It’s funny how you can move to a dynamic city that never sleeps then spend the whole time you’re there finding places to ‘get away’ from it all and relax.
I love the buzz of Hong Kong and I wouldn’t swap the adrenalin rush I get when walking amongst its streets for anything. But sometimes I do just need to get away from everything. I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks and, when staying in a shared room in a part of the world which doesn’t value personal space in the same way I do, it’s important to find places to just clear your head and chill. Normally, a good hike will do that for me, but I don’t always want to have to go for a huge trek to get some peace of mind, so here’s my top 5 destinations in Hong Kong to just chill…
1. Nan Lian Garden
You wouldn’t think that peace and tranquility would be found opposite a shopping mall and underneath a flyover, but that’s exactly what you get with Nan Lian Garden in Kowloon. Just over the road from the equally wonderful Chi Lin Nunnery, this free garden isn’t only a photographer’s dream but also a great place to escape Hong Kong’s bustle. With its quirky trees, gushing waterfalls and calm streams, you could spend ages clearing your head here, all with the stunning Hong Kong skyscrapers as a backdrop.
How to get there: Diamond Hill MTR Station, Exit C2. Follow the signs from the shopping mall.
2. Lamma Island
If Hong Kong Island is the boisterous party house which never stops, Lamma Island is its soothing neighbour who greets you with a warm hug. As soon as you step off the ferry, you realise life moves a lot more slowly at this small island. Slowly meander round the easy and scenic family trail from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan, then perch yourself at the beach for a relax in the sunshine. It’s almost deserted on a weekday. Although just a half an hour boat ride from Central, it’s hard to believe you’re still in Hong Kong.
How to get there: Ferries depart regularly from Central ferry pier 4. Adult fare is one-way HK$17.10 from Mon-Sat.
3. Ha Pak Nai
If you really want to get away from it all, you’ll have to make a bit of an effort. Perched at the very top of the New Territories and just a stone’s throw away from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, Ha Pak Nai is home to Hong Kong’s most breathtaking sunset. Squelch bare-footed on the muddy beach as you look across the waters to Shenzhen, then stroll along the shore towards the abandoned temple on the sand. Then gather with other photographers to capture that amazing sunset and soak it in. The beach is so long that it’s easy to get a stretch to yourself and the place only gets slightly busy around sunset, though still manages to remain peaceful. It’s Hong Kong’s best kept secret.
How to get there: Take the MTR to Yuen Long station then walk for 10 minutes to Tai Fung Street. Take minibus 33 from here to Ha Pak Nai. Look out for Shenzhen bridge as a guide for when to alight. Ap Tsai Hang is where you want to get off.
4. Tai O
Between the huge airport and the tourist haven of Ngong Ping, Lantau Island doesn’t conjure up feelings of a laid-back atmosphere. However, behind the bravado, there are plenty of places to escape from it all on this island. One such place is the fishing village of Tai O. Its huge walkway stretches over the water and is a fantastic walk. Section 7 of the Lantau Trail also begins here and is an easy coastal walk with great scenery. Or, for something more difficult, take the hike up to the spectacular infinity pool. It’s the perfect escape destination.
How to get there: Take the MTR to Tung Chung, then take bus 11 to Tai O or take the ferry to Mui Wo from Central Ferry Pier 1 and take bus 1 to Tai O.
5. Tamar Park
My number 1 spot in Hong Kong is also one of the most accessible. You wouldn’t think that a harbour front park in the centre of the city would be the epitome of tranquility but somehow the pretty new Tamar Park (opened in 2011) manages it. Whenever I’m feeling stressed, I walk down to here and can always find a peaceful spot. Depending on where you sit, you’ve got a view of the harbour, of the IFC buildings or of the glistening Hong Kong skyline so you really can’t lose. During the week, the park is near-deserted, only becoming busier on sunny weekends. The perfect time to come down is in the early evening as the sun starts setting and reflects off the buildings and the water. Spending my evenings lazing around this park is one of the things I will miss most when I leave Hong Kong.
How to get there: Admiralty MTR station, Exit A.