Situated on a tiny Southeastern peninsula of China and the group of islands that surrounds it, Hong Kong is a surprisingly beautiful region of the world. Covered in forests and surrounded by the azure seas of South China it could be a new Eden, albeit one with a twenty-first century metropolis right in the middle of it.
Settled by the Victorians in the early part of the 19th century, Hong Kong was one of the British Empire's most far-flung outposts for 150 years, before finally being returned to Chinese rule at the end of the 20th century.
In between Hong Kong grew and grew, its sphere of influence outstripping its size and geographic location until it became one of the world's premier financial and trading centres. And it has this to thank for its present day position. Financial power has allowed Hong Kong to transcend the influence of both China and Britain to become its own territory and one of the most alluring cross-cultural cities in the world.
Central Hong Kong is one of the most spectacular cityscapes on the planet, containing some of the most daring architecture. It has the same hustle and bustle and blend of modernity and traditional culture that defines Southeast Asia city rivals Tokyo and Singapore, an endlessly fascinating dynamism and boundless energy.
However, many people first coming to Hong Kong think that big city banks and frenetic business is all there is, but it's far from the truth. The city has been careful to keep some green space - the parks of the city centre are rendered all the more beautiful by their juxtaposition with the distinctively modern city centre and you'll be surprised to find fabulous beaches offering seclusion within kilometres of Kowloon's bustle. Hong Kong is also acutely aware of its unique cultural position and boasts a truly international range of galleries, museums and cultural institutions, tracing and preserving its own history and cultural heritage.
For a long time before British rule and the 20th-century boom Hong Kong was a place apart. An archipelago of islands dotted with fishing villages and tiny farming communities the only entrepreneurs here were the pirates that Shanghaied ships all the way up the barbarous South China coast. Explore the lesser known islands and you're transported back through time to the days of Imperial China. Buddhist shrines dot the wooded landscape, from which pagoda roofed buildings peer, and stilted fishing villages inhabit naturally silted harbours and coves.
You might think you know Hong Kong, but actually take the time to visit it and you might just have to think again.