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World Travel without a Passport: 8 bucket-list places to visit in Hong Kong

By Nicole Hurip 9 April 2020

Header image courtesy of @ohhhevaaa (Instagram)

They say Hong Kong is a global city, encompassing a diverse array of cultures and home to a vibrant international community. Local cuisine, language, and architecture incorporate elements from the West, a remnant from a century and a half under British sovereignty. The city has taken these frayed ends and woven them with gusto into a new tapestry, forming a colourful backdrop to what Hong Kong is today: a place of, and with, international influence.

Curiously, or perhaps fittingly, there exist places around Hong Kong where one is seemingly transported to other corners of the globe, from Bolivia’s salt flats to the bamboo gardens of Kyoto. Head to these stunning spots and see for yourself!

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Tsz Shan Monastery—Provence, France

Opened in 2015, Tsz Shan Monastery is a stunning Buddhist sanctuary complete with lotus ponds, gardens, and a 76-metre-tall bronze-cast white Guan Yin statue. Every year around Chinese New Year (late January, February, or March, depending on the year), lavender is planted on the slopes of the monastery, reminiscent of the sprawling lavender fields of Provence. Though our homegrown version is decidedly less expansive, it nevertheless makes for an enchanting sight.

Tsz Shan Monastery, 88 Universal Gate Road, Tai Po | (+852) 2123 8666

Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tsz Shan Monastery is temporarily closed.

San Tin Farm 信芯園—Hokkaido, Japan

This flower farm is a popular photo op spot, where people can luxuriate amongst a sea of beautiful blooms. The type of flowers vary from season to season, and this spring the fields burn fiery red, amber, and violet with gladiolus, or the sword lily. The fields will be awash with sunflowers and lilies come May and June, so get ready! The $60 entrance fee sure beats the airfare cost to reach the sunflower fields in Hokkaido. These flowers are also available for purchase. 

San Tin Farm, Siu Hum Tsuen, Sun Tin, Yuen Long; a short walk from Shek Wu Wai bus station

Pak Lap Wan 白腊灣—Maldives

Bury your toes in the white sands and frolic in the crystal waters of Pak Lap Wan beach, located in Sai Kung. More than a few leaps and bounds away from the city, this little cove is insulated from the byproducts of civilisation, and retains an air of seclusion and tranquility—a rarity with other more popular, more accessible sand strips. 

Pak Lap Wan, Sai Kung; a short walk from Man Yee Road

Yin Ngam 燕岩—Kyoto, Japan

Take a walk through a bamboo tunnel, an elegant interlude along a lush valley trail that's part of a hiking route near the sleepy village of Yin Ngam. Be submerged in your own thoughts and the greenery, especially during the brief moments where the tips of the bamboo intertwine and you’re cocooned in nature. Imagine you're walking through Kyoto's bamboo forest and feel yourself getting Zen-ed out. 

Yin Ngam, Tai Mo Shan, Tai Po; accessible via a trail starting from Yuen Tun Ha

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list👇

Pavilion of Harmony—Bolivia 

Located inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Pavilion of Harmony’s crowning jewel is a ripple-less infinity pond overlooking the Tolo Harbour. When viewed from the right angle, the mirrored image on the surface of the pond joins with the sky to form a breathtaking canvas. It bears a remarkable resemblance to the famous mirror effect on the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia halfway across the world.

New Asia College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sha Tin

North Ninepin island—Tasmania, Australia

See the dolerite columns of Tasmania reflected on the North Ninepin Island, part of a group of islands known as Ninepin Islands, or Kwo Chau Islands. Dolerites are a result of a particular cooling and crystallisation process of molten lava, forming hexagonal pillars that seemingly stems from the earth itself. The island is uninhabited, reachable only via a hired boat or as part of a tour.

Ninepin Islands group, Sai Kung

Po Lo Shan/Pineapple Mountain—Arizona, USA

This valley’s curious moniker was coined by locals who thought its unique rock formations reminded them of their beloved “pineapple buns”, a popular baked good with a cracked crust that resembles the rough surface of a pineapple. It also goes by another name: Hong Kong's miniature Grand Canyon. The summit can be reached via a relatively easy hike, making it a popular spot to bask in the glow of the setting sun above the canyon. The sloping hills joined by a winding valley can almost pass for the real thing, especially when golden hour hits. Head to the start of the trail from Leung King LRT station, up a concrete path for 30 minutes to Leung Tin Au, then it’s a 20 minute journey to Pineapple Mountain.

Po Lo Shan, Tuen Mun

Kam Shan Country Park—Phuket, Thailand

Who needs to go to Thailand when you can venture into a kingdom of macaques at our very own Monkey Hill in Kam Shan Country Park? Visitors can get up close and personal with the monkeys, as long as they don’t feed them. Enter the park from Shek Lei Pui Reservoir, down Golden Hill Road until you start seeing the furry fiends hanging out along the side of the road and perched on trees. Phuket who?

Kam Shan Country Park, Tai Po

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Nicole Hurip

Travel editorial director

Never content with sitting still, Nicole has turned her passion into a career. Hong Kong is her home, but she’ll always have a soft spot for L.A. and London, where she spent her college years. She loves exploring hidden places, hunting for cool vintage pieces, and talking to interesting people. Her vices include consuming excessive amounts of wine and cheese, a debilitating weakness for sparkly things, and spending too much time on Instagram.