What Travel Writers Say

Island Tours in Hong Kong

© By Ann Wallace
  The Hong Kong Tourism Board's city tours are renowned and justly popular. And now they have launched a variety of new tours to take Hong Kong visitors farther afield. These excursions include relaxing boat trips, hiking trips, cultural discoveries and plenty of good food. There are even two tours designed especially for travellers who may have time on their hands when transiting at Hong Kong Airport.
     On any of the new Living Culture Tours to Hong Kong's Outlying Islands participants are invited to explore some of the 260 beautiful outlying islands in the region, of which only a handful are inhabited. Most are only about an hour away from the city by ferry and all provide visitors with exciting half- or full-day adventures. On those islands that are inhabited, tour participants will be invited to visit villages and hamlets where the life-style is laid-back and where Hong Kong's living cultures can be explored and enjoyed.
     Trips include the full-day New Lantau Island Tour, a journey to discover this, the territory's biggest island, which includes lovely Cheung Sha beach, the quaint fishing village of Tai O where the homes are built on stilts and the Ngong Ping plateau where the Giant Buddha statue and the Po Lin Monastery are located. Participants on this trip will enjoy a guided tour of the Monastery and Giant Buddha Exhibition Hall, a visit to the Wisdom Path, a delicious vegetarian lunch and a spectacular 25-minute ride aboard the Ngong Ping Cable Car which offers stunning views over the island's lush mountains and the surrounding South China Sea. And for those who would like to stretch their legs, there an alternative full-day tour to the island called the Lantau Island Hike, a strenuous but spectacular day of discovery in woodland and ravines leading to the Giant Buddha, the Monastery and many other Lantau Island delights.

Fine Dining, Cheung Chau  Giant Buddha Near Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island  Hiking At MacLehose Trail, Sai Kung 

     The island of Cheung Chau is unlike any other and participants on the Cheung Chau Island Tour will discover its culture and traditions are indeed unique. After the spectacular ferry-ride from the city, visitors will stop at the century-old Pak Tai Temple, take a sampan ride around the typhoon shelter and visit the famous Cheung Po Tsai Cave, once the hiding place of a notorious pirate. It is said he buried some treasure nearby! This fascinating six-hour tour ends with a dim sum lunch before participants enjoy the relaxing ferry ride back to the city.
     If a shorter trip appeals, the three-hour Lamma Island Hopping Cruise is sure to fit the bill. Participants on this afternoon outing will enjoy a boat trip through coastal waters from Stanley's Blake Pier to the island where they will enjoy a fine seafood lunch at a Best-of-the-Best Award-winning restaurant and visit Lamma Fisherfolk's Village for a glimpse of the long-ago fisher folk lifestyle and culture. For those who are active and have more time to devote to Lamma Island, there's also a Lamma Island Hike in the new tour line-up. This seven-and-a-half hour trip takes participants through beautiful woods and along coastal paths on this peaceful, traffic-free island. And there are lots to discover along the way: the Tin Hau Temple, the WWII Kamikase tunnels, the delightful Lo So Shing Beach and the bustling village of Yung Shue Wan. In between all the fascinating discoveries, participants will be able to relax over the delicious seafood lunch in an open-air restaurant in Kok Kwu Wan, overlooking the fish farms in the bay.

Hong Kong Wetland Park In New Territories  Kayaking The Out Islands  Lantau Peak 

     The Tung Lung Chau Cruise sounds delightful! Participants will board a cruise boat and head to the island, returning about six hours later. During that time they will enjoy the passing views of city and islands before disembarking to visit the 300-year-old Tung Lung Fort and Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay, the oldest and most revered Tin Hau temple in the territory where fisher folk and sailors still come to pray for safety at sea. Also included in this tour is a stop in Lei Yue Mun, the small fishing village at the mouth of the channel into renowned Victoria Harbour, where lunch will be enjoyed in one of this area's renowned seafood restaurants.
     Sai Kung is known, with good reason, as the 'back garden of Hong Kong.' Here, lush hills and mountains sweep down to the ocean and secluded beaches beckon those with 'rest and relaxation' on their minds. The Sai Kung Coastal Treasures Discovery Tour takes participants on a cruise to explore this laid-back haven, a trip that includes a visit to the historic Hung Shing Temple (a UNESCO Heritage Site), to Hebe Haven and Port Shelter, to Rocky Harbour and for a stroll along the waterfront promenade at Sai Kung Market Town with its abundant seafood restaurants, fishing boats and sampans.

Hong Kong Out Islands  Sai Kung Country Park, Clear Water Bay Beach  Shek O Village & Beaches From Top Of Dragons Back 

     And last but by no means least in this roster of new trips to outlying islands is the Northeast New Territories Islands Hopping Tour. This region can only be accessed by boat from Sha Tin and from there the tour boat makes its way through the Tolo Channel and along Hong Kong's biggest fault line which features completely different rock formations on each side of the channel. Then it's on to Yan Chau Tong Marine Park with its beautiful vistas of green hills, uninhabited small islands, calm waters, peaceful bays, rocky headlands and cliffs... truly the Shangri-la of Hong Kong. This trip also includes a visit to Crooked Island (Kat O) and Grass Island (Tap Mun) to explore the unique living cultures of each and to enjoy a delicious lunch in a simple village restaurant.
     All the above tours take visitors beyond the skyscrapers and bustle for which downtown Hong Kong is so famous. They afford insights into ancient cultures and offer time in tranquil settings. And then there are the two tours designed with passengers transiting Hong Kong Airport in mind. Leave your luggage in the airport's storage facility and board the free, themed bus for Disneyland, just 25 minutes from the airport. At Disneyland visitors can spend their time enjoying exhilarating rides, amazing attractions, endless food choices and lots of shopping before taking the bus that runs hourly, back to the airport. The HK$198 cost (approx. C$25.50) of this excursion represents significant savings on normal Disneyland admission. The other tour designed for airline passengers in the Transit Explorer - Lantau Island Highlights tour.
     Participants will begin this amazing journey at Tung Chung, adjacent to the airport, where they will board the Ngong Ping Cable Car for a spectacular 5.7-kilometre ride up the mountain to the Ngong Ping plateau. This 25-minute journey affords 360° panoramic views of the South China Sea, the airport below, lush Lantau Country Park and the Giant Buddha, the world's tallest outdoor seated bronze statue. Upon disembarking, the tour continues with visits to Ngong Ping Village, to the Buddha, to the Po Lin Monastery and along the Wisdom Path. Wise it indeed is to turn an airport interlude into a trip in the great outdoors..
     I've been to Hong Kong several times, and although the vibrant city with all its unique pleasures is the region's main attraction, I also recommend a day or more away from the city bustle. So much of Hong Kong is green, with wonderful views, and who could ask for a lovelier sight than the shimmering South China Sea dotted with deserted islands? On my first visit, I stayed with my cousin-in-law - a Cathay Pacific Airways captain - and his family in their house set on a leafy hillside above Sai Kung. The family owned a little motor boat and we spent a day exploring the islands: swimming from deserted beaches, hiking and visiting quiet villages where, in one, we enjoyed a simple but delicious noodle lunch overlooking the ocean. The larger islands close to the city are accessible by ferry, of course, but I remember thinking at the time of my excursion what a pity it was that, without access to a boat, most visitors could not experience the outlying islands of Hong Kong. But now with these new tours they can. Plan to stay an extra day!

Ann Wallace is editor of The Travel Society Magazine www.thetravelsociety.com.

Photo Credits
Ann Wallace
Hong Kong Tourism Board

If you go

Out Islands Hong Kong, China
as seen on YouTube

  1  www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pmKORU_aKA
  2  www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Cheung+Chau+&search_type=&aq=f
  3  www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Lamma+Island+&search_type=&aq=f
  4  www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Tung+Lung+Chau&search_type=&aq=f
Hong Kong Tourism Board: www.discoverhongkong.com/login.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Hong_Kong

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