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  • Lesser known attractions in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong

    Hong Kong at night

    Asia’s World City is nothing if not a metropolis with a thousand faces – Cantonese Chinese and British on the surface, but with an aftertaste of everything from Vietnam to Canada.

    Hong Kong is a masterpiece of world civilization, where you can bask in the glow of Disneyland and giant gilded Buddha statues, let the views from Peak Tower take your breath away, and indulge in shopping, cuisine and all sorts of activities ranging from educational to wacky.

    It’s not difficult to find things to see and do in Hong Kong, since the major attractions are at withing easy reach. But the hidden attractions of Hong Kong are no less entertaining, and even if they can be a bit out of the way, they are worth seeing. Here are 5 lesser known attractions in Hong Kong.

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    Lantau Island

    Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong is not made up exclusively of high-rise buildings and blinding neon lights. The part of Hong Kong that preserves natural and its historic heritage is alive as well, and it is the place to go when the bustle of the city starts to wear you down.

    Lantau Island is actually the largest island of Hong Kong, and a place of great natural beauty, where you can find unspoiled countryside, scenic fishing villages and pristine beaches. The island gives home to some more important places, like the Tian Tan Big Buddha, the Hong Kong Disneyland and also Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), but its real charms are in the lesser known attractions.

    Sitting Buddha on Lantau island

    Sitting Buddha ©Jeffrey Hurley/Flickr

    You can discover much of Lantau Island if you take the cable car starting from Tung Chung. If you take off at the Ngong Ping plateau where you can see the – supposedly – largest outdoor sitting Buddha statue in the world as well as the beautiful Po Lin monastery. If you walk past the statue, you can take the Wisdom Path and then the walkway that takes you up to Lantau Peak. It is the second highest point in the city, exactly 934 meters high. On the way up and from the top you will enjoy an exceptional panorama of the lush forests on the mountain and the South Chinese Sea in the background.

    Do not forget to bring your camera as the scenery is breathtaking here. As opposed to the general image of Hong Kong with neon lights and skyscrapers, this area is tranquil and quite, perfect for a relaxing afternoon trip. Those who seek cultural and historical sites will not be disappointed by the island. There are many ancient temples and forts you can visit, including a fort at Tung Chung from the times of the Quing Dynasty and many others. If you brought your swim suite, you can also bathe in the pleasant waters of Pui O Beach, Silvermine Beach or Cheaung Sha Beach.

    Houses on water on Lantau Island

    Houses on water on Lantau Island McPig/Flickr

    You can also visit the village of Tai O. a 20 year old fishing village with old houses built on stilts. You can still see many of the original residences, pang uk style homes, in this place where many of the people still spend most of their lives on boats. The herbs, dried seafood and other locally produced items you can buy in the shops make great souvenirs or gifts. When you have finished shopping, you can choose one of the restaurants and have some local dish made of fresh seafood or take a walk by the nearby mangrove swamp.

    If you still some a little time left, you can rent a boat and take a ride in the waters nearby. You might even see some of the famous white dolphins of the area.

    Chinese White Dolphins

    One of the least known and most precious treasure of Hong Kong are the Chinese White Dolphins, a severely endangered species of dolphins that live in the waters off Tun Chung in Lantau Island. There are only a couple of dolphins left in this area, but you can see the friendly creatures if you have patience. The dolphins have colors ranging from pink to white depending on their age – keep an eye out if you book a boat trip in Lantau!

    Lamma Island

    Lamma Island, photo by ctsnow on Flickr

    Hong Kong has hundreds of outlying islands which are completely at odds with everything you can see in the metropolis. Lamma island is famous in Asia for its excellent seafood, as well as its relaxed attitude that made it a heaven for hippies, people with alternative lifestyles and laid-back expats. The island has no cars and buildings can’t be taller than three storeys, and the whole atmosphere is very peaceful.

    Hong Kong Museum of Art and other museums

    The Hong Kong Museum of Art is one of the most fascinating and surprising museums in Hong Kong, and a must-see for everyone who is interested in Asian art. You can get a feel of the current art scene in Hong Kong, and delve into the rich art of Hong Kong’s past: Chinese terracotta, rhinoceros horn and ceramic art, as well as considerable exhibits of paintings.

    The Hong Kong Museum of History is located in Tsim Sha Tsui and it displays various objects from the – sometimes turbulent – past of the area. You will see here artifacts from the neolithic ear, the time of the different Chinese dynasties, the 20th century to the handover to the Chinese in 1997. The museum leads you though the whole history of Hing Kong.

    If you go to the Heritage Museum and Sha Tin, you can sample a little more of the local culture, Cantonese Opera and classical Chinese art in general. The Hong Kong Science Museum is another must see attracton. The whole family will love its displays technological innovations, mathematics, physics, a world of mirrors, life sciences and much more.

    Ping Shan Heritage Trail

    Many people don’t give much thought to Hong Kong’s history, which is thought to be short, if stormy (after all, the current city started out as a collection of small fishing villages). However, the New Territories have a fascinating history spanning over several centuries, and the heritage of this history is still plain to see.

    Tanka man on boat in Hong Kong

    Tanka man on boat ©shankar s./Flickr

    Take the Ping Shan Heritage Trail and discover some of the most interesting historical sites in Hong Kong: temples, heritage Hakka villages, monasteries, monuments. You can read even more about these in the section about historical sites.

    Lesser known historical sites in Hong Kong

    Although Hong Kong is mostly famous for being a British colony and has many monuments from the area, some areas of the place have been inhabited for over five centuries. You can find many houses, study halls, clan halls and temples from way before the time of the colonization by the British.

    Five great clans have lived in the area since the 12th century and it was them who have left behind all the architectural heritage then you can find in the New Territories. The most well known heritage trails you can follow to see some of the old settlements and buildings are the Yuen Long and Fanling trails, but there are several others. The New Territories are also very different from the the busy city life of Hong Kong. The area is characterized by old buildings, monuments and a generally rustic atmosphere.

    You should not miss the old Hakka settlements, some centuries old villages surrounded by high walls that protected the people from wild animals and bandits alike. Some of these ancient villages are still inhabited, others are not, but one can enjoy visiting any of them. While exploring the area, go to Kat Hing Wai village. It has only one entrance and has got a rectangular wall as well as a moat surrounding it. One can find numerous historical buildings from the British colonial era in Hog Kong, but houses and temples from earlier times in different areas of Kowloon and Hong Kong.

    Wildlife parks and reserves in Hong Kong

    Though the city has got no zoo, it is definitely worth your time to explore some of the parks and natural parks. You will find Kadoorie Farm in the New Territories. It is a beautiful park where they rehabilitate animals and take care of them. Visitors can find here wild animals as well as livestock, but you can also walk in the garden and see the greenhouse.

    The purpose of the farm is also to educate visitors about recycling, sustainable living and the preservation of the nature. They also have a bus that takes visitors to the mountain top for free. The view is amazing from up there.

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