Ponder a possible island vacation, and Hong
Kong most likely will not be the first destination to leap to mind.
Although the islands of Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Maldives or the
Seychelles would seem more obvious choices, Hong Kong is a
subtropical archipelago comprising 262 verdant and scenic islands
packed with attractions both natural and man-made.
Granted, Hong Kong
is short on beach resorts and other features of sun-and-fun island
tourism. Even its businesslike name under mainland Chinese rule,
the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, sounds like all work and no play.
But as far as major
global conurbations go, Hong Kong, on the whole, is surprisingly
green and undeveloped, even though it's home to nearly 7 million
residents and one of its islands, Ap Lei Chau (chau means "island"
in Cantonese), is the most densely populated in the
Less than a quarter
of Hong Kong's 425 square miles of landmass is developed, and some
40% of the region is set aside as parkland or nature preserve. In
fact, one of the SAR's newest attractions is the 148-acre Hong Kong
Wetland Park in the New Territories, which sits on a peninsula
attached to mainland China.
and activities on or just off Hong Kong's islands include bays and
harbors -- such as Victoria Harbor, one of the world's deepest
ports -- and nature walks, like the Family Trail route across the
island of Lamma.
There are caves,
among them Cheung Po Tsai on Cheung Chau, and beaches, including
Tung Wan on Cheung Chau, Hap Mun Bay on Kiu Tsui Island and at Deep
Water Bay on Hong Kong proper.
The archipelago is
also home to sprawling amusement parks such as Hong Kong Disneyland
on Lantau and Ocean Park on Hong Kong. Two small-scale, cultural
installations are the Lamma Fisherfolk's Village on Lamma and the
Shaolin Wushu martial arts center on Lantau.
Hong Kong's seas
venturing from city center hotels in the Central district or
Kowloon, access the territory's islands by automobile, rail or boat
on day trips.
Hong Kong, Tsing Yi
and Lantau are connected by bridge or tunnel to each other and/or
Each is also served
by ferry, junk or kaido, an independently owned and operated water
taxi that's also known as a sampan. Kaidos can be hired for private
jaunts in several locations, such as Aberdeen, Stanley and Causeway
Bay on Hong Kong or in Sai Kung village on the pristine Sai Kung
Peninsula in the New Territories.
for rent from one hour to one day, are particularly popular for
visiting the many islets off Sai Kung, including Kiu Tsui (Sharp),
Pak Sha (White Sand), Cham Tau (Pillow) and Yim Tin Tsai (Little
Salt Field) islands.
Most of the larger,
more heavily populated or more frequently visited islands are
served by scheduled ferry. The most well-known is the cross-harbor,
double-decker Star Ferry service to and from Hong Kong island. The
skyline views make at least one ride a must for any
Star Ferry now
operates from the new Central Ferry
Piers in Hong Kong Central. There, visitors will find ferries to
the main outlying islands of Peng Chau, Cheung Chau, Lamma and
Two types of
ferries, standard and fast, operate on most routes; fast ferries
are a bit more expensive.
pursuits on local waters include 45-minute cocktail cruises on the
sleek Aqualuna, a 21st century version of a traditional Chinese
junk, and hydrofoil day trips to Macau.
Many visitors to
Hong Kong end up making at least one visit to Lantau, site of the
city's international airport.
One new must-do is
Ngong Ping 360, a hair-rising, 3.5-mile cable-car journey from the
suburb of Tung Ching to mountaintop Ngong Ping Village, a small
cultural theme park near the famed Tian Tan Buddha statue and the
Po Lin Monastery. The scenic 25-minute ride cuts the journey to the
statue in half.
Other sights on
Lantau include Tai O, a fishing village with stilt houses; the
40-mile Lantau Trail; Cheung Sha Beach; and boat tours departing
Tung Ching to view Hong Kong's famous pink dolphins.
destinations worth a visit across Hong Kong include tiny and
car-free (but heavily populated) Peng Chau, packed with traditional
Chinese wet markets; Cheung Chau, a former pirate haven that's
strung with beaches and is now a popular redoubt for windsurfers,
spelunkers and sun worshippers; and the Po Toi Islands, a cluster
of islets that are notable for their natural rock formations,
mysterious rock carvings and open-air seafood
island for seafood dining is Lamma, a half-hour ferry ride from the
Central Ferry Piers. The most common day trip to Lamma from Hong
Kong starts with a ferry ride to Yung Shue Wan village, at the
island's northern tip. Visitors then hike along the Family Trail,
with stops at the Chinese Pavilion, Tin Hau temples and Kamikaze
Then they head to
Sok Kwu Wan, a fishing village with an array of seafood eateries.
Rainbow Seafood offer diners private yacht shuttles back to Central
Sok Kwu Wan also is
home to the Lamma Fisherfolk's Village, a floating, outdoor
ethnographic park dedicated to the lives and livelihoods of local
Reached by kaido
from the town's Pier No. 2, Fisherfolk's Village features
traditional vessels such as dragon boats; fishing rafts and junks;
and exhibits on folklore, fishing tools and fish preservation
methods such as salting and drying.
There are also
demonstrations of net throwing and sail raising, and visitors can
try their hand at angle, net and hookless fishing as well as
feeding an array of sea creatures. Two-hour tickets are priced at
about $5 for adults and $4 for children.
For more on Lamma
Fisherfolk's Village, visit www.fisherfolks.com.hk. For information on
touring Hong Kong's myriad islands, visit the Hong Kong Tourism
Board at www.discoverhongkong.com/usa.
Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].