If there’s a time of year that best suits Hong Kong, it’s autumn. The sun is shining and the weather is wonderfully warm, without summer’s brutal humidity and searing temperatures. If you fancy shaking off the a/c for a family day out in the fresh(ish) air, we’ve got some fab ideas to get you started.
1. Try a spring clean this autumn. HK Cleanup count on volunteers to help them spruce up our grubby SAR and change our attitudes at the same time. Now in its 12th year, the project aims to raise awareness of the impact that litter has on our environment and to do something positive about it by gathering groups together to pick litter in the city and in some of the loveliest countryside and coastal locations around HK. Under 18’s are welcome to join in with the big team tidy-up with parental consent, and there are organised clean-up challenge events running throughout October and into November.
2. What’s wet and wild in Hong Kong? Nope, not Ocean Park, but the world-famous New Territories pink dolphins. Take a scheduled trip with HK Dolphinwatch on their luxury cruiser every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and they offer a go-again guarantee if Flipper is feeling shy that day. Sounds fair to us, but with a 97% sighting rate we doubt you’ll need to take them up on their offer. Got a large group? They also offer half or full-day dolphin watching charter cruises; a perfect birthday party idea for your own Little Mermaid or Captain Hook.
3. What could be more autumnal than donning your boots and crunching through fallen leaves? Before you go booking that trip to New England, head north to Yuen Long’s Tai Lam Country Park and be prepared to forget that you are in Hong Kong. With stunning autumn colours that will inspire any budding artist, the Tai Tong Tree Walk is a must-do, and while you’re there, amble along the Tai Tong Nature Trail for some spectacular views. Jump on bus K66 or a red minibus from Yuen Long, alighting at the top of Tai Tong Shan Road. It’s a gentle 30-minute walk up the hill from there to the start of these circular walks.
4. If your kids have energy to burn, pack them off to Discovery Bay on 11th November for the 2012 Ageas-Sportsworld Triathlon Challenge. Organised by Lantau Buffalos, registration is open to budding triathletes aged 5-12 years old. The race raises money for AccessDB, who are aiming to buy a new modified bus for DB residents unable to access public transport due to disability or other issues. Courses vary in length according to age group and there’s a maximum of 12 teams per category. A BBQ for participants at the end of the race gives parents and kids a chance to wind down and socialise.
5. Enjoy some sweet street eats with a cone full of roasted chestnuts. Look out for vendors on street corners all over town roasting woks full of these yummy fall treats on gas burners. Just follow your nose to one of the most evocative autumnal flavours around.
6. Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve is only 2km from Tai Po town centre and a lovely urban conservation area. With over 200 species of butterfly making this reserve their home, you’re sure to see something unusual fluttering around. Combine with a trip to the Hong Kong Railway Museum to make the most of your day in Tai Po.
7. Just because we’re parents, doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten how to party, right mama? If you have teens, impress (or embarrass) them by heading to Clockenflap music and arts festival at the West Kowloon Cultural District. Throw shapes to 90’s psychadelia at Primal Scream, chill to vintage hipsters De La Soul and rock out with HK’s very own Chochukmo, to name but a few. In addition to supporting the Hong Kong music scene, the festival showcases local and international visual artists, with installations throughout the outdoor site. We’ll see you in the beer tent on 1st and 2nd December!
8. Speaking of beer, how about a night off for mum and dad minus die kinder? Held between the 19th October and 10th November, Hong Kong’s take on the traditional German Oktoberfest beer festival is held at the Marco Polo’s fabulous outdoor marquee. Beers with a view, along with hearty traditional dishes and desserts to die for are soundtracked by an authentic German folk band every night.
9. Go and hang out with some distant cousins at Kam Shan Country Park in Kowloon. Here you’ll find two of Hong Kong’s most common wild monkey species, the Longtailed and Rhesus Macaques, both of which can be found all around this easily-hiked reservoir area. The monkeys are plentiful and are generally happy to ignore humans. Do be careful if you take a picnic or BBQ food as they are prone to snatch and grab raids on your lunch.
10. Over at Ngong Ping Village the Lantau 360 carnival is in full swing until 30th November. The daily, Lantau- themed procession is led by the Goddess of Nature and features such inspired costumes as Dried Shrimp, Tree Frog and Salted Egg! If you’re planning a trip up to the Big Buddha, this definitely bears further investigation.
11. The extensive Geopark region makes for a fascinating day out. The volcanic rock and geological features unique to Hong Kong are science-project worthy, but the stunning backdrop of the eastern New Territories makes for a great full-day hike for older kids and teens. There are plenty of locations to choose from but High Island Reservoir is a popular choice due to its accessibility from Sai Kung, bizarre and wonderful rock formations and the sheer might of the reservoir itself. Check out the very informative Geopark website for more on the various Geosites around Hong Kong.
12. Established in 1956, the folks at Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens are committed to biodiversity and sustainable living in Hong Kong. The Gardens have a ‘Monthly Highlights’ programme that lets visitors know which flowers, vegetables and animals they are likely to encounter at each visit, and ensuring that every trip is a totally unique experience. Large enough for a day out, there’s a café serving delicious organic vegetarian food onsite and a shuttle bus that runs around the grounds in case small legs start to tire. Enjoyed lunch? KFBG also run the weekly organic farmer’s market at the Star Ferry Central pier every Sunday so swing by and stock up on delicious seasonal produce.
13. Built sometime between 1174-1189 as a defence against smugglers, Tung Chung Fort is a well-preserved slice of Old Hong Kong’s history. Used as a base by famous Chinese pirate Cheung Po Tsai until his surrender, then rebuilt in the Qing era, the Fort was designated as a monument in the 1970’s. The remaining 19th Century cannons along the ramparts will appeal to junior pirates and there’s a small museum of historical artefacts too.
14. If you haven’t yet made the trip to sparsely-populated Po Toi then autumn is a great time to go. This rugged little island just south of Stanley is home to a wide variety of migratory birds and offers great hiking in the cooler weather. If you’re feeling the Halloween vibe, then Po Toi’s selection of abandoned houses, including the reputedly haunted Old Mo’s House will fire the imagination! There are also Bronze Age carvings to explore and some of Hong Kong’s best seafood to sample. Ferries run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Weekends and Public Holidays from Aberdeen, or Sundays and Public Holidays from Stanley Blake Pier.
15. Sometimes it’s nice to stay local, so how about a couple of locations for an urban picnic on the Island? The Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun has a rare-in-HK lawn, kids play area and fabulous harbourfront location. Even more central is the rooftop area at IFC Mall. Few people realise that this is a designated public space, so pack your lunch, head up to the level 4 roof garden and enjoy the breezy views (and the mall’s great facilities!) Finally, another public space to enjoy the sunshine is the rooftop seating area at Central Pier 7. It’s attached to a bar, but it’s totally free for the public to use and offers an interesting view of our skyscraper city from the very bottom up.
And a big thanks to our Sassy Mama contributor Kate Farr for this fab roundup.