Because the area that is called Hong Kong by most travelers--Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories--is relatively small, it is not difficult to hit all the basic tourist spots.
The New Territories, mostly countryside, is part of mainland China. At its tip is the busy city of Kowloon, where the airport and many of the major tourist hotels are located. Across the harbor is Hong Kong Island (about 30 square miles) with its principal city of Victoria.
The Star Ferry between Hong Kong and Kowloon is convenient, frequent and very cheap, and several other ferries can get you to other islands in the harbor area. The ferry is one of the best ways to observe the bustling port, which is one of the colony's major attractions. Ocean-going transports and cruise ships vie for room with an incredible variety of small craft.
From land, the best view of the harbor area is from atop Hong Kong Island's Victoria Peak. The Peak Tram is a simple, even exhilarating way to get there; the steep climb is very tricky by foot. The panoramic view from the Mandarin Hotel on Kowloon is available for the price of a drink.
The quality of Hong Kong's Chinese restaurants is well-known, and it is almost pointless to single out one or two. Ask for the kind of food you want--Szechuan, Peking, Cantonese, Mandarin, Fukien, they are all there--and wing it. Near the harbor on Kowloon are a number of dum-sum houses where you can sample every sort of dumpling and hors d'oeuvre.
Aberdeen, another city on the other side of Hong Kong Island, is famous for its floating restaurants. Critics say the food often is not up to the standards of less touristy restaurants, but the vibrant, colorful harbor scene makes it worthwhile. Perhaps the best way to get there is on a water tour, sailing around Hong Kong Island with a stop for lunch or dinner in Aberdeen.
Hong Kong, because it caters to everyone from the international business community to the traveler on the cheap, has a choice of hotels ranging from the elegant Mandarin, Peninsula and Hilton to the budget hostel-style accommodations near the Kowloon shopping areas. For a taste of the traditional, the Repulse Bay Hotel, outside Victoria, retains its ceiling fans and cocktails are served on the terrace.
Much of your time in Hong Kong would be well spent on walks along the streets, particularly in Kowloon. Stroll past open food stalls or step into what is an almost unimaginable array of shops selling both handcrafted and manufactured goods from around the world, often of excellent quality and at bargain prices.
But if you want to get away from what is one of the busiest, most populated areas of the world, hotels or local travel agencies can arrange day trips by land or sea to Aberdeen, the verdant New Territories and other Hong Kong islands or to Macao, the Portuguese colony 40 miles away that is famous for its gambling casinos. And one of the quickest ways to obtain a travel visa for a trip to China is in Hong Kong.