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The Giant Buddha is the world's tallest, outdoor, seated, bronze Buddha statue. It sits beside the Po Lin Monastery. (© Hong Kong Tourism Board) The Giant Buddha is the world's tallest, outdoor, seated, bronze Buddha statue. It sits beside the Po Lin Monastery. (© Hong Kong Tourism Board)
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By Beth Reiber

Hong Kong is such a feast for the senses, it reminds me of a movie set. Maybe I'm an incurable romantic, but when I stand at the railing of the famous Star Ferry as it glides across the harbor, ride a rickety old tram as it winds its way across Hong Kong Island, or marvel at the stunning views afforded from atop Victoria Peak, I can't help but think I must have somehow landed in the middle of an epic drama where the past has melted into the present. So many images float by -- wooden boats bobbing up and down in the harbor beside huge ocean liners; crumbling tenements next to ultramodern high-rises; squalid alleys behind luxury hotels; elderly people pushing wheelbarrows as Rolls-Royces glide by; market vendors selling chicken feet and dried squid while talking on cellphones.

In fact, one of the most striking characteristics of Hong Kong is this interweaving of seeming contradictions and the interplay of the exotic and the technically advanced. There are as many skyscrapers here as you're likely to see anywhere, but they're built with bamboo scaffolding and in accordance with the principles of feng shui. Historic trams rumble through Central, while below ground is one of the most efficient subways in the world, complete with the world's first "contactless" tickets, cards that can be waved over a scanner without even taking them out of your purse or wallet. The city has some of the best and most sophisticated restaurants in the world, but it also has dai pai dong, street-side food stalls. Hong Kong is home to one of the world's largest shopping malls, but lively makeshift street markets are virtually everywhere.

The more you search for in Hong Kong, the more you'll find. Before long, you, too, may find yourself swept up in the drama.

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