Things to see and do in Hong Kong: New Territories and outlying islands

First off, note you can read Mr Tall's review of Hong Kong Disneyland, and his tips for making the day more efficient if you like.

Now let's get on to some more interesting -- and characteristically Hong Kong -- sites!

Cheng Chau Island

How long will it take?: ½ to full day

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Central, then ferry from Central Pier

Cheng Chau’s famous as much for its lack of motor vehicles as for any singular attraction. It’s got an interesting temple, some decent seafood restaurants on its waterfront, and an overall air of relative calm that can be welcome after a few days in Tsim Sha Tsui. There are pleasant walks around the island (it’s small) to beaches, viewpoints, and a purported pirate’s cave. The ferry rides to and from the island are also enjoyable.

Lantau Island/Big Buddha/Tai O village

How long will it take?: Full day

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Central, then ferry from Central Pier, then bus or taxi on Lantau

If you’re in Hong Kong for more than three days, a trip to Lantau Island starts moving well up the priority list. If you have five or six days, you really should go. Take a ferry to the island, then a bus up to the giant Buddha statue in the north-central part of the island. You can also go down to the fishing village of Tai O at the very western extreme of Lantau for a taste of decidedly non-urban HK. If you have decent weather and you enjoy hiking, you can easily work in a walk on Lantau’s excellent trails, and there are also quite respectable beaches just off the main road that follows the island’s southern coast.

Lamma Island

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Central, then ferry from Central Pier

Mr B recommends Lamma Island as a great afternoon trip for a lazy Sunday -- or any day if you are visiting.

Take the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan after lunch (timetable here), and follow the crowds into the small town. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to stop at, but we usually keep on walking, following the family trail across the island. There is one hill to climb, but nothing too strenuous -- MrB Senior managed it at age 80!

The path gets quieter as you leave the houses, and then dips down to the first beach. Just before the beach on the right is a stall where you can get a refreshing glass of soya milk, or a bowl of sweetened beancurd. Don’t be tempted by this first beach, there is a better one to come!

From here the path heads upwards, ending with a short sharp climb up to a pavilion. You can catch your breath here and admire the view out over the South China Sea. Walk on again and you’ll be able to see over the other side of the island, looking down on what used to be a large quarry to your left, and across Picnic Bay/Sok Kwu Wan. The floating rafts in the bay are for fish farming.

As you walk on to the shady side of the hill, you’ll find the path runs through trees and bushes, very different from the dry, open view on the sunny side of the hill. Down some steps and turn right to walk past some old houses, then along to a fork with a signpost to Lo So Shing beach. That’s where I recommend you head for a swim, and to while away a few hours.

When the sun is going down, it’s time for a shower, a clean T-shirt, and thoughts of a cold beer. Retrace your steps to the signpost, and turn right down the slope, then follow the path past some vegetable gardens until you come to the small local school. Turn right and you’re following the water’s edge at Sok Kwu Wan. On your right you’ll see some manmade caves, with a sign pointing to "kamikaze cave". They date from the Japanese occupation. (Does anyone have a good explanation on the web to link to?)

As you reach the village you’ll walk across a large flat concrete area, with the Tin Hau temple in the far right corner. You’ll probably want to have a quick peep inside if you’ve just started your visit to Hongkong -- but if you’re already all templed-out, head on to the restaurant for seafood dinner. The Rainbow restaurant is a safe choice for dinner (it seems to have taken over most of Sok Kwu Wan). The food is good, and they provide a free ferry service back to Central and Tsim Sha Tsui -- just ask for a ticket when you pay the bill.

Sai Kung drive/walk and seafood dinner

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: By bus/minibus from Choi Hung/Tiu Keng Leng/Hang Hau MTR stations

Like Stanley, Sai Kung is a coastal village, but it’s got a quite different feel – more ‘Chinese-y’, and I think exhibits Hong Kong’s most successful mix of Western/Chinese cultural features. There’s a famous string of Chinese seafood restaurants where you can pick your victims live before ingesting them, but there are also several very good, reasonably-priced western places. There’s no beach, but there are pleasant views out to sea, and it’s an excellent starting/ending point for some of the best hikes in HK. Sai Kung is also good for buying Chinese antiques and arty-crafty-type stuff (you can tell from my lack of descriptive powers on this last one that interior design isn’t my specialty).

10,000 Buddhas Temple

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: KCR to Shatin

A tough call, this one – it’s a steep climb up to this temple from the Shatin KCR station. I’d recommend it if you’re reasonably fit, it’s not too hot, and you’ve got at least a mild interest in Buddhism/Chinese religion. There are supposed to be even more than 10,000 Buddhas in the main temple – I haven’t counted, but I can confirm there are lots and lots. This temple complex also features large, garishly-painted statues, and a monk’s corpse preserved in gold leaf. You don’t see that every day.

Fan Ling temple

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: KCR to Fan Ling; cross over the Tolo highway on the pedestrian bridge, and it’s just off to the left

This one’s not on the standard tourist itineraries, but it’s a Mr Tall favorite. There’s a large, active temple/cemetery near the Fanling KCR station where you can get a feel for Taoist religious practices without the museum-y feel of some temples, or the crush of Wong Tai Sin. In particular, look for the ritual burning of paper houses, paper Mercedes, paper gold ingots, and paper domestic helpers as they’re being sent on to the afterworld.