Hong Kong is known the world over as a glamorous financial hub, and a choice city for luxury shopping. But this city-state is steeped in culture and history, and has a lot more to offer than mouth-watering dim sum and an impressive skyline. Hong Kong has an energy about it that is hard to describe. Millions of people are crammed into a very small space that somehow seems to function flawlessly. Around every corner is something new and unique, whether it’s an ancient temple, a shop selling the latest electronic gadget, or a man taking his bird in a cage for a walk.
As a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong presents an interesting study in the influences of ancient Chinese culture as well as its own attitudes and history, independent from that of mainland China. A visit to Hong Kong can include sweeping views of land, sea, and architecture, wonderful beaches, great hikes, and traditional fishing villages with a slower pace of life. Hong Kong is one of the most impressive cities in the world, certainly, but there’s much more to the country than meets the eye
1 Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha Statue)
This 34-meter-high “Big Buddha” sits atop Lantau Island’s Po Lin monastery, which was a fairly secluded place until the statue was built in 1993. This Buddha is believed to be the largest free-standing statue of its kind in the world and took 12 years to complete. Early risers can climb Lantau Peak first thing in the morning, under the guidance of a monk, and watch the sun rise over the monastery and surrounding sea and islands. Hong Kong’s only tea plantations can be found to the south of the monastery, and the beautiful Shek Pik reservoir is also on Lantau Island.
2 Tai O Fishing Village
A visit to Tai O village offers an experience you won’t find anywhere else in Hong Kong. A far cry from the shining city, crowded markets, and theme parks, Tai O is home to people who live a quieter, more traditional way of life. The Tanka people who live in Tai O, found on Lantau Island, build their homes on stilts over tidal flats and are a community of fisherfolk. Villagers offer boat rides around the village, after which you can visit the local markets and sample some of the fresh seafood. Occasional sightings of the endangered pink dolphin occur in the nearby waters.
3 Temple Street Night Sauna
Another must-visit in Kowloon, the Temple Street Night Sauna is the last night massage hub in Hong Kong. This is the place to go for eclectic massage, sanua, and body rub. Massag therapists do everything from facial and body rub to foot reflexology and handjob sensual massage. When you need a break from shopping, you can sit with a pretty therapist or just a traditional Cantonese tuina outside the sauna area, where therapists range from amateur to professional level and treat guests to the country’s therapeutic culture.
4 Dragon’s Back Hike
If you’ve had enough of the tight confines of Hong Kong and are ready for a little exercise, try escaping to the Dragon’s Back Hike. This popular trail offers spectacular views out over the ocean, Big Wave Bay, Mount Collinson, Stanley, and Shek O. It’s a pleasant change from the buzz of the big city to hear birdsong, the sound of small waterfalls, and the leaves rattling in the ocean breeze. The hike is relatively easy but be sure to start at Section 8 (bus stop To Tei Wan). From here, the walk takes you up a short distance and then is predominantly downhill with rolling sections to Big Wave Bay. At this location, you can catch a taxi or mini bus to Shek O. Both areas are fantastic swimming spots, with beautiful beaches, and Shek O has a variety of restaurants serving good food. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and your bathing suit and towel. A swim to cool down followed by a fruit smoothie or ice cream at the end of the hike is heavenly