Activities to enjoy in Hong Kong at no dime.
1. Pedder Building Art Galleries
Hong Kong has a brilliant capacity to re-invent itself. In 2007, when it was generally perceived as a cultural desert, it held its first international art fair, and now it hosts Art Basel every spring. There are many galleries dotted around the city but if you want a quick fix, go to the Pedder Building. Take the lift to the seventh floor and start with Gagosian, the New York gallery that brought Damien Hirst (amongst many others) to Hong Kong. Then work your way down through Pearl Lam (Chinese contemporary art), Hanart TZ (ditto), Ben Brown Fine Arts (international contemporary) and Simon Lee (ditto).
2. Golden Mile
Take a walk down Nathan Road, Kowloon’s main thoroughfare, also known as the Golden Mile and marvel at the profusion of neon signs jutting and jostling for best position from the buildings on each side of the street.
3. Tai O
The fishing village of Tai O is often described as the Venice of Hong Kong, which might surprise native Venetians but conveys some of the unexpectedness of its stilt houses. There used to be a tiny pedestrian ferry, manned by forceful village women; now there’s a tiny drawbridge and forceful selling of trips to see dolphins.
4. Urban Park
Hong Kong Park has an abundance of flora, fauna and landscaped water pools, containing Flagstaff House and Tea Museum, a walk-in bird aviary and conservatory for plants. The Botanical Gardens are home to birds, reptiles, primates and other animals from many parts of Asia and beyond; and Yuen Po Street Bird Garden is a fascinating slice of HK culture. Bird owners out walking their caged birds chat with other bird lovers.
5. Man Mo Temple
Visitors to Hong Kong tend to come here as their single temple excursion, partly because it is convenient to Central and partly because it is so atmospheric inside. The temple has been here since 1847, and is where the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which runs it, still hold Autumn Sacrificial Rites every year for Hong Kong’s continuing prosperity. It’s not huge, which means it can be crowded with tour groups in the mornings, and if you are asthmatic you may find the giant incense coils, hanging picturesquely but smokily from the roof, bothersome.