Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the busiest confluences between China and the rest of the world for business travellers including myself. Apart from meetings and conferences, it is also a top tourist destination in Asia with its lure of shopping and plethora of dining options. However Asia's global city is more than just meetings, food and shopping. It's geography and unique blend of East and West presents a buffet of Chinese traditions and customs, theme parks, local cuisine and verdant countryside to enthrall the visitor for days. There's so much to do that I often wished had more time during visits. Here are 55 facts I picked up during my visits to Hong Kong to help make yours even more enjoyable and interesting. Might just amaze some locals as well.
1) The Peak Tram became the first cable funicular in Asia in 1888 and remains one of the steepest and oldest cable railroads in the world. An average of over 11,000 people ride the Peak Tram every day or more than 4 million annually.
2) Approximately 3/4 of of Hong Kong is rural, comprising of 24 country parks, scenic hills, woodlands, reservoirs and coastline easily accessible from the city.
3) It is being promoting as the site for Chinese renminbi (RMB) internationalisation with the issuing of Chinese government and RMB-denominated corporate bonds and RMB trade settlements.
4) The 'father of fibre optic communications' and winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics is Professor Charles Kao from Hong Kong.
5) The Chinese New Year "Poon Choi" dish consisting of 10 different ingredients cooked separately and assembled into a one-pot meal, popular among Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong, is actually of Hakka origin.
6) The services industry accounts for 92.9 percent of Hong Kong's GDP with 41.4 percent of its labour force employed in wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels.
7) Feng Shui or Chinese geomancy plays a key role in shaping architecture, business and lifestyles in Hong Kong, so much so that the government had to compensate residents living around civil construction projects for disturbing their feng shui.
8) The world's most expensive bottles of wine at USD232,692 per bottle were sold at an auction in Hong Kong.
13) The longest bi-cable aerial ride in Asia is Ngong Ping 360. This 25-minute ride from Tung Chung offers stunning views of Lantau Island including the Ngong Ping Village, Giant Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and Wisdom Path.
14) It boasts one of the world's highest per-capita concentrations of cafes and restaurants at one restaurant for every 600 people.
15) Hong Kong magician Louis Yan set the Guiness World Record for 'The largest magic lesson' by teaching 314 children, surpassing the previous record by David Copperfield.
16) It has the most skyscrapers in the world, with 8,000 buildings having more than 14 floors, almost double that of New York.
17) The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) won more than 25 awards and accolades in 2012 from the international media and the travel industry.
18) It consumes triple the world average of tea at a total of 9.8 million kilograms annual. This equates to an average of 1.4 kilograms of tea per person in Hong Kong per year. The world's most expensive tea available in Hong Kong is Iron Buddha at HKD20,000 per kilogram.
19) 'A Symphony of Lights' is recognised by Guinness World
Records as as the world's 'Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show'.
20) The British government colonised Hong Kong in 1841 during the first Opium War (1839-43), establishing a free-enterprise economy and trading centre in Asia, whose capitalist economy, political and social systems will be maintained by China for at least 50 years after the handover in 1997.
21) Its population is predominantly Chinese and Cantonese remains the common language of communication.
22) The number of mainland tourists to the territory has surged from 4.5 million in 2001 to 28 million in 2011, outnumbering visitors from all other countries combined.
23) Street food in Hong Kong is a unique culinary experience with stalls jutting out into pedestrian sidewalks offers skewers of cooked meat, offal, vegetables and cut fresh fruits. Mongkok is one of the most popular street food destinations with locals and visitors.
24) It was one of the stops in French writer Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" published in 1873.
25) The impact of shortage of land in Hong Kong has forced residents to consider online burial plots as a way of commemorating their loves ones. Traditional burial plots like those at the Chinese Christian Cemetery in Pokfulam can cost more than HKD650,000 if available.
26) It has historically been the world's leading city with the maximum number of Rolls-Royce luxury cars per capita. The largest single order of 14 Rolls-Royce Phantoms was by The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong.
27) White truffles seemed to be prized in Hong Kong with USD129,000 paid for 760g used in a 8-course truffle dinner in 2009.
28) It was regarded as the world's best destination for leisure visitors and meetings in 2012. Hong Kong was voted the "Best FIT Destination of the Year" in the China Travel & Meeting Industry Awards 2012 organised by travel magazine Travel Weekly. It was also named the "Best City for MICE Events" in the 2012 Industry Awards organised by CEI Asia Pacific magazine.
29) "Cha Chan Teng" or milk tea (literally translated from the Cantonese language) is an entirely Hong Kong food culture phenomenon that developed in the 1950s when western food cooked were served in Chinese eateries.
30) It has the highest IQ average at 107.
31) Dancing is serious business especially among Hong Kong's rich ladies who are willing to pay for the best teachers in order to rule the city's glitzy charity ball circuit. It was reported in 2006 that one such individual paid HKD62 million for salsa dance lessons.
32) The world's largest fleet of ferries provide the most popular and convenient way to travel between Hong Kong, Macau and other neighbouring Chinese cities.
Geopark's Hexagonal rock columns / Photo by longzijun of Flickr
33) Its 5,000 hectare Hong Kong Global Geopark of China is listed as part of UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network and lauded as a unique "geopark in the city" as it is location just an hour bus or car ride away from the city centre.
34) It is considered to be the largest metropolis for luxury goods and status symbols in Asia.
35) Hong Kong's Chow Tai Fook Jewellery paid a record price of USD35.5 million for the 19th largest uncut diamond of 507-carat from Petra Diamonds.
36) It is the top retail destination attracting 84 percent of the luxury brands surveyed by Global real estate advisory firm CBRE in 2011.
37) Dim sum or yum cha [飲茶], which originated with the Cantonese in southern China, is now a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially in Hong Kong where many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as 5am.
38) In 2011 alone, 41.92 million visitors arrived in Hong Kong and spend an estimated USD33.7 billion.
39) A USD19 million "Mega Events Fund" was proposed by the Financial Secretary to draw even more large-scale arts, cultural, sports and entertainment events to Hong Kong in 2013.
40) It is actually composed of more than 200 islands.
41) A Hong Kong icon are the late socialites Mr Chau Kai-bong and his wife Brenda, famous for their pink and gold Rolls Royce and golden toilet.
42) It ended New York's 11-year reign as the home of the world's most expensive district for retailers as luxury-brand companies like Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Chanel, Aigner, Christian Dior and Marc Jacobs competed for space to set up flagship stores selling their goods to mainland Chinese tourists. In 2012, the average annual rents at Causeway Bay was HKD2,630 per square foot.
43) It is home to Kung Fu or martial arts movies and legends Bruce Lee and Jacky Chan.
44) There are currently 83 historic buildings under conservation and revitalisation. The Museum of Tea Ware was the old Flagstaff House and the Savannah College of Art and Design campus was the former North Kowloon Magistracy. The old Woo Cheong Pawn Shop in Wan Chai has been transformed into The Pawn restaurant and pub and the old Tai O Police station in Lantau has been converted into the Tai O Heritage Hotel.
45) It has been voted the "Best Business City in the World" and "Best Business City in Northeast Asia" for four and five consecutive years respectively in the annual readers' poll organised by Business Traveller Asia Pacific magazine. It was also voted the "Favourite Business City in the World" by mainland Chinese travellers in the 2012 Business Traveller China Awards.
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens / Photo by MR.. Chung of Flickr
46) Held in March, the Hong Kong Sevens is the world's biggest and the city's best known annual rugby event, attracting up to 28 teams vying for USD150,000 of prize money in front of 40,000 spectators and fans from around the world.
47) For a relatively small population, Hong Kong managed to present 42 competitors at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games as a nation independent of China and winning 1 bronze medal in women's cycling by Sarah Lee Wai Sze.
48) Its Tai O dragon boat water parade, Tai Hang fire dragon dance, Cheung Chau Jiao Festival (Bun Festival) and Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community are inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Tsing Ma Bridge / Photo by Minghong of Wikimedia Commons
49) The Tsing Ma Bridge, with a main span of 1,377 metres, is the longest suspension bridge with both rail and road traffic in the world, 100m longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It received its name from the areas at both of its ends, Tsing Yi and Ma Wan. This famous landmark and scenic spot has a visitor centre and viewing platform located next to the Bridge's Tsing Yi end.
50) Its personal income tax or salary tax starts at 2% and goes up to 17% for income above HKD 120,000.
51) The number on your car's license plate is a social status symbol in Hong Kong with famous personalities like Run Run Shaw with number 6 and Albert Yeung with number 8. In 2007, the number 18 license plate was purchased at an auction for HKD16.5 million.
52) It is the premier stock market for Chinese firms seeking to list abroad. In 2011 mainland Chinese companies constituted about 43% of the firms listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and accounted for about 56% of the Exchange's market capitalisation.
Hong Kong Tram / Photo by Canadian Pacific of Flickr
53) Hong Kong Tramways operates the world's largest fleet of double-deck tramcars, carrying an average of 230,000 passengers every day.
54) It is the world's most expensive place to buy a home where HKD1.5 million buys only 500 square feet. 1 bedroom apartments in Tsim Sha Tsui are sold for almost HKD25 million. Even outlying locations like Yuen Long have homes selling for HKD11 million. The clear winner is the Peak where HKD350 million will only buy you a 4,600 square foot villa.
55) Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) one of the world's top 10 busiest international passenger airports. In 2011, it received more than 53.9 million passengers, about 3.9 million tonnes of cargo, 1,000 aircraft movements and over 100 airlines link HKIA with about 170 destinations worldwide every day.