese territory with the culture brought to it during its time as a western colony: From the traditional to modern architecture, to beautiful natural scenery integrated with sky-rise buildings. Even the transportation in Hong Kong ranges from old-classic minibuses to high-speed modern ferries. The tiny temples and Chinese pharmacies are surrounded by skyscrapers and luxury shops. Also Hong Kong’s balance of a modernized way of life is preserved with traditional Chinese practices. For example, the concept of Feng Shui is implemented as a serious spiritual practice, to the extent to which buildings are positioned with specific layouts to turn away evil spirits. And they usually don’t have any “4th” floor number because of its similarity to the word for “die” in Cantonese (interesting, huh?).

Pro tourist tip: Head to Western Market, a small Edwardian-style shopping mall, in the central of Sheung Wan, to see the lasting British influence amidst Chinese culture and buy some cool arts and crafts.

Western Market in Sheung Wan, with British influence

The mix of East and West influence creates this cross-cultural way of living that makes Hong Kong so unique and stand out from the rest of the world. It has adopted the best developments of both the East and West to create a third entity—a culture that is only Hong Kong.

Must See-Spots:


Just like in London and New York, Hong Kong has its own chic SoHo district. The SoHo district in Hong Kong is the night-life zone located next to Sheung Wan, within Central. The area has a lot of up-hill and narrow streets made up of bars and culturally diverse restaurants. The perfect place to bar-hop with friends on a night out.

Up-hill and Narrow Streets of SoHo

Victoria Peak:

 Make sure to bring your camera and go when the weather is nice because this place is the highest point on Hong Kong Island. You can see the most beautiful views of the whole city both during the day and night. You can take either the tram or a taxi all the way to the top, which takes you to the Victoria Peak mall that makes sight-seeing at the peak a relaxing and easy experience (no need for the outdoor hike to the top if you don’t want it!).

Top of Victoria Peak

Harbour City:

Hong Kong’s largest mall with every luxury brand store you can find. There are customers literally waiting in lines to get in because they only allow a certain amount of people to go inside. But Harbour city does not just stop with indoor stores, there is also an outside plaza with restaurants and walking-friendly pathways along the beautiful sights of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers and river views.

Views From The Harbour Walk

Restaurants And Bars:

Mott 32:

As a New Yorker, the term “Mott 32”  sounds very familiar, because its the name of a street very close to where I live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And guess what, they named the restaurant after that street! Because 32 Mott Street was the site of New York City’s first Chinese convenience store back in 1900’s, and now it’s a large street right in the middle of our bustling Chinatown. Anyways, Mott 32 (the restaurant in Hong Kong) is located in the central district, and this restaurant is one of the finest in Hong Kong. Make sure you have a reservation before going because its that kind of place – the food is gourmet, delicious, and upscale. “A modern approach to Chinese cuisine” is their motto and that’s their style of dining. A dim-lighted, classy vibe with a very cosmopolitan dining crowd typically hailing from other major cities around the world.


The perfect lounge and bar to go to after dining at Mott 32. It is located in the same building, so yes it is a matter of convenience, but also the style and vibe continues from Mott 32 (with a contemporary, classy, and elegant atmosphere). Sevva has both an indoor and outdoor seating area, but the outdoor seating area wins every time because of it’s up-close views of Hong Kong’s modern and corporate buildings. A perfect place to see the colorful 15-minute “Symphony of Lights” program. All the building light up in unison to create a visually illuminating show, with traditional Chinese flutes playing alongside – another example of Hong Kong’s East meets West character. It is the world’s largest permanent light and sound show according to Guinness World Records. It’s truly a spectacular experience worth taking the time to step out and see.

A Symphony of Lights show involves over 40 skyscrapers along Victoria Harbour


Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden:

One of the most beautiful temples located in Kowloon. The scenery is unbelievably picturesque – the large Buddhist temple, surrounded by lush greenery and lotus ponds adjacent to Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. The whole scene looks like a painting and is actually beautifully overwhelming yet very calm and serene.

Nan Lian Garden With The Chi Lin Nunnery Temple

Tian Tan a.k.a Big Buddha:

Located in the Po Lin Monastery, make sure you dedicate at least half a day for this spiritual venture. The big bronzed Buddha sits thirty-four meters high and consists of 268 steps to reach (if you’re planning on going, be aware it’ll be an exercise work-out as well). But once you get to the top, the view from the base of the Buddha makes it all worth it.



Layal Hamdeh

By Layal Hamdeh

Raised between Dubai and Washington D.C. I have another half (twin sister) and a serious passion for baby animals. I'm a producer/journalist/storyteller that loves all things TV and film. When I'm not traveling the world, I call New York City home.

Read more at layalhamdehstories.com

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