Thanks to its
time as a British colony and its population of mostly ethnic Chinese, Hong Kong
has a distinct West-meets-East flair unlike any other city in the world. But
with more than seven million people packed into 1,000sqkm, Hong Kong can start
to feel a bit crowded after spending any length of time there. Luckily, since
the island is so small, it only takes 30 minutes to get out and discover new landscapes
that feel a million miles away from the skyscrapers downtown.
Hong Kong is certainly not a bike-friendly city,
and cycling through the island’s crowded streets is not recommended. However, in
the northwest corner of Hong Kong’s New Territories region 20km north of
downtown, the area known as Yuen Long Plain has a number of attractions easily accessible by bike.
Ride the West
Rail train line to Kam Sheung Road Station, then bike around the walled city of
Kam Tin with its narrow row-houses. The small village is famous for its “tree house”, a
stone home that has become enveloped by a huge banyan tree over the decades.
About 7km to the
east, the market city of Yuen Long has a lot of restaurants at which to refuel,
before heading northwest to the Hong Kong Wetland Park.
The protected 150-acre area gives wildlife watchers a chance to spot Hong
Kong’s feathered residents, including the grey heron, great egret and the rare
Mountain Biking Asia offers a one-day bike tour that picks up
from the Kam Sheung Road Station. The eight-hour trip costs 600 Hong Kong
dollars per person and includes bike rental, tour guide, dim sum lunch and the
Wetland Park entrance fee.
By cable car
The 5.7km-long Ngong Ping 360 cuts in
half the time it would take to get from central Hong Kong to the highlands of
Lantau Island by road. The cable car system, which opened in 2006, allows
visitors to soar across Tung Chung Bay in glass-walled gondolas, showcasing
panoramic views of the South China Sea and the 1,000m-high Lanteau Peak.
Once on land at
the Ngong Ping station, visitors can climb 268 steps to reach the towering
Tan Buddha statue, one of five of giant Buddha statues in China. Nearby,
Lin Monastery offers a look into Buddhist tradition with its well-kept
gardens, vegetarian kitchen and ornate interior temples.
fishing village of Tai O sits just 6.5km east on the island’s coast, and a bus
picks up regularly from Ngong Ping. The houses in Tai O sit mostly on stilts,
giving it the nickname “The Venice of Hong Kong”. Some locals offer short boat
trips through the scenic waterways, giving visitors a chance to spot the
Chinese white dolphins that live just offshore.
Ngong Ping 360 leaves from Tung Chung station in Hong Kong
and takes 25 minutes to arrive in Ngong Ping. A round-trip ticket costs 135
Hong Kong dollars, but for those who want to thoroughly explore the Tai O and
the rest of the island, a Sky-Land-Sea
pass offers unlimited one-day access to bus and ferry options as well for 200
Hong Kong dollars.
More about the journey than the destination, junk trips are a local Hong Kong
tradition. The summer boat trips, which can be as short as an hour or last
until 2am during a night boat party, are an ideal way to get out of the
sometimes sweltering city and onto the water.
Most fleets are
privately chartered, so this trip work best with a large group and should be
booked in advance, but some junk companies like Island Junks and Aqua
Luna run regularly scheduled tours that are more suited for smaller groups.
Island Junks runs two cruises each day for 550 Hong
Kong dollars per person. These seven-hour trips aboard teak wooden boats start
from Aberdeen harbour and include stops at Lamma Island, where buildings taller
than three-storeys are banned, and Poi Toi Island, which has a population of
less than 20. The cruises also include lunch on the islands and beverages
throughout the day.
A quick hour and a half flight will take you to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan,
Hong Kong’s island neighbour. While they share a similar Chinese heritage,
Taiwan and Hong Kong have very distinct traditions and even a different
language (Hong Kong’s population primarily speaks Cantonese and English, while
the people of Taiwan speak mainly Mandarin).
also looks completely different, thanks to Taiwan’s location on the Pacific Ring
of Fire, which is marked by active fault lines and volcanic activity. See the island’s
geographic history up close by visiting Yangmingshan
National Park, located at the northern edge of Taipei, and climbing up Qixing
Mountain (Seven Stars Mountain), a dormant volcano 1,120m above sea level. The
peak has two main trails, one heading to the east peak and one to the west
peak, but the two can also be climbed in succession on a 5.5km hike that offers
incredible views from the top.
After the hike, rest
your weary muscles at one of the national park’s many hot spring resorts, such
as the Landis
Resort Yangmingshan, where natural sulphur pools are paired with hotel
amenities including fresh towels and a roof overhead.
Hong Kong Airlines offers daily flights to Taipei. Yangmingshan
National Park can be reached by bus from the main Taipei Railway Station, which drops of at the
Yangmingshan bus stop. From there, shuttle buses run frequently throughout the