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Hong Kong's Top 10: Tourist misconceptions

photograph of middle island in hong kong

Most people who visit HK have a few misconceptions about the city. While some may ring true, many are in fact, far from accurate. Here's our list of the top 10 tourist misconceptions that are always good to remind out-of-towners. 

Hong Kong is just one island 

Visitors to our city often arrive under the misapprehension that HK Island is all there is to our city. Lantau, Lamma, the Kowloon Peninsula and New Territories – not forgetting the hundreds of smaller islands that surround the big boys – are frequent blind spots in tourists’ geography. Okay, we might not be able to name all 262 outer islands either, but each area has its own distinct vibe and deserves wider notice.

2 It’s all skyscrapers
We love our vertical city and buildings like the Bank of China Tower are beautiful feats of architecture, but Hong Kong’s not all concrete jungle. In fact, country parks and nature reserves make up 40 percent of the landscape here, making Hong Kong as a whole one of the lushest cities on Earth.

There’s not much wildlife
There’s more to Hong Kong’s animal kingdom than just roaches and rats. You can spot buffalo wandering the beaches of Lantau, porcupines crossing your jogging route on Bowen Road, wild pigs running riot in country parks (and sometimes shopping malls) and monkeys leaping on unsuspecting hikers. Not forgetting our waters are home to Chinese white dolphins, provided we can curb our pollution.

4 The Peak is the best view
It’s true that queuing for hours and cramming yourself on a tram up to Victoria Peak gets you a good snapshot, but it’s a test of patience. Those in the know will head to Woolloomooloo in Wan Chai for a view of Blade Runner-esque horizons in the evenings, and across the harbour, restaurants like Aqua and Hutong provide equally sumptuous views for Instagramming.

It’s hot all year
Though technically we live in the subtropics and spend a majority of the year melting in stifling heat and humidity, Hong Kong does get cold in winter. Unlike our Southeast Asian city state rival Singapore, we’ve bravely faced temperatures as low as three-degrees Celsius which, when buildings aren’t heated or insulated, feels pretty darn cold.  

6 Hong Kong is the same as China
Hong Kong’s identity crisis rages on, but the most recent study by The University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, released in December, showed more than twice the number of citizens interviewed identified themselves as ‘Hongkongers’, compared to ‘Chinese’. And why not? Hong Kong has the Basic Law, its own flag, currency and many cultural differences that set it apart from the Mainland. Hong Kong’s political masters might not like that, but it ain’t 2047 just yet.

The Octopus card is just for transport payments
The Octopus card system is a pillar of Hong Kong’s fantastic public transport network, but visitors are often unaware the card can also be used to pay for lots of other weird and wonderful things. Many supermarkets accept them. Fancy a day out? Use it to pay for entry to theme parks, cinemas and sports facilities. You can even use it to pay your taxes at certain convenience stores.

We only speak Cantonese or English
A broad misconception is locals only speak Cantonese or English. Mandarin is increasingly understood and spoken in the city, and Hakka, Hokkien and other Chinese dialects are prevalent, too. Hong Kong’s immigrant communities, whether they speak Tagalog, Thai, or something else entirely, add to the linguistic melting pot.

9 Hong Kongers only eat Chinese food
Of course Chinese food is dominant in Hong Kong, but it’s not all just dim sum and barbequed pork. Cha chaan tengs are a unique facet of the Fragrant Harbour’s café scene, serving up treats from the colonial era, such as milk tea, macaroni soup and peanut butter French toast. The modern dining scene is incredibly varied, serving top quality food inspired by countries the world over.

10 There’s no art scene in Hong Kong
Hong Kong isn’t top of any art aficionado’s must-see list, but our growing art scene is not to be overlooked. From the graffiti scattered around Soho and the many galleries of Sheung Wan, to Art Central and Art Basel, Hong Kong has a budding art scene that more visitors should be aware of.