Hong Kong Island is synonymous with skyscrapers (and stellar hiking opportunities, but more on those another day), but islands replete with traditional temples, colourful fishing boats and three-storey tong laus aren’t far away. Cheung Chau is the third-largest of Hong Kong’s Outlying Islands – the largest and second-largest being Lantau Island and Lamma Island, respectively – and is best known for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which takes place annually and attracts hundreds of visitors to the island. Our visit didn’t coincide with this event, but fortunately there’s more than a mountain of red-bean paste buns to this islet.
Hong Kong is towering skyscrapers, colonial relics and ornate temples; it’s also rugged coastline, craggy peaks and beautiful flora. Hong Kong is bubble waffles, yum cha and char siu. Hong Kong is a place I could keep going back to and never tire of.
It was at this point in our trip that Hermione’s Time-Turner would have come in handy: there was so much left to see, but time simply wasn’t on our side. (I’m now treating this as a bona fide reason to return, affordable flights permitting.) After a fruity breakfast of longan (similar to lychee), mango and dragon fruit we set off for Tai Wo to meet Laurence’s aunt for dim sum at Jade Garden. Being a Saturday, it was insanely busy (read: 70 people ahead of us in the queue) so we changed plans and headed elsewhere. Service was slow by Hong Kong standards, but the pineapple buns, barbeque buns, vegetable spring rolls and pan-fried dumplings were sufficiently tasty. All’s well that ends well, as the saying goes. We then wandered round Tai Wo’s market, picking up some fresh mangosteen to eat later.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about our time in Hong Kong was the laid-back routine: feasting on seasonal fruit (mangoes, dragon fruit and lychee), devouring dim sum (which was delicious and reasonably priced to boot) and strolling around Sheung Shui before setting off on the adventure du jour. Adopting a more easy-going approach enabled us to recharge our batteries (since unlike the Duracell Bunny we can’t go at full pelt indefinitely) and made Hong Kong’s sky-high humidity levels and sweltering temperatures that bit more bearable.
By the time we returned to Hong Kong, typhoon season was in full swing. We woke to overcast skies and cooler climes; intermittent bouts of pouring rain gave us some relief from the humidity. With a relatively low-risk T3 typhoon warning, we spent the morning pottering around Sheung-Shui before heading out for dim sum. On our little tour of the neighbourhood, we paid a short visit to Liu Man Shek Tong; this is the ancestral hall of the Liu clan, to which Laurence’s family belong. Strictly speaking, it was closed for renovations but we were allowed in to take a peek.
Glitzy Macau is Asia’s answer to Vegas, but with a sprinkling of Portuguese colonial heritage thrown in to counter the prominent gambling scene. Opulent casinos dominate the skyline – with the colossal pineapple-shaped Grand Lisboa taking centre stage – whilst traces of the colonial era can be found scattered across the Centro Histórico de Macau, a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site.
In bustling Kowloon, there is a market for everything, be it handcrafted jade trinkets, tourist tat, or exotic animals. Experiencing Hong Kong’s thriving street markets is a must; the atmosphere is mesmerising and haggling over cheap curios is rather addictive once you master the art of it.
When Monday rolled round, it was time for us to venture across Victoria Harbour and explore Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong’s second biggest island is a densely populated mass of skyscrapers, colonial relics and legendary landmarks, with a few peaceful green spaces thrown in for good measure.
Lion Rock is by no means the highest peak in Hong Kong, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in stellar views of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Though the humidity had crept above 80% and the scorching sun was well over 30°C, this was one of my favourite days in Hong Kong – and the cheeky rhesus macaques weren’t the only reason why!
Whilst many prospective visitors may get the impression that Hong Kong is simply a maze of bustling streets, overcrowded tourist hotspots and seemingly endless skyscrapers, any Hong Kong veteran can tell you there’s another side to Hong Kong just waiting to be discovered: secluded beaches, hiking trails and adventures off the beaten track await those who take the time to find them. Luckily for me, I had three such people to show me what is often dubbed as “The Real Hong Kong”.