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A Weekend in Hong Kong: Exploring the New Territories

Oh how I heart Hong Kong.  When most people think of Hong Kong, you think of the hustle bustle of the city.  What many fail to realize, however, is that Hong Kong is made up of hundreds of little islands, so it really is a shame NOT to seek out a little greenery while you’re there.  A great area to explore is Mo On Shan and nearby Sai Kung in the New Territories.  Whether you’re traveling from Hong Kong, Kowloon, or Mainland China, traveling to the New Territories via MTR is simple and direct.  A perfect (but not the cheapest) option for basing yourself in this area is the Hyatt Sha Tin.  It is directly adjacent the University MTR Station and a stone’s throw from a ferry terminal where you can catch a 90 minute boat to Tap Mun Island (Grass Island), as well as a number of other islands (for something like $10 round trip) around Sai Kung Country Park.  We opted for Tap Mun and were pleased with our choice.  The ferry is open air, with plenty of sights to keep the kids entertained.  Pictured below is my little man enthralled while spotting jelly fish along our path.

There is a very well maintained concrete pathway that leads you around the entire island, where you’re able to walk through two small fishing villages, catch great views of the surrounding islands, come within feet of the bovine inhabitants of the island, CAMP! if you’re up to it, visit a Buddhist Temple, and grab a milk tea on your way out.  Known as an affluent fishing island, we were taken aback by the amount of English spoken to us while we were walking through the villages, which is neither good or bad, just interesting.

From Tap Mun, we opted to take a speed boat to nearby Sai Kung Country Park (or rather, we waited to for the ferry we thought we were going to take and ended up on a speed boat instead), unsure of exactly what we were going to do there (there is great hiking and unexplored beaches, which we had hoped to find).  As it turned out, by the time we arrived, we had two sleepy kids and the weather was pretty grim, so we took a bus into Sai Kung for lunch, which was a nice ride straight through the middle of the park.  Sai Kung was a CIRCUS.  It is an old fishing village that has turned into a getaway for urban dwellers to find respite and fresh fish on the weekends.  I wouldn’t advise going on a Sunday afternoon, unless you enjoy REALLY crowded places.  If I did it over again, I’d figure out a smaller fishing village to hit/take the hikes we intended to take under better conditions.  I will say, however, that with the dozens of seafood restaurants on the boardwalk, each toting their own arsenal of fish tanks, that Sai Kung was a HIT with our kids (and the dim sum was pretty good too).  Also, from there, you’re able to easily hop on a bus that will take you around the bay, back to Sha Tin MTR (which is two stops south of University MTR).  All in all, we had a lovely time exploring a lesser known area of Hong Kong.

Also nearby the Hyatt Sha Tin, is the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, which we have yet to visit, but from the looks of it, definitely needs to be on the list of must-see’s in the New Territories.

The next day, we decided to take the long journey on MTR to Lantau Island to see the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.  Now, I am a TOTAL sourpuss when it comes to the tourist circuit.  I’m inpatient in lines, anxious in crowds, and being hearded like a sheep makes me want to vomit.  SO, when we arrived at the cue to take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car up the mountain to Ngong Ping village (where the aforementioned sights are located), I was a bit apprehensive.  I’m not gonna lie, the line was LONG, and it was CROWDED.  All said and done, we probably waited for about 45 minutes to board a cable car (which is not the only way to get to Ngong Ping – you can also take a bus OR you can hike, which would be pretty hardcore with kids) and it was well worth the wait.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the ride, as did the Mister and I.

Though Ngong Ping has been developed as a tourist site through and through (there is even a Subway Restaurant), it’s a sweet little [modern] village.  You have to walk about a third of a mile through the village to get to Po Lin Monastery and the Giant Buddha.  The day we went was overcast and breezy (until it wasn’t), which made for a nice, leisurely walk with the kids through Ngong Ping.  By the time we got to the two million stair ascent up to the Giant Buddha, however, the sun had popped its not-so-welcome rays out of the clouds, which made for a good, sweat-all-your-toxins-out, hike up the steps.  Each with a child on our back, we jammed our way up to the top, with Denali waving and saying, “Hi, Buddha” the entire way.  As we approached the Buddha, he was off my back, running up the last two flights of stairs, to get a close up look at his new “friend”… which made the exhausting, monkey-on-my-back hike totally worth it.

Lantau is also home to Hong Kong Disneyland, if Disney is your cup of tea.  It also happens to be where Hong Kong International Airport is located.  We have also heard word of some great beaches and fishing villages on the southern side of the island that we hope to explore on a future trip.  Until then, here is a great review of the beaches of Hong Kong.