Hong Kong is GIGANTIC. There's so much to do & to see, we filled up ten days quite easily, but I must admit that I didn't expect it to be this much fun! I had always thought of Hong Kong as a large, modern metropole, crowded and overwhelming, and this was indeed true for some parts of the city, but before I did not know about the islands, the beaches, the fishing villages, the beautiful views from endlessly green mountains. This is what I loved most about Hong Kong, especially after being in the densely populated city center. So my favorite things that we did during our Hong Kong trip may seem far away from the city center, yet it's only a minutes-away drive by underground or ferry. Hong Kong is a city of incredible contrasts: peaceful nature versus crowded urban areas, modern Western stores versus small and cheap markets, the scent of incense versus another, bad smell in the streets, traditional temples versus modern buildings and underground stations, English influences like cars driving on the left side of the road versus people who hardly know how to speak English...
Even though there is much more to do than the things listed in this blog posts (and we did a lot more than just these things in the ten days we spent there), here are my 5 absolute favorites (in a random order).
Kayaking in Sai Kung
On the only day there were no scheduled activities, me and 5 others went to Sha Ha Beach, Sai Kung (a town in New Territories, Hong Kong) were we initially wanted to do a waterfall hike, but no single local around had ever heard of such thing, so then we decided to go kayaking - and it was the best choice! We rented some really cheap kayaks, and dragged them into the sea. Then we had some peaceful hours paddling from island to island, and from beach to beach, where we could make a quick stop before paddling on. It was pretty exhausting, but oh so worth it! The surroundings were absolutely marvelous - mountains, green from top to bottom, surrounded the bay, and in the water chunks of rock and land made a perfect pit stop. It was only at our third and last stop, that we saw a delimited swimming area near the beach, some feet away from us, and to this a sign saying "watch out for the shark prevention net" was subtly attached....so paddling back to the mainland was only slightly more uncomfortable...;)
We found this extraordinary piece of fruit (?) on one of the beaches, and adopted it - mostly for some photoshooting.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
We saw like ten thousand temples and monasteries while going around Hong Kong, but this one is special and my favorite. Two reasons: when going up to the monastery - which is not actually a real monastery, but who cares for the explanation...you could check Wikipedia for the details. - you have to follow a steep path lined with golden statues of monks, until you get to the building that's filled from top to bottom with golden miniature statues of Buddha. Then you could climb up a little bit further and have a nice view and see some more buildings, statues and tourists. What we liked most about this place, is that we got surprised by wild monkeys, coming down from the jungle to look for food and attention from tourists. At first we saw just one monkey, sitting on top of the head of one of the monk statues, then jumping from head to head until it jumped in a tree and disappeared out of sight. Later, when we got to the actual monastery that's not an actual monastery, we saw a whole family of monkeys! They clearly enjoyed being photographed by all the tourists (including me! I confess!) but we stayed at a distance from them in case they would feel like sinking their teeth in us.
Hiking on Lamma Island
Another amazing experience! Now I come to think of it, it may have been my first-ever hiking experience....like ever! And it went very well for a fat old lazybones like me! We arrived at one side of the island (Pichic, to be exact) by ferry and walked down our way to the other side (Sha Po Old Village). It is supposed to be a 1-hour hike, and you can take the ferry back to the mainland from the Old Village. Naturally, that very day, it was the hottest of all that week (and they were all extremely hot, and especially humid - my hair was a real mess for ten days straight) so we were all sweating and whining while we walked on the unpaved roads - sometimes there were no shaded parts for a while - but the view! It was so splendid! Usually I hate the color green, but I do appreciate the shades of green you only find in these kinds of tropical settings! After finishing the hike, we walked back for like 15 minutes, to the beach that we passed on our way (Hung Shing Ye Beach) where we could finally cool down in the water and rinse of all the sweat. Overall it was a great day at Lamma Island, and if you were ever to go to Hong Kong, I would certainly recommend it to you too!
Hong Kong horse racing
The funnest thing we did at night was going to see the Hong Kong horse racing at Happy Valley Racecourse (owned by the Hong Kong Jockey Club). I think it is every Wednesday night at 7:15, and there are about 8 races. If you, unlike me, are familiar with horse racing, you could try and bet on one of the horses and perhaps win some money. Never mind if you don't! Even though I didn't get the heck of it, it was still pretty exciting to see! For each race, the horses and the horsemen get ready at the starting gate, and when the race takes off, the gates slam open and the horses run by super fast...it's really only a few seconds that you can actually see them (at least when you, like me, stand on the ground floor, right next to the race course...you can see the horses and everything from really close by, but whenever they go around the corner, you can't see anything, which isn't really a problem if you don't care for what horse wins). Then you've got to wait for some (pretty long) minutes, when they get the race course and the horses ready for another round. But for real, it's great fun! Everyone is so cheerful and the stadium (as it seemed to be) is so majestic (could be American) and it's all super fancy, because you got to dress fancy (is what they told me, but I don't think they really check, though it's fun to dress up for an event like this). While standing front row, I took some pictures of the speeding horses - had lots of fun for sure.
Tai O Fishing Village
This is Tai O, a small fishing village at Lantau Island, the same island where the famous Big Buddha is located (you can actually take a bus from Tai O to the Big Buddha, which is a pretty fun drive, all the way up the mountain). It is tiny, and still a bit authentic, as you can still discern the way people have been living there for decades. The tiny houses are build on stilts - they seem to be able to fall apart any minute from now - laundry is dangling above the water, colorful little boats lay spread out in the sea. It is an adorable sight. The people who live here are called Tanka people, a fisher folk that has been living in those stilt houses on the water for ages. We walked down a small market where interesting kinds of sea creatures were being cooked, and other stuff was being sold. We only had a short amount of time to walk around in Tai O, although not much time is needed as it is incredibly small, but I liked to see a typical Chinese fishing village and the way they're living, although I'm sure it has greatly changed over the years.
Thanks for reading! :-)
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