“Twenty” is the watchword throughout Hong Kong as it celebrates two decades under Chinese rule.
But the masses are unimpressed by the fanfare. It appears that the city’s post-handover journey has turned out to be anything but smooth sailing.
Neither should we paint a gloomy future for the SAR, especially when some Hongkongers may have lost touch with the fundamentals that underpin its global stature.
Others may be unaware of the many world records and fun factoids that make Hong Kong truly one of a kind, many of which were attained over the past 20 years
Forget the dull statistics. Let’s take a look at some of the Hong Kong trivia that you may not know.
Most visited city
Hong Kong continues to outshine Bangkok, London, Singapore and Paris and leads the chart of the top 100 city destinations in a ranking by London-based market research firm Euromonitor International, as more international tourists flock to the city than any other urban centers for the seventh consecutive year.
Mainlanders make up the bulk of the arrivals, but that fact is an affirmation in itself of the city’s enduring allure up north, even in these turbulent times of cross-border relations. And, almost 14 million holidaymakers from countries other than the mainland descended upon the territory last year.
Hong Kong also reels in money. It was the world’s fourth largest foreign direct investment destination and the second largest in Asia in 2013, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
A lesser-known feat that is worth some genuine trumpeting is that the 805-kilometer hop from Hong Kong to Taipei is the world’s busiest international passenger route, which saw some 5.1 million passengers fly to the island in 2015, according to aviation statistics crunchers IATA and Amadeus. The route is surely a cash cow for both Cathay Pacific and China Airlines, Taiwan’s flag carrier.
On the same list of the most travelled air routes, the city’s airport also occupies the third spot with the Bangkok-Hong Kong route and fifth place with the Hong Kong-Singapore route.
With over 70 million people that flew in and out of Chek Lap Kok last year, the city’s airport is the world’s third busiest hub as measured by international passenger throughput, after Dubai and London’s Heathrow, and the eighth busiest overall.
Piggybacking on Hong Kong, the world’s seventh largest exporting economy ahead of the United Kingdom and Canada, Chek Lap Kok has handled more cargo than any other airport since 2010. In 2016, some 4.52 million tons of seafood, garment, smartphones and electric cars passed through Chek Lap Kok, up 3.2 percent year on year.
Trains and double-deckers
The city’s 230-kilometer MTR network and its 93 stations serve 5.5 million passengers on any given day. The 12-car trains running on the East Rail Line is the longest urban commuting rolling stock in Asia, measuring almost 300 meters in total length. One train can carry over 3,700 riders at a top cruising speed of 120 kilometers per hour.
Hong Kong also boasts one of the world’s largest fleets of air-conditioned double-deckers: KMB, CityBus, First Bus and other franchised subsidiaries operate a combined total of 5,500 such sleek, ultra-long double-decker buses, each of which can carry up to 150 passengers. In total, they carry about 3.92 million passengers daily.
Indeed, Hong Kong’s army of double-deckers that plies its narrow roads between soaring skyscrapers has become a novel tourist attraction for visitors from Taiwan, South Korea and other places with predominantly single-deckers. For sure it’s enjoyable to sit back on a leather upper deck window seat in the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin while the city spreads out before you under the scorching sun.
Wires and wireless
At 27.16 Mbps, Hong Kong is among the global top 10 measured by mean broadband download speed. That average speed means it takes about 30 minutes to download a 7.5GB HD movie. Think it’s still too long? To put things in perspective, it takes 51 minutes in the United States, an hour in the UK and almost 11 hours in China, according to data collected by Princeton University’s PlanetLab and its partners. On the other hand, the SAR government claims that Hong Kong has an average peak connection speed of 129.5 Mbps.
The number of cellular phone subscribers was about 16.73 million last year, a penetration rate of 229 percent, one of the highest in the world. These numbers translate into 2.3 phones per Hongkonger — a cabbie’s legion of smartphones on his dashboard says it all.
The first McDonald’s in Asia outside Japan was opened in 1975 in Paterson Street, Causeway Bay. A new world record of single-day patrons was set in 1981 when the US fast food behemoth opened a new restaurant in Yue Man Square, Kwun Tong. The place was inundated with customers on its first day of business. But the outlet offering comfort food for the rank-and-file and the hangout of the entire neighborhood will have to call it a day this August, after 36 years in service, to clear the way for an urban renewal development project.
But don’t think Hong Kong only laps up burgers and fries. Up to 305 eateries in Hong Kong, from husband-and-wife cha chaan teng to celebrated joints of sublime dining, received namechecks in the latest Michelin Guide. On the top echelon are six three-star restaurants, including 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to have received three stars.
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