It is easy to forget that Hong Kong is so much more than just bright lights and skyscrapers. Each region has its own unique character and attractions. Visitors arriving on Hong Kong Island can admire the city from the deck of Star Ferry, or take Peak Tram up to the summit of Victoria Peak for panoramic views. Tourists can take in Man Mo Temple, the oldest temple in Hong Kong, visit the traditional outdoor street markets of Wan Chai or head to Happy Valley for the horse racing. To the south, Stanley Beach hosts Dragon Boat racing every year during Tuen Ng festival.Across the bay to the north lies Kowloon, diverse and atmospheric. Shanghai Street offers a fascinating insight into local life. Shopping is king in the popular night market of Temple Street and the vast retail destination that is Harbour City. Guinness World Records recognise 'A Symphony of Lights' as the biggest permanent sound and light show in the world. Kowloon also hosts the Avenue of Stars, celebrating icons of Asian cinema.Sai Kung peninsula in the New Territories provides a welcome change of pace. Rural life carries on as it always has, and this is the gateway to some spectacular countryside. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail, to the northwest, tracks past old face brick homes and forts, and abandoned towns from the agricultural age of the region. Tourists will enjoy a trip to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, home of course to nearly 13,000 Buddha statues.Of the Outlying Islands, Lantau is the most popular, not least due to the presence of Disneyland. The Lantau Trail is ideal for adventurous hikers. Visitors will also enjoy Po Lin Monastery, home to the largest seated Buddha statue in the world.
Some 200 years ago, Hong Kong's Aberdeen district was a haven for pirates. Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, it is home to the Tanka boat people and has become a popular tourist destination. Visitors can experience the traditional lifestyle of boat dwellers and sample fresh seafood. Aberdeen is a lively marina crammed with junks, sampans, water taxis (kai do), cruisers and yachts. The fishing harbour is a wonderful way to experience the activity of life on water. Tours along Aberdeen's watery stretches can be enjoyed onboard one of the many sampans offering half-hour trips around the harbour. The sensory delights of Hong Kong cuisine can be sampled within the unique environment of the famous, ornately decorated Jumbo Floating Restaurant.Recently some tourists have complained that this attraction is not as compelling as it once was, partly because the population of people living on the water seems to be decreasing and witnessing this traditional lifestyle was one of the primary draws of the area. If you are a lover of boats and harbours you will no doubt still find much to interest you in Aberdeen, but if you are going solely to experience the authentic living conditions of local fishermen you may be disappointed.
Address : South District, Hong Kong Island
The Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, is one of the tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha statues in the world, and can be found near Po Lin Monastery. The giant Buddha is a popular tourist destination and a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. The 112-foot (34m) high statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar and is surrounded by eight smaller statues of gods. Inside the three floors beneath the Buddha visitors can access the Hall of the Universe, the Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors can also climb the 268 steps to reach the platform where the impressive figure is seated, and admire the view from the top.The Tian Tan Buddha is a lovely excursion from the city and the short trip is a great break from the crowds and noise of Hong Kong. You can take the cable car either one way or both - some people prefer to either hike down through the hills after taking the cable car to the site, or to get there on the ferry and buses before taking the scenic cable car route back down into the city. There are many places to get refreshments at the site with both traditional meals and international fare like Starbucks on offer. Try to visit the Buddha on a clear day, when the views are at their best.
Address : Ngong Ping plateau
Admission : Free. A fee is charged for access to the exhibition halls below.
The fifth Disneyland Resort in the world, but also the smallest, Hong Kong Disneyland offers a magical adventure in four themed lands similar to other parks, namely Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland. Two additional areas, designed exclusively for Hong Kong, are The Grizzly Gulch and Toy Story Land. In Toy Story Land kids can enjoy a number of new attractions, including the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop and the scary RC Racer. In the Grizzly Gulch area the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars will draw shrieks of delight. Classic rides like Space Mountain can also be enjoyed, and kids can explore Cindarella's Castle, Tarzan's Treehouse and the world of Winnie the Pooh, among other things. Mickey Mouse and many other famous Disney characters welcome visitors of all ages to the happiest place on Earth. Particular care has been taken to incorporate Chinese culture into the design, such as a feng shui layout, and the omission of the number four in the numbering of floors in each of the hotels. In addition to the numerous rides and various events and attractions, shops sell Disney souvenirs and restaurants offer a variety of food throughout the park.
Address : Lantau Island
Website : www.hongkongdisneyland.com
Transport : Tung Chung Line of the MTR
Opening times : Daily 10.30am to 8pm. Opening times sometimes vary month to month - check the website to confirm times.
Admission : HK$539 (adult) and HK$385 (child) for a standard one-day pass
Lantau is the largest of the 235 outlying islands in Hong Kong, being almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island. It is best known for its walking trails and beaches and provides a pleasant respite from crowds and shopping. The main arrival point to the island by ferry is at Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay). The finest beaches are located along the west coast, most notably Cheung Sha. Besides beaches, Western Lantau is the location of the Po Lin Monastery, the largest temple in Hong Kong. Beyond the doorstep of this vast temple is one of the world's largest outdoor Buddha statues. Aptly named Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), the bronze statue sits contemplatively looking over the reaches of Ngong Ping Plateau.From the monastery buses will transport visitors to the quaint fishing village of Tai O. Here little wooden houses perch on stilts and much of life flows from the fishing industry that sustains it. Lantau's north shore is predominantly a farming region. The main attraction here, however, is the historical Tung Chung Fort, which was built in the early 19th century as part of a short-lived attempt to suppress the opium trade and defend the coastal area from pirates. Six old Qing Dynasty cannons dating back to 1832 stand on the ramparts. Development has changed the landscape of the Northeastern stretches of Lantau, known as Discovery Bay. Here upmarket housing complexes, shopping malls, yacht clubs and golf courses promise to provide the ultimate designer lifestyle at a price.
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is a spectacular four-mile (6km) ropeway that affords panoramic views over the bay and surrounding area on its 25-minute journey to the Ngong Ping Village. As visitors approach the cable car terminal on top of the plateau views will include the huge Tian Tan Buddha Statue and the Po Lin Monastery. The Ngong Ping Village is situated right next to the cable car terminal, which features attractions such as 'Walking with Buddha', the 'Monkey's Tale Theatre', and the 'Ngong Ping Teahouse', as well as an assortment of shopping and dining options. Walking with Buddha plunges visitors into a multimedia presentation that follows the life of Siddhartha Gautama (the man who became Buddha) and his path to enlightenment, while the Teahouse provides demonstrations of traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. The Monkey's Tale Theatre presents a charming and comical show inspired by famous Buddhist Jataka stories that will enchant both old and young.The cable car is an incredible experience and there are a variety of packages to choose from. For instance, you can choose between the more expensive Crystal Cabin - which has a transparent floor - and a regular one. Note that queues for this attraction can get very long.
Address : Lantau Island
Website : www.np360.com.hk
Opening times : Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Weekends and Public Holidays 9am to 6.30pm.
Admission : There are a variety of ticket options - check the official website listed above for details.
Statue Square is an amalgamation of Hong Kong's contemporary architecture. It reaches its most spectacular manifestation in the designs of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Bank of China Tower. The most significant feature of the HSBC building is that it has been designed without a central core, a feat of structural engineering blended with the ultimate in aesthetic principles. There is also a statue of Sir Thomas Jackson outside the building. The Bank of China Tower became a much-debated conversation piece following its construction, largely because of the asymmetrically-designed pinnacle that acquires differing perspectives depending on one's vantage point. The square also contains the Cenotaph, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the two world wars.It is a popular gathering place for locals who meet to share meals and socialise; there is a fountain and seating areas. Over Winterfest there are usually Christmas displays, trees and lights put up in the square, although visitors have reported that the displays have become less impressive recently and other squares and malls have better Christmas arrangements. For those interested in architecture Statue Square is a treat, and the attraction is almost always included in walking tours of the city.
Transport : MTR Central station, exit K
One of the most dramatic sacred sites in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is perched at the top of a hill in the town of Sha Tin. Visitors must climb more than 400 stairs to reach the temple and the famous nine-storey pagoda. The monastery actually contains nearly 13,000 Buddha statues within its walls alone, and many more stand sentinel along the pathways and stairs. The statues come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and the temple complex is breathtakingly colourful with beautiful views. Sadly, there are no resident monks and the temple is managed by laypersons; you do not therefore feel as though you are visiting an active monastery. However, unlike many famous temples in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery has retained its tranquil atmosphere and still feels like a holy place. It is not commercialised and is seldom swamped by crowds. This is partly why it tends to make such an impression on tourists. There is a small restaurant selling simple refreshments at the top but it is advisable to bring your own water for the climb, which some find tiring. In some parts of the complex photography is not allowed - be sure to take note of the signs.
Address : 220 Pai Tau Village, Sha Tin
Transport : Take the East Rail line to Sha Tin.
Admission : Free entry
Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's number one tourist attraction and its popularity is unwavering. Much of the pleasure derived from a trip to Victoria Peak lies in the journey to its summit. The funicular railway or peak tram has steadily made its way up the mountain since 1888 and the route is extremely steep and rather thrilling, with spectacular views. Energetic travellers can scale the real peak that extends 140m (459ft) above the tram terminus. From the top, marvellous vistas open out onto central Hong Kong and across to Kowloon.Victoria Peak used to serve as a hill station in colonial times and later became the location of exclusive summer homes. Today it is a popular tourist spot offering a cooler vantage point from which to contemplate the pleasures of travel to the region. The Peak Tower on the summit houses numerous attractions, like a Ripley's Believe it or not 'Odditorium', shops and restaurants. The Sky Terrace offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across the Hong Kong skyline - probably the best view of the city you could find - and there is the added attraction of The Sky Gallery, which showcases the works of the city's talented artists. A lot of people choose to go up Victoria Peak at night when the city lights are at their most magical.
Website : www.thepeak.com.hk
Transport : Take the Peak Tram from Garden Road or bus 15C. There is also a shuttle bus (daily 9am to 7pm) that departs from Star Ferry Terminal.
Opening times : The Peak Tram runs every day, including Sundays and public holidays, between 7am and midnight. The tram departs every 10-15 minutes.
Admission : Tram fares for a round trip are HK$45 (adults), and HK$20 (children). There are other combined ticket deals available.
This grand Taoist temple is one of the most frequently visited temples in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a legendary hermit who reputedly had healing powers and could foretell the future. A number of fortune tellers ply their trade in the temple complex and there is also a large pharmacy. There are some English-speaking fortune tellers (although they are more expensive) and they offer a number of soothsaying techniques including palm and face reading. The ornate temple with its red pillars, gold ceilings and decorative latticework is in the traditional Chinese style and is usually full of people burning incense and making floral offerings.The temple is known as a place where 'wishes come true' and locals come to pray for good health, success in business and happiness. Visitors can buy incense to burn just outside of the temple but there are usually lots of spare sticks left over from previous visitors within the temple itself so buying more may prove a waste of money. Those who do buy the incense need not purchase the whole kit as everything other than the sticks themselves will be taken by the guards at the entrace to the temple proper. The temple also has a lovely adjacent park called the 'Good Wish Gardens', a peaceful green spot with waterfalls tumbling over rocks.
Address : 2 Chuck Yuen Village, Kowloon
Transport : MTR to Wong Tai Sin, exit B
Opening times : Daily 7am to 5.30pm, gardens closed on Mondays.
Admission : Free (although donations are welcome)
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