As one of the most popular cities in the world, Hong Kong has her share of tourist traps. Yet she also combines the quirky and authentic like nowhere else on earth. Here's a guide to some incredibly beautiful and unusual things to do in Hong Kong.
Cool and Unusual Things to do in Hong Kong
Hong Kong glitters at the edge of China, the perfect arrival point for first time explorers of this fascinating country - and continent beyond.
The shiny harbour with its slippery fish stalls and floating sail boats. The sky high rises and intermingling soundtrack of voices, shouts and more than a million songs.
I've visited the city many times, as a couple and alone, and like any great city, there is absolutely no shortage of unusual things to do.
Sometimes you need to look a little harder. Sometimes, they're as easy as opening your eyes.
So, here are my suggestions on how to add an extra slice of adventure to a trip to this bewildering city.
Without further ado, here are 7 unusual things to do while you’re in Hong Kong.
Off The Beaten Track in Hong Kong
1) Unusually Active: Hike the Dragon’s Back
For all its blitz and bling factor, Hong Kong has one of the greatest urban hiking tracks in the world. Once named the 'best urban hike' in Asia by TIME magazine, the Dragon's Back reveals smoke, fire, drama and the divine. Well, OK: mist, clear green paths, the sight of the South China Sea, Stanley and more. You can drop in and out of the sections and cheat to catch a bus home but to do the whole hike, leave yourself a whole day - and take food and water with you.
2) Unusually Historic: the World's Oldest Surviving Teapot
Once the residence and office of the commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong, Flagstaff House now houses a different segment of history. As a branch of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, it displays a collection of antique Chinese teaware behind the white painted facade of colonial Hong Kong. This includes the world's oldest known surviving teapot.
3) Revive Cantonese Tea Traditions
After looking at the things, it's time for a taste as the Lock Cha Tea House next door. Sat at the heart of Admiralty, its carved wooden screens, blue-spattered porcelain and faded wall calligraphy Lok Cha brings authentic Cantonese tea traditions back to life.
I went for the floral Nanyan spring tieguanyin with a serving of glutinous rice balls but you can also tuck in to platefuls of vegetarian dim sum too. For extra inspiration, test out the blossom fairy craft and triple happiness craft teas on the menu. You’ll be a new person by the time you leave!
4) Unusually High: See Hong Kong from the sky
Up on the 49th floor at Cafe Gray Deluxe, sip martinis and watch the taxis zip between ice-lit skyscrapers far, far below. Dining is even better, here, and it's a cultural necessity to check out the white chocolate pannacotta with a cranberry compote. Ahem.
It's easy to forget you came here to eat when you can spend hours sipping martinis and watching taxis zip between the ice-lit skyscrapers far, far below. That would be a mistake, though, since masterchef Gray Kunz’s approach to the menu has made the food here into a Hong Kong institution. I loved the baked Alaskan halibut “en papillote” not to mention the white chocolate pannacotta with a cranberry compote. And can I mention again? The view of the city is spectacular.
5) Unusually Chilled: The Beach with the Buffalo
On Lantau Island at the mouth of the Pearl River, the buffalo come to sleep. Twilight drifts over the neon lights, the gleaming spires and the synthetic shopping malls elsewhere in Hong Kong. But in this part, at least, twilight signals a change of pace.
A string of fairy lights sums up the illumination on the beach, where wild buffalo scuff the sand and settle down as the light fades for a snooze with an oceanfront view. And when that view looks like this, you can hardly blame them, can you?
6) Unusually Short: Hop on a boat to Mui Wo
Hong Kong isn't all about tall skyscrapers y'know! Catch the ferry to Mui Wo to see the city's other side. Stroll past the rows and rows of bicycles to reach the open air “food court” on the waterfront and then keep on going to reach the fishing villages on stilts. Boats painted in peeling blue, red and canary yellow bob among ladders and balconies laden with house plants and hanging charms. Smoke drifts from temples, innards hang from markets and older men roll dice on tables in the time honoured tradition of simply enjoying the afternoon.
7) Unusually Aviation: visit the Cathay Pacific Village
For a visual stroll back in time, see how the Cathay Pacific uniforms change in tandem with the development of air travel. Through posters, cockpits, and specially constructed exhibits, the Cathay Village shines an interesting spotlight on how the development of aircraft, and airlines, has changed the way we work, live, love and play. It's tricky to get into, however - you'll need to arrange an appointment in advance.
8) Unusually Cartoonish: Kowloon Park
An easy detour from Harbour City and the Star Ferry Port, Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui offers a contradictory urban experience: tranquil Chinese gardens with lotus ponds - and a larger than life "Avenue of Comic Stars." Apparently the first of its kind in the world, it's slightly disconcerting to see locals reading on park benches while colossal, striped bulbous figures loom overhead.
9) Uber cool Michelin Stars: Cuisine Cuisine at the Mira Hotel
For traditional Cantonese staples given the Michelin-starred treatment, head to Cuisine Cuisine within the uber-cool Mira Hotel. Decorated in deep emerald green instead of the more usual gold-trimmed red, Chef Yu serves dishes like crab meat with minced shrimp balls and black truffles topped with caviar and served in a pumpkin soup. It’s a place to focus on the food rather than the surroundings, and with things like chilled champagne jelly, that’s not such a bad thing.
Disclosure: I've been to Hong Kong many times, the last time was part of my #dragonroute project, a trip through China, Vietnam and Burma/Myanmar with Cathay Pacific. Some of these experiences were hosted, most I paid for myself. As ever, as always, I keep the right to write what I like. Otherwise, where's the fun?!
More Unusual and Offbeat Ideas for Things to do in Hong Kong
All those unusual things to do in Hong Kong we talked about above? Well, I'd tested all of them out. Now, though, let me introduce you to some quirky, offbeat and occasionally crazy things to do on Hong Kong island that I haven't personally checked out - yet.
Visit the UNESCO Global GeoPark
Talk about a name for a park! Not the shy, retiring kind, the UNESCO Global GeoPark Hong Kong covers 150 square kilometres across the eastern and northeastern New Territories in Hong Kong.
It includes the striking hexagonal rock columns in Sai Kung and a visitor centre that aims to bring travellers up to speed with around 140 million years of geological history. You can travel there independently, via MTR and bus or join one of many day tours to the park.
Glamp in a Bubble
Turns out that the word aecosphere is a fancy term for a transparent,bubble shaped tent. Go glamping in Yuen Long at Mingle Farm to watch the stars overhead at night.
Say goodbye to stresses and cares by, erm, smashing things up in Kwun Tong. Yes, that's right, apparently you can part with good money at the Ikari Area to smash up old appliances like washing machines and TV screens with a baseball bat.
Visit a Ghost Town
For a city so cramped for space and eager to build reclaimed land, one of the most unusual things to do involves visiting the ghost towns on the outlying islands. Ma Wan Ghost Town is probably the most famous, with shops and houses lying empty after residents were forced out to make way for new luxury accommodation that has yet to arrive. Take the bus from Tsing Ma MTR Station or catch a direct boat from Central Ferry Pier 2.
Visiting Hong Kong
Hong Kong International Airport, also known as Chek Lap Kok, connects as a hub to the rest of the world. It is a vast, modern, slick space with regular connecting shuttle trains into the city centre. You can even check in and drop your bags at one of the MTR stations and travel luggage free from there.