In this era of cheap, easy travel, tourists fall over themselves to visit the latest hot city or exclusive island paradise, seeking the up-and-coming locations in a bid to out-run the spread of commercial tourism. And yet, amid this rush for new and undiscovered, few travellers can resist those perennial favourites, those vintage classics that always pull you back time and time again.
Hong Kong is one such evergreen destination, and despite having been on the tourist radar for many years, this thriving city continues to attract a rising number of camera-wielders each year. According to the latest statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, tourist arrivals in 2011 were a record high of 42 million, and all indicators pointed to an even better year in 2012.
For Simon Oestheimer, a British passport-holding journalist who is responsible for a new travel guide to the island, the infatuation is easy to understand. “I think people keep coming back because it’s always changing,” he says. “The second time you visit it can look completely different from the first.” Simon himself is a case in point: he lived in Hong Kong for the first 18 years of his life and yet continues to rediscover the jewels of what he considers “home.”
With his knowledge of and passion for this tourist magnet, Simon was an obvious choice as author of the Tuttle Travel Pack Guide to Hong Kong, and his contributions enhance an impressive little book that would serve as a valuable companion to anyone heading off to Hong Kong for the first, second, or fifty-seventh time.
Presented in an easy-to-read format, the book divides the sights of Hong Kong into sections that make quite a lot of detailed information easy to digest. History, practicalities, “must-see” sights, and districts are all documented, before Simon steps in to offer his own personal suggestions and recommendations for where to go, what to eat, and where to stay on what he describes in his foreword as a “city always on the move.”
It is also, like so many Asian capitals, a place of contrasts, from luxurious malls and hotels to dizzying back alleys packed with noodle shops and dim sum houses. There is even, in Simon’s words, a “wild side most tourists don’t anticipate. More than 40% of Hong Kong is protected country park, and you can be from the city street to the hiking trail within half an hour.”
Simon offers his own tips on places to find the wilderness and is dutiful in highlighting the sheer range of sights and sounds that can be experienced in Hong Kong, which is a bonus both for first-timers and for those returning and wanting to find something new. With the Tuttle Travel Pack in hand, tourists can escape the city for a hike in the historical and naturally splendid Po Toi, or hunt down the egg tarts that the last Governor of Hong Kong loved so much they named them after him.
To aid with the exploration of this intriguing city, a pull-out map comes tucked into the back of the guide, and up-to-date travel information and opening times, etc., will make a huge difference to those who are reacquainting themselves with a holiday destination they may have visited before.
For Simon, writing the guide offered an opportunity to revisit his adopted homeland – he currently resides in Thailand and runs The Phuket News – and rediscover the place he knows well. “It gave me the chance to rediscover things I had forgotten,” he explains. The research process also reminded him of just why Hong Kong got under his skin. “It’s fascinating, infuriating, indescribable, and overwhelming all at the same time,” he says in his foreword. “It makes you nostalgic for the past but excited about the future. It’s a city you’ll never forget.” If you haven’t experienced it, now is the time. If you have, perhaps it is time to head back and remind yourself just why you can’t forget Hong Kong.
Tuttle Travel Pack: Hong Kong is published by Tuttle Publishing and is available in all leading bookshops at a price of RM44.
For information on the range of other travel guides printed by the company, visit www.tuttlepublishing.com.
Source: The Expat February 2013
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