LATEST INFORMATION


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




SHENZHEN WENJINDU PORT PASSENGER CLEARANCE AREA TO REOPEN

The Shenzhen Wenjindu Port Passenger Clearance Area, which has been closed since 22nd February 2010 for reconstruction will resume service on 26th August 2013. The port, which is in the Luohu District of Shenzhen is an immigration control point for passengers travelling to and from Mainland China via the Man Kam To Control Point in Hong Kong. The opening hours of the Passenger Clearance Area will be from 7am to 10pm and the Man Kam To Control Point is making corresponding arrangements.

Cross-boundary bus services via Shenzhen Wenjindu Port will resume full operation while clearance services for cross-boundary private cars, which have been suspended, will also be resumed. Private cars which have been using other cross-boundary control points during the reconstruction period will need to return to the Shenzhen Wenjindu Port for crossing the boundary. The clearance service for goods vehicles is not be affected.

The Hong Kong Government's Transport Department has informed relevant coach operators and private car quota holders of the above arrangements. Enquiries regarding the traffic and public transport arrangements can be made by calling the department's hotline on  (852) 2804 2600.



N
GONG PING 360 CABLE CAR CLOSURE SEPTEMBER 2013


The Ngong Ping 360 cable car service between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping will be suspended for a period of about three weeks from 2nd September 2013 in order to complete the second phase of a major scheduled maintenance programme. The exact date of reopening is subject to progress of work and will be posted on the Ngong Ping 360 website at a later date, when known.

During the closure period Ngong Ping Village, the "Big Buddha", Po Lin Monastery, Wisdom Path and other attractions at Ngong Ping remain open as usual.

Alternative transport between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping is New Lantao Bus Company service 23, which takes about 50 minutes;

http://www.newlantaobus.com/road_23.htm

or Lantau Island (blue) taxi, fare about HK$160 one-way, journey time about 30 minutes.

Ngong Ping 360 cable car service will also not operate on two days in early December 2013 to allow scheduled maintenance work. Exact dates to be announced.



OVERNIGHT VISITOR ARRIVALS UP 8.7% IN FIRST HALF OF 2013

Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has announced that about 12 million overnight visitor arrivals to Hong Kong were recorded between January and June 2013, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.7% and 47.1% of all visitor arrivals.

Overnight arrivals from Mainland China reached 7.84 million, 16.2% more than in the same period in 2012. Arrivals from short-haul destinations dropped 4.2% year-on-year, since Japan drew away many regional travellers with its weak YEN. Overnight arrivals from Japan fell 29.1%. Taiwan, however, registered a 4.1% increase in overnight arrivals, which can be attributed to the free, online, pre-arrival, visa-registration service offered to Taiwan residents by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Also, direct cross-strait flights diverted business travellers, leaving more available airline seats for vacation travellers from Taiwan. In addition, overnight arrivals from Thailand rose 15.0%. From long-haul destinations there was a 4.1% decrease in overnight arrivals to Hong Kong although from Russia, with which Hong Kong signed a reciprocal no-visa agreement in 2009, overnight arrivals rose by 24.6% with overall arrivals rising 26.3% to about 120,000, making Russia Hong Kong’s second biggest source of European visitors, just after the UK.

Overall, Hong Kong received a total of 25.36 million visitor arrivals in the first half of 2013, up 13.6% from the corresponding period in 2012.



BRUCE LEE EXHIBITION TO OPEN AT HONG KONG HERITAGE MUSEUM

Presented by the Hong Kong Government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), and jointly organised by the Bruce Lee Foundation and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the long-awaited exhibition "Bruce Lee: Kung Fu •Art •Life" exhibition will open on 20th July 2013, the 40th anniversary of his death, and will run for five years.

Bruce Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong was internationally renowned as the martial arts movie star who raised interest in Chinese kung fu around the world through his movies, making a profound impact on different aspects of popular culture such as movies, TV shows and comics. Having received tremendous support from local and overseas collectors and various institutions, the exhibition has gathered more than 600 precious relics and memorabilia items related to Bruce Lee on loan for display. They include more than 400 relics from the Bruce Lee Foundation, the largest number of artefacts that the Foundation has ever lent out. In addition, the Hong Kong Film Archive under the LCSD has provided more than 100 items selected from its collection for display in the exhibition. Through these collections, the exhibition will be able to review the life story of the legendary Bruce Lee, from the perspectives of his profile, his movies, his martial arts and his development as a cultural phenomenon.

The exhibition gallery will house several sets of reconstructions, which have been created with ideas inspired by prominent scenes in Lee's five classic kung fu movies as well as his gym and his study. The exhibits, placed suitably in the reconstructed scenes, will enhance visitors' experiences in viewing the exhibition. The exhibition will also include a collector series in which the theme will be changed regularly to show the precious collections of different collectors with an aim of introducing the cultural significance and the influence of Bruce Lee through the collectors' eyes. The first exhibition in the collector series will feature more than 100 products related to the TV series "The Green Hornet", provided by internationally acclaimed US collector Perry Lee. Through this collection, visitors will be able to learn more about the first image of Bruce Lee branded by a US enterprise.

Organisations which are supporting the exhibition include Fortune Star Media Limited, which has sponsored the licensed rights of eight movies starring Bruce Lee and related materials for use in the exhibition as well as in the education and promotional activities. The Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers has produced a 75-minute documentary entitled "The Brilliant Life of Bruce Lee", which will be shown during the exhibition period. Famous sculptor Chu Tat-shing has created a brand-new statue of Bruce Lee. The statue, 3.5 metres high, will show the strong side-kicking image of Lee. The animation artist Shannon Ma is creating a 3D hologram animation that will vividly show Lee's nunchakus as well as his quick and forceful kicks.

To tie in with the five-year exhibition, Hong Kong Heritage Museum is organising a series of education and extension programmes with different themes to be carried out in phases. The first phase of activities, under the theme "The Bruce Lee that Hong Kong Knew", will include lectures, sharing sessions and interactive demonstrations to explore the life, career and achievements of Bruce Lee from different perspectives. The first programme, to be introduced in July, is a gallery talk by Lee's daughter Shannon Lee, who will share the story of the exhibits with participants. The collector Perry Lee will also give a talk to share his experience of collecting Bruce Lee memorabilia.

Visitors will only need to pay the museum's standard admission fees for visiting the exhibition without additional charges. To ensure effective crowd control, visitors will be required to present a special admission slip for admission to the exhibition. Standard admission to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum is HK$10 with a half-price concession available for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays. The exhibition will be closed on Tuesdays.

The exhibition will have special viewing sessions to avoid overcrowding during the early stage of its opening. There will be five viewing sessions on weekdays and six per day on weekends and public holidays, with each session lasting about one hour and 30 minutes. Each session will accommodate about 400 visitors.

To assist the public in visiting the exhibition during the summer holidays, the museum will introduce online reservation of tickets for the first two months (from mid-July to mid-September) after the exhibition opens. Visitors can, via email, reserve tickets for a time slot that fits their schedule and go to the museum before the commencement of the time slot booked to purchase their reserved tickets and collect the special exhibition admission slip. Visitors will also be able to reserve or purchase tickets at the museum. The first of the two phases of online reservation will start at 10am on 4th July. Visitors will be able to reserve tickets covering the period from 20th July to 19th August 2013 through Hong Kong Heritage Museum's website at hk.heritage.museum. The second phase of ticket reservation, covering the exhibition period from 20th August to 20th September 2013, will start at 10am on 1st August. Interested parties will only be allowed to make reservations for a maximum of three viewing sessions and four tickets for each session during each phase of online reservation while the quota is available on a first-come, first-served basis.


For more information, also see CURRENT EXHIBITIONS



HONG KONG SPACE MUSEUM'S LATEST 3D SKY SHOW

Hong Kong Space Museum's latest 3D Sky Show "Wildest Weather in the Solar System" is running from 1st July 2013 to 30th December 2013 at the museum's Stanley Ho Space Theatre. The show takes audiences on a spacecraft journey to explore the extreme weather conditions of the solar system. The 25-minute show is screened daily at 2-40pm and 6-10pm with an additional screening at 11-10am on Sundays and public holidays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Tickets are available at the Hong Kong Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets for HK$24 (front stalls) and HK$32 (stalls). Full-time Hong Kong students, senior citizens aged 60 or above and people with disabilities are eligible for a half-price concession. For further details see;

http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Space/Programs/3DShow/e_3dshow_main.htm



The atmosphere of Venus is mainly composed of carbon dioxide, which is a type of greenhouse gas. The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus resulted in the evaporation of all water, causing its surface temperature to reach 460 degrees Celsius, high enough to melt lead



OCEAN PARK ADMISSION PRICE INCREASE

Ocean Park is to increase admission charges from 1st September 2013. New admission charge for adults will be HK$320 and for children (3-11) HK$160. During September and October 2013, Hong Kong residents will be allowed a 15% discount on admission prices.

On Saturdays and Sundays between 20th July and 25th August 2013, Ocean Park will extend its opening hours until 10pm, with a reduced admission charge of HK$160 for visitors entering the park from 5pm onwards.




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.



VISA-FREE VISIT PERIOD EXTENDED FOR CROATIAN NATIONALS

The Hong Kong Immigration Department has announced that, with effect from 1st July 2013, the visa-free period for nationals of Croatia to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will be extended from 14 to 90 days.

Hong Kong adopts a liberal visa policy whereby, at present, nationals of about 170 countries and territories enjoy visa-free access to the HKSAR for visits ranging from seven to 180 days.



MTR SAME-DAY SECOND JOURNEY OCTOPUS DISCOUNT

The MTR Same-Day Second Journey Octopus Discount, which has been operating since 31st December 2012 and was originally intended to expire on 30th June 2013 has been extended until 31st March 2014. MTR passengers using Octopus Card for fare payment will enjoy a 10% discount on a second MTR journey made on the same day using the same Octopus Card. The discount applies to journeys made on all MTR lines and includes Light Rail and MTR bus, but does not include Airport Express journeys, First Class premium on East Rail or MTR Feeder Bus. For full details see;

http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/whatsnew/2nd_trip.html




MTR FARES TO RISE FROM 30th JUNE 2013

MTR (including MTR Light Rail) and MTR Bus fares will increase by 2.7% overall with effect from 30th June 2013 following a five-yearly review of the MTR's Fare Adjustment Mechanism (FAM) with the Hong Kong Government. Fares were last increased in June 2012, by an average of 5.4% and would have increased by 3.2% in June 2013 had a review of the FAM not been carried out. About 73% of fares will be adjusted by no more than 20 cents, including 2% which will remain unchanged. Airport Express fares remain unchanged. Following the latest fare adjustment, the number of possible MTR journeys where Single Journey fares are slightly lower than Octopus fares will be reduced from 596 to 206 (the anomaly arises because Octopus fares are adjusted in units of 10-cents, whereas Single Journey fares are adjusted in units of 50-cents). To mitigate the fare adjustments, MTR will also offer a package of concessionary schemes including a new City Saver Ticket, no later than the second quarter of 2014, whereby passengers will be able to bulk pre-purchase 40 MTR rides for HK$400, to be taken within 30 days in a pre-designated urban area. The existing "10% Same-Day Second-Trip Discount" promotion, which was due to expire on 30th June 2013 has been extended to 31st March 2014.

Under the new FAM, the public affordability factor cap will be based on the change in median monthly household income and any fare increase will not be higher than the corresponding figure for that year. There will also be a performance arrangement under which service disruptions lasting 31 minutes or more, except for those beyond the operator's control, will result in fines, and the amount put into the fare concession account.



PARK ISLAND - TSUEN WAN FERRY SERVICE RESUMED

Park Island Transport Company has reintroduced a limited ferry service between Park Island Pier at Ma Wan and Tsuen Wan Pier. With effect from 8th June 2013 there will be three daily sailings each way, departing Park Island Pier at 11-15, 13-15 and 15-15 and Tsuen Wan Pier at 11-45, 13-45 and 15-45. Park Island Transport, which also operates the Park Island - Central ferry service, had previously operated a frequent ferry service between Park Island and Tsuen Wan for ten years until December 2012 when the service was withdrawn owing to low patronage and heavy financial losses.




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. The second stage, to be implemented on 10th June 2013, sees the closed area reduced from its original 2,800 hectares to 1,350 hectares and the closed area will be further reduced to 400 hectares in 2015




PO LIN MONASTERY MAIN SHRINE HALL TEMPORARY CLOSURE

Visitors to Po Lin Monastery at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island should note that the monastery's main worship hall, the "Main Shrine Hall of Buddha" is closed for renovation. The hall is expected to reopen in December 2013. The new Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which has been under construction for several years, behind the main hall at Po Lin Monastery is now expected to open in 2014.



DISNEYLAND'S MYSTIC POINT TO OPEN 17th MAY 2013

The final phase of Hong Kong Disneyland's current expansion plan, which commenced in 2009, will be completed on 17th May 2013 when its latest themed area, Mystic Point, opens. The new attraction features a trackless ride with 32 cars in groups of 4, controlled by radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology which travel through 13 show scenes in a haunted house, Mystic Manor, where explorer Lord Henry Mystic displays artefacts collected on his travels. The ride incorporates 40 visual effects using 36 projectors including four ultra-high-definition projectors. The area also features a themed photo area, Garden of Wonders, the 500-seat Explorers Club Restaurant and a souvenir shop.

The expansion project has increased the size of the park by over 20% and also includes two other themed areas, Toy Story Land, which opened in November 2011 and Grizzly Gulch which opened in July 2012.

In the last financial year to the end of September 2012, Hong Kong Disneyland attendances increased by 13% to 6.7 million and, for the first time since opening in 2005, the park made a net profit, amounting to HK$109 million.




DISCOVERY B
AY FERRY FARE INCREASE


Fares for the Central - Discovery Bay ferry service have increased by about 9.5% from 12th May 2013. Revised fares for Octopus Card users are HK$37 adult, HK$18.5 child and senior. For night sailings between midnight to 6am, Octopus fares are HK$52.7 adult, HK$33.8 child and senior. For further details of fare structure see FERRIES - OUTLYING ISLANDS



SKY100 HONG KONG OBSERVATION DECK TEMPORARY CLOSURES

Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck will be be closed to the public, for private events on 14th August 2013, 24th September 2013 and 12th November 2013.



HONG KONG DISNEYLAND ANNOUNCES ITS FIRST PROFIT

Hong Kong Disneyland has announced its first annual profit since opening in 2005. For the financial year ending 30th September 2012, the park increased its revenue by 18% to HK$4.3 billion and generated a net profit of HK$109 million. Visitor numbers increased by 13% to 6.7 million with 45% from Mainland China, 33% local visitors and 22% from the rest of the world. The park, which is a joint venture between the Hong Kong Government and Walt Disney Company, had accumulated net losses of HK$3.8 billion up until 2012 but has increased visitor numbers since adding two new attractions Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch and now has 200,000 local annual pass holders. Another new attraction, Mystic Point is due to open during 2013 and the park is planning for further expansion.



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.




2012 VISITOR ARRIVALS UP 16%

Hong Kong Tourism Board has announced that total visitor arrivals to Hong Kong during 2012 amounted to 48,615,113, an increase of 16% over 2011. Arrivals from Mainland China increased by over 24% to 34,911,395, about 67% of all arrivals. Of visitors from Mainland China, over 23 million travelled under the Individual Visit Scheme, introduced in 2003, which has been expanded to allow residents of 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong as independent travellers without the requirement to join group tours.

Visitor arrivals from short-haul destinations in 2012 were affected by the fact that many vacationers in the region cancelled their trip to Japan and, instead, visited Hong Kong following the 3.11 earthquake and related incidents in 2011, which resulted in a larger short-haul arrival base in 2011 and in turn caused the number of arrivals to reduce in 2012.  However, increases in arrivals were recorded from destinations such as South Korea, up 5.6% and the Philippines, up 7.6%.

From long-haul destinations, the sluggish performance of the European and American economies caused a slight drop in the number of arrivals. However, the UK achieved year-on-year growth of 5.3%, bringing the country’s yearly arrivals to over 530,000. Arrivals from Russia, with which Hong Kong signed a reciprocal visa abolition agreement in 2009 also showed a large increase, with arrivals up 42% to more than 186,000, making the country the fourth largest European source of visitors to Hong Kong, following the UK, France and Germany.

Total number of overnight visitors amounted to 23,770,195, an increase of 6.5%

For more detailed information on visitor arrivals by country in 2012 see ABOUT HONG KONG



NGONG PING 360 TO INTRODUCE MOBILE TICKETING

Ngong Ping 360 cable car has announced on 28th January 2013 that it is shortly to introduce an online mobile digital ticketing system which will enable visitors to avoid queuing at the Tung Chung Terminal ticket office and board directly during a pre-selected time slot. The system is being introduced following complaints about long queuing times but some tickets will still be reserved for walk-up passengers.

Free Wi-Fi is now available at the Tung Chung and Ngong Ping cable car terminals and in Ngong Ping Village.

During May and June 2013, Hong Kong senior citizens will be able to take advantage of a 50% discount on cable car ticket prices on weekdays.




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



"HONG KONG ATTRACTIONS FUN DEALS" EXTENDED THROUGH 2013

Five major Hong Kong attractions, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong Wetland Park, The Peak Tram & Sky Terrace and Madame Tussauds Hong Kong have extended the "Hong Kong Attractions Fun Deals" joint promotion for another year, to run until 31st December 2013.

Visitors to any one of the five 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 five attractions has been extended to 31st January 2014.

Since 2011, when the promotion was launched, over 16,000 visitors a year have taken advantage of the offer. For full details and terms and conditions see;

http://www.madametussauds.com/HongKong/en/NewsAndEvents/HK_attractions_fun_deals2013.aspx
 



SKY100 REVISED OPENING HOURS

With effect from 3rd January 2013, the opening hours of Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck will be 10am to 8-30pm daily, with the last admission at 7-30pm.



NEXT GENERATION GOVERNMENT WI-FI (GOVWiFi) LAUNCHED

The Hong Kong Government's Next Generation GovWiFi programme was launched on 21st December 2012, following expiry of the service contract for the initial GovWiFi programme which commenced in early 2008. The programme provides free internet access from over 2,000 hotspots at over 400 government locations including public libraries, tourist spots, sports venues, cultural and recreational centres, major parks, government buildings and offices. Foreign visitors, as well as locals, are able to benefit from this free service.

Enhancements in the new programme include an extension of service to about 40 more locations including Golden Bauhinia Square, Wan Chai Temporary Promenade, Kwun Tong Promenade, Southorn Playground, MacPherson Playground, and the new cruise terminal at Kai Tak (opening mid-2013), Kwun Tong Promenade, adoption of Wi-Fi technology standard (IEEE 802.11n), which provides better signal coverage, enables faster data transfer and reduces signal interference and support for the latest Internet communication protocol (IPv6) for accessing web sites and Internet services delivered through IPv6. For GovWiFi Locator and Premises list see;

http://www.gov.hk/en/theme/wifi/location/

For further details of Wi-Fi Internet access for visitors to Hong Kong can be found HERE



PARK ISLAND - TSEUN WAN FERRY SERVICE DISCONTINUED / TAXI RESTRICTIONS LIFTED

The Park Island Transport Company ferry service operating between the Park Island complex at Ma Wan and Tsuen Wan has ceased operating with effect from 14th December 2012. The service had been in operation for ten years but was heavily loss making. 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.

UPDATE - a limited ferry service between Park Island Pier and Tsuen Wan Pier resumed on 8th June 2013. There are 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.
 


MICHELIN GUIDE TO HONG KONG MACAU 2013 PUBLISHED

The Michelin Red Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2013 was published on 5th December 2012. The fifth edition of the guide, first published in 2009, awards a total of 82 stars to 61 Hong Kong dining establishments. Three-star ratings have been awarded to four restaurants all located in Central - Caprice, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana and Lung Hing Keen. Thirteen restaurants achieve two-star status include first-time entrants RyuGin (Kowloon) and Sushi Yoshitake (Sheung Wan). 48 restaurants have been awarded one-star, of which Pang's Kitchen (Happy Valley), L'altro (Central) and Zhejiang Heen (Wan Chai) are new entrants.

New eateries which feature in the guide’s Bib Gourmand category for offering good value for money, but not quite reaching one-star status include Yat Lok Restaurant in Central, AMMO in Admiralty and JoJo at Sai Kung.




NGONG PING 360 PRICE INCREASE

Ngong Ping 360 has increased prices by up to about 15% for its cable car journey tickets and packages with effect from 7th December 2012. Revised price for an adult round trip ride in a Standard Cabin is HK$135 (previously HK$125) or in Crystal Cabin HK$213 (HK$188). Single adult trip ticket in a Standard Cabin now costs HK$94 (HK$86) or in a Crystal Cabin HK$149 (HK$130). For full details of new ticket prices see;

http://www.np360.com.hk/en/booking/np360-ticketing-information.html
 


HONG KONG YEARBOOK AVAILABLE AS FREE iPad APP

From 23rd October 2012, a free
iPad app of the government's Information Services Department latest yearbook "Hong Kong 2011" is available for download from the iTunes Store by searching for "Hong Kong Yearbook".

The book provides an in-depth account of government policy and activities and an overview of Hong Kong life and developments in 2011 and is a useful reference source of information. The yearbook's 21 chapters cover a wide range of subjects from the economy, commerce and industry, employment, the environment, social welfare, education and infrastructural development to culture and recreation, sports and the arts. There are 12 colour sections with over 110 photographs including those relating to the Tamar Development Project, elections, trade fairs and conferences, cultural and natural heritage, green living, new attractions, the Japan earthquake, global promotions, creative industries, the cultural kaleidoscope and sporting action. The photo sections in the app also include additional video content that can be browsed via an Internet connection.

The app is available in English and Traditional Chinese.



HONG KONG AVENUE OF COMIC STARS OPENED

Hong Kong Comic Avenue of Stars, a 100-metre path lined with statues of local comic characters in Kowloon Park was officially opened on 28th September 2012 and is expected to become a popular new tourist attraction. The avenue also features a Gallery of Comic History and Development and a Gallery of Comic Education to introduce visitors to Hong Kong comics history, the production process, tools, workshops and manuscripts.

The avenue is a three-year project sponsored by the government-funded Create Hong Kong and co-organised by Hong Kong Comics and Animation Federation, Hong Kong Productivity Council, Hong Kong Digital Entertainment Industry Support Centre, Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Arts and Culture Co-ordinating Committee of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council.

For further details see WHAT'S NEW



Hong Kong Comic Avenue of Stars in Kowloon Park, seen on opening day 28th September 2012



MUSEUMS TO EXTEND OPENING HOURS

Following a review of museum opening hours, with effect from 1st October 2012, most of the Hong Kong Government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) run museums, heritage centres and Hong Kong Film Archive are to operate revised opening hours with some museums operating extended hours. The opening hours of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum will be extended to 7pm on weekends. Hong Kong Science Museum, which previously reserved the hours of 10am to 1pm on weekdays for school visits will now be open to all at 10am and continue to open until 9pm on weekends and public holidays but will bring forward its closing time to 7pm on weekdays as attendance on weekday evenings is considered low. Opening hours of branch museums (Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Law Uk Folk Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum, Sam Tung Uk Museum, Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery and the Hong Kong Railway Museum) will be aligned from 10am to 6pm daily. Museums located in remote areas, such as the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre and the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum will operate seasonal opening hours between March and September from 10am to 6pm (an extension of one hour) and from October to February 10am to 5pm. All LCSD museums will now remain open during the Christmas and New Year period but will still close on one day a week, and on the first two days of Chinese New Year. All museums will retain their existing weekly closing day except Hong Kong Film Archive which will close on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays. Details of all LCSD museums and current and revised opening hours can be found under MUSEUMS.




AUTOTAXI SERVICE DISCONTINUED

The "AutoTAXI" service, which was a joint venture between Dah Sing Bank, Autotoll and Visa, has been discontinued from 10th September 2012. The "Intelligent Taxi Calling Service", was launched in June 2011, following a six-month trial involving 240 taxis and enabled users of Visa credit cards and Visa payWave cards to locate taxis equipped with credit card readers and to pay fares by credit card. At launch date the system, which cost HK$10,000 was installed in about 100 taxis and by the end of 2011 was believed to have been fitted to about 600 taxis. "AutoTAXI" system taxis were identified by a "white wings" symbol and were nicknamed "flying taxis".



Out of service. The AutoTaxi "Intelligent Taxi Calling Service" has been discontinued from 10th September 2012. Taxis participating in the scheme could be identified by the AutoTaxi logo and "white wings" on the rear passenger door quarter glass 



TUEN MUN - MACAU FERRY SERVICE CEASES OPERATION

The Hong Kong North West Express (HKNWE) cross-boundary ferry service between Tuen Mun Ferry Pier and Macau, which has not operated since the company suspended services in July 2012, will not resume. The service, for which HKNWE had been seeking a licence from the Macau Government since 2003, commenced operating in April 2011 with a schedule of four daily sailings each way utilising two 278-seat fast catamarans. However, services were suspended without notice in July 2012 and the company was believed to have owed the Hong Kong Government rent in respect of Tuen Mun Ferry Pier. The government has subsequently announced that it is taking repossession of Tuen Mun Ferry Pier with effect from 10th September 2012 and ferry services between Tuen Mun and Macau will formally cease operation.

Visitors wishing to travel from Hong Kong to Macau by ferry can use China Ferry Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon and Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal at Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island which have sufficient capacity to cope with additional passengers. For more information on ferry services to Macau see TO MACAU.




JOINT HONG KONG & SHENZHEN TRAVEL PASS TO BE LAUNCHED

Octopus Cards Limited and Shenzhentong Limited are launching a joint Hong Kong and Shenzhen cross-border card with effect from 11th September 2012. The card facilitates travel on public transport and small value purchases at many retail outlets in both cities. The Hong Kong version "Hu Tong Xing" will be available in Sold Adult version for HK$98 in Hong Kong and RMB80 in Shenzhen.

The purchase price of the card includes no useable value and is non-refundable. In Hong Kong the Hong Kong version of the card can be purchased at all MTR and Light Rail Customer Service Centres (excluding Airport Express, Racecourse and Disneyland stations) and MTR Travel (excluding Admiralty Station). In Shenzhen the Hong Kong version of the card can be purchased at Shenzhentong Customer Service Centres and sales outlets. The card combines two electronic purses in HKD and RMB in one chip and must be loaded separately in each currency for use in each city. Adding value to the pass, which is aimed at frequent travellers between the cities, will only be possible in HKD in Hong Kong and in RMB in Shenzhen.



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.



DISNEYLAND'S GRIZZLY GULCH TO OPEN 14th JULY 2012

Hong Kong Disneyland's largest themed area "Grizzly Gulch" is to open on 14th July 2012. The new attraction takes visitors on a coaster ride through a town in California at the time of the 1880's Gold Rush in a story which has been created exclusively for Hong Kong Disneyland. Grizzly Gulch is dominated by the 88-feet tall Big Grizzly Mountain which took 14 months to create. Visitors are transported through the land by 24-seat multidirectional "Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars" which travel through mountain caves where resident grizzly bears are encountered. Geysers erupt unexpectedly at Geyser Gulch, a water-based play area and Wild West entertainment can be enjoyed at Welcome Wagon Show. There are several themed photo opportunity locations including Grizzly Gulch Jail and the Assay office where visitors can have their photo taken standing next to a 3-feet high gold nugget. Lucky Nugget Saloon will offer themed food and beverage.

Grizzly Gulch is the second of three new themed areas to open under Disneyland's HK$3.63 billion major expansion which commenced in December 2009. The other two new themed areas under the expansion plan are Toy Story Land, which opened in November 2011 and Mystic Point which is expected to open in 2013.




OCEAN PARK'S POLAR ADVENTURE TO OPEN 13th JULY 2012

The latest themed zone to be completed under Ocean Park's 7-year HK$5.5 billion redevelopment plan is to open on 13th July 2012. Located at The Summit area of the park, Polar Adventure, features northern sea lions, three different species of penguins, Pacific walruses, spotted seals, four one-year old snowy owls and Arctic foxes in two themed areas, South Pole Encounter and North Pole Encounter. The zone also includes a roller coaster ride, Arctic Blast, and Tuxedos Restaurant which has panoramic views of the penguin pool.

Ocean Park has risen four places to twelfth in world theme park attendances according to the Global Attractions Attendance Report 2011 released by TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) and consultancy firm AECOM Economics. In the calendar year 2011, attendances rose by 28.7% over the previous calendar year to 6,955,000. The park, which added several new “lands” during the year and over a dozen attractions, including a major aquarium themed zone, Aqua City, Thrill Mountain and Rainforest Adventure is also ranked fifth most visited theme park in Asia.



HONG KONG SPACE MUSEUM TO LAUNCH 3D DOME SHOWS

From 1st July 2012, Hong Kong Space Museum will present a brand new service: 3D dome shows. Wearing specially designed 3D glasses, audiences will be able to experience Hong Kong's first 3D dome show "Astronaut 3D" under the unique and huge hemispheric dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum, and experience a sense of the tough training astronauts endure and the challenges of space missions. Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department has spent HK$7 million to upgrade the digital projection system of the Stanley Ho Space Theatre of the museum to create a 3D full-dome projection system. The new system consists of eight ultra-high resolution projectors and 32 high-performance computers, enabling projection of stereoscopic images with a resolution of up to 16 million pixels. Under the museum's uniquely huge hemispheric dome with a diameter of 23 metres, audiences will be surrounded by 3D images and hence experience the unsurpassed illusion of being taken to another place.

For details of the Space Museum's latest 3D dome show see MUSEUMS - KOWLOON.

In addition to renovation of the Space Theatre in 2009 and the recent upgrade of the digital projection system, the museum is carrying out a HK$32 million renovation of its exhibition halls. The renovation, which involves the Hall of Space Science and the Hall of Astronomy, has been a major development project of the museum in recent years and has reached the stage of vetting the design proposal tenders. If good progress is made, the work is expected to completed by late 2015. The renovation mainly involves renewing the exhibits. About 60 sets of exhibits, of which about 70 per cent are interactive, will be installed in a new immersive environment in the two exhibition halls, covering a total area of 1,600 square meters, in order to simulate the experience of travelling through space and time. The basic design concept for the Hall of Space Science is to make use of the existing circular and unidirectional nature of the gallery to relate the evolution of the universe. Visitors will venture into a dimmed and mysterious space environment with dynamic lighting, wall murals and elaborate decorations. A proposed "Reach for Your Star" exhibit, among others, will enable visitors to choose their own visit to any galaxy and to appreciate the starry night sky from a different perspective. The major themes of the Hall of Astronomy will be space exploration and the Sun-Earth relationship. The "How You Feel in Space" exhibit, the highlight of the proposed exhibits, will enable visitors to experience the disorientation of weightlessness in space and understand the unusual physical properties of matter by entering an upside-down virtual space station.



CROSS-BORDER JOINT OCTOPUS - LINGNAN PASS TO BE LAUNCHED

Octopus Cards Limited and Guangdong Lingnan Pass Company Limited have jointly announced the launch of their first joint cross-border cards. The co-named cards will be available for sale concurrently in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province in July 2012, allowing card holders in Hong Kong and sixteen mainland cities to travel and spend with one card that features both the Octopus and Lingnan Pass functions.

From 18th July 2012, the Sold Adult "Octopus ‧Lingnan Pass" cards will be available for sale at all MTR and Light Rail Customer Service Centres (except Airport Express, Racecourse and Disneyland Resort stations) throughout Hong Kong The Sold Adult "Octopus ‧Lingnan Pass" and the "Lingnan Pass ‧Octopus" will be sold at HK$98 and RMB80 each respectively. The "Octopus ‧Lingnan Pass" will run on a dual electronic purse model, being the Octopus Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) e-purse and the other Lingnan Pass Renminbi (RMB) e-purse. Cardholders can use the HKD e-purse in Hong Kong and the RMB e-purse in Guangdong Province. The two-in-one cards are anonymous sold cards, and cardholders can add value to the respective purses at authorised add value service points in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province respectively.



Octopus Cards Limited and Guangdong Lingnan Pass Company Limited versions of the cross-border Octopus - Lingnan Pass, which will be available from 18th July 2012, and can be used on public transport and retail outlets in Hong Kong and 16 Mainland cities

In the meantime, from 3rd July 2012, 3,000 sets of commemorative Limited Edition "Octopus ‧Lingnan Pass" cards will be distributed for public sale through the Customer Service Centres at 26 designated MTR stations. Each person can purchase up to two sets of the Limited Edition cards on a first-come, first-served basis and while stocks last. The "Octopus ‧Lingnan Pass" Limited Edition cards will be sold at HK$298 per set in Hong Kong, while the "Lingnan Pass ‧Octopus" Limited Edition cards will be sold at RMB238 at Lingnan Pass sales outlets in Guangdong Province.

The two-in-one cards can be used on public transport and at all retail outlets that accept Octopus or Lingnan Pass. Currently, Lingnan Pass can be used in sixteen cities in Mainland China including Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Shanwei, Huizhou, Maoming, Zhuhai, Jieyang, Heyuan, Yunfu, Shaoguan, Yangjiang, Zhanjiang, Zhongshan and Qingyuan and is expected to be expanded to include other cities in Guangdong and more retail outlets. However, the new card does not include Shenzhen or the Octopus concessions currently enjoyed by students, children and the elderly in Hong Kong as well as discounts available to Octopus cardholders such as the MTR's 10-rides-for-one-free-ticket scheme.



STAR FERRY FARE INCREASE

With effect from 24th June 2012, fares for journeys both Star Ferry routes on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays increased by 40 cents for adult journeys. The concessionary fare for child (3-12) and disabled persons journeys increased by 30 cents. Weekday fares remain unchanged and, overall, it is estimated that only 32% of journeys will be affected by the increases.


Since relocation of Central Star Ferry Pier in 2006 daily patronage on the Central - Tsim Sha Tsui route has declined by about 25% to 38,000, whilst the Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui route carries about 20,000 passengers a day. In March 2011 the company relinquished its two Hung Hom routes owing to heavy financial losses. Without the fare increases it is estimated the company would have incurred losses of HK$3.2 million in 2012 and HK$4.86 million in 2013. The government has agreed to provide further support by reimbursing Star Ferry for total revenue foregone for the period 24th June 2012 to end of 2013 by operating its elderly concession scheme whereby seniors age 65 and over travel free. The estimated revenue from this scheme is about HK$3.8 million a year.

Star Ferry allows bicycles only on its Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui route and only on off-peak services on the lower deck. These were previously carried free of charge, but from 24th June a charge of HK$13 per bicycle was introduced. The cost of a 4-day Tourist Ticket providing unlimited rides has reduce from HK$34 to HK$25 but will no longer include tram rides.

Star Ferry is also planning to generate additional revenue by converting one of its spare vessels into a floating restaurant with a planned launch of early 2013.



MTR LAUNCHES TWO NEW APPS

MTR has launched two new apps on 14th June 2012, to assist passengers in planning train journeys;

NEXT TRAIN” provides real-time information on the next four trains arriving at a specified station on the Tung Chung Line and Airport Express.

MTR TOURIST” assists visitors in navigating around the MTR system by providing a journey planner with relevant information such as routing, interchange stations, platform numbers and the exit nearest to the intended destination or tourist attraction. The app also includes a point to point visitor attraction search, Tourist Ticket information, details of Airport Express Shuttle Bus services, Intercity service information and travel tips.

A third app, “TRAFFIC NEWS”, will be available in the third quarter of 2012 to provide information during serious train service disruptions. It will include notification of train service suspensions or serious disruptions of 20 minutes or more, information on train service when Typhoon Signal No. 8 or above is issued, notices related to overnight train services during special festive days, e.g. New Year’s Eve overnight service and a search function for Rail Service Suspension –Passenger Guide.

In addition, the popular existing “MTR MOBILE” app has been enhanced from 14th June with a search function for point-to-point first and last train information and location of barrier-free facilities. A full revamp to create an even better user interface of this app is to be carried out later this year.



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 Star Ferry Pier Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui



OCEAN PARK'S NEW ELECTRONIC TICKETING PLATFORM

Ocean Park has entered a partnership with 7-Eleven to launch Hong Kong’s first theme park electronic ticketing service in convenience stores, allowing visitors to purchase Ocean Park admission tickets at over 900 7-Eleven outlets throughout Hong Kong. Tickets are valid for one month and contain a barcode which is scanned at the park's entry turnstiles, allowing instant admission and avoiding any potential queues at the park's ticket booths. In addition, visitors purchasing electronic tickets at 7-Eleven until 31st May 2012 will receive an in-Park food & beverage cash coupon worth up to HK$100 in value. Visitors patronising any restaurants within Ocean Park are also entitled to receive a complimentary Mother’s Day or Father’s Day special drink.



INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE CENTRE JOINS "A SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS"

From 1st May 2012, Hong Kong's tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) in West Kowloon will join the nightly sound and light show "A Symphony of Lights", bringing the number of buildings participating in the display to 45. The free show, which was launched in 2004 and is a major tourist attraction originally featured just 18 buildings on Hong Kong Island. It has since been expanded to include prominent buildings on both sides of the harbour and holds the Guinness World Record as "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show". Also from 1st May, the show will be accompanied by a new soundtrack which will be broadcast along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the promenade at Golden Bauhinia Square in front of Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

For further details of "A Symphony of Light" see;

http://www.tourism.gov.hk/symphony/eindex.html



NEW BUS SERVICE FRANCHISES AWARDED TO CURRENT OPERATORS

New ten-year franchises have been awarded to existing bus operators, New World First Bus Services Limited (NWFB), Long Win Bus Company Limited (Long Win) and Citybus Limited (Citybus). The franchise for Citybus relates to its Airport and North Lantau services only. Other services of Citybus are subject of a separate franchise which does not expire until 2016. The new franchise for NWFB will run from 1st July 2013 to 1st July 2023, and that for Long Win and Citybus from 1st May 2013 to 1st May 2023. The main operating area for NWFB is Hong Kong Island. Long Win's bus routes operate between the New Territories (except Tseung Kwan O), North Lantau and the Airport, while those for Citybus ply between urban areas/Tseung Kwan O, North Lantau and the Airport.

In awarding the new franchises the Hong Kong government took into account favourable public opinion relating to operation of services under the existing franchises. The three companies have committed to replacing 70% of their existing bus fleets with new buses between 2012 and 2016. New fare concessions will be offered for local passengers in major service areas and there will be other service and safety enhancements including adopting barrier-free and elderly-friendly features on new buses. In addition, passengers will be allowed to bring foldable bicycles on board buses and there will be additional facilities to reduce potential fire hazards. The companies will also be required to disseminate more service-related information to the travelling public on board buses as well as through the Internet and smart phone applications. The bus companies have also committed to install more LCD panels at major bus termini for the display of route information and bus departure times, as well as LCD panels or other devices inside bus compartments to provide more detailed route information. The companies will be required to purchase the most environmentally friendly and technologically proven buses commercially available when acquiring new vehicles with the ultimate objective of using zero emission buses and will be required to adopt commercially available technologies and products on their buses to reduce exhaust and noise emissions as far as practicable.
 


SUNBEAM THEATRE REPREIVED

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 AT HONG KONG ZOOLOGICAL & BOTANICAL GARDENS

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



SHUN TAK ACQUIRES FIRST FERRY (MACAU) LIMITED

Shun Tak-China Travel Shipping Investments Limited has announced on 11th August 2011 that it has entered into a Sales and Purchase Agreement with New World First Holdings Limited, to acquire all shareholdings in New World First Ferry Services (Macau) Limited and New Ferry -Transporte Marítimo de Passageiros (Macau) Limitada in a transaction amounting to HK$350 million. Shun Tak operates TurboJET high-speed ferry services between Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong and Macau and other Pearl River Delta Ports, whilst First Ferry (Macau) operates high-speed ferry services between China Ferry Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui, in Kowloon to Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. Shun Tak has confirmed it will maintain current service schedule, fares and staff. For more information on ferry services to Macau see TO MACAU



HONG KONG TRANSPORT iPHONE/ANDROID APP AND MOBILE WEBSITE LAUNCHED

The Hong Kong Transport Department has launched "Hong Kong eTransport" an iPhone app and website for mobile phones on 16th August 2011, and has since made the app available to users of Android devices from 29th November 2011. Its existing Public Transport Enquiry Service (PTES), which has recorded more than 1.3 million users since its launch in April 2009, has also been renamed "Hong Kong eTransport".

"Hong Kong eTransport" enables users to search for public transport routes based on individual preference, such as number of transfers, fare, estimated journey time and transport modes, with search results displayed in table form and on a map. Users may set their current location and destination by making use of the smartphone's GPS function in order to facilitate route and information searching and can also enquire about service details of different modes of public transport.

The smartphone app, can be downloaded, free of charge by searching for "HKeTransport" in the iTunes App Store or Android Market. Web address of the mobile website, which is available for mobile phones with internet access, is "m.hketransport.gov.hk". The new website address for the desktop version of "Hong Kong eTransport" is "hketransport.gov.hk".



NEW MAPPING SERVICE LAUNCHED

The Hong Kong Government's Lands Department has launched, on 22nd June 2011, "GeoMobile Map Hong Kong", a new mobile mapping service that allows users to view detailed government maps while they are on the move. GeoMobile Map takes advantage of multi-touch technology, allowing users to smoothly zoom in and out of a map on their mobile devices. It also incorporates a comprehensive geographic search engine, supporting not only the search for places, streets and buildings in Hong Kong, but also simple semantic searches, such as "museums in Central", "supermarkets within map area" etc

Through the GPS capability of mobile devices, GeoMobile Map can show the approximate position of a user on the map and identify nearby facilities and points of interest, including tourist attractions (e.g. sight-seeing spots, hotels, heritage trails), public transportation (e.g. ferry piers, MTR exits), leisure and cultural facilities (e.g. performing venues, museums), gas stations, car parks, hospitals, clinics, police stations, post offices, shopping malls, registered pharmacies, convenient stores and supermarkets. In the countryside, this new service displays useful information such as hiking trails, distance posts, viewing points and terrain contours.

GeoMobile Map supports mobile devices and smartphones running on iOS and Android operating systems. GeoMobile Map can be accessed at www.map.gov.hk/mobile

The desktop version can be accessed at;

http://www1.map.gov.hk/gih3/view/index.jsp



"GeoMobile Map Hong Kong" allows members of the general public to conveniently view the more detailed government maps any time, anywhere




FOUR LONG CLOSED RAMBLER CHANNEL BEACHES REOPEN

Four beaches in Tsuen Wan along the Rambler Channel, namely Lido Beach, Casam Beach, Approach Beach and Hoi Mei Wan Beach are to be reopened for swimming from 15th June 2011 following an improvement in water quality.

Lido Beach, Casam Beach and Hoi Mei Wan Beach have been closed since 2003, while Approach Beach has been closed since the mid-1990s due to poor water quality. Provision of lifeguard services at these beaches has been ceased since then. The improvement in water quality is due to the sewerage improvement works carried out by the Government over the years and the commissioning of the Advance Disinfection Facilities at the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works on 1st March 2010.

Lifeguard services at the above four beaches will operate daily from 9am to 6pm. The services will be extended to 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during the peak swimming season from June to August.

Water quality of the other three beaches in Tsuen Wan - Anglers' Beach, Gemini Beach and Ting Kau Beach has also improved but due to the need to carry out improvement works in these beaches, they will be reopened for public use after the completion of the works, expected to be by 2013.




Casam Beach is one of four beaches at Tsuen Wan, reopening 15th June 2011. The remaining three Tsuen Wan beaches are expected to reopen by 2013



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;

http://www.hongkongairport.com/hkianews/2012issue049/#eng/hearts




NEW SERIES HONG KONG BANKNOTES

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the three note-issuing banks, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Limited, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited, have announced that the HK$20 banknotes of the three note-issuing banks and HK$100 banknotes of HSBC will go into circulation on 11th January 2012.

The HK$50, HK$100, HK$500 and HK$1000 banknotes are already in circulation (except for the HSBC HK$100 banknote, which was delayed owing to a design flaw)
and with the issue of these new banknotes, the entire 2010 Series Hong Kong Banknotes will be in circulation.

The existing polymer HK$10 note, which is issued by the Hong Kong Government will continue to be printed and remain in circulation.

All existing banknotes will continue to be legal tender and will continue in circulation alongside the new notes until being gradually withdrawn when they become unfit for circulation.

Designs of the new notes can be viewed on the HKMA website;

http://www.hkma.gov.hk/eng/currency/2010_series/



OCEAN PARK'S SKYSTAR BALLOON RIDE DISCONTINUED

Following an investigation report by the Hong Kong Government's Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) into an incident which occurred on 28th June 2012, in which Ocean Park's helium balloon ride, SkyStar, deflated injuring six people, the park has decided to discontinue this attraction. The cause of the incident, in which the balloon descended faster than the retrieving speed of 0.65 metres per second and landed about 29-metres from the landing platform, was found to be loss of helium from the balloon's rip panel joint. The EMSD report recommended that Ocean Park and the balloon's French manufacturer, Aerophile, work out a comprehensive method of inspection of the rip panel joint before allowing the balloon to resume operations. The Park also appointed an American ride safety consultancy firm, PLH Consulting, to conduct an independent investigation into the incident. Their report confirmed that Ocean Park had fully complied with the manufacturer’s routine inspection and maintenance schedule and procedures, and that the Park’s operation, maintenance, and cleaning of the balloon are ruled out as causes of the incident. However, the Park has decided to discontinue the ride, which first opened to the public in February 2007, and intends to turn the space into an event and exhibition venue.



ONLINE PRE-REGISTRATION TO SIMPLIFY ENTRY FOR TAIWANESE VISITORS

From 1st September 2012, the entry process for eligible Taiwanese visitors wishing to visit Hong Kong is being simplified with the introduction the Hong Kong Immigration Department's "Pre-arrival Registration for Taiwan Residents" scheme. Each Pre-arrival Registration is valid for two months and allows two entries to Hong Kong with a stay up to 30 days as a visitor on each landing, provided the registrant meets the normal immigration requirements. The move reciprocates a similar arrangement by Taiwan for Hong Kong citizens which has been available since September 2010.

Full details of the scheme can be found on the GovHK website;

http://www.gov.hk/en/nonresidents/visarequire/general/par.htm 

Since 1st September 2011, Taiwan visitors holding a valid "Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents" (台灣居民來往大陸通行證), commonly known as "Tai Bao Zheng" (台胞證) have been able to visit Hong Kong for 30 days, extended from 7 days, regardless of whether they possess an entry/exit endorsement for the Mainland. Visitors from Taiwan now make up the second largest group of visitors to Hong Kong, with over 2.1 million visitor arrivals in 2011 and over 1.2 million arrivals from January to July 2012.