Hong Kong City Day Trips
Lantau Island Peak © Ching Ching Tsui
LantauLantau is the largest of the 235 outlying islands in Hong Kong, being almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island. It is best known for its walking trails and beaches and provides a pleasant respite from crowds and shopping. The main arrival point to the island by ferry is at Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay). The finest beaches are located along the west coast, most notably Cheung Sha. Besides beaches, Western Lantau is the location of the Po Lin Monastery, the largest temple in Hong Kong. Beyond the doorstep of this vast temple is one of the world's largest outdoor Buddha statues. Aptly named Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), the bronze statue sits contemplatively looking over the reaches of Ngong Ping Plateau. From the monastery buses will transport visitors to the quaint fishing village of Tai O. Here little wooden houses perch on stilts and much of life flows from the fishing industry that sustains it. Lantau's north shore is predominantly a farming region. The main attraction here, however, is the historical Tung Chung Fort, which was built in the early 19th century as part of a short-lived attempt to suppress the opium trade and defend the coastal area from pirates. Six old Qing Dynasty cannons dating back to 1832 stand on the ramparts. Development has changed the landscape of the Northeastern stretches of Lantau, known as Discovery Bay. Here upmarket housing complexes, shopping malls, yacht clubs and golf courses promise to provide the ultimate designer lifestyle at a price.
Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral, Macau © Arman Aziz
MacauThe cultural influence of the Portuguese, combined with traditional Chinese life, has produced a unique landscape in Macau. Here Baroque churches and colonial mansions rise from cobbled pavements interspersed with plazas and cafes. Visitors are enticed here by the lure of gambling, but many of Macau's attractions result from its architectural heritage. St Paul's Cathedral is one such legacy that dates back to the early 17th century. It is an Italian-designed building perched on a hilltop that is most spectacular when illuminated against a night sky. The vantage point from the Fortaleza de Monte is a good place to reflect on the defensive role it played against Dutch assault in 1622, and it is worth exploring the museum and meteorological observatory. The classic Chinese temple of A-Ma rests at the base of Penha Hill. Its name derives from Tin Hau, Queen of Heaven, or the Honoured Mother. Myth has it that a poor girl saved the fishing vessel, on which she was travelling, from the ravages of a storm. In tribute to her this temple was built and has been established as a place of pilgrimage for Macau's fishing community. Another temple dedicated to the power of female intervention is the Kun Iam Temple, built in honour of the Goddess of Mercy, located in the northern reaches of the peninsula. It was here, in 1844, that the first trade and friendship treaty between the USA and China was signed. Macau is 37 miles (60km) west of Hong Kong; ferries take around an hour to get there and leave roughly every fifteen minutes.
Big Buddha © travelwayoflife
Big BuddhaThe Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, is one of the tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha statues in the world, and can be found near Po Lin Monastery. The giant Buddha is a popular tourist destination and a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. The 112-foot (34m) high statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar and is surrounded by eight smaller statues of gods. Inside the three floors beneath the Buddha visitors can access the Hall of the Universe, the Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors can also climb the 268 steps to reach the platform where the impressive figure is seated, and admire the view from the top. The Tian Tan Buddha is a lovely excursion from the city and the short trip is a great break from the crowds and noise of Hong Kong. You can take the cable car either one way or both - some people prefer to either hike down through the hills after taking the cable car to the site, or to get there on the ferry and buses before taking the scenic cable car route back down into the city. There are many places to get refreshments at the site with both traditional meals and international fare like Starbucks on offer. Try to visit the Buddha on a clear day, when the views are at their best.
Address: Ngong Ping plateau; Admission: Free. A fee is charged for access to the exhibition halls below.
Ngong Ping Cable Car © Sue Waters
Ngong Ping 360The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is a spectacular four-mile (6km) ropeway that affords panoramic views over the bay and surrounding area on its 25-minute journey to the Ngong Ping Village. As visitors approach the cable car terminal on top of the plateau views will include the huge Tian Tan Buddha Statue and the Po Lin Monastery. The Ngong Ping Village is situated right next to the cable car terminal, which features attractions such as 'Walking with Buddha', the 'Monkey's Tale Theatre', and the 'Ngong Ping Teahouse', as well as an assortment of shopping and dining options. Walking with Buddha plunges visitors into a multimedia presentation that follows the life of Siddhartha Gautama (the man who became Buddha) and his path to enlightenment, while the Teahouse provides demonstrations of traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. The Monkey's Tale Theatre presents a charming and comical show inspired by famous Buddhist Jataka stories that will enchant both old and young. The cable car is an incredible experience and there are a variety of packages to choose from. For instance, you can choose between the more expensive Crystal Cabin - which has a transparent floor - and a regular one. Note that queues for this attraction can get very long.
Address: Lantau Island; Website: www.np360.com.hk; Opening time: Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Weekends and Public Holidays 9am to 6.30pm.; Admission: There are a variety of ticket options - check the official website listed above for details.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery © John Seb Barber
Ten Thousand Buddhas MonasteryOne of the most dramatic sacred sites in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is perched at the top of a hill in the town of Sha Tin. Visitors must climb more than 400 stairs to reach the temple and the famous nine-storey pagoda. The monastery actually contains nearly 13,000 Buddha statues within its walls alone, and many more stand sentinel along the pathways and stairs. The statues come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and the temple complex is breathtakingly colourful with beautiful views. Sadly, there are no resident monks and the temple is managed by laypersons; you do not therefore feel as though you are visiting an active monastery. However, unlike many famous temples in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery has retained its tranquil atmosphere and still feels like a holy place. It is not commercialised and is seldom swamped by crowds. This is partly why it tends to make such an impression on tourists. There is a small restaurant selling simple refreshments at the top but it is advisable to bring your own water for the climb, which some find tiring. In some parts of the complex photography is not allowed - be sure to take note of the signs.
Address: 220 Pai Tau Village, Sha Tin; Transport: Take the East Rail line to Sha Tin.; Admission: Free entry
Stanley Waterfront © WiNG
StanleyLocated just 40 minutes from downtown Hong Kong by bus, the small fishing village of Stanley is a popular day trip for tourists looking to escape the congestion of the city. A bustling village, Stanley is home to a number of attractions and diversions, including several scenic temples and museums. The famous Stanley Market is a winding maze of stalls selling souvenirs like t-shirts, keychains, and knock-off goods, although there's a better selection in Hong Kong City. Bars and restaurants along the waterfront provide good food with great views of the harbour, and the amphitheatre hosts free concerts on the weekends. Stanley is also popular for its beaches. Stanley Main Beach is a pleasant sandy beach only ten minutes' walk from the centre of town. It has good facilities and shark nets, but can get crowded with locals on the weekends. Stanley Main beach is good for windsurfing, and hosts dragon boat races each summer. St Stephens Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, is more secluded but just as popular.