Header image courtesy of 三粒鹽記 (via Facebook)
While we love a good rooftop bar or homeware haul, Hongkongers know that there’s more to do in our SAR than eating, drinking, and shopping. If you’ve been keeping up with our nature and wellness posts—and we sure hope you have!—then you will have read all about hiking, outdoor rock climbing, kayaking, and even alternative watersports.
But with all of us having spent the last year or so in Hong Kong, we’re sure some of you—like us—are looking to do something a little different. From farming sea salt on a tiny uninhabited art island to making pearl jewellery from an oyster you shucked yourself, here are some of the most unusual and interesting things you can do in Hong Kong.
If you have ever read up on Hong Kong’s fascinating ghost villages, then you will probably know about Yim Tin Tsai (鹽田仔; “Little Salt Pan”), an uninhabited 300-year-old Hakka village off Sai Kung. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and descendants of the original Hakka villagers, Yim Tin Tsai is now something of an “art island” like Japan’s Naoshima Island, with cool sculptures and installations to be explored between the abandoned fields and homes.
What you may not know, however, is that the salt pan that gives the island its name is still working—and you can learn how to make salt on it yourself on the weekends! During a demonstration led by the salt pan’s full-time volunteers, you will be shown how seawater dries up and forms crystals and view trays of salt in different stages of the production process before trying your hand at sweeping some crystals.
Don’t forget to take home a little jar of authentic Hong Kong-made sea salt as a delicious keepsake! However, in view of the pandemic (and Yim Tin Tsai’s status as an uninhabited island), we recommend messaging the salt pan workers on Facebook or Instagram to check if they’re running any demonstrations before your visit.
You may have heard people refer to Hong Kong as the “Pearl of the Orient,” but did you know that you can harvest real pearls here? Located just minutes away from Hebe Haven in Sai Kung is Hong Kong’s only pearl farm, the Hong Kong Pearl Cultivation Association. The government-backed association offers a three-hour pearl accessory-making workshop, during which you will learn all about the history of pearls, how they’re cultured, and the importance of conserving the ocean. Afterwards, the instructors will teach you how to shuck, harvest, and grade the pearl before setting it in a piece of jewellery of your choice.
We don’t know about you, but being surrounded by beautiful butterflies in the peaceful countryside sounds like a dream to us—and an achievable one, at that! Head out to the 300-year-old Hakka village of Fung Yuen in eastern New Territories to live your best fairy or entomologist life.
The village, which is on the border of Tai Mei Tuk and Tai Po, is home to the eponymous Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, where you can find over 200 of the 245 butterfly species known to exist in Hong Kong. Out of those species, 130 are classified as uncommon, rare, or very rare—and there are plenty of friendly resident dogs, too, which counts as a huge plus in our books! Just make sure you call ahead before setting out, as the reserve has been closed to visitors on and off during the pandemic.
Enjoy the twin pleasures of being among unbridled wild beauty and doing something deeply fulfilling by planting trees in Ark Eden. Located in a peaceful green valley in the rural Lantau town of Mui Wo, this permaculture centre is on a mission to better the environment with regenerative agriculture, clean energy, and fun, educational camps and workshops.
Sign up for one of their regular workshops to enjoy a bevy of fun, eco-friendly activities like interactive classes on permaculture, guided hikes to nearby Lantau beauty spots, outdoor yoga and movie screenings, and, of course, tree-planting.
As a protected marine park with great biodiversity and pristine waters, Hoi Ha Wan is one of our favourite places to go snorkelling and scuba diving. But beyond the coral reefs, fish, crabs, and starfish, Hoi Ha’s waters are home to one more interesting sight—the remains of a ferro-cement barge!
If you’re interested in exploring a seaweed-covered shipwreck while fish dart around you—mental replay of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid optional, but recommended—get in touch with a local dive centre to organise a trip to the area. Just don’t sign over your voice to any sea witches!
If you read the Yim Tin Tsai entry and found yourself wondering what the abandoned town was like before it was revitalised, then Ma Wan village is the adventure for you. This coastal village’s residents were evicted in 2011 in anticipation of a new luxury property development, but the old settlement has never been razed or re-developed, leaving it to deteriorate into a haunting, quaint relic of old Hong Kong in the shadow of the Tsing Ma Bridge.
While Ma Wan village was only vacated relatively recently, the signs of modern life—colourful plastic playground apparatuses, 2000s posters, and broken laptops—make it feel more apocalyptic than ancient ruins, giving it an extra spooky feel. Click here for our guide to the most haunting ghost villages in Hong Kong.