Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Tip Tuesday-South Lantau

It would be impossible to include everything there is to know about our little island in just one post, so for today I'm going to stick with fun things to do over here, village by village, with a family-friendly focus.

Mui Wo - If you get the ferry over from Central this is where you'll arrive. Mui Wo is a great place to rent bikes and ride around to Silvermine Bay. The beach is quite nice and not too crowded, and there's a fairly large playground for kids nearby. There are plenty of options for eating out, but our picks are Bahce Turkish restaurant, China Bear pub, and Cafe Paradiso, for coffee and sandwiches. Mui Wo is the starting point for a number of great hikes on the island and there are signs everywhere leading you in the right direction. There is also a bus terminal for transport to most of the other villages on Lantau. There's a Wellcome and a Park n' Shop (although not a whole lot of parking...) so you can stock up on essentials if you plan on spending a bit of time out here. Ark Eden is a great local initiative based in Mui Wo. Their focus is on sustainability and environmental education. They hold workshops and tree-planting days and are absolutely worth a visit whether you have kids or not. Check out their website for more info on what they do.
Pui O - It's easy to be deceived by the look of Pui O. As you pass through it on the bus it looks like a dump. On the outside it has very little going for it but once you delve a little deeper you'll find a real gem. The beach is lovely and you can easily set yourself up at Ooh La La and spend a whole day there. You can even rent a tent and camp overnight, and they often do family movie nights on the beach. Treasure Island has a great range of activities as well. There are, again, many hikes that start here and the Chi Ma Wan trail is challenging but worthwhile. The buffalo roam freely around the place and there are countless bird species that call this part of the world "home."

Cheung Sha - Further along the coast you'll find the two beaches that are known collectively as Cheung Sha upper and lower. The lower beach is more well known and has a strip of restaurants running along the eastern end of the beach. The Stoep is without a doubt the most well-known of these, it has a great atmosphere but it does get crowded and for what it's worth, it's a little overrated. High Tide is another option as is News Bistro. They all offer good food and a great location. There are lifeguards on duty every day during the summer months and dogs are also allowed on the beach. The only downside to such a popular spot is the junks that frequently park offshore and empty their waste directly overboard. We've had some pretty unpleasant stuff wash up onshore, ruining a perfectly lovely afternoon. Just around the bay is one of HK's longest beaches. It's a little less sheltered and doesn't have anywhere near the facilities of it's neighbour, but upper Cheung Sha beach is right on our doorstep. Palm Beach sports centre has been built up over the last couple of years and they have a great set-up. You can hire just about anything for a day of beach fun, from windsurfers to kayaks to BBQ's and tents, they have the lot. You can hang out on the grass with a glass of wine or buy a few drinks from the kiosk and take them down to the beach. They also do big events, both private and public and it's a great place to ring in the new year or celebrate mid-autumn festival with the locals. Nudity, dogs and ball games are prohibited on this stretch of beach but you do see frequent displays of all three and more.
Ngong Ping, Po Lin Monastery and the Giant Buddha - No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a trip to see the Tian Tan buddha, the world's largest outdoor bronze statue. The Ngong Ping cable car will get you there from Tung Chung, as will a number of buses. While the village itself mainly caters for tourists, the Buddha himself cuts an impressive figure against the backdrop of Lantau Peak. For something a little different try the vegetarian lunch at Po Lin Monastery, it's good value and seriously good food. It beats Ebeneezers and Subway hands down! There are always crowds at the Buddha but avoid going on a weekend or on special holidays as it's just not worth it (unless you're Buddhist).

Tai O - Tai O is a sleepy fishing village right on the tip of Lantau. It's a long way from Mui Wo and Tung Chung but you can hike there from almost anywhere on the island. The hike from the Ngong Ping turnoff is a great hike. It's about 10km but the scenery is spectacular and the hidden monasteries and the abandoned estate you'll pass on the way are amazing. For more information about hiking on Lantau get a copy of "The Serious Hiker's Guide to Hong Kong." Anyway, Tai O gets quite busy but as you walk the streets and hear the rhythmic shuffling of mahjong tiles, with the smell of drying fish in your nostrils,you can't help but feel like you're somewhere quite special.
Tung Chung - To be honest, if you don't like outlet shopping, there's really not a lot on offer in Tung Chung. Technically it's not on South Lantau, it's north, but it does a few good points I want to mention. There's a cinema, the MTR station and the start of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, a huge new pool complex, and a great municipal building with a library and soft playroom but not much else. My picks are the Kiddie Wonderland playroom at the Regal Airport Hotel, Olea restaurant at the Novotel and the fountain outside Citygate. It's a fun place for kids to play and there's a Starbucks and Haagen Dazs for hot afternoons, or just for people watching.

So there you have it. My guide to our little part of the world. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface so please write in and tell me if you live here or have visited and think I've missed something.

For next week, I'd love to hear from you - what are your top tips for life in Hong Kong? Things to do, places to go, how to survive? Leave a comment or drop me an email ( and I'll feature your tips in a special post next Tuesday.


  1. we chose to live in central hong kong for a variety of reasons, but as our journey lengthens, we stop and scratch our heads often wondering if we really made the right choice. we have been talking about cutting and running from our apartment in central and hightailing it for lantau. this post makes me think this might be a fantastic idea, penalties aside. i can't wait to take my kids to check out tung chung!

  2. Welcome Lori, always happy to have new readers! We have been in Lantau since we first moved to HK, we just knew we would be happy here, and we have not regretted it for a minute. It can feel quite isolating at times, not having great, immediate access to things like doctors and shops, but it's worth it for the lifestyle, and really, Central isn't that far away. I hope you find a piece of Hong Kong that fits you soon.