Guide to Hong Kong: Tranquil Escapes
A series of stories, recommendations and tips on Hong Kong from people in the know. Explore our city based on the travel experiences that interest you and get itineraries for off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods.
For a region famed for its high-rises, Hong Kong surprises visitors with its untold natural beauty. If you venture beyond the entertainment hub of downtown, you’ll discover that almost three quarters of Hong Kong is made up of countryside—rugged mountains, bijou islands and kilometer upon kilometer of indented coastline.
You don’t need to leave Hong Kong Island to find idyllic beach retreats and Shek O Beach is one of the best picks for a fun day trip. Meaning “rocky bay”, Shek O peninsula juts out into the South China Sea, providing a perfectly sheltered enclave and ample scenery for shutterbugs. Rent yourself a barbecue on the beach, head to one of the shack restaurants for a skewer or two, or even grab a quick Thai bite on the shorefront.
Venture further off the beaten track to the northerly Golden Beach on the Gold Coast. As one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong, the golden stretch of sand glistens as far as the eye can see. A boardwalk lined with tropical trees runs the length of the shore and volleyball players are frequently leaping around, California-style. It’s also right by the seafront arcade, the Gold Coast Piazza.
Rock the Boat
For a whole-day adventure, travel further into the northeasterly New Territories to Sai Kung, a volcanic region of Hong Kong. Here you’ll find the gorgeous Hap Mun Wan (Half Moon Bay), a real Hong Kong treasure on Sharp Island. This long, narrow isle is two kilometers off the coast and accessible only by sampan. The waters are warm and crystal clear, resembling a tropical Asian destination.
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Spotlight on: Islands District
When you imagine Hong Kong, chances are you’re conjuring up visions of gleaming skyscrapers, bustling walkways, modern malls or boats bobbing on the harbor. But did you know the region is actually made up of more than 260 islands dotted around the South China Sea? The Islands District is made up of more than 20 of these maritime parcels: outlying islands which provide much of the city’s countryside, and which are mostly quiet, underpopulated enclaves.
Earning a Living
Many of these islands developed from tranquil fishing and farming communities into fishing ports and market towns to support Hong Kong’s swelling maritime industry. Cheung Chau and Peng Chau islands are two such examples. Where fishing villages once dominated the coastlines, market towns, seafood restaurants and other such amenities soon popped up to feed the burgeoning economy.
Lamma Island is one of the most popular outlying islands, with two main villages at either end—Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. It has a rural vibe and life moves at a slower pace: here generations of families run shops and cafes, and traditional arts and crafts are still being practiced in little corners. Try some traditional craftsmanship at Selling Point Glass Workshop, which offers half-day courses in glass blowing, stained glass and lamp work.
Lantau Island boasts lofty peaks that rumble on into the distance and kilometers of untouched terrain. Closer to the coast, you can still find ancient fishing communities, plus long sandy beaches, monasteries and temples. Head off the beaten track to the hidden Kwun Yam Temple: you’ll find the Kwun Yam Po Sha Buddha in the main temple, 18 Arhats in the main hall and five Buddhas around a circular altar upstairs.
Head online to www.DiscoverHongKong.com/InsidersGuide to create your personalized itinerary for Islands District.
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