Whether you're in Hong Kong for business or you're doing a stopover en route to Australia, a great way to soak up the Hong Kong vibe is to take a beginners Tai Chi class on the waterfront.
The class is in English and assumes no previous knowledge of Tai Chi. There are a few demonstrations first followed by lessons on how to do the most basic tai chi routines. All this in front of Victoria Harbour with the skyscrapers in full view. It captures the whole East-West fusion that Hong Kong is all about.
Best of all - the lessons are free.
The lessons take place in front of the Museum of Art on Salisbury Road by the waterfront. It is a five minute walk from the Star Ferry terminus on Kowloon. They start at 8am and run on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Ring the Hong Kong Tourist board on +852 2508 1234 to ckeck days before going.
Cycling is a great way to see Hong Kong in the autumn sunshine, and this film shows you how to pack in rural scenery, temples, local food and even a day at the beach.
If you have broadband, download the high-res version by following the link below; otherwise you can watch it low-res in eight episodes on youTube by searching for HK cycling bend.
Right in the heart of HK is a lush haven that provides a welcome break from the crowded city. Go to Hong Kong Park before the shops open and walk around the beautiful Botanical Garden (which has a zoo) - don't forget the amazing walk-through aviary.
Clean, lush, well organised, uncrowded, quiet and fresh. All 100% free of charge!
Within the concrete jungle of Central and away from the shopping malls, is a haven: beautiful gardens containing exotic shrubs, sculptures and fountains, a fantastic zoo housing shy orang-utans, noisy monkeys and pretty birds. And surprisingly, it is FREE.
Entrance is on Albany Road. Open daily.
Some walks to show expat living - albeit a route I took relatives a few years ago.
Start at bottom of the mid-levels escalator, all the way up to Robinson Road (look for the small road spelt backwards). Along Robinson Rd, taking in Mosque Junction, and onto the Botanical Gardens, very peaceful early morning for tai chi exponents. Down Glenealy, possibly stopping for a refreshing drink and then down Ice House St, passing the Foreign Correspondents Club (possibly the world's best bar), and then arrive in Central.
Don't forget the views from the Matilda Hospital on the Peak (look out over Blacks Link and other very exclusive addresses) and for those with transport try and find the old service reservoir off Lugard Road on the Peak. It offers the best views anywhere on Hong Kong Island.
For those interested in Hong Kong flora and history, I recommend a visit to Sheung Yiu Folk Museum, in Sai Kung Country Park. This centres around a restored Hakka dwelling built by the Wong clan in the 19th-century, recreated with great care and attention to detail.
The walk to the house takes you along a path through ancient woodlands, in which can be found many of the indigenous plants and herbs used by the Hakka community for a huge variety of purposes,
medicinal, culinary and practical. Entry to the house is free, and you can wander around the rooms and defences at your leisure.
Farming implements and many of the accoutrements of Hakka life have been built solely for this site. Close to the house is an original lime kiln and jetty for bringing in coral: relics of the cement industry that provided an important source of income to the Wong clan.
There are few of these types of heritage site in Hong Kong, and Sheung Yiu receives few visitors - which is part of the attraction.
Pak Tam Chung Nature Trail, Sai Kung, Hong Kong.
To get to Sheung Yiu Folk Museum, take the number 94 bus from Sai Kung town, or the 96R / 289R (which only run on public holidays). Get off at the bus terminus by the Country Park Management Centre, and walk into the park past the traffic barrier. Walk down Pak Tam road until you see a footbridge crossing the river to your right: Cross the bridge and take the path to the right.
Sheung Yiu is closed on Tuesdays, Christmas day, Boxing day, New
Year's day and the first three days of Chinese New Year
The seated Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau is a well-know “must see”. The normal route is by boat or hovercraft to Mui Wo (aka Silvermine Bay) on Lantau, and then by a (somewhat white-knuckle) bus ride up to the mountain monastery. A different approach, for those who fancy a walk, is to take the ferry from Central to the tiny neighbouring island of Peng Chau. From there, hop on a kaido (a very small ferry boat) for the short crossing to the Trappist Monastery on Lantau. From here it is an easy and well-marked two-hour walk, peaceful and highly scenic, to Mui Wo.
I am amazed that nobody has mentioned the outdoor activities in HK. 40% of Hong Kong's territory has been set aside for parkland, and although the highest point is only 900m above sea level, the terrain is amazing. There are several hundred trails available to the public, covering every part of the territory.
We lived on Lamma Island, and walked the length and breadth of the island. The hiking on Lantau Island is also very good (you can also mountain bike on all the hiking trails). The hike from the back of Lantau from near the airport, up over Lantau peak and then down to the big Buddha at Po Lin is amazing. Such an incredible contrast, seeing the new airport below you in the beginning, then down to a statue that attracts Buddhists from all over Asia.
There is also great hiking/mountain biking in the New Territories, the MacLehose Trail in particular (100km from Sai Kung in the east to Tsuen Mun in the west). This is the same trail where they have the endurance race every year (in the middle of summer), which was traditionally won by the Gurkhas, but they have been overtaken by professional race teams, (who complete it in about 20 hours - it is normally a hard four days’ walk.
Speaking of summer - it gets very hot and humid, so start early and bring plenty of water and sunblock. Winter (October through to April) is perfect for hiking and biking in HK as the weather is cooler and it rains less.
And the best thing about hiking in HK - finishing at an amazing sea food restaurant like the ones mentioned at Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island.
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