As one of one of the ten most popular cities to visit in Asia, Hong-Kong (香港) is an attractive travel destination known for the Big Buddha and Po Lin monastery of Lantau Island, the incredible views of the Victoria peak, the Wong Tai Sin and Man Mo temples, Stanley, the nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong district and its endless possibilities for shopping whether it’s for luxury goods in high-end malls or for cheap knock-offs on Temple Street Night Market or in Mong Kok.
Yet, there is a Hong-Kong to explore beyond the popular tourist sites and the shopping. Here are 5 off-the-beaten path experiences to delve into another Hong-Kong.
#1. Take the ferry to outlying islands
From the Central Piers, next to the Star Ferry Piers, frequent ferries connect Hong-Kong Island to the outlying islands of Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Cheung Chau and Lamma. They are the perfect place to escape from the brutal density of skyscrapers and the best way to experience a slower pace of life.
All the outlying islands have a small network of hiking trails that pass by deserted sandy beaches, and through the forest and up to the hilly landscape.
From Central Ferry Piers, ferry leave regularly and the ride usually takes between 20 to 40 minutes (depending on which island you are going to).
Pier 6 : Peng Chau (坪洲) and Mui Wo (梅窩)
Pier 5 : Cheung Chau (長洲)
Pier 4 : So Kwu Wan (素罟灣) and Yung Shue Wan (榕樹灣) on Lamma Island (南丫島)
#2. Hop on the tram to Shau Kei Wan
Ditch the subway and travel above ground. Hong Kong Island has several tram lines that stretch from Chai Wan in the East to Kennedy Town in the West. Hoping on a double-decked tramway and finding a seat by the window is the best way to enjoy the urban jungle and the forest of skyscraper of Hong-Kong unfold under your eyes.
Pay when you get off. It only costs 2.2 HK$ per ride, no matter how far you go.
#3. Cantonese Opera
In a cosmopolitan city like Hong-Kong, the Cantonese Opera or Yue Ju (粵劇) looks like a dying art in a modern world. Inscribed in 2009 on the representative list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Cantonese Opera, like any other form of opera in China (Beijing has its Jing Ju 京劇, eastern China its Kun Ju 昆劇, Sichuan province its Chuan Ju 川劇 and Yunnan its Dian Ju 滇劇), embodies the culture of South China – it is also a unique performance to experience while in Hong-Kong
The Yaumatei Theatre in Kowloon has frequent Cantonese Opera performances.
#4. Herbal tea
Herbal tea is a healthy drink made exclusively out of Chinese traditional medicinal herbs and does not contain any tea leaves. Listed as UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage, herbal tea is tradition of south China and specific to the Hong-Kong – Guangdong – Macau region.
Herbal tea can be purchased cold (凉茶), hot (热茶) or in a jello form (膏) from little tea houses, directly in the streets. All the different herbal tea have medicinal properties and they will relieve your soar throat or your cough, cure your headache or improve your liver function.
If you have trouble reading Chinese, read the list of the different herbal teas in Cantonese (which includes the Chinese characters) and their functions.
#5. The walled village of Tsang Tai Uk
Beyond the islands and the skyscrapers of Hong-Kong Island, yet entangled in the modernity of the 21st century, the New Territories are home to a few ancient traditional walled villages. Once common during the Ming and Qing dynasties, these walled villages were built far from the shores as a protection against frequent attacks of pirates.
In Hong-Kong, walled villages were called wai (圍) or tsuen (村). Over time, the walls of these fortified villages were demolished. They are a few well-preserved ones, like Kat Hing Wai (吉慶圍) in Yuen Long district, or the Hakka village of Tsang Tai Uk (曾大屋) in Shatin district.