Hong Kong has to be one of the most unique cities in the world. Nestled in the cradle of an exceptional natural harbor, Hong Kong combines together the influence of dozens of different peoples and cultures into its own original blend. The natural geography of Hong Kong is mountainous, and the constant elevation changes while walking through the city are reminiscent of San Francisco. But Hong Kong was developed as a British colony and remained part of Britain's overseas territories until 1997, resulting in the widespread use of English as a language and many of the cultural touchstones of British identity spread across the city. But Hong Kong is also surrounded on all sides by China and inhabited mostly by ethnic Chinese residents, which means that this is fundamentally a Chinese city at heart. But Hong Kong also ALSO is specifically inhabited by speakers of the Cantonese version of the Chinese language, making them distinct from the Han Chinese of the Beijing area, and the city is one of the most cosmopolitan places in the world, a financial hub bringing expats from around the globe to its shores. There's nowhere else quite the same as Hong Kong.
I visited the city for one week in January 2008 while my brother was living and working in Hong Kong as part of his job as a financial analyst. This gave me the chance to explore the area with someone who had been living in Hong Kong for many months, if not a true local. I visited the major sights in Hong Kong, hiked on some of the outlying islands in the harbor, and took day trips to the nearby cities of Macao and Guangzhou. The two of us also flew to Bangkok, Thailand for a weekend to check out another exotic city in the same general region. This was the first time that I traveled to Asia and it left me with plenty of fond memories afterwards - not to mention a replica pair of swords that I purchased as a souvenir! Read on for more information about this trip to east Asia.