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 7.3 million people, we are sure you will love these 25 fun facts!
#1 Hong Kong may be famous for its towering skyscrapers but 40 percent of the territory is actually country park and nature reserve. Hiking the green trails is a favourite weekend pastime.
#2 You probably know that Hong Kong means “fragrant harbour” in Chinese, but did you know that every time you utter the word “Kowloon” you are saying “nine dragons”? Folklore says that when a young emperor noticed the area’s eight hills, he named the land “eight dragons,” until his servant pointed out that the emperor should be considered a dragon too, making nine. Kow sounds like “gau” or nine in Cantonese, and Loon is like “lung” or dragon.
#3 Hong Kong’s half-mile Mid-Levels Escalator is the world’s longest covered escalator.
#4 Hong Kong’s beloved Star Ferry began running in 1880 and the service from Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui took up to one hour. Due to reclamation, the same journey today takes just 10 minutes.
#5 Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive is Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The 60-year-old took office in July 2017.
#6 Hong Kongers have a long-established entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make money. In 2016, Hong Kong was ranked fourth in a global billionaires list, with 64 residents holding personal fortunes of US$1 billion or over.
#7 Hong Kong Island steals 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. Numerical fun facts – omitting the number four is common because four sounds like the word “death” in Chinese and is considered unlucky. Conversely, lucky eight means wealth.
#10 The mystical art of feng shui is still common practice in Hong Kong. Two rods located on the rooftop of Central’s HSBC Hong Kong building were included to deflect bad energy, and they face the Bank of China building, whose sharp edges are 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”, since 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, but there’s a highly efficient system for dealing with the tropical storms. A T1 signal indicates a brewing storm still some days away, a T3 means the storm is gathering speed and school children stay home. A T8 or T10 means winds of up to 180km/h spin across Hong Kong and work 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? Li Ka-shing, who in 2015 was crowned Asia’s richest man by Forbes.
#15 Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s home airline and has won “World’s Best Airline” four times – more than any other.
#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 and for groundbreaking ceremonies and shop openings.
#17 The majority of Hong Kong’s Chinese population speaks Cantonese. The language has nine tones and its system of Romanisation is 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 located on Lantau Island is one of the world’s largest seated Buddhas and is 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 At 1,377m, Tsing Ma is the world’s longest bridge with functioning motorway and railway.
#22 You are considered lucky if you have a daughter followed by a son in Hong Kong – their characters in Chinese symbols mean “double happiness.”
#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, 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 and is also the place to 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.