Ngong Ping You might be thinking, eh, what? Though this is a highly popular tourist spot, there are two amazing features that many people miss while taking the cable car or walking up to the Big Buddha. The first is Wisdom Path, just off the Po Lin Monastery. Despite being designated a tourist attraction, most sightseers just go to the spot, stay for five minutes then leave because it doesn’t seem to be that special. This is a mistake because it is actually a very spiritual spot. There are 38 tall rosewood tablets erected at the site, which opened in 2005. Each tablet features a wood carving of the Heart Sutra, a depiction of the doctrine of “emptiness” which is calligraphed by world-renowned scholar, Professor Jao Tsung-i. Reading the Heart Sutra at such a magnitude is a spiritual experience in itself. Despite being built by the government, this is one classy, unlikely attraction. As for the second spot, on your walk to Wisdom Path, you may pass an area that smells like tea leaves. There is indeed a tea garden nearby. As the only tea garden in Hong Kong, it still produces its own blend, available to customers everyday. The garden is owned by barrister and former urban councilor Brook Bernacchi, who asked Chan Hoon-chi to run the garden for him 15 years ago. Today, Chan has also opened a small café next to the garden to serve simple food and tea to tourists. The Rock Pool This little rock pool in Lantau is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. The hidden gem is tucked away in a secluded and tranquil spot. With its absolutely stunning view, the rock pool easily beats the best spas at the city’s five-star hotels. Oh, and did we mention that it’s all completely free? To get to the rock pool, walk 10 minutes from the Discovery Bay ferry pier (in the direction of the Discovery Bay Golf Club) and turn right onto the hill when you hit the main road. You’ll find the pool halfway up the hill. Crema Tucked away in an offshoot alley in TST East, independently owned Crema is one of the best spots in town for those looking to enjoy a cuppa freshly brewed coffee in a quiet and cozy location. The knowledgeable staff and the welcoming atmosphere make it almost too attractive a place to wile away a few hours. Enjoy the novel you’ve been meaning to read or grab a couple of close friends for a gossip session over lattes topped with smiling bears or winking bunnies coffee art. The café also has a delicious selection of desserts. The blueberry cheesecake is light and tart and the apple pie is flaky and filling, which should go over well with pastry fans. Shop G36, G/F, Peninsula Centre, 67 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2369-0338. Star Café Situated right next to the spanking new swanky Mira Hotel, the nondescript Champagne Court is easy to miss. But even easier to overlook is the supper-hidden Star Café, which is located on the dimly-lit basement level, at the end of a hallway speckled with small stores selling camera tools, plastic toys and other strange knickknacks. The eatery is famous for its tomato broth noodles, which can also be ordered with eggs mixed in. Shop 36, B/F, Champagne Court, 6-20 Kimberley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2724-4408. Nam Sang Wai At first glance, this hardly looks like Hong Kong. The quaint little picturesque wetland in Yuen Long may be hard to get to, but is in fact the spot for one of the most pleasant and easiest hikes in the city. Nam Sang Wai Path, which is right next to the lake, is a long, agreeable lakeside path lined with eucalyptus trees on both sides. There’s a small bridge over the water that’s a popular spot for marriage photography. If you walk toward the end of the path, you will reach Shan Pui River, where mangroves and birds can be found. A team of Wetland Park volunteers arrives every weekend to provide information and binoculars to visitors. Wine Bar by Paul’s Kitchen This intimate wine bar by Paul Lee (of the popular Paul’s Kitchen next door) is a great quiet spot for a few drinks and small bites. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back–easy-listening tracks float over the sound system while friendly regulars chat quietly among themselves over glasses of the bar’s carefully selected wines. The Wine Bar also has regular promotions during game season, and the comfy red cushioned seating and big screen TV makes this a fantastic spot to watch the match with a small group of friends. 16 Gough St., Central, 2851-8515. Lan Nai Wan Village You may never have heard of this village before because, well, it’s underwater. This 300-year-old locale used to house a Hakka community of 400 people, and covered a million square feet in Sai Kung. The village was vacated more than 30 years ago, and later became submerged during the construction of High Island Reservoir. It remained unseen for decades until three years ago, when a team of divers with the Hong Kong Underwater Archeology Association went underwater with local film director Derek Yee Tung-shing to film the debris for an RTHK program. Old Kai Tak Fire Station This vast structure, which used to serve the Kai Tak Airport, now stands empty after the airport was relocated to Lantau. Last year the station itself was the victim of a fire that gutted the interior. It’s now a hotspot for photo shoots, thanks to the apocalyptic debris that litters the floor. Ng Tung Chai Located on Tai Mo Shan, Ng Tung Chai is the city’s highest (and certainly most impressive) natural waterfall. At an imposing 120 feet, the waterfall can be seen from up to three kilometers away. Located along an easy hiking track, this fairly accessible waterfall is a great place for a picnic. The beautiful, picturesque environment also makes it a great romantic escape spot for couples. The Straggling-Hair Falls and the Maiden Falls nearby are equally stunning and are well worth going to if you’re looking for a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. For the best view of the falls, visit four days after heavy rain—that’s when the water flow is the strongest. Take bus 64K outside the Tai Po KCR station. Get off at Ng Tung Chai Village. Walk for 15 minutes through the village and take the small signposted path and you’ll reach the falls. Ap Chau This is probably the best island to escape it all. Ap Chau is the island with the fewest residents in Hong Kong—just eight. The serene spot is a Christian village. American preachers from Taiwan’s True Jesus Church set up the village to shelter fishermen and their families who converted to Christianity in the 60s—about 700 inhabitants at the time. The island’s church is still intact today. Ap Chau is near Sha Tau Kok but unless you have a permit you cannot enter the restricted area to get a ferry to the island. Alternatively, take a speedboat from Sai Kung (call Ming, 9174-3914). Lin Ma Hang Lead Mine Located in the restricted area in Sha Tau Kok, Lin Ma Hang is the location where old Hakka villages and feng shui woods are still kept intact. Also being preserved is an abandoned lead mine. The Japanese army used the mine until some Lin Ma Hang young villagers tried to bomb it in order to cut off the army’s supply. The mine was closed down officially in 1962. Since then bats took residence, and it now contains Hong Kong’s only major bat colony in its maze of caves. Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve Who would have thought? In Hong Kong we have this amazing butterfly reserve. This 42-hectare “Special Site of Scientific Interest” is home to more than 180 butterfly species, including 50 rare breeds. Aside from offering ecotours, the reserve hosts activities such as butterfly survey training. 50 Fung Yuen Village, Ting Kok Rd., Tai Po, www.fungyuen.org . Old District Office North This is by far our favorite historical building, which is low profile, easily accessible and a good testimony of a bygone era. When the New Territories were leased to the British in 1899, the building was erected to mark the center of Tai Po. Currently, this monument is used as the New Territories Eastern Region Headquarters of the Scout Association of Hong Kong, but it is also a favorite spot for amateur photographers. 20 Wan Tau Kok Lane, Tai Po. Shui Tau Tsuen Take a trip back in time by heading out to the utopic Shui Tau Tsuen (meaning “water’s head village”). With a history that spans close to nine hundred years, this village is a treasure trove of interesting sights. Grab a free map at the village entrance, right by the Yi Tai study hall, and explore. The architecture is stunning and the buildings (most of which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries) are all carefully decorated in traditional Chinese fashion. The village also contains many magnificent relics of the past, such as the Tan Kwong U and Tang Ching Lok ancestral halls, and the Tin Hau temple, which houses an iron bell weighing 106kg. All halls are open Wed, Sat, Sun and public holidays from 9am-1pm. A small café serving refreshments is open 2pm-5pm. Take the MTR West Rail to Tsuen Wan West station. Cross the dual carriageway to Nina Tower (the tallest building in the vicinity) and take bus 51 from the KMB Bus Terminus underneath. Get off the bus at the Mung Yeung School stop on Kam Tin Road. Walk north under the subway below the Kam Tin Bypass and go past Kam Tai Road. Cross over the river to Chi Ho Road and cross the small bridge spanning a stream. Turn right, then left to enter the village from the east. This should take about 15 minutes. So Lu Pun Village Another notable Sha Tau Kok spot is So Lu Pun Village, which is known by locals as a “ghost village.” So Lu Pun Village is a good four-hour hike from Fanling, and is the subject of several local ghost stories. Some say that decades ago, many villagers died in a boat accident on the way to a wedding banquet, and the rest deserted the village soon after. Other stories include the tale of a man who was invited to visit the village to celebrate a local festival, but found the place deserted when he arrived, while another claims that a man died of a heart attack after seeing ghosts there. The truth, however, is far less interesting. So Lu Pun’s village representative (who doesn’t actually live there) debunked all the claims, saying that he and the other villagers simply moved out to the city because the village is too remote.