Sitting at an impressive height of 34 meters, the statue of Buddha is the tallest in the world. Attracting many people from all over, this is one of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions and for good reason too. You can either take a 4-hour climb up the mountain (recommended only if you are physically fit) or opt for the glass bottom cable cars, which will give you a 360 view of the mountains and the South China Sea. Equally impressive, the monastery in all its tranquility is a great place for reflection and prayer. There is also a vegetarian restaurant that serves pretty delicious meals for the hungry traveler.
2. Lam Tsuen
Known as Hong Kong’s Wishing Tree, this banyan tree is located outside Tin Hau Temple. Many people have flocked to this tree, which is supposed to grant wishes which are written onto a piece of paper, attached to an orange and flung across its branches. Although the tree has now been protected due to its old age and a branch having broken off, people can still come here to get their wishes granted. However man-made structures have been put up so that visitors can hang their wishes there instead. Still an interesting and rather mystical site that is part of Hong Kong’s culture.
3. Dragon Garden
One of Hong Kong’s hidden gems; this garden is also one of the most beautiful. Although it is closed to the public, except for monthly open days and arranged private tours, its owners are hoping for more of the public to see it. The garden is an eclectic mix of east meets west, a microcosm of Hong Kong. A dragon sculpture, made of out recycled bottles, greets visitors halfway up the hill. There is a mosaic of the Virgin Mary, inspired by a Christmas card given to Lee Lu-Cheung (the creator of the garden, who dedicated 20 years of his life to this architectural beauty) by his grandchildren. Stained glass windows with Chinese detailing and an oil painting of the founder and his wife are all little pieces of art that had an East-West influence. The Dragon Garden was so beautifully decorated that it was used as a filming location for a James Bond movie! What more reason do you need to visit it?
4. Wong Tai Sin Temple
One of Hong Kong’s most famous temples is the Wong Tai Sin Temple. It’s majestic exterior matches up to its intricately designed interior. While it is mainly a Taoist temple, it also holds Buddhist and Confucian scripts. The locals would tell you that this is the temple to go to if you want your prayers answered, which also means the crowds are huge. However for those looking to pray here, there is a very systematic process in place, which ensures that everyone will get their chance. Fortune telling is also very popular at Wong Tai Sin Temple – you shake a cup filled with wooden sticks till one falls out, then you take it to the reader who will help you get your fortune told. This place isn’t just for the religious or superstitious, it is truly an eye-opener to see the religious practices of the locals here and how it is such an important aspect of Chinese culture.
Its name says it all. This is the museum to visit if you want to find about Hong Kong from past to present. It furnishes an array of exhibitions that bring out different aspects of Hong Kong’s cultural and historical side. It also houses special exhibits such as the ‘Bruce Lee exhibit’ and ‘Studio Ghibli’ (which at the point of writing, is on going in the museum). If you can’t make it in time for these exhibits (the Bruce Lee exhibit is up till 2018), the people at this museum seem to know what tickles the fancy of it’s public and you can definitely look forward to equally interesting special exhibitions in the future. For those looking to learn about Hong Kong in more interactive ways, the ‘Children’s Discovery Gallery’ provides just that. Definitely not just for children, adults would definitely have fun at this section too! This museum is a great place for family or solo travelers who want to learn more about the beautiful city.
6. Fan Tin Village
If you want to explore Hong Kong as it was in its past, head down to Fan Tin Village. Known for its unspoilt habitat, it looks like it got left behind while the rest of Hong Kong decided to modernize. However, this proved not too bad a choice because now it remains a popular tourist spot for those who wish to explore an old Hong Kong Village as it would have been in the past. The famous Tai Fu Tai Mansion, built during the Qing Dynasty in 1865, also resides in this village in all its old Chinese grandeur with its high green brick walls and ornamental roofs.
With its intricate costumes, brightly coloured sets, falsetto singing and intermittent gongs, the Cantonese Opera is truly a spectacle. Think of it as a Shakespeare play but more exaggerated, elaborate and a lot livelier. Every gesture, sound and prop is rich with symbolic meaning and brings life to the set. The Cantonese Opera is a highly respected art form in the Chinese world, however as the world moves towards the glitz and glamour of pop culture, Hong Kong does too. One of the few places you still can catch the opera is at Sunbeam Theatre which puts on performances every week. If you’re still not convinced as to why you should, UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity included Cantonese Opera in 2009, which basically means it’s worth watching.
Sipping tea from a small white cup is probably one of the most common sights in Hong Kong. A city of tea drinkers, tea has played such an integral part in the Chinese culture that they’ve set up a museum for it. It is here that you can learn about the tea brewing process and the art of making a good pot of tea. It’s not just pouring tea leaves and adding hot water that’s for sure! What’s more, you can enjoy a dim sum meal as you enjoy your piping hot own-brewed tea. For those who are more interested in the tools of the art, the museum is stocked full of tea ware that vary from colour to design. Learn about the different ways a pot of tea could be brewed, depending on the type of tea ware used in their exhibit. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this little gem of a museum is definitely representative of one of Hong Kong’s favourite beverages.
All fans of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, if you’re in the area, drop by the Kung Fu Corner. Every Sunday, different Kung Fu schools from Hong Kong will be demonstrating moves or doing a showcase. There’s also dragon and sword dancing displays, all of which are part of Hong Kong’s interesting and colourful martial arts sector. While there are more impressive displays of Kung Fu such as in the Yip Man Martial Arts Association (Martial Arts enthusiasts are recommended to visit this instead), this little corner still has its perks. It’s free and provides a good opportunity to talk to the locals about their art. While this may not be first on the list for a cultural site, It is still a little slice of Hong Kong’s culture that you can enjoy at no cost!