Think you know Hong Kong? Think again. While it may be one of the world’s most popular stopover destinations, for travellers wanting to delve deeper below the surface – away from the shopping malls and city centre – then this modern city-state offers off-the-beaten-path attractions aplenty. Here are our top picks:
Mong Kok is Hong Kong’s most congested shopping and residential district, which makes it the prime location for a truly local dining experience. A world away from the slick high-end shops and restaurants of commercial Hong Kong, neon-bathed streets wind through this dense area.
Multiple wet markets and other popular markets – including the famous Ladies' Market – jostle for space alongside speciality streets devoted to everything from goldfish and flowers; to footwear and kitchenware. But it’s the food that should be on your radar. Thankfully Mongkok food tours are available for hungry gourmands in search of a truly authentic eating experience.
Think succulent roast goose, fresh dim sum, snake soup, spicy fish balls and unique Hong Kong-style desserts.
When someone mentions Hong Kong undoubtedly you think of a crowded high rise city, so it may come as some surprise that 90 per cent of land is rural. Yep, for all its neon and glitz, Hong Kong has some of the best urban hiking tracks in the world. Open spaces, woods, mountains, beaches and wetlands – they’re all here in abundance.
If you only have time to do one trek, the Dragon’s Back Ridge should be it. Hailed by Time Magazine as Asia's best urban hike, it’s both short and incredibly scenic.
This undulating 8.5 kilometre hike is an easy hop from bustling Central via bus or MTR to Chai Wan. Lasting a few hours the walk takes in vistas of dazzling seas and nearby islands. Finish at Shek O village or Big Wave Bay for a refreshing dip in the sea.
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Soak In The Serenity
It may be one of the busiest cities in the world but even in Hong Kong you can find pockets of peace, and in the case of Tsz Shan Monastery, you can find a very large one.
Opened last year to much fanfare – and costing a staggering $400 million – this Buddhist sanctuary needs to be seen to be believed. Comprised of various grand halls (including the Grand Buddha hall, Universal hall and Great Vow hall) the temple houses three 24-carat gold-plated Buddhist statues, alongside a 76 metre, bronze statue of goddess of mercy, Guan Yin. It's the tallest in the world and looks out across breathtaking views of Hong Kong’s harbour and several islands.
Set against the backdrop of the Pat Sing mountains in Tai Po, it can accommodate 400 to 500 visitors a day, but reservations must be made in advance. Tour groups are banned and a limited entry quota guarantees serenity; however, it also means visitors have to book online in advance.
Step Back In Time
The best way to see beyond the skyscrapers and into the city’s past is to visit one of the walled villages. Reminiscent of fortresses, these original settlements – some of which have walls that are up to five metres thick – are literally the oldest structures standing in the territory. Inside you’ll discover ramshackle huts, traditional temples and richly decorated ancestral halls. Kat Hing Wai in Kam Tin is the most famous in this area and many of the original Puni people still live there today.
Rise And shine
Take advantage of the jet lag and rise early to join some of the locals in your nearest park in Hong Kong to either observe (or join in with) Chinese practitioners of Tai Chi. Watching crowds of sprightly elderly folk doing their morning exercises to traditional music is captivating and a great start to the day.
Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights per week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, offering a choice of flying in economy, premium economy or business class.
If you’re looking for some serious luxe combined with an embodiment of the age-old adage ‘location, location, location’ then the Island Shangri-La should be your go-to.
Situated a minute or two from Hong Kong park and a mere four kilometres from Victoria Peak and five kilometres from Victoria Harbour, the 56-storey skyscraper is part of the Pacific Place mall complex, which sits on top of Admiralty MTR station, one stop from Central.
Convenience and accessibility aside, the sleek property boasts some of the best views in town, both from its rooms, which offer floor-to-ceiling views, and from its Horizon Club. Lauded time and again, the in-house dining (there are eight outlets, including Japanese, French and Cantonese eatery, Summer Palace, which currently has two Michelin stars) Conde Nast Traveler recently honoured Island Shangri-La as one of the best hotels in the world for dining.