Lush nature and lovely seaside towns at the city's doorstep
The cluster of glittering skyscrapers that stretches along the shore, from Central to Wanchai and Causeway Bay, is what people usually see in their mind when thinking about Hong Kong Island, but the tiny island (less than 100 k²)
has a lot more to offer to its visitors than just steel-and-glass highrises ...
Only a spit away from the city's hustle and bustle there's another world that actually occupies three quarters of the island's overall size (mostly its southern and eastern parts). Some of the territory's nicest beaches can be found here, surrounded by forest clad mountains that fall dramatically to the picturesque coves...
Small towns where life is much less hectic, seafront bistros and cafés where you can have your glass of wine 'alfresco', enjoying the sea breeze, and some truly beautiful country-parks, with actual nature-hiking-trails...
Surely, the "remote areas" of Hong Kong Island are not as pristine and virgin as those coconut fringed beaches you can see in the CookIslands or Tahiti... But bearing in mind all of this exists only a short drive away from one of the world's busiest metropolises, it definitely makes a pleasant surprise...
Originally built as a fishermen village around one of Hong Kong's most ideal typhoon shelters, Aberdeen is, perhaps, the least exotic of Hong Kong's seaside towns. Rapid urbanization during the last two decades or so, made it look just like many other high rise suburbs, with tall residential buildings... But Aberdeen is a good place to see Hong Kong's "East-meets-West" attitude... "Boat people" still live their life on traditional Sampan boats, next to glitzy multi-million yachts, and old Chinese temples are shadowed by modern high-rises... Other than its Sampan-boat-trips and its famous floating restaurants, Aberdeen is also a good "jumping board" for those of you who wish to visit the famous Ocean Park (just a few minutes away), Lamma Island, Ap Lei Chau, Repulse Bay and Stanley.
The Aberdeen Praya (waterfront promenade) is probably the right place to start your Aberdeen journey from. Drop off at the bus stop next to the junction of Aberden Praya Road and Aberdeen Main Road and you are right there...
Walk up along Aberdeen Main Road till you get to the old Tin Hau Temple, on 182 Aberdeen Main Road (just a few minutes walk from the "Praya").
The temple was built in 1851 buy local fishermen in honor of Tin Hau (also known as Matsu), Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea, and one of Hong Kong's most beloved deities.
Although relativelfy simple at first sight, the temple houses some nice historical objects, worth looking at (such as the old copper bell).
Open daily, from 8 am to 5 pm, and admission is free.
The streets around Aberdeen's centre (above the Praya) are also good for shopping... not as "authentic" as Stanley Market and certainly not as flamboyant and ritzy as Central and Causeway Bay, but with a decent choice of goods at reasonable prices.
From the waterfront, you can take a sampan ride within the harbour, to catch a glimpse of how the "boat people" live their life... Although it may seem a bit of a tourist cliché, it is still a nice experience.
Speaking about tourist clichés, here is one you simply can't afford not to know about... Jumbo Kingdom, Aberdeen's famous floating restaurant, is one of Hong Kong's best-known icons... Looking like a massive floating Chinese palace, the restaurant's interior décor is inspired by the Chinese emperor's palace with wide use of gold and velvet red colors. The kitchen specializes mostly in seafood, prepared in various Chinese styles, but the extensive menu also boasts a selection of meat and poultry specialties...
Top Deck, a relatively new rooftop-restaurant on top of 'Jumbo', is actually better than its older downstairs neighbor, both in terms of food, ambience and views...
How to get there? Quite a few buses go from the city centre to Aberdeen.
Bus Nos. 72, 38 and 42 leave from Causeway Bay (outside Hennessy Centre, 500 Hennessy Road: Take exit F of MTR-Causeway Bay)
Bus No. 70 leaves from the bus terminus inside Exchange Square (next to MTR-Central), as well as from the bus terminus next to MTR-Admiralty, and from Wanchai's Gloucester Road (outside the Immigration Tower).
37B can be boarded on Connaught Road Central (Either from outside Jardine House, as well as from outside the City Hall. Both stations are easily accessed from MTR-Central)
A taxi from the city center (Central / Admiralty) will charge you something like HK$ 100 - one way.
If you have the time and the energy, and you are not afraid of ghosts, Aberdeen's Chinese Cemetery is actually worth visiting, both for the artistic tombstones and the lovely views of the harbour and Ap lei Chau.
There are many stairs to climb at this slopeside cemetery though, and that is something you should bear in mind...
To get there: Walk westwards along Aberdeen Praya Road, pass the Wholesale Fish Market. Cross the road and turn right to a steep and narrow street that passes through a traditional Chinese gate with blue tiled-roof and climbs up the hill to Bayshore Apartments. The lower part of the cemetery is right there.
Aberdeen Nature Trail (in Aberdeen Country Park)may not be Hong Kong's most exciting trail but if you have some time on your hands, or if you know you are not going to walk any of the better nature trails, you might want to consider it...
The trail moves along the water reservoirs and the forest, and renders some beautiful panoramic views of Aberdeen and its surroundings.
Start walking from Tin Hau Temple and climb Aberdeen Reservoir Road till you get to the park's entrance (where the visitor-centre is) and to Aberdeen Lower Reservoir.
Linking the upper and lower reservoirs, the Aberdeen Nature Trail is a fairly easy walk of about 1.2 km, which most people can complete in about an hour. Along the way, you will find some interpretation plates with interesting information about the park and its environment.
Obviously, there is also a nice picnic area and some recreational facilities.
Ap lei Chau (Also known as Aberdeen Island) - Is a tiny island, located south-west of Hong Kong Island, next to Aberdeen Harbour and Aberdeen Channel. Besides holding the title of "The world's most densely populated island" (with population density of almost 70,000 people per square km.), it is also home to one of Hong Kong's best furniture shopping centers - the Horizon Plaza.
This gigantic plaza houses huge warehouses of several companies, selling furniture and antiques. You can shop around for hours and when you are done, the vendors will take care of packing and shipping procedures for you.
Recommended warehouses in Horizon Plaza include Tequila Kola (1st floor), Shambala (2nd floor), Rimba Rhyme (5th floor) and Irony (11th Floor).
How to get to Horizon Plaza ? From Central: Take bus Nos. 90 / 91 or M590 (ExchangeSquare Bus Terminus, next to MTR-Central or from outside City Hall).
From Wanchai: 590A and M590 (There are stations on 50 Gloucester Road, outside Malaysia Buildingand on 123 Gloucester Road, outside Wan Chai Police Station).
Bus No. 592 departs from Causeway Bay (outside Hennessy Centre, 500 Hennessy Road: Take exit F of MTR-Causeway Bay)
please note: none of the above buses will take you all the way to Horizon Plaza. They all travel to Ap Lei Chau's various estates, from where you'll have to take a taxi (It's a very short ride anyway...)
Another option is to combine the visit to Horizon Plaza with a visit to Aberdeen. From Aberdeen's promenade (Praya) you can either take a taxi, a minibus or a bus. It is only a short distance drive (A taxi ride is about HK$ 15 at the time of writing).
A small tip from Metropolasia-Man
If you consider to buy furniture in Hong Kong, it might be a good idea for you to have a word with a customs agent in your home country. Knowing the import regulations in your country and giving the right instructions to the shipper can save you a lot of money and hassles...
Hung Shing Temple (also on Ap Lei Chau Island) is a bit off the beaten track for the ordinary visitor, but is worth knowing about (just in case you are around and have time...). Built in 1773, it is the oldest temple around this part of Hong Kong and although it is fairly simple and unpretentious, it boasts some historical relics, worth seeing... The temple is located at the end of small Hung Shing Street, off Main Street (If you travel by bus, there is a station not far from the temple: on Ap Lei Chau Bridge Road, near the junction of Ap Lei Chau Drive.
If you take a taxi to/from Horizon Plaza, you can easily pop in for a visit).
* Ocean Park,one of Asia's most popular and successful amusement parks, is just a stone's throw from Aberdeen.
This immense park occupies an impressive size of more than 200 acres and attracts some five million visitors each year, and as its name denotes, ocean-and-sea related attractions play a major role here: The park's Marine land section is where some world-class aquariums can be seen (including the amazing Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium, where visitors walk in a "transparent tunnel", surrounded by the marinelife of china's mightiest river...), as well as Dolphin shows, Seals and Sea lions encounter and the Sea Jelly Spectacular, where hundreds of different jellyfish are displayed...
"Aqua City", Ocean Park's new flagship marine-themed zone, is one of Hong Kong's 'must sees', boasting three amazing attractions, including the world's largest aquarium viewing dome, where you can encounter around 5,000 marine creatures of more than 400 species.
But don't be confused, there's a lot more to Ocean Park than aquariums and dolphins... From gigantic roller coasters to the Giant Panda habitat exhibition and from the magnificent cable carride to one of the world's longest escalators and other adrenaline boosting rides... It's really a great day out, especially if you are here with "the whole familia..."
An important tip for families with small babies...
If you are pushing a baby's pram, think twice before heading to this mountainous park, or you might end up cursing the moment you decided to come here... Quite frankly, the park is not so convenient for families with small children/babies.
Moreover, most of the rides are not designed for toddlers...
The park also runs special "behind the scenes" educational programs, where you can get closer to the various creatures and learn some more interesting stuff about them... Another exciting activity is the Dolphin encounter program, where you can interact with dolphins and learn about them (you need to book in advance though - and that can be done through their website).
The park is open daily, from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets can be bought at both entrances at a price of around HK$ 250 for an adult an HK$ 125 for a child (babies under 3 years old and seniors above 65 can enter free of charge)
How to get there? Plenty of buses connect the city centre with Ocean Park. Most public buses stop near Aberdeen Tunnel Toll Gate, just a short stroll from the park's main gate (you'll have to cross the car park).
You can take bus Nos. 72, 72A or 96 from Causeway Bay (outside Hennessy Centre, 500 Hennessy Road: take exit F of MTR-Causeway Bay).
From Causeway Bay (near the corner of Matheson and Leighton:MTR-Causeway Bay, exit A) take bus No. 92
From Central (Exchange Square or outside City Hall) and from Admiralty (Queensway - United centre) take bus Nos. 70, 75, 90 and 97
37B can be boarded on Connaught Road Central (Either from outside Jardine House, or from outside the City Hall. Both stations are easily accessed from MTR-Central)
An important transport tip from Metropolasia-Man...
Citybus No. 629 is an express bus from Admiralty (Drake Street, outside Lippo Centre: MTR-Admiralty, exit B) directly to Ocean Park.
Repulse Bay, between Aberdeen and Stanley,is an upmarket Monte Carlo-looking seaside suburb. Built around one of Hong Kong's most picturesque bays, it boasts a beautiful sandy beach, with all sorts of facilities and a few 'alfresco' cafés and bistros... Try to avoid it on weekends, as it can really get crowded...
Repulse Bay's Kwun Yam Shrine and the "Longevity Bridge" is a vivid and colorful shrine, nestled at the southernmost end of Repulse Bay's sandy strip, next to Hong Kong Life Guard Club and the small promenade, and although it looks more like a mini Luna-park than a place of worship, it is certainly worth a visit.
Alongside Kwun Yam, the Chinese bodhisattva of compassion, there are statues of Tin Hau and other deities, including some very beautiful mosaic statues.
Most of the statues are believed to bring a positive change in life to those devotees who take a certain action, and that includes the brightly red "Longevity Bridge", next to the shrine, which presumably adds three extra days of life to every person who crosses it.
Neighboring Deep Water Bay, between Repulse Bay and Ocean Park, is not as famous as Repulse Bay and looks almost "deserted" compared to its more popular neighbor, but that doesn't necessarily means it is not good...
It boasts the usual shebang of facilities you would expect to find in a properly managed beach, and the sea is just as gorgeous...
To get to Repulse BayorDeep Water Bay: Take bus Nos. 6, 6A, 6X, 66 or 260 from Central (from Exchange Square Bus Terminus, near MTR-Centralor from outside City Hall), from Admiralty (next to tiny Admiralty Garden, outside Queensway Plaza: use Exit C-1 of MTR-Admiralty) or from Wanchai (No. 260 stops on 7 Gloucester Road, outside the Immigration Tower /Nos. 6, 6A, 6X and 66 stop on 182 Queen's Road East, opposite Hopewell Centre - few minutes walk from Exit A-3 of MTR-Wanchai).
From Tsim sha Tsui (Kowloon), you can take bus No. 973 which stops in the following locations: East Tsim sha Tsui (Mody Road, near Grand Stanford - opposite Centenary Garden), Salisbury Road (outside New World Centre), 30 Canton Road (outside Silvercord - opposite Harbour City)
Bus No. 6 takes a longer way but passes through some of Hong Kong's most picturesque sceneries.
Next in line is Stanley, a lovely little town located on a picturesque peninsula, just a few kilometers east of Repulse Bay, on the south shore of Hong Kong Island. Once a small fishermen village, the town attracts tourists and locals who come here to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the marvelous scenery and, of course, the famous market.
* Stanley Market, a fairly large open-air marketplace, has become well known for its bargains in clothing - Particularly silk garments and traditional Chinese dress, as well as toys, ornaments, luggage, souvenirs, and Chinese arts and crafts, and although it is quite touristy, it is still a popular destination for both tourists and locals, who are drawn here by the cheap goods that would usually fetch a much higher price elsewhere.
On the nearby seafront promenade (Stanley Main Street) you will find a great selection of restaurants, cafés, pubs and even some "Dai pai dong" food stalls. The area is very vivid, especially on weekends.
Murray House, at the end of the promenade and just a few minutes walk from the market, has an interesting story behind it... The Classic-colonial building was built at the early colonial era and served as a government building in... Central.
In 1982 the building was actually dismantled in order to clear some space for the new Bank of China (BOC) Tower. Thousands of building blocks were carefully labeled and catalogued for future restoration, and at the end of the 1990s the building was restored here, in Stanley.
Other than some fabulous restaurants, Murray house is also the home of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.
Consisting of two galleries: The "Ancient Gallery" and the "Modern Gallery", the museum showcases hundreds of interesting pieces, displaying the naval history of China and East Asia, as well as the contribution of China and the West to modern maritime transport. At the Ancient Gallery you can see some beautiful historic exhibits, including a model of a 2,000-year-old boat made of pottery from the Han Dynasty.
Opening Hours: 10 am - 6 pm, Tuesday - Sunday (The museum is closed on Mondays, as well as on the first two days of the Chinese New Year).
Admission: HK$ 20 for an adult and SG$ 10 for kids (under 18) and seniors (over 65)
Right next to Murray House and the Maritime Museum stands the old Tin Hau Temple. Built in 1767, this humble structure is one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong and although there is nothing too extravagant about it, it's worth a short visit.
Feel like venturing to a picturesque island, while in Stanley?
From Blake Pier, next to Murray House, you can take a short boat ride to Po-Toi Island, a relatively large rocky island, south-east of Stanley Peninsula, where you can spend the day on the island's only sandy beach (in a well sheltered bay), enjoy some fresh seafood or walk around the place and see some interesting rock formations... Po Toi Island has really very little in common with Hong Kong's business district, although they are less than 20 kilometers apart... (For more information about Po Toi Island, see the article about the small islands).
Stanley's two beaches are very popular among visitors and locals alike:
Stanley Main Beach, on the eastern side of the peninsula (A few minutes walk from the market, via Stanley Beach Road) features a long sandy strip with all the expected facilities and good swimming conditions. There's also a water sports centre here where you can hire sailing dinghies, windsurfing boards, kayaks/canoes and what not...
St. Stephen's Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, south of Stanley Village, is somewhat quieter and more pristine... with fine sand, clear water and lovely beach walks... (you can hire marine equipment here too...)
You can easily walk to St. Stephen's Beach from Stanley Market / Promenade: Down with Wong Ma Kok Road (takes 10 - 15 minutes), or you can drop off the bus near Stanley Prison (where most of Stanley's bus-routes end) and take a short stroll to the beach.
Stanley Military Cemetery, on Wong Ma Kok Road, just a couple of minutes walk from St. Stephen's Beach, is a well maintained cemetery built at the early colonial era. There are also graves of World War II victims, both civilians and soldiers... If you are not afraid of ghosts, it is actually worth a short visit.
To get to Stanley: Take bus Nos. 6, 6A, 6X, 66 or 260 from Central (from Exchange Square Bus Terminus, near MTR-Centralor from outside City Hall), from Admiralty (next to tiny Admiralty Garden, outside Queensway Plaza: use Exit C-1 of MTR-Admiralty) or from Wanchai (No. 260 stops on 7 Gloucester Road, outside the Immigration Tower /Nos. 6, 6A, 6X and 66 stop on 182 Queen's Road East, opposite Hopewell Centre - few minutes walk from Exit A-3 of MTR-Wanchai).
From Tsim sha Tsui (Kowloon), you can take bus No. 973 which stops in the following locations: East Tsim sha Tsui (Mody Road, near Grand Stanford - opposite Centenary Garden), Salisbury Road (outside New World Centre), 30 Canton Road (outside Silvercord - opposite Harbour City).
Bus No. 6 takes a longer way but passes through some of Hong Kong's most picturesque sceneries.
Shek O village, with its narrow streets and vivaciously colored houses, is one of Hong Kong's loveliest corners... Surrounded by fabulous beaches and lush green mountains, the Mediterranean-looking village makes a wonderful retreat for those who want to get away from the city's hustle and bustle without having to travel too far...
Shek O also makes a good starting or ending point for hiking the Dragon's Back, one of Hong Kong's best nature trails.
Literally meaning "Rocky Bay", the village boasts a beautiful rocky bay (with a sandy strip) on the side facing the South China Sea, and a wide sandy beach on the side facing the inner bay... With a few good and unpretentious restaurants, and a truly laid back ambience, it is a great place to chill-out.
At the end of the village (a couple of minutes walk from the beaches) lies the rocky islet of Tai Tau Chau which is almost like a peninsula, connected to the village by bridge. There is a nice trail that goes through the islet and passes some observation points, from where you can get fantastic panoramic views towards the New Territories.
How to get to Shek O (and to the starting point of the Dragon's back) ?
From Central and Wanchai- take bus No. 309 (Operating on public holidays only).
From Shau kei Wan (near the corner of Aldrich and Po Man: MTR-Shau kei Wan, exit A2) - you can take bus No. 9 (regular service every day, from 6 am till around midnight).
You can also take a taxi from Stanley (There is no bus): The ride is not too long, so the price is not likely to drill a hole in your pocket...
Stage 8 of the Hong Kong Trail is more commonly known as the Dragon's back. Described by Time Magazine as the "Best Urban Hike in Asia", the trail crosses Shek O Country Park along the hilly ridge-top (which gave it its name, as it resembles a curvy dragon's back...) and passes through some of the territory's most scenic spots... with breathtaking panoramic views of the bays on both sides of D'aguilar Peninsula.
Drop off the bus at To Tei Wan. The path starts next to the small pavilion and climbs to the ridge-top, from where you can enjoy some unbelievably beautiful views. From here, the path moves northwards, around Mt. Collinson's Peak, to Pottinger Gap, where you can rest a bit and enjoy nature, before starting to descent to Big Wave Bay.
The trail is quite properly signed so there is not really much of a chance for you to lose your way... All in all, it's around 8 km of moderately difficult walk (should take about 3 hours to complete)
Big Wave Bay or Tai Long Wan is probably the only beaches along Hong Kong Island's coastline where you can actually ride the waves. It's a sandy strip, surrounded by lush hills, and there are also some ancient rock-carvings around.
Bus No. 9 has a stop at Big Wave Bay Carpark, a stonethrow from the beach