Understand the religious roots
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Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin, one of Hong Kong’s most important shrines, happens to be one of its most beautiful, too. Bold reds, yellows and blues adorn the temple’s exterior while ornate latticework hints at the site’s true purpose as a fascinating place of worship for Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Locals frequently gather here to pray to monk Wong Tai Sin for good fortune and the temple is especially crowded during Chinese New Year, Wong Tai Sin’s birthday and on weekends.
Visit a gallery or museum
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Hong Kong has a number of fascinating galleries that don’t cost the earth – or even a cent. The Hong Kong Museum of History, for example, doesn’t charge an admission fee for entry to its permanent exhibitions and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum on the banks of the Shing Mun River does the same. The Hong Kong Science Museum, which boasts almost 500 exhibits, and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum that details the story of one of China’s most famous revolutionaries, also opens its doors on Wednesdays for zilch.
Immerse yourself in culture
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Although the exact age of Mo Man Temple is unknown, a brass bell on temple grounds dated 1847 gives a helpful clue. Dedicated to the God of Literature and the God of War, the temple sits halfway up the impressive Victoria Peak and is a riot of red dotted with clusters of spiral incense sticks. No matter how tempting the sight is, remember flash photography isn’t permitted in the temple.
Take a dip in a nearby beach
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Although Hong Kong is best known for its high rises and crowded, colourful marketplaces, there’s also an abundance of natural beauty waiting to be explored. There are three beaches in particular worth a visit, less than an hour’s drive from Hong Kong proper: Ham Tin Wan in Sai Kung could rival some coasts in Thailand with its white stretch of sand and surrounding jungle-topped peaks; Big Wave Bay, a surprisingly accommodating spot for keen surfers with its crescent shaped shore; and Clearwater Bay, which is just that, edged by jungle-covered mountains.
Reach great heights
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Although the mountain-fringed monastery of Po Lin feels a world away from Hong Kong, in reality it’s less than an hour’s drive to the west of the city. The highlight of this monastery is the towering Tian Tan Buddha, a 34-metre tall bronze statue of a seated Buddha. Ascend the 268 steps for a closer look and an uninterrupted view of the surrounding valleys and sky-blue ocean.
Explore an inner city oasis
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Before Kowloon Walled City Park was a haven of tranquil gardens, water features, meandering pathways and traditional yamen (imperial government administrative buildings), it was a densely populated 2.7-hectare knot of 300 high rises, brimming with crime. Now, only few remnants of the buildings that were demolished in 1987 are left, scattered among the serene waterways and trees of the park.
Swap walking for riding
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If Hong Kong Disneyland can’t be on your family’s to-do list, take the little ones on this one-of-a-kind ride. The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and walkway system is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, transporting passengers an impressive 800 metres, taking around twenty minutes for the full journey. Just make sure you get your timings right: in the morning before 10am, the direction of travel is down. After that, it’s up and away until midnight. Keep your eyes peeled for refurbishments to certain parts that are expected to commence from 18 March, 2018.
Find yourself amongst feng shui
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Dating back to the 1930s, Chi Lin Nunnery is a peaceful oasis in the middle of bustling Kowloon with courtyards lined by lotus ponds, bougainvillea gardens and wooden buildings constructed without a single nail. The Buddhist monastery is organised according to feng shui principles: to bring abundance, buildings face south to the sea, with mountains at their backs, to provide strength.
Get to know the wildlife
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Named for the city’s governor from 1982 to 1986, the Edward Youde Aviary features around 600 birds of 70 species fluttering through its 3000 square metres of tropical vegetation. Covered by an impressive mesh dome, this makeshift rainforest also features shallow pools and waterfalls, a welcome change from the generally frenetic Hong Kong pace of life.
Go au naturale
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It’s hard to imagine a hike in Hong Kong involving anything other than traversing the city’s busy and lively streets but in actuality, 73 per cent of Hong Kong is open spaces of woodland, wetlands, beaches and mountains. Dragon’s Back, a walk that follows the ridge of a mountain in Shek O on Hong Kong Island, is particularly popular with visitors and, luckily, the amazing view hikers are afforded doesn’t cost a cent. The sightseeing platform at 284 metres from Shek O Peak displays the city’s skyscrapers as well as the scatter of craggy, offshore islands in perfect detail. The 8.5-kilometre trail begins just 20 minutes drive from Central.