Is Hong Kong home? Or are you visiting for the first time? Whatever your reason for coming to the metropolis that is home to almost 7.5 million people, we’re sure you’ll learn something from our list of 25 fun facts!
#1 Hong Kong is famous for towering skyscrapers. Did you know 40 percent of the territory is made up of country park and nature reserves? Hiking the green trails is a favourite weekend pastime.
#2 You probably know that Hong Kong means “fragrant harbour” in Chinese. What about Kowloon? Every time you utter the word “Kowloon” you are saying “nine dragons”. Folklore tells us that a young emperor noticed the area’s eight hills, and named the land “eight dragons”. Later, a servant reminded the emperor he too is a dragon. This made nine. Kow sounds like “gau” or nine in Cantonese, and Loon is like “lung” or dragon.
#3 Hong Kong boasts the world’s longest covered escalator. The Mid-Levels Escalator runs for a half-mile.
#4 Hong Kong’s beloved Star Ferry began running in 1880. At that time the service from Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui took up to one hour. Thanks to the city’s reclamation, the same journey today takes just 10 minutes.
#5 Hong Kong’s one moment of Olympic gold-medal glory came in 1996 at Atlanta, when Lee Lai-Shan came first in a windsurfing event.
#6 Hong Kongers have a long-established entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make money. In a 2020 global billionaires list, Hong Kong ranked seventh; 96 residents are said to hold personal fortunes of US$1 billion or over.
#7 Hong Kong Island tends to steal the limelight, but there are actually 263 islands in Hong Kong. Some of them, like Lantau, Cheung Chau and Lamma, are accessible by ferry while others are totally uninhabited and virtually unreachable.
#8 Dim sum originated here in southern China and means “touch the heart”. These tiny bites of goodness were created as snack food for travellers and today are an essential part of local culture.
#9 Don’t worry if you find your apartment building is without a fourth floor. Here are two numerical facts to keep in mind! Omitting the number four is common in HK because “four” sounds like the word “death” in Chinese, so it’s considered unlucky. If that doesn’t sound like much of a “fun fact”, then the flip side is that eight is a very lucky number (it represents wealth).
#10 The mystical art of feng shui remains common practice in Hong Kong. The rooftop of Central’s HSBC Hong Kong building includes two rods to deflect bad energy. They face the Bank of China building, built with sharp edges believed to cut and dilute good energy.
#11 “Albert is so amused at my having got the island of Hong Kong,” British Queen Victoria wrote in 1841 after Hong Kong was ceded to the British. Possession Point, where the Union Jack flag was first raised by the British, was known as Tai Hang Hau, or “big puddle”. It stood right on the island’s shoreline collecting water. The site today is located in Hollywood Road Park.
#12 Foodie fun facts about egg tarts and pineapple buns. The latter is named not because they contain the fruit but for their pineapple-like crust and are must-try local specials at the bakery, as are egg tarts.
#13 Typhoons: May to November is typhoon season. Hong Kong has a highly efficient system for dealing with these tropical storms. A T1 signal indicates a brewing storm is days away. Next, a T3 means the storm is gathering speed and kindergarten children stay home. A T8 or T10 means winds of up to 180km/h spin across Hong Kong and work, school and public transport is cancelled.
#14 Tycoons: Not to be confused with tropical storms, these Hong Kong businessmen whip up pots of cash. The city’s number one tycoon? For many years it was Li Ka-shing, whose net worth is around HK$250 billion, but it’s now Lee Shau-Kee, who claimed the top spot in 2020.
#15 Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s home airline and has won “World’s Best Airline” many times.
#16 Keep an ear out for rhythmic Chinese drums announcing the arrival of a Chinese lion. Acrobatic lion dances are an essential element at Chinese New Year, for groundbreaking ceremonies and business openings.
#17 The majority of Hong Kong’s Chinese population speaks Cantonese. The language has nine tones and a system of Romanisation called Jyutping.
#18 Hong Kong International Airport is the same size as 20 soccer fields.
#19 A famous Hong Kong landmark, the bronze Big Buddha is located on Lantau Island. This is one of the world’s largest seated Buddhas, towering over visitors at 34 metres high.
#20 With over 8,000 glittering skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s skyline is always one to marvel at. Its tallest building, almost half a kilometre high, sits in West Kowloon and is the International Commerce Centre or ICC. Crowning the building is The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong whose bar and swimming pool are located on the building’s 118th floor, making them the highest in the world.
#21 The Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macau bridge opened on 23 October 2018. It spans 55 kilometres across the Pearl River Delta. It’s the world’s longest sea crossing.
#22 You are considered lucky if you have a daughter followed by a son in Hong Kong. Their characters together in Chinese symbols mean “good”.
#23 The Peak Tram began running in 1888 and was Asia’s first funicular railway. It remains one of the oldest – and steepest – tramways in the world.
#24 Every spring (outside the pandemic, of course), locals sport outlandish costumes as Hong Kong hosts one of the world’s biggest rugby tournaments, the awesome Hong Kong Sevens.
#25 A foodie paradise, Hong Kong has one of the highest numbers of restaurants or cafes per capita. Plus, you can score the cheapest Michelin-starred food on the planet. Go eat!
This article first appeared in Expat Living’s annual City Guide. Get your free copy now!
Want to try out some of these activities or visit some of the places mentioned? Take a look at our things to do page which is packed full of tips and advice on Hong Kong.