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Hong Kong - Hong Kong SAR, PRC
All right, so you have settled into your hotel, you have ordered room service, you are all set for your big meeting tomorrow and you are bored. What to do? Never fear, the answer is here! Movies, dance, music, museums or horse racing, one thing is for sure: Hong Kong will not disappoint.
In a style that critics describe as "the sound of cats mating to music," the proud tradition of Cantonese Opera is alive and well in Hong Kong. Actually, learning a little about this art form beforehand, and getting a synopsis of the plot, can make watching Cantonese Opera very bearable and even enjoyable. The costumes and stylized gestures, along with the often acrobatic dancing and high-pitched singing, make for a unique entertainment experience.
There are several varieties of Chinese Opera, among them Cantonese Opera is known to have the most outstanding physical choreography. The form is now taught in a special program at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and performances can be seen at many venues around town. Civic theaters such as the Shatin Town Hall and the North District Town Hall will happily tell you more about upcoming shows. In addition, there is often a major opera company performing at the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival in February and March, plus regular performances at the Cultural Centre.
Canto Pop is the term used to describe Hong Kong's particular brand of pop music. Think Celine Dion meets Karaoke. Sugary and upbeat, it is definitely an acquired taste! However, if a good, clean melodic puppy-love tune is the order of the day, then Canto Pop is the answer. The best way to hear Canto Pop is to ride the local buses, on which loudspeakers pipe in local radio broadcasts. For anyone hankering after a live performance, there are the occasional concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum or the Queen Elizabeth Stadium by huge stars like Faye Wong, Andy Lau or Leon Lai.
Most of the city's arts festivals feature dance as a major component. Whether it is ballet, modern dance or the traditional Chinese Lion Dance, there is usually lots of movement to be found at venues such as the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Shatin Town Hall, Kwai Tsing Theatre, and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
The Hong Kong Ballet performs strong renditions of classical ballets, while the City Contemporary Dance Company creates modern, innovative pieces. The colorful "Lion Dance" is usually performed at the opening of new businesses, at weddings or at other events where the organizers want to ward off evil spirits. Chinese New Year is a great time to see a lion dance on the street or near a temple.
Aside from the many major international touring productions that stop off in Hong Kong, there is a lot going on in the local theater scene, both in Cantonese and English. The Fringe Club is the hub of theater activity in town. It also puts on the annual City Festival, a multi-disciplinary festival that features a blend of up-and-coming theater artists with more well-known performers. In addition, the Kwai Tsing Theatre lines up a challenging season of new commissioned works as well as classics. For an evening of cabaret or comedy, look into TakeOut Comedy Club.
Most people think Hong Kong cinema is all about violence and martial arts. For the most part, they are right. Heroes such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan have spawned a whole slew of martial arts films with overblown tragic plots and fast action. There is variety, though, and if you look hard enough, you might find a Hong Kong film with a storyline that goes beyond tough action. Aside from seeing the latest films, sitting in a big, comfy, air-conditioned theater, such as the AMC Festival Walk, can also be a great way to escape the heat of summer. An evening is made special with a trip to the classic, two screen Broadway Windsor. The movie screened is only part of the theatrics!
As well as all the usual cinematic offerings, there is a strong independent film scene, mainly featured at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, while art house and foreign films can be found at venues such as the Goethe-Institut (mainly German-language films) and the Broadway Cinemateque.
Museums & Galleries
From the scientific rigors of the Space Museum to the modern art installations in the galleries at the Fringe Club, from the informative and unique Law Uk Folk Museum to the bizarre (and definitely worth a visit) Police Museum, there is no shortage of cultural venues in Hong Kong. Of course, there is also the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and the fantastic Marine Land at Ocean Park, and a quick stroll through Central will reveal many intriguing little antique stores and galleries, so take your pick!
To experience the complete insanity of a crowd in Hong Kong, a visit to one of the city's horse-racing tracks - the Happy Valley Racecourse or the Shatin Racecourse - is a must. Intense gambling and socializing mixed with the excitement of first-rate horse racing; who knows - you might come away a big winner!
Whether you are making purchases for yourself or someone special back home, Hong Kong's shopping is infamous for its selection of style, availabilty and price range. If Hong Kong is the closest you will make it to China, check out the traditional handicrafts and fine jewelry available at the Jade Market and the historic Western Market. If style and fashion is what you seek, join the crowds along Fa Yuen Street or Granville Road to window shop and bargain in some of Hong Kong's best boutiques. For a mix of shopping, eating and people watching, an evening spent at Temple Street Night Market is not easily forgotten.
Hong Kong's warm climate and surrounding waters make water sports and beach activities a major pull. Check out the Stanley Beach Water Sports Complex for a day of fun on and near the beaches. Feel like stretching your legs? Try hiking a portion of the Lantau Trail for excellent views of the city and a chance to escape into the greener side of Hong Kong.
Clubs & Dancing
Hong Kong's nightlife is notorious for lasting through the small hours of the morning. If you feel like dancing, check out long time favorite Joe Bananas. Live music and guest DJs are a draw at Dragon-I while the people watching from the terrace of Wagyu is an entertainment unto itself. A well poured drink is no small feat. The folks at Blue Bar and the Langham Place Hotel understand how to do it right and are sure to please.
Essential Booking Information
Cityline: (+852) 2314 4228 (http://www.cityline.com.hk)
URBTIX: (+852) 2734 9009
Hong Kong Tourist Association: (+852) 2508 1234 (http://www.discoverhongkong.com)