Staycation Hong Kong: 5 alternative destinations for true city dwellers
You don't need to clock up the air miles or break the bank to get away from it all. Charley Lanyon and Hugh Chow scour the city for some alternative affordable escapes - and put them to the test
Cheung Chau B&B
12-14 and 84 Tung Wan Road and 10 Pak She Street
Who: for beach lovers, couples, families and singles who want to explore a quieter, more traditional side of Hong Kong.
Why: because despite being popular among tourists and local visitors, Cheung Chau has managed to preserve its charm. The island is manageable and easily accessible.
It's the longest-inhabited place in Hong Kong - the ancient rock carvings attest to that - and is still home to the traditional fishing fleets that have died out elsewhere. The B&B is bright and cheerful with a helpful staff and a great location.
What: clean and comfortable accommodation across three buildings, including one set aside especially for families, in the heart of Cheung Chau.
Although it lacks the quaint romance of a European bed and breakfast, Cheung Chau B&B has everything a weekend adventurer needs and staff who are eager to please.
Be warned: the island is a haven for insect life and they don't stop at the door of your room. So make sure you spray down the room before tucking in.
While you're there: stroll around the fishing village, bring a good book and watch the sun set over the sea, or enjoy some of Hong Kong's best and most affordable seafood at one of the many restaurants along the waterfront. Cheung Chau is a great place for cyclists - cars are forbidden - and you can rent yours directly from the B&B.
There are two beaches, Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Wan, within walking distance of the hotel - with clean, soft sand. They are busy at weekends. For sightseers, check out the island's many temples, its 3,000-year-old rock carvings or a 19th-century pirate cave.
Getting there: take a ferry directly to Cheung Chau from Central's ferry pier 5. Follow the signs to the B&B, a five-minute walk from the pier.
Staying there: room rates range from HK$580 to HK$1,500. Prices are higher on weekends and for the family rooms. A good, if basic, breakfast is included. Book through bbcheungchau.com.hk or call 2986 9990.
Bradbury Jockey Club Youth Hostel, Tai Mei Tuk
Who: anyone who can't decide what they want to do. Stay the weekend and try a number of outdoor activities on your doorstep.
Why: location, location, location. On the banks of Plover Cove, in the northeastern New Territories, this site not only offers stunning views of the sea and surrounding hills but also provides a convenient base from which to get adventurous on two wheels, head out on a hike and venture into the water.
What: budget accommodation for up to 84 people. Get back to basics with functional rooms and shared bathroom facilities (bring your own toothbrush and towel). Meals aren't offered so you will need to cook, buy in or eat out. You need to vacate your room for several hours a day for routine cleaning. Insect spray is recommended but bug zappers keep mosquitoes in check.
While you're there: learn to canoe, windsurf or sail at the Tai Mei Tuk Water Sports Centre next door. Hire a bike, cycle along the dam wall of Plover Cove Reservoir and stop to fly a kite. The more adventurous can take the scenic route towards Bride's Pool waterfall or ride the dedicated cycle lanes to distant Tai Po and Sha Tin. Hike the surrounding peaks of Pat Sin Leng Country Park where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Shenzhen.
Getting there: from Tai Po Market MTR take bus 75K or green minibus 20C toTai Mei Tuk bus terminus.
Staying there: adult rates start from HK$125 a night for a bunk bed in a dorm and HK$350 for a private twin room. Bookings: call 2662 5123, or go to yha.org.hk
Lady MacLehose Holiday Village, Sai Kung
Who: for parents who want to escape from the kids for a few hours. Supervised activities allow mum and dad to sneak off for their own quality time while on a family getaway.
Why: scattered across a wooded Pak Tam hillside inside Sai Kung Country Park, this recreational complex is pretty much self-sufficient. Scheduled activities are all on-site and a canteen churns out three meals a day. All you need to do is decide what will keep junior occupied during your stay.
What: up to 280 campers housed in self-contained bungalows for three to 15 people. Each bungalow comes with sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. Expect fixed meal times, noise curfews and restrictions on when you can use the air con. "Nourishing" is how one polite guest rated the camp food. A stay here offers a sanitised introduction to the great outdoors where a "nature walk" along an asphalt road replaces the need to venture out into the real thing.
While you're there: sign the little ones up for basic archery and rock climbing lessons. Let them negotiate rope bridges and scale cargo nets on a ropes course, or learn paper folding and bracelet-making. If the unpredictable summer weather forces everyone indoors, families can play pool, table tennis or board games.
Getting there: from Sai Kung Town take green minibus 9 to the village, or bus 94 followed by a 15-minute walk from the bus stop. A free shuttle bus is also available at selected times.
Staying there: overnight rates until October start from HK$65 for those aged 14 to 59. Surcharges apply on Saturday night and the eve of public holidays, and concessionary rates are available. Application forms lcsd.gov.hk/en/forms_lcs45.php need to be submitted three months ahead of stay. Last-minute vacancies may also be available and further details on how to apply can be found on forms.
9 Norfolk Road, Kowloon Tong
Who: couples on a budget, lovers escaping the watchful eyes of ever-present family members or anyone who wants a bit of privacy. Not one for families - this is an adult destination.
Why: with their less-than-stellar reputation, love hotels can be a hard sell, but the Boutique Hotel is clean and functional without sacrificing any of the eccentricity or kitsch sex appeal typical of this type of accommodation. You can enjoy all of the love without any of the sleaze.
What: an affordable oasis in the overcrowded city; rooms can be rented in three-hour intervals or overnight. Each room boasts modern decor, a standing shower (though the shower was broken when we stayed), an ample bed, Wi-fi, television, toiletries, a coffee station and - best of all - an in-room Jacuzzi.
While you're there: we're sure you can find something to do to pass the time - just use your imagination. When you need to refuel you can order food from a limited menu of basic Chinese dishes. If you tire of each other's company you can surf the web thanks to the in-room Wi-fi or zone out in front of the flat-screen television (these play free adult movies on repeat, but also offer local channels). For a bit of fresh air, head to the hotel's outdoor courtyard where you can sip tea and gaze into your lover's eyes.
Getting there: a short walk down the hill from the Kowloon Tong MTR station.
Staying there: rooms run to HK$413 for three hours and require a HK$100 deposit. You can stay the night for HK$700. There is only one type of room available. For bookings call 2338 6223, or just stop by.
Silvermine Beach Resort
D.D.2 Lot 648, Silvermine Bay, Mui Wo
Who: families, beachgoers, foodies and outdoor types.
Why: one of Hong Kong's only true beach hotels. This waterfront behemoth stretches over two buildings and offers comfortable accommodation and activities for all tastes.
What: weekend travellers may find the accommodation a bit pricey and impersonal. But this is a true beachfront hotel in the old style, with Saturday barbecue lunches, cold beers on the veranda, a spa, and boat and bicycle rentals, all just a few minutes' walk away from charming Mui Wo.
While you're there: there is more to do near the Silvermine Beach Resort than you can possibly tackle in one weekend. Stroll through Mui Wo with its restaurants, bars and second-hand bookshop. Rent a bicycle to pedal around town and along the waterfront. Enjoy a fresh seafood meal at the Mui Wo cooked food centre - Wah Kee Restaurant is a local favourite - or gather your own bounty of shellfish along the shore at low tide. Hardier types can hit the trails and hike through the hills to neighbouring Discovery Bay. Along the way, explore one of Hong Kong's best kept secrets: the secluded Trappist monastery. If you send a hand-written letter to the monks ahead of time, they will be happy to introduce you to monastic life and even put you up for the night in their on-site guest house.
Getting there: take a ferry to Mui Wo from Pier No 6 in Central. The hotel is a short walk, or even shorter taxi ride, from the ferry terminal. You can't miss it; it is the biggest building on the beach.
Staying there: rates range from HK$1,180 to HK$1,880, depending on whether you want a room in the old or new wing or one with a sea view. Wi-fi will set you back an additional HK$100 a day. For more details, go to silvermineresort.com or call 6810 0111.
Charley Lanyon (firstname.lastname@example.org)