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China Travel Guide

Explore Hong Kong and Macau

Explore Hong Kong The restitution of the last two European colonies in Asia - Hong Kong (1997) and Macau (1999) to China, has opened new era for both places. While in both the vestiges of their colonial period are still evident, and among their greatest attractions - the buildings, the food and the use of European languages - subtle changes are already underway, as these two "Special Administrative Regions of China" seek to establish identities and roles for themselves.

As dependent territories with an unpredicted future, the populations in both places concentrated their efforts on other things, notably making money. They were not the only ones in Asia to take this path, but they had a great economic success, especially Hong Kong.

People of Hong Kong and Macau were majority glad to see the end of colonialism, something shown by the way the handover produced remarkably little emotion or nostalgia among local people. They are, after all, thoroughly Chinese (97% Cantonese). Almost all people speak only the Cantonese dialect, eat Cantonese food, pray in Chinese temples and enjoy close cultural and blood relations with the Cantonese population that lives just over the boundary, in the southern provinces of mainland China.

The return of the last piece of occupied soil to the motherland had a symbolic importance for the entire Chinese population - sealing the end of the era of foreign domination.

In both cities, however, life continues as normal as before the handover. Hong Kong continues to offer the densest concentration and greatest variety of shops and shopping malls of any place on Asia, and the panorama of sea and island, green mountains and futuristic cityscapes remain.

The range and variety of cuisines accessible - from Nepali snack bars to British pubs - is also ongoing. An excellent infrastructure, including the airport at Chek Lap Kok, the efficient underground trains, the helpful tourist offices and all the other facilities of a genuinely international city, make this an soft entry indeed into the Chinese world.

Explore Macaug While Hong Kong is a place to do business, Macau is known in the county as "Las Vegas of the East" because of its playground infrastructure. The marks of its colonial past are more evident than they are in Hong Kong, in its Portuguese architecture, old churches and Mediterranean water's edge. It can even boast its own indigenous population, the Macanese.

The cheap Portuguese wine and Macanese cooking - an interesting mix of Chinese and Mediterranean influences - are further reminders of colonial heritage, as is the softly Latin lifestyle. South of the main city, on the tiny islands of Taipa and Coloane, are beaches and quiet villages where you can eat fish and drink Portuguese rum in relative peace.

Visitors to this part of southern China expect to spend more money here than in other parts of the country, but it is not necessarily true, considering the often huge differential in terms of quality of service compared to the mainland. Public transport in both Hong Kong and Macau is still very cheap. Travelers on a tight budget can get accommodation for around 25 dollars per day.

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