By Alex Ure
Hong Kong is the place to be. Here are the top ten places Alex Ure, a visitor and short-time resident of Hong Kong, feels fascinated by.
1. Victoria Peak
With 360 degree views towering over Hong Kong’s distinguishable skyline and mountainous sea views this is undoubtedly one of the best ways to see Hong Kong in all of its glory. Where else can you see skyscrapers, mountains and ocean views simultaneously? I visited the peak in the height of the afternoon but also stuck around to watch the sunset and to see Hong Kong’s illuminated skyline at night. I would recommend loitering at the peak to observe Hong Kong at these different times, plus there are many restaurants and souvenir shops here so there’s little excuse not to! To get to the peak you can take the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) which is well connected all over Hong Kong, followed by a bus or a one hour hike to reach the summit of Victoria Peak.
2. Big Buddha
Located on Lantau Island, the big Buddha (or more formally the Tian Tan Buddha) is an enormous bronze sculpture, and another main tourist attraction in Hong Kong, that was built fairly recently, opening in 1993. This is yet another large-scale attraction (Hongkongers don’t do anything half-heartedly) To get here, take the MTR to Tung Chung where you can then choose between a glass cable car with 360 degree views or a bus to take you up to the Buddha; the bus is far cheaper but if you’re visiting Hong Kong as a tourist, the cable car will be more than worthwhile.
3. Wong Tai Sin Temple
For me, I much prefer exploring the unassumingly beautiful places in Hong Kong; often I find that getting off at a random MTR stop and walking down side streets can offer more insight into Hong Kong’s natural charm than the more obvious attractions. With pungent smells of incense, ornate architecture and a tranquil atmosphere Wong Tai Sin temple offers a charming insight into the spiritual side of Hong Kong. I might have shed a tear at one point as the atmosphere was so inspiring. It depicts everything a cultural tourist wishes from Hong Kong. Whilst here I ticked off making an incense wish and getting my fortune told from my bucket list. This temple is easily accessible and well signposted from the Prince Edward MTR stop.
4. Mid-Autumn/Lantern Festival
When the moon is at its fullest between September and October, locals celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, a Chinese festival which is known as the most colourful and noisiest festivals in Hong Kong. Typically, time is spent with family, eating traditional food like mooncakes and many social gatherings take place to celebrate dragon dances. It was lovely to be able to share tradition with some of the locals and learn about their national holidays. Heading to Victoria Park one can view the spectacular lantern creations and watch a dragon dance involving a 60-something foot ‘dragon’ crammed with what must be thousands of incense sticks being danced around the streets. The atmosphere was just fantastic (although it was very packed, make sure you get there early).
5. Cheung Chau Island
With bicycles as the only mode of transport, tranquil beaches to relax on, great history and delightful little trinket shops, Cheung Chau is worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of mainland Hong Kong. In fact, I am itching to return back to this island as (although I hate to say I have a favourite) I think it’s my favourite place so far. I visited this island for my local friend’s birthday and everything was idyllic; we spent the day cycling, exploring and shopping. Cheung Chau feels is such a great place to relax and escape the chaos of Hong Kong as it functions on such a stripped down, peaceful lifestyle.
6. The Harbour/Avenue of Stars
Another place to see spectacular views of Hong Kong Island’s skyline is the mainland harbour which is also home to Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars. The Avenue exhibits the handprints of the likes of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. The harbour is a great place to go for a stroll. If you’re lucky you may get to see one of Hong Kong’s definitive red sailed ‘Junk Boats’ anchoring in at the harbour. The Avenue of Stars is easily accessible from East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, Exit J.
As a modest, quiet fishing village, this is a perfect place to visit. It is an unassumingly charismatic place and an undeveloped area. Houses sit on stilts and the area is a great taste of traditional Hong Kong. Dried fish stalls and old temples abound. Located on Lantau Island, the Big Buddha and Tai-O can easily be completed in one day’s worth of adventure. Boat excursions can also be taken at Tai-O with the possibility of seeing pink dolphins, another reason why this had to make my top ten.
8. Shek O Beach
Believe it or not, Hong Kong is home to over 40 beaches to which I have only visited a handful. Out of the ones I have visited, I think it clear that Shek O, with its long stretch of beach, clear waters and great views, is ideal for everyone. Simply put it is a gorgeous beach and one can’t go wrong here.
9. Dragons’ Back Hike
Turquoise waters, scattered islands and mosquitos (take plenty of repellent!), Dragons’ Back hike is one which sports amazing views of Hong Kong’s stunning coastline. Although it takes a daunting three hours to complete, except from a large amount of stairs that need to be scaled initially this ‘hike’ is more of a gentle stroll with a slight incline. Dragons’ back is one of the more comfortable hikes in Hong Kong but is up there with the best views to rival the more strenuous ones. I would strongly suggest accomplishing a hike in Hong Kong, even if you are here for a short time as a traveller: the feeling you get once you reach the summit is truly unbeatable.
10. Infinity Pool
Completing my personal ten wonders of Hong Kong is a beautiful, natural pool again located in Tai-O which can be reached by a more gruelling hike. Be sure to take insect spray and arachnophobes should note that there is an abundance of sizeable spiders, so much so that I would advise not to look up or around for the duration of the hike. If one can brave this, it is worth doing. Follow the Man Cheung Po Trail to reach the utopia that is the infinity pool – a natural seamless basin of water that frames mountainous views. Accompanied by the trickle of calming waterfalls and the hum of wildlife, it really is worth the hike to experience this natural phenomenon.
These top ten wonders of Hong Kong merely touch the surface of the scope of activities Hong Kong has to offer, the main attractions are a must see if you are here on a limited timescale. Tourist attractions aside and with consideration to aforementioned aspects of my opinion of Hong Kong, it is best to observe more unassuming aspects whilst you spend time here. The locals and their economic infrastructure are fascinating; joy can be found in observing even the smallest of things like a decorator painting the gates of a temple all in one colour, but with the smallest brush and the utmost concentration in his eyes. Sometimes some of the most memorable wonders are not things that can be listed.