Wanting to break the long haul flight from Sydney to London in 2008, Hong Kong seemed a good option. The flight to Hong Kong is a medium length but can be done during the daytime, thus avoiding an interminably sleepless night. Going via Singapore, back in the days when Qantas flew to Europe via Singapore, tended to land you in town or leaving town at an obscene hour in the morning.
Many moons before, we had done the touristy thing in Hong Kong. This time was meant to be a relaxation stop before the longer flight to London, so I researched alternatives to Hong Kong’s 24/7 of sensory overload. I found a surprising gem tucked away on the far side of Lantau Island – the island the airport is on.
Silvermine Beach Resort is a fascinating half-hour taxi ride across the mountainous and forested inland of Lantau Island. This, in itself, is immediately a different view of Hong Kong, which tends to stimulate images of high-rise buildings and neon lights. Don’t panic when the taxi deposits you in the middle of nowhere, the hotel is right on the beach-front and doesn’t have road access. It is a short walk to the hotel and adds to the atmosphere of being somewhere different! Make sure you have luggage with wheels or backpacks.
Well … who knew Hong Kong had beaches and a hotel overlooking a beautiful bay with hills in the background?
Now, this is not a luxurious resort – I chose it because of its location and it was very reasonably priced. We have stayed here twice (2008 and 2011) and found it very comfortable. Our first room was of a better standard, so maybe pay a little extra and check that the wing has been refurbished. (It may have all been done by now.) The swimming pool is nice and was a welcome relief on our first trip when it was very hot, and the air conditioning is excellent. Food is satisfactory but not great. This appears to be a place where other Asians come to holiday.
A short and pleasant stroll along the waterfront takes you into the village. Here, despite the ubiquitous McDonald’s, you get a glimpse into the lives of “ordinary folk”. There are shops, a bustling port and a ferry terminal which will take to you Hong Kong central (about 30 minutes).
A ferry will also take you to Cheung Chau Island, an absolute must do if you are wanting a different view of Hong Kong. We enjoyed our day there so much we went back in 2011 and discovered a whole different side to the island. A hint for catching the ferry: the staff at the ferry terminal at Silvermine do not speak English so buying a ticket is a little challenging. Don’t go to the booth on the left as you approach the terminal, go directly to the turnstiles. Tell the staff there you want to go to Cheung Chau and offer them a handful of small change, they will take what they need and direct you to the ferry! Simple really. The fare is minimal. The ferry trip is short and comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes as you will walk.
The island is very narrow at one point. Take the opportunity to walk from one side to the other. The near side is the bustling port, the far side has the beach and the rugged hills. There is a walking path up the hill in this picture from where you can get really good views.
On one of the streets which bisects the island we stumbled across a fabulous tea shop. If you like tea, and even if you don’t (like me), this is a fascinating experience. Full to over-flowing with Asian teas pots, tea caddies and more types of tea than you can imagine (without any Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea in sight!) The proprietress of the shop, who spoke excellent English, gave demonstrations of different methods of tea preparation, encouraged tastings and gave information and history about all the wonderful items in the shop.
You never know what you will find until you think outside the square 🙂