For information on exhibitions see CURRENT EXHIBITIONS
For information on future developments see WHAT'S PLANNED
For information on new attractions/developments see WHAT'S NEW
For information on new, future and renamed hotels see NEW AND FUTURE HOTELS
NGONG PING 360 CABLE CAR TEMPORARY CLOSURE
The Ngong Ping 360 cable car service operating between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping will be closed for scheduled maintenance from 13th March to 20th March 2015 inclusive. Ngong Ping Village, Po Lin Monastery, the "Big Buddha" and other attractions at Ngong Ping will remain open as usual. Visitors can reach Ngong Ping during the cable car closure period by alternative transport from Tung Chung, either bus 23 which takes about 50 mins;
or Lantau (blue) taxi, which takes about 25 mins, fare about HK$190.
Additional services of bus route 23 operate to meet demand during closure of the cable car.
HONG KONG FLOWER SHOW TICKETS ON SALE
Admission tickets for the Hong Kong Flower Show 2015 are available for sale from 2nd March until 29th March 2015 at the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD)'s District Leisure Services Offices, and leisure venues with Leisure Link services such as sports centres, tennis courts, squash courts, except for holiday camps, water sports centres, and Tuen Mun Recreation and Sports Centre.
Admission fees for the flower show are;
Normal rate: HK$14
Concessionary rate*: HK$7 (children aged 4 to 14 and full-time Hong Kong students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, persons with disabilities and their minders)
*Concessionary rate from Monday to Friday, free admission for senior citizens aged 60 or above, free admission for persons with disabilities and their minders, half-price concession for adults in groups of 30 or more entering the venue together
Tickets will also be sold at the entrance to the Victoria Park showground throughout the show period. Octopus can also be used to pay for admission.
The flower show will be held for 10 days from 20th to 29th March 2015 from 9am to 9pm daily in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay featuring "When Blossoms Dance" as the main theme and with oncidium as the theme flower. In addition to this year's theme flower and other flowering plants, the event will showcase a rich profusion of exquisite potted plants, floral arrangements and landscape displays by local, Mainland and overseas organisations. There will also be commercial stalls selling flowers, horticultural products and fast food. The show will also feature educational and recreational fringe activities including music and cultural performances, floral art demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, green activities workshops, green stalls, guided visits, recreation programmes and fun games.
Poster for the Hong Kong Flower Show which takes place from 20th to 29th March 2015 in Victoria Park
TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF SOME FACILITIES AT KOWLOON WALLED CITY PARK
Visitors to Kowloon Walled City Park should note that between February and April 2015 some facilities will be temporarily closed. Exhibition Room 1 and The Yamen (right front hall) will be closed from 26th February until 22nd March 2015. The Yamen (left front hall) will be closed from 23rd March until 16th April 2015. Other facilities will remain open as usual.
CHINESE NEW YEAR INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
For information regarding Chinese New Year events, opening hours of attractions, transport and traffic arrangements see CHINESE NEW YEAR. Information is updated as and when available.
PLOVER COVE COUNTRY PARK VISITOR CENTRE TO CEASE OPERATION
Plover Cove Country Park Visitor Centre on Bride's Pool Road at Tai Mei Tuk will cease operation from 16th February 2015. Information leaflets and brochures will continue be available outside the centre.
HONG KONG LICENSED HOTELS AND GUESTHOUSES APP LAUNCHED
To assist tourists search for the latest details and locations of licensed hotels, guesthouses, holiday flats and holiday camps anytime and anywhere for a safe stay in Hong Kong, the Home Affairs Department of the Hong Kong Government launched a mobile application "Hong Kong Licensed Hotels and Guesthouses" on 10th February 2015. Users can search for all hotels and guesthouses or by district or by name.
Tourists and members of the public can also report suspected unlicensed guesthouses to the Office of Licensing Authority through the mobile application. "Hong Kong Licensed Hotels and Guesthouses" app can be found by searching the Apple App Store or on Google Play.
The "Hong Kong Licensed Hotels and Guesthouses" app details every licensed hotel and guesthouse in Hong Kong
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND ANNOUNCES 36% PROFITS INCREASE
Hong Kong Disneyland has announced a 36% increase in its net profit from HK$88 million to HK$332 million for the financial year ended September 2014. Revenue increased by 12% to HK$5.46 billion although attendance for the year showed only a 1% increase of 100,000 to 7.5 million. Visitor spending rose by an average of 11% per guest largely due to product sales associated with the popular animated film "Frozen". During the year the park employed, on average, over 5,100 full-time and 2,700 part-time staff.
Hotel occupancy remained high at 93% although this was down slightly by 1% from 2013.
The park, which is owned 52% by the government and 48% by Disney, opened in September 2005 first recorded a net profit in the financial year ended 2012
VISA REQUIREMENT FOR THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA NATIONALS AND LIBYAN NATIONALS FOR HONG KONG ENTRY
Nationals of the Republic of the Gambia will require a visa to enter Hong Kong for whatever purpose (including those who remain airside in transit) with effect from 12th February 2015. Previously, nationals of the Republic of the Gambia have been able to visit Hong Kong visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days.
With effect from 16th February 2015, nationals of Libya will require a visa to visit Hong Kong for any purpose including whilst remaining airside in transit. Previously Libyan nationals have not required a visa when remaining airside whilst in transit.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport holders currently require a visa to enter the Republic of the Gambia and Libya. HKSAR passport holders should check with the Gambian authorities for the latest visa requirements before visiting the Republic of the Gambia and should check with the Embassy of Libya in Beijing for the latest requirements for visiting Libya.
VISITOR ARRIVALS RISE BY 12% IN 2014
Hong Kong Tourism Board has announced an annual increase in visitor arrivals to Hong Kong of 12% to 60,838,836 in 2014, of which almost 78% (47,247,675) were from Mainland China. The number of overnight visitors increased by about 8% to 27,770,459 of which 19,077,014 were from Mainland China, whilst day visitors amounted to 33,068,377, an increase of 15.5% with the number of day visitors from Mainland China increasing by 19% to 28,170,661.
The continued growth of visitors to Hong Kong is largely down to the increase in Mainland visitors taking advantage of the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) which has been expanded from 4 cities to 49 cities since its introduction in 2003 and the introduction of multiple-entry Individual Visit Endorsements for permanent Shenzhen residents in 2009. In 2003 when the IVS was first introduced the number of Mainland visitors was about 6.8 million, whilst in 2014 about 32 million visitors of the 47 million Mainland visitors were IVS visitors.
"HONG KONG ATTRACTIONS FUN DEALS" PROMOTION EXTENDED THROUGH 2015
Seven major Hong Kong attractions, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong Wetland Park, The Peak Tram & Sky Terrace, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Noah’s Ark Hong Kong and sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck are again participating in the "Hong Kong Attractions Fun Deals" joint promotion, which has been extended from 1st January 2015 until 31st December 2015.
Visitors to any one of the seven attractions are entitled to a 10% admission discount by presenting the ticket stubs at any of the other four attractions. Redemption period for valid tickets from the seven attractions lasts until 31st January 2016.
Since 2011, when the promotion was launched with five participating attractions, over 16,000 visitors a year have taken advantage of the offer.
For full details and terms and conditions see;
OCEAN PARK ADMISSION PRICE REVISION
With effect from 1st January 2015, Ocean Park admission prices have been increased by about 8%. New ticket prices are HK$345 Adult, HK$173 Child (age 3-11). Admission continues to be free for children under 3 years and senior citizens who are holders of Hong Kong ID Card or Senior Citizen Free Card.
Hong Kong residents can continue to purchase admission tickets at the old prices (HK$320 adult, HK$160 child) until 30th April 2015 on production of Hong Kong ID Card at the ticket office.
Ocean Park last increased its admission prices on 1st September 2013.
MTR WEST ISLAND LINE OPENED
MTR West Island Line services began operating at 6am on 28th December 2014. The new 3km line extends the existing Island Line from Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town with intermediate stations at HKU (Hong Kong University) and Sai Ying Pun. However, owing to construction difficulties affecting two station exits, Sai Ying Pun Station will not open until March 2015 and the Ki Ling Lane exit is not expected to open until the end of 2015. Trains will stop at Sai Ying Pun Station for about ten seconds but doors will not open. HKU Station is the largest and deepest station on the MTR network, being 70-metres below surface with a length of 250-metres and width of 22-metres. Special emergency refuge areas are incorporated into the station to enable passengers to take lifts to the surface. Journey time is 5 minutes from Sheung Wan to HKU and 7 minutes from Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town. During the first two weeks of operation the line has attracted a daily patronage of about 100,000 passengers.
To tie in with the extension of Island Line to Western District, a new feeder bus service, Citybus (CTB) 43M (Tin Wan - Shek Tong Tsui (Hill Road)) has been introduced from 28th December plying between Tin Wan, Wah Kwai, Wah Fu, Victoria Road and Kennedy Town Station/HKU Stations for use by passengers living in areas relatively far away from the new MTR stations. The new feeder bus route has replaced Citybus service M47 (Wah Fu - Central (Hong Kong Station) which has ceased operation.
Three new green minibus railway feeder routes connecting Southern District and Kennedy Town Station (Hau Wo Street) have also been introduced from 28th December. Route 23M circular service operates via Pokfield Road, Pok Fu Lam Road (Queen Mary Hospital) and Chi Fu. Route 54M circular service operates via Victoria Road, Mount Davis Road, Pok Fu Lam Road and Queen Mary Hospital and route 58M operates to Bel-Air on the Peak via Victoria Road and Cyberport.
HONG KONG eTRANSPORT KIOSKS LAUNCHED
Hong Kong eTransport Kiosks have been launched by the Transport Department at six pilot locations. Members of the public and visitors can now use the kiosks to access the interactive enquiry service of Hong Kong eTransport for public transport and related real-time traffic information at any time.
The Transport Department has provided Hong Kong eTransport, a point-to-point public transport enquiry service, since 2009. Unlike the existing mobile application and the desktop and mobile websites, the Hong Kong eTransport Kiosks have a new feature which allows users to set a kiosk's location as the default starting point of their journeys when searching for suitable public transport services. Users only need to enter the destinations before choosing from the suitable public transport services according to the number of transfers, fares, the estimated journey time, the preferred public transport mode and more.
Users can also enter the route number or mode of public transport service in order to obtain the service details via the kiosks. The kiosks also provide information on the real-time traffic situation and transportation facilities in the vicinity, including traffic speed, traffic condition snapshots and videos, stations and bus stops nearby and tourist attractions.
The six pilot Hong Kong eTransport Kiosks are located at:
* Arrivals Hall, Terminal 1, Hong Kong International Airport
* Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
* Yau Lai Shopping Centre
* Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier
* Sha Tin MTR Station
* Tuen Mun Road Bus-Bus Interchange
The Transport Department is to conduct opinion surveys to collect views and comments from the public and visitors at the six kiosks. After taking into consideration the views collected, the department will further improve the kiosk services and install more kiosks at other suitable locations to provide public transport and real-time traffic information to members of the public without mobile Internet access.
To allow wider access to the Hong Kong eTransport Kiosks, the kiosk software and data are available free of charge to private property managers. They can install the Hong Kong eTransport Kiosk software on electronic information kiosk devices at places such as shopping arcades, commercial buildings and hotels to provide interactive public transport and real-time traffic information enquiry services to their visitors and customers.
FOUR LOCAL HERITAGE ITEMS ADDED TO NATIONAL LIST OF INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE
Four intangible cultural heritage (ICH) items from Hong Kong have been successfully inscribed onto the fourth national list of ICH. They are the Hang Hau Hakka Unicorn Dance, Wong Tai Sin Belief and Customs, Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music and the Arts of the Guqin. The list was announced by the State Council earlier.
At the invitation of the Ministry of Culture in September 2013 on application for inscription onto the national list of ICH, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government submitted the application prior to the deadline in November last year after consulting the views of the experts of the ICH Advisory Committee.
The four successfully inscribed items are in the categories of "performing arts", "social practices, rituals and festive events" and "traditional craftsmanship" defined by the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage promulgated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. With outstanding historical and cultural value, these four items are representative of their kind.
Details of the four items are as follows:
(1) Hang Hau Hakka Unicorn Dance
The activity has been practised for more than 200 years. The Hakka people believe the Chinese unicorn, the qilin, is an auspicious animal that can ward off evil and bring good luck. So, on all celebratory occasions such as Chinese New Year, weddings, birthday parties, the inauguration of an ancestral hall, moving into a new home, welcoming guests, the Jiao festival and birthdays of deities, there would invariably be a unicorn dance. Since the Hakka people brought the unicorn dance, fusing local traditional music and martial arts, with them to Hong Kong, the unicorn dance has developed its own styles and sequence of movements.
(2) Wong Tai Sin Belief and Customs
The folk religion of Wong Tai Sin originated in the Jinhua area of Zhejiang Province and was introduced into the Lingnan region at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Local Wong Tai Sin belief and customs originated in 1915. In 1921, Sik Sik Yuen was established to manage the Wong Tai Sin Temple. After a century of inheritance, nowadays the folk religion of Wong Tai Sin has developed in conjunction with charitable features and has been widely circulated in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese communities. Sik Sik Yuen has founded various social services for the local community, achieving Wong Tai Sin's "grant every wish" spirit.
(3) Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music
Taoist ritual music consists of Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity School) and Quanzhen (Complete Perfection School) traditions. The Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music has been developed in Hong Kong for many years. The Taoist music inherited by Fung Ying Seen Koon is considered one of the most typical representatives of the Quanzhen temples tradition in Hong Kong. After decades of inheritance in Hong Kong, the liturgical music of Fung Ying Seen Koon has evolved into a kind of Taoist music with local characteristics under the influence of Cantonese opera and its singing style, Cantonese tunes, and other religious music genres such as Confucian and Buddhist music.
(4) The Arts of the Guqin
The Arts of the Guqin include the techniques for making the qin (a seven-stringed plucked instrument). Qin making is a craft that starts with chopping and trimming a piece of wood, and involves nine steps, namely seeking, chopping, hollowing, fitting, assembling, cement priming, sanding, lacquering and stringing, until it reaches the final stage of becoming an instrument. Local craftsmanship of qin making can be traced back to Xu Wenjing, a master qin player of the Zhejiang school (pai). He taught the craft to Choi Chang-sau, whose family operated the Choi Fook Kee musical instrument shop, in the 1950s. Choi Chang-sau started the Qin Making Class, teaching the craft publicly to local qin players so that it can be perpetuated in Hong Kong.
The State Council announced three batches totalling 1,219 items inscribed onto the national list of ICH in 2006, 2008 and 2011. The governments of Guangdong, the HKSAR and the Macau Special Administrative Region jointly applied and succeeded in inscribing Cantonese opera and traditional herbal teas onto the national list of ICH. In 2011, four local ICH items, the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, the Tai O dragon boat water parade, the Tai Hang fire dragon dance and the Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow community, were successfully inscribed onto the third national list of ICH.
ICC LIGHT AND MUSIC SHOW LATEST PRESENTATION
Sun Hung Kei Properties (SHKP) ICC Light and Music Show, which premiered in April 2013, takes place on the facade of Hong Kong's tallest building, International Commerce Centre, above Kowloon Station and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest light and sound show on a single building.
The latest show, “Spreading Love in Winter”, commenced on 1st December 2014, and features a seasonal theme with the “Love Train” departing from ICC, climbing steep mountains and gliding through oceans to enter a world of ice sculpture and meet polar animals on an adventure in the snow. ICC will also have countdown illuminations for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The show runs every night throughout the festive period.
The animation opens with a train whistle and takes spectators to the polar seas through a tunnel while a whale leaps excitedly and splashes in the water. Penguins playfully swim in a froth of bubbles and walruses sing exuberantly in formation. The train crosses a bridge as white foxes chase each other and angels send love to Earth. The train then rolls through the mountains to meet snowmen and polar bears frolicking in a world of ice sculpture, while reindeer skip through a forest of ice lollies and ice-cream cones. The train finally arrives at a snowy castle as vibrant fireworks sparkle in the night sky showering the air with love.
The show takes place twice nightly at 7-45pm and 9pm. Recommended viewing places are the outdoor terraces of Podium Levels 3 and 4 of IFC Mall and anywhere along the waterfront promenades of Hong Kong Island, from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay. The accompanying music is broadcast at Podium Levels 3 and 4 of IFC Mall and at ICC and tailor-made ICC Light and Music Show apps are available for iPhone and Android platforms enabling the public to listen to the synchronised music.
For further details see the ICC Light and Music Show website;
Scenes from "Spreading Love in Winter", the latest ICC Light and Music Show presentation, shown twice nightly on the façade of Hong Kong's tallest building
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND TICKET PRICE INCREASE
Hong Kong Disneyland has announced revised ticket prices with effect from 11th November 2014. A 1-day ticket now costs HK$499 for adults and HK$355 for child (3-11), increased from HK$450 and HK$320 respectively. 2-day tickets cost HK$680 for adults and HK$480 for child, increased from HK$585 and HK$415 respectively. There is no increase in ticket prices for seniors (65 and over). The revised ticket prices for travel agents, wholesalers and Hong Kong residents do not take effect until 10th January 2015.
Ticket prices were last increased on 27th March 2013.
HONG KONG PULSE 3D LIGHT SHOW
Hong Kong Pulse 3D Light Show, a new event organised by Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), is to be shown four times each evening during three time periods to enhance the festive ambience of three HKTB mega events;
29th October 2014 to 16th November 2014 covering the CCB (Asia) Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival
17th to 29th December 2014 covering the Hong Kong WinterFest
14th February 2015 to 5th March 2015, (excluding 19th February the first day of Chinese New Year) during the Chinese New Year period
Produced by Spinifex Group, a prestigious Australian overseas production team, the spectacle is created by images projected on to the façade of Hong Kong Cultural Centre and Clock Tower and is based on the theme of Hong Kong as a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and shows how it evolved through the years into the major world city it is today through striking visuals, including uniquely local buildings.
Spinifex Group’s Head of Creative, Richard Lindsay, has over 20 years’ experience in the design industry and has been involved in numerous international creative media shows, including the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, in which he collaborated with famed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou; the 2010 Shanghai World Expo; the 2010Vancouver Winter Olympics; and the 2013 edition of the Sydney Opera House light show in “Vivid Sydney”.
The show lasts about 15 minutes and takes place at 8-30pm, 9pm, 9-30pm and 10pm during the periods indicated above at the`Open Piazza, Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
The show will feature a theme song, which will be played during the show at the venue and on a number of radio channels, namely FM103.4 MHz, FM106.8 MHz, and FM107.9 MHz.
For further information see the HKTB website;
Pulse 3D Light Show projected on to the façade of Hong Kong Cultural Centre
DISCOVERY BAY TAXI RESTRICTIONS EASED
Restrictions on taxi access to part of Discovery Bay have been relaxed with effect from 26th October 2014 after the Transport Department gave consent to allow urban (red) and Lantau (blue) taxis to serve Discovery Bay North in the vicinity of Auberge Hotel, DB North Plaza and Yi Pak. Discovery Bay developer HKRI will waive tunnel fees for taxis. Taxis will not, however, be allowed access to other areas of Discovery Bay. The Transport Department has also agreed to allow tourist coaches access the same areas of Discovery Bay.
Discovery Bay was served exclusively by ferry until 2000 when a tunnel connecting the development with the North Lantau Highway was opened. Since then, HKRI has also operated external bus services to Tung Chung, Hong Kong International Airport and Sunny Bay Station.
Taxi rank opposite Auberge hotel at Discovery Bay North
THREE HISTORIC TEMPLES DECLARED MONUMENTS
Three historic temples have been declared as monuments in October 2014 under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. Lin Fa Temple in Tai Hang, Hung Shing Temple in Ap Lei Chau and Hau Wong Temple in Kowloon City are all currently managed by the Chinese Temples Committee.
LIN FA TEMPLE was believed to have been constructed in 1863. It is not only the oldest Kwun Yam Temple on Hong Kong Island, but is also an important historic landmark in the Tai Hang area and has a strong association with the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. On the 14th day of the eighth lunar month every year, the "fire dragon" (made of joss sticks arranged in a dragon-shaped form) is first blessed by Kwun Yam (the Goddess of Mercy) of Lin Fa Temple before the fire dragon is paraded throughout the Tai Hang area. This traditional event, which has a history of over one hundred years, was inscribed onto China's Third National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011. The architecture of Lin Fa Temple is unique. The front hall is in half-octagonal shape with a double-eaves-tended roof. Different from other two-hall Chinese temples which have a courtyard in between, the front hall of Lin Fa Temple is connected to its main (rear) hall without an internal courtyard in between. Access to the temple is through two staircases on the left and right ends of the front hall, unlike the design of other conventional Chinese temples which have a main entrance in the middle of the facade. There are still many relics kept in the temple, such as Shiwan ceramic figurines (1863) on the main ridge, a granite crafted offering table (1864), a temple bell (1865) and a wooden caimen (1909).
Lin Fa Temple at Tai Hang
HUNG SHING TEMPLE in Ap Lei Chau was probably built by the local community in 1773 for the worship of Hung Shing, a popular deity protecting fishermen and marine traders. It is one of the very few traditional temples with exquisite craftsmanship that still keeps its original sea-orientated fung shui setting and close association with the local community. It has been the main temple in Ap Lei Chau since its establishment. The Hung Shing Festival, which takes place on the 13th day of the second lunar month every year, is still widely celebrated every year by both the land-based and boat-based populations in the area with offerings, procession of the statues of Hung Shing and other deities, lion and dragon dances, traditional Chaozhou music and Cantonese opera performances and other ritual activities. The temple is a typical Qing vernacular two-hall-three-bay building, with a courtyard covered with a pavilion in-between the two halls and two side chambers on its left and right. The temple is widely decorated with exquisite historic Shiwan ceramic figurines and fine wood carvings, particular those on the wooden brackets of the covered courtyard and the parapet walls of the chambers on both sides of the internal courtyard. The vivid ceramic figurines of the God of the Sun and Goddess of the Moon at the end of the gable ridges of the entrance hall are also very impressive. In front of the temple, there are two timber poles painted with a dragon pattern which are rare in Hong Kong. Locals call them "dragon poles", and it is believed that they were erected for protecting the fung shui of the area.
Hung Shing Temple at Ap Lei Chau
HAU WONG TEMPLE in Kowloon City is not only the main temple in the area, but also one of very few temples in Hong Kong still keeping a rich collection of historic relics related to the Kowloon Walled City. The exact year of construction of Hau Wong Temple is not known. With reference to the temple bell which was cast in the 8th year of Yongzheng's reign (1730) of the Qing dynasty, the temple was probably built in or before 1730. Hau Wong Temple was patronised by Qing officials and soldiers when the Kowloon Walled City was still in existence and guarding the territories between 1847 and 1899. A stone tablet engraved in the 9th year of Xianfeng's reign (1859) in the temple indicates a donation by officials from the offices of the Assistant Magistrate of Kowloon and Dapeng Brigade for the renovation of the temple. Other relics like the incense burner donated by Xu Wenshen, the first Assistant Magistrate of Kowloon, in 1847, and a number of timber plaques donated by the military officials of the Kowloon Walled City are still kept in the temple. The most famous relic is the stone inscription of the Chinese character for crane dated 1888 at the back of the temple. The Hau Wong Temple compound consists of the main temple building with later added side chambers, pavilions and stone inscriptions, all standing on a terrace with granite steps leading to the ground level. There is a detached pavilion with hip-and-gable roof supported by granite columns and wooden brackets awkwardly standing in front of the temple. The temple is a two-hall-one-courtyard Chinese vernacular building with later added side chambers at its right. The internal courtyard of the side chambers is decorated with exquisite Shiwan ceramic figurines. The stepped gables of the rear hall in the style of "five peaks paying tribute to heaven" is a very rare design and seldom found in Hong Kong.
Main entrance of Hau Wong Temple, Kowloon City
HEALTH SURVEILLANCE QUESTIONNAIRE INTRODUCED AT HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
In view of the current situation regarding overseas outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD), a Health Surveillance Questionnaire has been introduced at Hong Kong from 20th October 2014 to enhance health surveillance of arriving passengers from the EVD-affected countries. EVD-affected countries include Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Passengers arriving at the airport will be invited to complete the Health Surveillance Questionnaire if he or she has travelled to EVD-affected countries in the past 21 days or holds a travel document issued by the above EVD-affected countries. These passengers will then be requested to fill in their personal information, travel history, health status and contact history with EVD patients.
To facilitate the implementation of the new measure, counters have been set up in the airport arrival hall before immigration clearance. Arriving passengers who fulfill the criteria are invited to approach the counter and fill in the questionnaire. The completed questionnaire can be passed to the DH's Port Health Office (PHO) staff at the counter.
If the arriving passengers, in the past 21 days, have travelled to those EVD-affected countries with any symptoms of EVD, or have come into contact with any suspected or confirmed patients of EVD, or an EVD patient's dead body, blood, secretions, organs or body fluid, the PHO's officers will perform further assessment and refer them to the Hospital Authority Infectious Disease Centre (HAIDC) in Princess Margaret Hospital for examination.
To enhance dissemination of relevant information to travellers, the Department of Health (DH) has been delivering updated EVD-related health promotion messages to travellers through health leaflets and broadcasts at the airport and other boundary control points (BCPs) as well as the Travel Health Service website;
The DH has been requesting airlines through the Airline Operators Committee to broadcast the health message on all incoming flights to alert travellers about the disease. In addition, regular updates to the airlines, the tourism industry and relevant stakeholders at BCPs are being provided through meetings, briefings and correspondences.
Immigration officers at all BCPs will also assist in identifying incoming passengers holding travel documents issued by the affected countries and provide them with information sheets about EVD. The information sheets remind sick travellers to approach port health personnel immediately if they are already sick upon arrival. If these travellers develop symptoms during their visit to Hong Kong, they should call 999 to arrange for consultation at an Accident and Emergency Department.
Temperature screening using thermal imaging scanners is already in place at all BCPs for all arriving travellers. Any febrile travellers will be further assessed. Surveillance of sick travellers has been enhanced and all suspected cases identified at the airport and other BCPs will be referred to the HAIDC.
Signboards have been erected at eight strategic locations in major walkways where arriving passengers pass through
NATIONALS OF REPUBLIC OF YEMEN TO REQUIRE VISA FOR HONG KONG
With effect from 29th September 2014, nationals of the Republic of Yemen will require a visa to enter Hong Kong for whatever purpose, including those who remain airside in transit. Previously, nationals of the Republic of Yemen were allowed to visit Hong Kong visa-free for a stay of up to 30 days.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport holders currently do not require a visa to visit the Republic of Yemen. However, passport holders are advised to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Beijing on the latest visa requirements before visiting the Republic of Yemen.
A common Hong Kong Wi-Fi brand, Wi-Fi.HK, was launched on 5th August 2014 which enables the public and visitors to easily identify free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the territory.
Locals and visitors can connect to free Wi-Fi if they can access Wi-Fi hotspots under the brand Wi-Fi.HK with smartphones or mobile devices, or at places with the Wi-Fi.HK signage. The Wi-Fi service provided is either completely free or free for at least 30 minutes. No registration is required.
The Wi-Fi.HK website provides details of free public Wi-Fi hotspots under Wi-Fi.HK and an app for mobile devices is also available with search function to locate hotspots by nearest vicinity, district, venue, type or keyword;
To date, participating organisations of the Wi-Fi.HK brand include Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT) Limited, Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited, Hutchison Global Communications Limited, Y5ZONE Limited, Airport Authority Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited.
More than 5,000 hotspots are now available under the Wi-Fi.HK brand, including Wi-Fi hotspots under the Government Wi-Fi Programme (GovWiFi). Wi-Fi.HK provides free Wi-Fi service across the city covering Hong Kong International Airport, tourist attractions, public telephone booths, shopping centres, cafés, restaurants, convenience stores, Cyberport, the Science Park and GovWiFi premises.
NEW VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR VISITORS FROM CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Hong Kong Immigration Department has announced that, with effect from 21st July 2014, nationals of the Central African Republic will require a visa to visit Hong Kong for any purpose, including those who remain airside in transit. Central African Republic nationals were previously allowed visa-free entry for up to 14 days.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport holders currently do not require a visa to visit the Central African Republic. However, Hong Kong passport holders are advised to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Central Africa in Beijing on the latest visa requirement before visiting the country.
NEW MAPPING APP LAUNCHED
The Government Lands Department has launched a free mobile map application, "MyMapHK", in June to assist smartphone users searching for geographical locations or information about more than 120 public facilities. Through the three functional features of "MyMapHK", namely, "Map of Hong Kong", "Hiking" and "Old Hong Kong", users can browse maps and search for information about facilities including car parks, petrol stations, libraries, WiFi hotspots, sports venues and more, according to their needs.
The application, available in both Chinese and English versions, offers a speech-to-text search function. It operates on Android 4.0.3 and iOS 6.0 or higher operating systems. Users may search for "MyMapHK" in the iPhone App Store or Google Play Store for direct download.
NEW FRANCHISES EXPECTED FOR EXISTING BUS OPERATORS
The Hong Kong Government has confirmed its intention to engage existing operators Citybus Limited and New Lantao Bus Company Limited (NLB) in discussions, during the fourth quarter of 2014, with a view to granting new 10-year franchises to take effect immediately on expiry of the existing franchises.
Citybus (Franchise 1) mainly operates the Hong Kong Island and cross-harbour bus network, whilst NLB mainly serves Lantau Island and Shenzhen Bay Port. The current franchises expire on 1st June 2016 (Citybus Franchise 1) and 1st March 2017 (NLB). According to an independent survey commissioned by the Transport Department, about 88 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the overall service quality of the two existing franchise holders. Members of the Transport Advisory Commitee have provided comments on the requirements of the new franchises for the Government's consideration and members of the public are also able to express their opinions until mid-September 2014.
The current franchise for The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Ltd expires on 1st July 2017 and the government is expected to consider requirements for the new franchise in mid-2015.
Other bus franchises were renewed with existing operators in 2013. Citybus (Franchise 2) relates to airport and North Lantau services and runs until May 2023. Long Win Bus Company's franchise for airport, North Lantau and New Territories (except Tseung Kwan O) services also runs until May 2023. New World First Bus franchise, which is mainly for Hong Kong Island routes, runs until July 2023.
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND TO INTRODUCE NIGHT PARADE
Hong Kong Disneyland is to introduce a night parade "Disney Paint The Night" in October 2014. The spectacular parade, which takes place on Main Street USA, will feature "colour, energy and magic" and will introduce an interactive element allowing visitors to paint the night with favourite colours. Among the characters featured in the parade will be Mickey Mouse, Lightning McQueen, Sulley and Mike, Tinker Bell, Ariel, Belle, Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
HKTB CULTURAL KALEIDOSCOPE PROGRAMME DISCONTINUED
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has ended its "Hong Kong Cultural Kaleidoscope" programme with effect from 1st April 2014. The programme offered bona-fide visitors an opportunity to experience various local cultural activities including Duk Ling Junk Ride, Tai Chi Class, Feng Shui Class, Chinese Tea Appreciation Class, Cantonese Opera Appreciation Class Chinese Cake-making Class, Chinese Medicine Class and Architecture Walk.
HKTB is aiming to reorganise its resources to provide visitors a greater variety of opportunities to experience Hong Kong’s unique living culture and traditions in future.
TAXI FARE INCREASE
Hong Kong taxi fares have increased with effect from 8th December 2013. The flagfall charge for the first 2km of any journey has risen by HK$2 to HK$22 red, (urban) taxi, HK$18.5 green, (New Territories) taxi and HK$17 blue, (Lantau) taxi. There is also a 10 cents increase in the first stage incremental charge for each 200-metres after the flagfall to HK$1.6 red taxi (journeys 2-9km), HK$1.4 green taxi (journeys 2-8km) and HK$1.4 blue taxi (journeys 2-20km). The surcharge for green taxis for each piece of baggage, animal or bird, and telephone booking, has been increased by HK$1 each HK$5, bringing it in line with red and blue taxis. Taxi fares were last increased in July 2011.
FOUR HISTORIC BUILDINGS TO BE REVITALISED
Proposals have been invited from non-profit making organisations for revitalise four historic buildings, under Batch IV of the Hong Kong government’s Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme.
The buildings are No. 12 School Street, the Old Dairy Farm Senior Staff Quarters on Pok Fu Lam Road, Lady Ho Tung Welfare Centre in Kwu Tung, Sheung Shui, and King Yin Lei on Stubbs Road.
No. 12 School Street, a Grade 3 historic building, was constructed in 1949 to replace an earlier pre-war building named Hung Shing Yi Hok (literally, Confucius free school for the poor), founded in the late Qing Dynasty.
The Old Dairy Farm Senior Staff Quarters was built in 1887 and is a Grade 1 historic building. It is one of the oldest remaining Dairy Farm buildings in Hong Kong and used to be the home of the farm manager.
Lady Ho Tung Welfare Centre is a Grade 2 historic building and was built by the Government in 1932-33 with donations from Sir Robert Ho Tung for use as a welfare centre for local residents. The centre was one of the first rural clinics established in the New Territories and served residents of the entire district.
King Yin Lei was the first privately owned historic building preserved through the provision of economic incentives. This declared monument was previously included under Batch III of the Revitalisation Scheme. The Advisory Committee on Revitalisation of Historic Buildings recommended that the project should be withdrawn from Batch III and relaunched in Batch IV so that a more suitable revitalisation proposal could be identified and the building could be put to better use.
The deadline for submission of applications is 15th April 2014 except for King Yin Lei where the deadline has been extended until May.
The 12 projects selected under the first three batches are at different stages of development. The six projects under Batch I, i.e. the Former North Kowloon Magistracy, the Old Tai O Police Station, Lui Seng Chun, Fong Yuen Study Hall, Mei Ho House and Phase One of the Former Lai Chi Kok Hospital, have come into operation. Two of the projects have received UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The Former North Kowloon Magistracy, which was revitalised as the Hong Kong Campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, received an Honourable Mention in 2011 while the Old Tai O Police Station, which was revitalised as the Tai O Heritage Hotel, has received an Award of Merit.
IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT MOBILE APP LAUNCHED
Hong Kong Immigration Mobile Application (ImmD Mobile App) has been launched on 5th December 2013 allowing Hong Kong residents and visitors to obtain information on estimated passenger waiting time at all land boundary control points and other ImmD information at any time.
Estimated passenger waiting time assessments are updated about every 15 minutes. The application aims to serve as a reference for Hong Kong residents and visitors so that they can choose a less congested land boundary control point or period of time to travel in order to shorten their waiting time. The ImmD Mobile App also provides information on the addresses and office hours of all ImmD offices and control points, the visa-free country list for HKSAR passport holders, visit visa or entry permit application requirements for visitors to the HKSAR, the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents 24-hour hotline, and Chinese embassy, consulate, mission and representative office lists.
ImmD Mobile App can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple App Store (supports iOS version 4.3 or above) or Google Play (supports Android version 2.2 or above).
TWO HISTORIC BUILDINGS DECLARED MONUMENTS
Two historical buildings on Hong Kong Island, the Cenotaph in Central and Béthanie at 139 Pok Fu Lam Road, have been declared as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.
The Cenotaph was unveiled on May 25, 1923, by the then Governor, Sir Edward Stubbs. It is the earliest memorial formally constructed to commemorate the dead of the First World War in Hong Kong. Initially, the Cenotaph was simply inscribed with the words "The Glorious Dead" and the years of the First World War, i.e. "1914-1918". The years "1939-1945" were subsequently added to honour victims of the Second World War. In the 1980s, eight Chinese characters meaning "May their martyred souls be immortal, and their noble spirits endure" were carved on one side of the Cenotaph corresponding to the inscription "The Glorious Dead" to make it clear that the Cenotaph commemorates all who fell, especially those who fell in the defence of Hong Kong. Commemorative activities are still held by the Government and other relevant associations at the Cenotaph every year. The Cenotaph is built of dressed ashlar blocks, designed with a stepped plinth and the upper part diminishing by offsets to culminate at the top in a rectangular sarcophagus upon which rests a stone wreath. The architectural style of the Cenotaph is Classic Revival, based on formal symmetry and principles of pure Roman and Greek forms, founded on archaeological studies and scholarship. The apparent simplicity of the Cenotaph is based on exquisite refinement of classical principles.
Béthanie was completed in 1875 by the Society of Foreign Missions (Société des Missions Étrangéres) as their first sanatorium in East Asia for sick missionaries. The premises was closed in 1974 and was sold to Hongkong Land. The premises was subsequently taken over by the Government. It was then leased to the University of Hong Kong from 1978 to 1997. In 2002, the Government decided to restore and lease Béthanie together with the adjacent Old Dairy Farm Cowshed Building (a Grade 2 historic building) to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) for conversion into their second campus. The conversion was completed in 2006 and Béthanie has served as the School of Film and Television of the HKAPA since then. Béthanie consists of three parts: the chapel, the sanatorium and the service wing. Its architecture is of Neo-Gothic style and the plan is in symmetrical form with verandahs on all four sides. Rubble and ashlar plinth wall at the basement level, ornamental balustrades and arched colonnades at the verandahs form the elevations of the building. The most impressive part of the building is its beautiful chapel.
Information on the two monuments is available on the heritage conservation website of the Development Bureau ( www.heritage.gov.hk ).
MTR TO INTRODUCE SMART TICKETS
MTR has introduced “Smart” single-journey tickets from 20th October 2013, with Olympic Station being the first station to accept such tickets and eight more stations, Kam Sheung Road, Heng Fa Chuen, Tai Wo Hau, LOHAS Park, Ngau Tau Kok, Sunny Bay, Che Kung Temple and Fo Tan following during the same month. Magnetic-strip tickets are no longer be sold at these stations but at least one exit and entry gate at each station will accept magnetic stripe tickets to enable passengers to enter and exit all stations regardless of ticket type. Passengers with smart tickets should use the designated blue platform entry barriers and tap the ticket on the card reader (in the same manner as passengers using Octopus Card). At the exit barriers passengers should insert the ticket in the card slot where the card is retained and not returned to the passenger. The HK$200 million smart ticket programme is expected to be completed at all 82 stations by the end of June 2014. Only about 5% of journeys are made using single-journey tickets since most passengers use Octopus Card.
THIRD SHENZHEN AIRPORT CHECK-IN CENTRE OPENED IN HONG KONG
Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport has opened a third check-in centre for cross-border coach passengers in Hong Kong,located at Domain Mall in Yau Tong. Chinalink Bus Company will operate express coach services from the mall to the airport via Kwun Tong, Ngau Tau Kok, Wong Tai Sin and the Shenzhen Bay border check point with the journey taking about 80 minutes. Passengers will still need to carry their own luggage through the border checkpoint but on arrival at the airport will be able to hand over luggage to airline staff for loading onto flights.
Other check-in centres in Hong Kong for cross-border coach passengers to Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport are located at Chinalink coach stations at Elements Mall above Kowloon Station and Pak Hoi Street, Jordan.
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND TO OPEN IRON MAN ZONE
Hong Kong Disneyland has announced plans to open a new themed zone based on the Marvel Comics Iron Man character “which will take guests on an epic adventure of a lifetime as they join Tony Stark in a battle against alien invaders across the city of Hong Kong”. Planned to open in late 2016, Iron man Experience will also include an area where guests can meet and take photos with Iron Man, as well as a Marvel merchandise location.
Disneyland recently completed a 2-year expansion which has seen the introduction of three new themed areas, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point and the size of the park grow by about 25%.
NEW VICTORIA PARK SWIMMING POOL OPENED
Victoria Park’s new HK$800 million state-of-the-art swimming pool complex opened to the public on 16th September 2013. The complex, which has been built on a site next to the old pool, took four years to construct and is equipped with an Olympic standard pool, multi-purpose pool and 2,500-seat specatator stand. The old complex, which opened in 1957, will be demolished and a roller skating rink, handball court and landscaped areas are planned to be constructed on the site
FREE WI-FI TO BE EXTENDED TO ALL MTR STATIONS
MTR Corporation has announced that, as from 8th July 2013, free Wi-Fi hotspots will be available at all MTR stations. Free Wi-Fi is currently available at iCentres at 14 stations. The free Wi-Fi service will be available in the paid area of stations but not on platforms or trains. Each connection session will be limited to 15 minutes with a maximum of 5 sessions per day.
MAINLAND BORDER CLOSED AREA TO BE FURTHER REDUCED FROM 10th JUNE 2013
The second stage of the reduction of the Frontier Closed Area (FCA) between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is to be implemented on 10th June 2013, opening up to the public an area of 710 hectares of land including six villages between the Lok Ma Chau border crossing and Ng Tung River. The villages, which could previously only be entered with a permit are Liu Pok, Lutheran New Village, Lok Ma Chau, Tak Yuet Lau, Ha Wan and Ma Tso Lung. The closed road restriction within the excised area will be lifted. Vehicles will be free to use the roads in the excised area, but they will have to follow other traffic instructions and restrictions. Police will monitor the traffic situation closely, increase patrols along the main roads in the area, and implement traffic contingency measures if necessary. It should be noted the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point, the Lok Ma Chau Boundary Control Point and MTR Lo Wu Station will remain in the FCA after the second-stage FCA reduction and only boundary-crossing passengers using specified modes of transport and holders of the relevant Closed Area Permits are permitted to enter these areas.
Two sections of the closed border frontier area covering over 740 hectares, including the Mai Po wetlands and six villages around Shau Tau Kok have already been opened up to the public since February 2012. When the second stage of the reduction is implemented on 10th June, the FCA will have reduced from 2,800 hectares to about 1350 hectares. It will be further reduced to 400 hectares on completion of the final stage in 2015 when the “Ng Tung River to Lin Ma Hang Section” is returned to public access. However, the famous Chung Ying Street in Shau Tau Kok town, which has one side in Hong Kong and the other in Shenzhen, will remain closed for security reasons. The reduced FCA will mainly comprise Sha Tau Kok Town, Boundary Control Points and the re-aligned boundary patrol road.
The restricted zone was established by the British colonial government in 1951 as a barrier to people fleeing mainland China following the Communist Party gaining power, and entry to the closed zone has been restricted to permit holders. The government green plan for the area, announced in May 2008, envisages cycling routes between Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu to enable people to enjoy the natural and rural landscape, fishponds and wetlands. A country park is to be built in Robin's Nest between Pat Sin Leng Country Park in Hong Kong and Wutongshan National Forest Park in Shenzhen. Hiking trails have also been proposed between Cheung Shan Monastery and Lin Ma Hang and between Lok Ma Chau to Hoo Hok Wai. There are some 300 heritage sites in the area and the government is proposing to create trails to link some of these sites. Only one small plot of land at Kong Nga Po near Man Kam To is being reserved for for residential development and this and this will be a small community with green architecture built with energy saving materials.
Divisional Commander (Sha Tau Kok) of the Police, Mr Ip Ka-ho and customs officials unveil the opening of the first stage of the reduced Frontier Closed Area.
MTR EAST RAIL LINE LUGGAGE WEIGHT LIMIT RESTRICTION TIGHTENED
With effect from 4th February 2013, the weight limit for passenger luggage on MTR East Rail Line is to be lowered from 32kg to 23kg for a trial period of three months. Mandatory weighing of large luggage will be extended to Tai Po Market and Fo Tan stations, in addition to Sheung Shui, Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu Stations where mandatory weighing of luggage is already in force with scales being set up at designated entrances to these stations. Luggage must also comply with existing size limits which stipulate that passengers may carry one piece of total dimension (length, width, height) of 170cm and the length of any one side not exceeding 130cm.
The 32kg weight limit trial was implemented on 9th October 2012, initially for a period of three months, but was extended in January. The weight restrictions, which apply only to East Rail Line, have been imposed as a specific response to complaints and demonstrations from the general public in relation to the activities of cross-border parallel traders who regularly use the MTR to transport large quantities of boxes of goods weighing up to 80kg on trolleys, causing congestion within trains and outside stations and on station platforms at stations near the border. The restrictions have been tightened at the request of the government. MTR has a dedicated By-laws Inspection Unit (BIU) of 39 members to enforce MTR By-laws at East Rail Line stations. They are supported by a team of more than 90 private security personnel and the BIU is being strengthened by another 20 members, bringing the total number of inspectors to 59.
DISNEYLAND BUS ROUTES R11 & R22 DISCONTINUED
Citybus bus services R11 and R22, which operate direct routes from Hong Kong Disneyland to urban areas daily, following conclusion of the Disney fireworks display, will cease to operate after 13th January 2013. As an alternative, passengers wishing to travel to urban areas by bus from Hong Kong Disneyland can take bus R8 from Hong Kong Disneyland Public Transport Interchange to the Lantau Link Toll Plaza and connect with Cityflyer services A11, A21, A22 or A29. A bus-bus interchange discount is available for passengers using Octopus Card and using service R8 to interchange at the Lantau Link Toll Plaza. More information about public transport to/from Hong Kong Disneyland is available HERE
PARK ISLAND - TSEUN WAN FERRY SERVICE REDUCTION / TAXI RESTRICTIONS LIFTED
The Park Island Transport Company ferry service operating between the Park Island complex at Ma Wan and Tsuen Wan ceased operating from 14th December 2012. However, a limited ferry service between Park Island Pier and Tsuen Wan Pier resumed on 8th June 2013 with three daily sailings each way at 11-15, 13-15 and 15-15 from Park Island and 11-45, 13-45 and 15-45 from Tsuen Wan. The service has been in operation since 2002 but has been making heavy losses. Park Island bus service NR331, offers alternative transport between Park Island and Tsuen Wan Railway Station at 20/30 minute frequency between 6am and midnight.
The Park Island ferry service operating between Park Island and Central Pier 2 continues to operate normal service.
Restrictions on taxi access to Ma Wan have been lifted with effect from 14th December 2012 and urban taxis can now serve Ma Wan 24 hours a day.
VISA EXEMPTION FOR KAZAKHSTAN NATIONALS
With effect from 26th July 2012, Republic of Kazakhstan passport holders are able to visit Hong Kong visa-free for stays of up to 14 days. The reciprocal agreement between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Republic of Kazakhstan also allows HKSAR passport holders visa-free access to the Republic of Kazakhstan for stays of up to 14 days.
HONG KONG TOURISM BOARD NEW LOOK KOWLOON VISITOR CENTRE OPENS
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Kowloon Visitor Centre, located at Star Ferry Pier Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui, which was closed for renovation in April, reopened on Friday 18th May 2012 with a bright new look. During the closure period HKTB operated a limited service from a temporary counter inside the Star Ferry Pier Main Entrance. The new-look visitor centre offers a full range of services including providing comprehensive information on tourist attractions and events, tour bookings and provision of maps and leaflets, and other tourist publications. The visitor centre is open from 8am to 8pm daily.
Hong Kong Tourism Board's new look visitor centre at Tsim Sha Tsui
SUNBEAM THEATRE REPRIEVED
Hong Kong's main venue and "home" of Cantonese Opera performances for the last 40 years since its founding in 1972, the 1033-seat Sunbeam Theatre on King's Road at North Point, which was due to stage its final performance on 19th February 2012, has been saved from closure. The theatre, which has been privately run by Hong Kong Arts Entertainment Company Limited had been due to close to make way for a new shopping mall, having already been reprieved for three years after having been threatened with closure when the previous lease expired in February 2009. The current owner, a property developer, purchased the property for HK$162 million in 2003 with the intention of demolishing the theatre and building on the site but a three-year extension to the lease was agreed with the Hong Kong Government on the understanding that the owner would be allowed to redevelop the site when the extension to the lease expires. The monthly rental tripled to HK$698,000 and funding for the lease extension has amounted to around HK$6.6 million with HK$3 million being provided by private donations and the government funding the balance. In a last minute deal the owner has agreed a further four year lease with Cantonese opera playwright Li Kui-ming for a sum of HK$1 million a month but no further government funding will be provided. The theatre will be managed by Li's Prime Splendor Theatrical Troupe and staff who previously ran the theatre are being re-hired.
There have been about 150 shows annually at the theatre performed by professional troupes, with each show being supported by a HK$15,000 government subsidy through the Arts Development Council. The theatre, on the ground level of Kiu Fai Mansion, was originally built as a 1600-seat theatre in 1972 but was divided in the early 1980's with the main theatre, the Grand Theatre on the ground floor, used mostly for operatic performances containing 1033 seats and a small theatre upstairs containing 340 seats.
The theatre has been closed since February and is undergoing a HK$10 million renovation which includes fitting of new carpets and seats, and will reopen on 21st May. The small theatre will become a centre for performing-arts education.
Hong Kong's repreived "Home of Cantonese Opera", the Sunbeam Theatre, on King's Road at North Point, reopens on 21st May 2012 after renovation
Since taking over the lease, Li has expressed his intention to turn the theatre into a cultural centre promoting the art of Cantonese Opera and a much wider range of performing arts such as other forms of Chinese opera, drama, magic and acrobatic shows. There are also plans for the Sunbeam to become the largest cinema in Hong Kong by installing a digital film projector capable of being upgraded to show 3-D movies.
A large 1100-seat theatre is being built as a permanent venue for Cantonese Opera in the Xiqu Centre the West Kowloon Cultural District which is scheduled for completion in 2015/16. In the meantime an 600-seat annexe to the 1031-seat Ko Shan Theatre in Hung Hom is due to be completed in 2013 to enable more Cantonese Opera rehearsals and performances at that venue which currently has about 140 Cantonese Opera performances annually and Yau Ma Tei Theatre has been redeveloped to provide a venue for small-scale performances and operatic singing activities. Chan Shun Kui Community Hall in North Point has also been considered as a future venue in order that a Cantonese Opera Theatre venue can be maintained on Hong Kong Island.
Foyer of the Sunbeam Theatre seen shortly before its reopening on 21st May 2012
BABY ORANGUTAN TWINS ON PUBLIC DISPLAY
A pair of Bornean orangutan twins, born at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens (HKZBG) in July 2011, have been put on public display from 10th February 2012 in two daily one-hour viewing sessions.
The male baby, Wan Wan, weighed about two kilogrammes at birth while the female, Wah Wah, was about 1.4 kilogrammes. They are now five kilogrammes and four kilogrammes respectively. The twins' father, Vandu, was born in Belgium while their mother, Raba, is an "aborigine" of the HKZBG and was born in the gardens. Though coming from different origins, they successfully mated and gave birth to newborns in the environment of the gardens.
In view of the twins' young age and with regard to their living pattern and growth needs, HKZBG has arranged the two one-hour visit sessions per day for the public to meet the twins through a viewing window of the activity room at the HKZBG Education and Exhibition Centre, Albany Road, Central. The visit sessions run from 10am to 11am and 2pm to 3pm. Visitors should remain silent during the tour and refrain from tapping on the window of the activity room or using flashlights and follow the instructions of staff at the scene.
Female baby orangutan Wah Wah
FOUR HONG KONG FESTIVALS INCLUDED IN CHINA'S NATIONAL HERITAGE LIST
Four traditional Hong Kong Festivals have been included in China's national list of intangible cultural heritage from June 2011;
TAI HANG FIRE DRAGON DANCE
The event has been held for more than 100 years. Tai Hang was originally a Hakka village. Legend has it that a plague broke out there in 1880, and to ward off the disease the villagers planted joss sticks in a dragon-shaped form. On the evening of the 14th, 15th and 16th of the eighth lunar month, the villagers paraded the fire dragon through the village and let off firecrackers. The plague ended after the event. From then on, the villagers have performed a three-day fire dragon dance every year to bless themselves.
CHEUNG CHAU JIAO FESTIVAL (BUN FESTIVAL)
The activity has been practised for more than 100 years. Cheung Chau was devastated by a plague in the late Qing dynasty. Local residents set up a sacrificial altar in front of Pak Tai Temple to pray to the god Pak Tai to drive off evil spirits. The residents even paraded deity statues through the village lanes. The plague ceased after performance of the ritual. Since then, residents on Cheung Chau have organised a Jiao Festival every year to express thanks to the god for blessing and protecting them. With residents' participation every year, the ritual has been passed down through the generations.
YU LAN GHOST FESTIVAL OF THE HONG KONG CHIU CHOW COMMUNITY
There are about 1.2 million people originating from Chiu Chow in Hong Kong who actively carry on their traditions. During the ghost festival, which lasts for a month every year, the Chiu Chow people in Hong Kong organise the Yu Lan Festival that starts from the first day of the seventh lunar month and continues until the end of that month. Having been held for more than 100 years, the festival is to offer sacrifices to ancestors and the wandering ghosts in the netherworld. The main activities include burning incense and joss papers, performing live Chinese operas and dramas for ghosts, distributing auspicious rice and auctioning auspicious objects.
TAI O DRAGON BOAT WATER PARADE
During the annual Dragon Boat Festival, three fishermen's associations, Pa Teng, Sin Yu Heung and Hap Sim Tong, organise a religious activity known as the dragon boat water parade. On the morning before the festival, members of the associations row their dragon boats to visit four temples in Tai O, where they receive statues of Yeung Hou, Tin Hau, Kwan Tei and Hung Shing. They carry the deity statues back to their associations' hall for worship. On the day of the festival, the deity statues are put on sacred sampans towed by the associations' dragon boats to parade through Tai O's waters. The deity statues are returned to the respective temples after the ritual. This unique religious activity has been preserved for more than a century.
The HKSAR Government submitted an application for these four items to be inscribed onto the third national list of intangible cultural heritage in September 2009, having been selected from a shortlist of 349 cultural items. The four items fall within the category of "social practices, rituals and festive events" set out in the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
SMARTPHONE BOARDING PASSES INTRODUCED AT HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Since February 2012, smartphone boarding passes have become available to about half of all passengers departing from Hong Kong International Airport. The system, which has already been widely introduced at US airports, allows passengers to receive a form of barcode known as a QR code on their smartphone screens, which can be held against a scanner and eliminates the need for a paper boarding pass. Participating airlines are Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Air France, Delta and Emirates. For more information see;