Shopping and high-rise modern architecture can only hold your attention for so long, which makes Hong Kong's principal park a welcome and rather unexpected relief from the city's many urban distractions. Spread over 10ha, the park opened in 1991 on the site of the old Victoria Barracks, and in its layout deliberately avoided a strictly naturalistic appearance in favour of a partially artificial approach to landscaping (much of the area's original vegetation had long-since vanished in any case). Skilful design work has artfully folded the park into the contours of the surrounding hillside, dramatically juxtaposing the ranks of skyscrapers on one side with almost open hilly slopes on the other.
Among the park's many features are lakes, artificial waterfalls, numerous plants (look out for the giant bamboo in particular), a visual arts centre, children's playground, restaurant, viewing tower, tai chi garden and the outstanding Museum of Tea Ware in Flagstaff House at the park's northern tip. Museum aside, the park's highlights are its many peaceful corners, a large aviary and a modern conservatory, the last - the largest in Southeast Asia - home to 200 plant species divided into tropical and semi-arid varieties. The still more impressive aviary repli- cates a tropical rainforest habitat, tree-high walkways bringing you into close contact with some 150 species of (and 500 individual) exotic and brightly coloured birds as you drop down through the complex.