FAR FROM the madding crowd
City convenience is all well and good but, from a lifestyle perspective, the price can be high. Cramped flats, noisy neighbourhoods and a dearth of natural light are not everyone's cup of tea, especially once a family comes along.
Hence, the rising popularity of the New Territories, historically an area viewed as the antidote to Hong Kong Island's busy city life, where it's been estimated that as many as half of Hong Kong residents now live.
Covering a vast area from the north of Kowloon to the mainland's southern border, and more than 200 islands, the New Territories offers a wealth of choice, either for relocation or a weekend sojourn. New MTR lines and improved road infrastructure have made these areas far more accessible than in the past. Sought-after Sai Kung feels closer than ever. Even far-flung Yuen Long, once considered impossibly remote, is attracting a new breed.
As a result, once-humble village houses are being transformed into comfortable, even luxurious contemporary homes. Developers are investing in master-planned high-rises, offering more space than can be found closer in, with recreational facilities to rival a private club. Restaurants offer all manner of international cuisine. Modern shopping malls have mushroomed, but you can also still find many traditional wet markets, including the largest, at Sheung Shui, a Hong Kong experience not to be missed, along with traditional temples and ancestral halls. Today, some of the most fashionable places are in the New Territories.
OUT AND ABOUT
Share a seafood feast
An oldie but a goodie is Sai Kung's 'Seafood Street'. Gather friends, grab some wine and take your pick of the open-air restaurants lining the waterfront. A Sunday lunch can last for hours, as you nibble offerings from the live fish tanks - with people-watching thrown in for free.
Sheung Shui wet market
Here life goes on as it always has in a New Territories village. The livestock and unrefrigerated meat might be difficult for some to stomach, but stock up big on the fresh fruit and vegetables - still the best and cheapest in Hong Kong.
Get close to nature
The Mai Po Wetlands, including the Ramsar-listed Inner Deep Bay site, are home to more than 300 species of migrating birds. Accounting for 1,500 hectares in total, this pristine area provides a rich habitat for flora and fauna. Not all areas are accessible to the public: call the WWF for details.