Things to see and do in Hong Kong: off the beaten path

Here are some tips from MrB and our readers for Hong Kong attractions that you may miss if you're not well-informed:

Let's kick off with a great idea from MrB:

A suggestion -- especially if jet-lag means you are waking up early -- is to head out to one of the parks to see people doing their morning exercise. You’ll see various types of Tai Chi, including ladies with large red-cloth fans [link to banner photos], and people with swords. There are also other (usually older) groups of people doing their exercises together, often to music. This is one of the things I like about Hong Kong, that when people get into their sixties here, many will start taking more care of their health, and join one of these informal groups to do their morning exercises and have a chat.

There are many different sets of exercises available. For a few years I taught a group of 50-to-80-somethings a group of four different sets of exercises, each with 18 movements. People would join and leave over time, but we’d normally have around 20 people. It was great to hear people say how their stiff shoulders would get better/they’d sleep better/lose weight/etc.

If you’re staying in Tsim Sha Tsui, there will be plenty to see in Kowloon Park, while on Hong Kong Island you can head along to Victoria Park or Chater Garden (I’m not sure if much happens in Hong Kong Park -- perhaps someone else could write and let us know). 6:30-8:30 am should be good times to find people there -- just have a wander around and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something to see. If you’d like something a bit more formal (or you don’t fancy the early start!) there is a free kung fu demonstration on Sunday afternoons, see

If you’re visiting Hong Kong and you would like to try Tai Chi, there are free classes for visitors described here.

If you are staying longer, and would like to try learning some of the exercises you see in the parks, you can always try finding a group that you like the look of, sit and watch them for a few days, then stand at the back and start copying their movements. It’s usually not long before someone will say hello. I can’t promise how you’ll get on, but I’ve found people to be very welcoming as long as you show interest, attend regularly, and keep smiling !

If you're into tall buildings, here are some tips on seeing three of Hong Kong's most notable:

MrB recommends:

If you have to change money at a bank, it’s a good excuse to pay the HSBC headquarters in Central a visit. Watch out for the floor-mounted aircon blowing a cool breeze up your trouser leg -- though it’s not unwelcome on a hot Summer’s day.

At the time it was built it was the most expensive building in the world, and it’s still an eye-catching part of the Hong Kong skyline. You can find pictures, movie, and 360-degree viewer here.

If you’re looking at it in the evening from Kowloon side, then at regular intervals you’ll see all the lights go out, then come flickering back on. I think it’s their energy-saving system, which must drive the late-night workers mad.

You’ll also see the Standard Chartered building standing next door. It’s got a lump (I think that’s the right architectural term) on top to make the building a few feet higher than their arch-rival. Petty?

Other trivia -- not sure if they are urban legends or not (let me know if you have any links to evidence for or against):

  • The lions outside show wartime damage from the Japanese invasion.
  • With agreement from the colonial government, the clear passage from the building to the seafront has been preserved through several reclamations.
  • The wastepaper baskets were part of the overall look and feel, and were very expensive!

A reader adds: Not sure if this is true as such, MrB, but have a look at the derricks on top of the building, used to help clean the windows. They look like cannons and are aimed, unsurprisingly, at their rival, the Bank of China. I always thought that they were there for fung shui purposes, to send back ‘negative energy’ to the BOC.

If you’re going to be in or near the Hopewell Centre, you might just take a ride in the bubble lifts up to the revolving restaurant level and down -- that’s what I remember as the most exciting part of the visit. Or, if you are planning to stay there for a drink...

  • Allow time for one full turn (I think it gets its name from the fact it takes 66 minutes to go round once??), as if you start at the worse point you are going to be watching the hillside for some time.
  • Give it a miss on foggy, humid days, as the aircon inside means condensation outside, and so not much of a view.

And here is a suggestion from one of our readers:

A hidden gem: find your way to Central Plaza and go to the Lift Lobby on the 46th floor. Absolutely spectacular views of Hong Kong.

You’ll need to ignore the security guard, or tell him you work there, or some such. Apparently, tourists aren’t allowed to go there since 9/11.

If you look like you’ve just come from the office, you’re probably ok.

I was up there today at 6 pm with my brother, who is visiting. The security guard told us we’d have to leave so I said "sure, we’ll just go around once, and then go away." and he left us alone.

Next, MrB recommends a few more odds and ends that don’t really make trips in themselves, but are worth a look if you’re in the area :

  • Food markets: Hong Kong people really like their food fresh, so there are often several trips to the market each day. If you walk past a fishmonger’s stall, most fish will be either swimming in a tank, or very recently deceased. Expect to see fish cut in half lengthways, with all the organs still moving! It’s hard to see poultry stalls lasting much longer with the bird-flu scares, but while they are here you can still see housewives apparently kissing chickens’ bums -- at least that’s how it looks to me. MrsB tells me they are blowing the feathers aside to see through to the skin underneath, so they can check it’s a good colour. In Wanchai to see one of these market areas you can walk along Wanchai Road to Cross Street, and wander around the side streets off that. You can see photos of the market here . In Causeway Bay, the other end of Wanchai Road is also a market, and all the more amazing for the contrast with the glitzy Times Square on the next block.
  • Custard tarts. As you walk past restaurants and cake shops, you’ll often see battered, blackened baking trays outside with egg custard tarts. If you catch them when they’re warm out of the oven, they are hard to beat.
  • "Ngau Lai So". Other restaurants (typically the small ones serving congee and noodles) will have a small area on the street selling deep-fried dough sticks (around a foot long, and shaped a bit like a cartoon dog’s bone), and the Ngau Lai So, which are Hong Kong’s answer to Dunkin’ Donuts. They are not round with a hole, but oval with a split in the middle. Also good when fresh, and just a couple of HK$ to buy.