So you’ve ticked off all the bucket list stops, shopped the major malls and eaten as much dim sum as you can possibly stomach. You’ve done Hong Kong from top to bottom and you’ve discovered the glorious beaches and lush mountains on the city fringes. What’s left to do?
Once you’ve done the obvious, it’s time to dig a little deeper, take a second look and follow the lead of the locals for a Hong Kong experience that goes beyond the touristic facade.
Down every alley way there’s a new experience to keep you (and your camera lens) intrigued! But finding these hidden gems is not as simple as reading a map, so here is our starter's guide to some of the local highlights sure to offer a more authentic insider’s experience.
The Wet Markets
The wet markets of Hong Kong are a bustling hive of social and commercial activity. Locals come here every day to wander, browse and buy groceries from the various market stalls, with plenty of time to mingle and chat along the way. It’s fascinating to become a part of it. Travellers are always welcome, so you won’t feel out of place. Just be sure to ask the stall holders for permission to take photos first though, as some are little more private than others. It’s also a good idea to take water (because it can get so hot outside!), small currency so it’s easy to make purchases and try to keep an open mind.
Da Siu Yan ‘Villain Hitting’
Da Siu Yan – which roughly translates as ‘villain hitting’ – is a very traditional cultural ritual in Hong Kong that takes place openly in streets across the city. You can either stand and watch or take part by paying a small price get your bad spirits ‘bashed away’! During the short ceremony, a ‘villain hitter’ recites an incantation while burning and bashing a totem set to resemble anyone who has wronged you. The most famous spot for Da Siu Yan in Hong Kong is in Causeway Bay, below a flyover known as ‘Ngo Ken Kiu’.
Tramways of Hong Kong
How do the locals get around? While they use all of Hong Kong’s transport systems, at least you’re less likely to encounter other tourists on the city’s historic double decker trams. The full length of Hong Kong Island is serviced by tram lines – a great way to cross the city without spending money on a cab. While the trams don’t move quickly like the trains, adult tickets are only a few Hong Kong dollars and the upper level of the tram provides a great vantage point to see the bustling streets from above – views that you might otherwise miss.
Lan Kwai Fong
While it’s no big secret to tourists, there’s no denying the popularity of Lan Kwai Fong once it comes time to have a beverage or two. Hong Kong’s expatriates and trendy locals alike flock here for a meal and a drink and to soak up the hip atmosphere – and the addition of tourists into the mix doesn’t kill the local feel in any way. The atmosphere ranges from stylish wine haunts to raucous bars with live pop music. Beware though: the later it gets, the louder it gets.
Local Life in Ming Wah Dai
If you like the sound of going into a local’s home for a truly genuine glimpse at what it’s like to live in Hong Kong, this is possible on Buffalo Tours’ Backstreets of Hong Kong Tour. It is a very special and unique tour that will take you to Ming Wah Dai – the city’s oldest existing public housing estate – and into one of the resident’s homes. Here you’ll get to chat to them and ask questions, with the help of your guide, and even learn how to play Mahjong while you’re there.
Shing Wong Temple
While there are larger, more glamorous temples in Hong Kong, a stop at the small and unassuming Shing Wong Temple offers a much more authentic take. Built in 1877, the temple is dedicated to the guardian god of the city, whose responsibility it is to manage the ghosts and spirits that haunt the district and maintain peace and order. Located near the Shau Kei Wan tram terminus, it is popular amongst locals in the area and you’ll often find them sitting outside chatting in the shade.
Chinese kung fu – or martial arts – is woven into the cultural fabric of Hong Kong and the most popular form, tai chi, plays out in parks all over the city. It is a peaceful and graceful activity to participate in and even just to watch; it’s all about balancing yin and yang. Some popular parks where you can see this include Victoria Park, Tamar Park and Chater Garden. For the Bruce Lee fans, you may also enjoy a glimpse into his achievements and role in popular at the ‘Bruce Lee: Kung Fu-Art-Life’ exhibition, held at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
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