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We are spending a week in Hong Kong. We will spend one night on Macau during that week. I am also interested in going to one or two of the islands as day trips. The names that keep coming up are Lantau, Lamma, and Cheung Chau. Which should we go to? We would be going during the week, not on a weekend. Is it too much to go to two of them on separate days in terms of our time?

This is our first time in Hong Kong, so we will do the things that are recommended everywhere--the Peak, the Star Ferry, Stanley, the various markets, the horse races, the light show....

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    One of our regular posters, Cicerone, has written extensively about Hong Kong's islands. Use the search functions to find her posts. You can go to the top of the page and use the drop-down menu to select Hong Kong to see all posts on Hong Kong. To find her posts, use advanced search, choose Hong Kong and fill in her name and you'll find a wealth of information.

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    Yes, I've printed out some of Cicerone's posts. I have one regarding Lantau island. I was just wondering if I can only go to one or two islands besides Macau, what people would suggest. Cicerone also writes about Po Toi island in addition to the ones I mention above. Everything sounds interesting, so it's hard to narrow down.

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    All the islands are different, so it depends on what you're looking for.

    Lantau (refering to the parts other than Tung Chung, the airport, and Disney) is very big - larger than HK Island - and have plenty of sites. The more interesting ones are Ngong Ping (Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha); and the fishing village of Tai O. You can make it a 2/3 day trip by taking the ferry from Central one-way, and the cable car from Ngong Ping down to Tung Chung. Or reverse. There are also miles or hiking trails, but will apparently take more time.

    Lamma is accessible from two different points - Yung Shue Wan (ferry from Central) and Sok Kwu Wan (ferries from Central and Aberdeen). Lots of expats live in Yung Shue Wan, while Sok Kwu Wan has plenty of seafood restaurants. There is no significant historical/cultural sites on Lamma; but the hike between the two "Wans" is nice.

    Cheung Chau is a crowded fishing village - it's still very "local" and you can see lots of actual fishing vessels from its harbor. Though there are also hiking trails, the island is a lot more built up than Lamma.

    It depends on what you want to see, but if it's your first time to Hong Kong and have the time, the Big Buddha and the NP360 cable car should be on your list of things to do.

    Po Toi is accessible only by infrequent, smaller, ferries from HK Island; very infrequent on weekdays. It's fairly popular for locals to do hiking, and it has some stone markings, etc; but for a first time visitor, I won't recommend it.

    BTW, the HK-Macau ferry passes by Cheung Chau; as well as the south side of Lantau. You can see the Big Buddha itself from the ferry.

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    Some thougths and suggestions:

    1. It would be quite possible to go to all the islands you mention above if you wanted to during your week. I am not sure you need to go to all of them, but it is certainly doable. With good use of time, it would be possible to get to both Lamma and Cheung Chau on the same day, or Cheung Chau and Lantau on the same day. Again, not sure you need to and this may be a bit rushed. How much time you want to spend on any island depends on how much you want to sightsee and/or hike as opposed to just taking a short walk around some areas or just seeing one thing, like the Big Buddha on Lantau. To give my personal opinion, with 7 days, I would pick Lantau and one other island, and do them on separate days. If you have 5 days, you can still go to 2 islands, but if you are also going to Macau, that leaves you less time for sightseeing in the main areas of Hong Kong, so you have to look at ferry schedules and figure out what works best for you. You also might want to have a flexible plan in case the weather does not cooperate. Taking a ferry in the fog, or walking around an island in the rain is not the best way to see these places, there are museums for rainy days and local street sightseeing which is not affected by the weather.

    2. I believe your trip is in April, and if so April 5, April 22, 23 and 25 are public holidays (Ching Ming and then Easter, respectively). That means ferries will be running on a holiday schedule, which is more frequently that on weekdays. That might help you get to Po Toi if you wanted to go there, as otherwise ferry service is only offered once a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

    3. The Hutong restaurant group has a very nice wooden sailing “junk” which makes day trips to Cheung Chau (Wednesdays), as well as to a Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay on the eastern end of Hong Kong harbour (Thursdays). Go to www.aqua.com.hk for info, the boat is called the Aqua Luna. This might be a fun way to make a trip. On a clear day, the boat trip to the Tin Hau Temple will give you some of the best views we have on offer; as it will go from one end of the harbour in Central to the other end giving great city views, and then out into the open water where there are some lovely island/mountain views. The temple itself is interesting and quite significant. Otherwise, the Cheung Chau trip gives you a shorter but still pleasant boat ride to the west, and 2 hours on the island, which is plenty.

    There are also tours offered by commercial tour agencies, see http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/local-tours/outlying.html for details. Some look quite interesting, my one concern would be that these may involve a rather average meal and possibly a stop or two for shopping, not my idea of a way to spend time island hopping.

    I think that the Star Ferry used to offer a tour to outlying islands, but I don’t know if they are still running it. Perhaps try the discoverhongkong.com website above to see if it is listed.

    4. While the Aqua Luna is a nice boat, you don’t need a tour really, as it is very easy to get around on the ferries yourself. This also gives you ultimate flexibility in terms of how much time you want to spend anywhere.

    Schedule for ferries to Cheung Chau and Lantau are at http://www.nwff.com.hk/eng/fare_table/. This also shows options for going from Cheung Chau to Lantau or vice versa (the stop on Lantau is Mui Wo).

    Schedule for the ferry to Lamma is at http://www.hkkf.com.hk/. Ferries for Lamma, Lantau and Cheung Chau depart from the main ferry piers in Central on the Hong Kong Island side, near to the Star Ferry, the Airport Express and the IFC Mall.

    For Lamma, you also have the option of taking the really lovely, small wooden kaido/kaito ferry to Lamma from Aberdeen, which IMO is really the best way to go at least one way, as you get much better views than you will from the closed larger ferries which go to Lamma. In the late afternoon or at sunset, these rides are especially pretty. You also can combine a trip to Lamma and Aberdeen by using the kaito to get between the two, which is a nice way to combine the trips. You can use the Octopus card on these as well as on the larger ferries. Kaido schedules can mostly be found at http://www.td.gov.hk/home/index.html, click on “Passengers” then “Ferries” then “Services Details of Regular Kaito Ferry Services”. You want schedules for Aberdeen-Mo Tat. These are not always completely up to date, however, so have your hotel call to confirm.

    Ferry schedules for Po Toi are at http://www.traway.com.hk/routes.html. Unless it is a public holiday, you have to get the ferry from Aberdeen, which actually can work out nicely as you could see Aberdeen at the end of the day on the trip back from Po Toi. On holidays, you can have the option to taking the ferry to or from Stanley, which again could be combined with sightseeing in Stanley and the great #6 bus ride over from the city side.

    5. Here are my personal views of the islands you have mentioned:

    Lamma – this is a good choice for a half-day visit, as it is a small island and easily seen. The island is fairly hilly, and has only 2 towns plus a few small villages. There is a very scenic and easy walk on this island, called the Lamma Island Family Walk. This takes about 1.5 hours, and passes some beaches and up some hills with good views. The best way to do this is to take the ferry from Central to the town of Yung Shue Wan on Lamma, which is on the northeast end of the island. Then do the walk which will take you to Sok Kwu Wan, a town on the western end, where you can take a ferry back to Central or a kaido ferry to Aberdeen. You can also have a seafood meal in Sok Kwu Wan along the waterfront and be sure to see their nice little Tin Hau temple on the waterfront (you can’t miss it). Without lunch, a visit to Lamma (including the walk) will take about 3.5 hours, so you could easily include other Hong Kong sightseeing on the same day as a trip to Lamma.

    There is a map of Lamma at http://www.discoverhongkong.com/promotions/greatoutdoors/eng/images/hikings/pdf/lamma-island.pdf which shows the Lamma Island Family Walk, which may be helpful.

    If you have the time and interest, there are longer and a bit more strenuous walks on this island that offer fantastic views (weather permitting) and the chance to see tiny villages. This will of course add a bit more time, but on a nice day this is a great thing to do. The map cited above will show you some of the routes, or can send me an e-mail at ciceronehongkong@hotmail.hk and I can send directions and some photos. The walk up to Ling Kok Shan offers wonderful views, you can see this route shown on a dotted line on the map. It is paved the entire way, so requires no climbing skills, just a love of stairs.

    Cheung Chau – Like Lamma, this also makes a good half day trip. It is even smaller than Lamma (as well as flatter and has a larger town area) and would basically consist of a walk along the little fishing village waterfront (with some nice casual seafood places) a stop at the temples, and short walks to the beach areas and the “prates cave”. A pleasant place, no strenuous walking required. There is a map of the island showing walks at http://www.discoverhongkong.com/promotions/greatoutdoors/eng/images/hikings/pdf/cheung-chau.pdf. Again, 3-4 hours is plenty here, unless you want a long lunch or want to windsurf or sit on the beach.

    Po Toi – this is a charming, tiny island with a temple in a beautiful water setting and some nice rocky coastline. Virtually no tourists go here. It has a small group of houses at the pier, which are not inhabited on weekdays as far as I know. On a weekday, you would most likely have this place entirely to yourselves (can’t vouch that the 1 seafood restaurant there will be open, so bring a picnic lunch). The weekday ferry schedule is a bit awkward, as it means you would have to spend most of a day on this trip (but could include Aberdeen), but if you want remote and unpopulated, this is the place to go.

    Lantau – this is a huge island, far bigger than Hong Kong Island. It is mountainous and other than a few towns and Disney, is largely uninhabited. It has the Buddha of course up at Po Lin Monastery, but offers much more than that, and to go out there and only see the Buddha won’t really give you an idea of what the island is like or has to offer. To see Lantau properly, IMO, you need an entire day (I have not even seen all of its, and I have spent a lot of time there.) Lantau has, IMO, the best walks in Hong Kong, excepting a small handful in the New Territories. And it is easier to get to than the New Territories if you are using public transport. Just take the subway to Tung Chung and then buses (or the cable car to the Buddha) from there. (You can take a ferry from Central to the town of Mui Wo, but this is the slow way to go, is a pain if your hotel is on the Kowloon side, and again as the ferries are closed, it is not very scenic. You also would not have the option to take the cable car up or down from the Buddha if you go via the ferry, as the cable car is in Tung Chung. Mostly it’s just hard to coordinate with the ferry schedules, as you may end up waiting at the end of the day for an hour or more for the next ferry. So bear that in mind if you decide to end a Lantau trip at Mui Wo and take the ferry back. )

    There are 12 major walks on Lantau (the Lantau Trail), and about the same number of minor ones. Some are quite easy, some are a great workout for great views. You can walk down or up to the Buddha, you can do a circuit walk of the Buddha, you can climb Lantau Peak, you can walk from the Buddha to the fishing village of Tai O, you can do a walk which includes a Catholic monastery. If you have an interest in doing a walk, see http://www.hkwalkers.net/eng/pdf/longtrail/ltrail/lmap.pdf, or send me an e-mail.

    6. Hate to add more to your choices dilemma, but you can also consider a trip to Sai Kung or another part of the New Territories. That would be another post. Do some research and see what interests you.

    As a final comment on your plans, which generally seem good, I can’t stress enough that the light show is not at all worth scheduling your time around. I have seen bits of it from the Hong Kong side over the years, and it has never impressed me. I finally saw it from the Kowloon waterfront the other night, and it was actually more disappointing from there, IMO, as it is from other places like the Peak (or the garden of my flat). The skyline itself is so magnificent at night, that the lasers are kind of lost on it. And from the Kowloon waterfront you only see the few lasers on the Hong Kong Island side (maybe 5 in all), and wont’ see the ones behind you. If you are going to see this show at all, I would do it from the Peak, or a bar or restaurant with a view on either side of the harbour. (The Hooray Bar in the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay may be a good choice, as they have a large outdoor bar.) But I would not rearrange a schedule to see it, or rush back from something else to make the 8 pm show.

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    Thanks for all the great information! We will go to Lantau for sure. How long does it take to hike from the Buddha to Tai O? How would the transportation work for that plan? I understand that it could already be hot and humid in April, so we probably don't want to do any of the more extensive hikes.

    I think that Cheung Chau might be a good second choice, just going on the ferry. The kaido ferry to Lamma does not seem to run frequently during the week, unless I am not understanding the schedule.

    I am going to formulate some more questions, which I will just email to Cicerone. Thanks again for all the information.

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    Hiking down from the Big Buddha to Tai O is all downhill and it's a fairly well used path. How long it takes depends on your speed, but I imagine 1.5 - 2 hours; but that's NOT the Lantau Trail. To hike sections #4, #5 and #6 of the Lantau Trail all together will take 5 hours based on the official map (the one Cicerone links to).

    Yes, Kaido service between Sok Kwu Wan and Aberdeen is not frequent, but you can always just take the regular ferry back to Central.

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    There are several ways to walk from the Buddha to Tai O. Only one of them is the Lantau Trail, but all are shown on the map on the link. On the map, the Lantau Trail is in red, the other trails are in green, you can also go via roads for a while (roads are shown on the map in gray) and then a trail (not the Lantau Trail), or even all the way by road (also shown on the map). My post refers to downhill walks; as a good bit of Section 5 of the Lantau Trail is actually uphill, I don’t even consider it to be a “downhill” way to get to Tai O. I was referring to the other ways to get there, which are downhill.

    Going entirely by road might be doable in 2 hours (it’s something over 8 km and some portions are quite steeply downhill; my time on downhill tends to be slower than on the flat walking, so I don't know if I could do 8 km downhill in 2 hours), however it is the most boring way to go, IMO. The other ways will take you first on a road and then via trails. These take a bit longer, more than 3 hours, in my experience.

    If you want a shorter walk, you can do a downhill walk back toward the Tung Chung area and then get a bus over to Tai O. There is a nice monastery walk downhill from the Buddha which you can do in about an hour. (The bus to Tai O from there will take 40 minutes or so, but is quite scenic. You could also stop for lunch on the beach first at the Stoep and then go on to Tai O later. From Tai O, you could take a ferry to Tung Chung. See http://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/ferries/service_details/index.html you want the Tuen Mun – Tung Chung – Sha Lo Wan – Tai O service. There is a 6 pm ferry which would be a nice way to get the late afternoon sun towards sunset, very pretty on the water. These are the open ferries that offer great views. There is also a 2 pm ferry that with a early start on the day to Lantau, might be doable. Otherwise you can take the bus back to Tung Chung.)

    Section 5 of the Lantau Trail is one of my top five favourite walks in Hong Kong. It offers fantastic, fanstasitc views, a walk by a monastery and the flying dragon statue, herds of feral cows and just wild open country. It is hardly used; if you pass 3 people on a Sunday on that trail that is a crowd, in my experience. However, you have to be prepared to spend time on the walk. From the Buddha, you have to do Section 4 first along the road (boring but some very nice views at points, this takes 45 minutes to an hour), then you have about 3 hours on Section 5, then 45 minutes or so on Section 6. (There are more interesting ways to finish the walk than via Section 6, as Section 6 is a very steep downhill on a concrete road. I blame this walk for giving me Plantar fasciitis. The alternative ways will take you either through a gorgeous valley area to the sea west of Tai O, or past a charming abandoned mansion and out to Tai O Road from where you can walk into Tai O or get a bus. The first option will take longer than Section 6, the second is about the same time as Section 6. ) However, I don’t think I would use Lantau Trail #5 as a way to get to Tai O from the Buddha, as it takes so much time, and when you add in the time needed to get to and visit the Buddha itself to this walk, it is quite a long day. You could do the walk as a separate day trip if you have the time and inclination (I would even skip the Buddha in favour of starting from Section 5 of this walk, but that is just me.)

    If you want to e-mail me, I can give you options for various walks and some photos.

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    Bookmarking and hoping airfares drop a bit so we get a chance to explore Hong Kong in the fall. Cicerone I have read many of your posts and thank you for sharing your wealth of information.

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    Walking from Po Lin Monastery to Tai O, first 2.7km will be along the paved road down to Yin Hing Monastery (延慶寺) . That should take under 40 minutes. From there, it's the old footpath down through Fat Tsuen Monastery (佛泉寺) and a few other smaller abbeys to Ling Yan Monastery (靈隱寺) - under 2km. From Ling Yan Monastery to the Tai O bus terminus is on paved road again, for 2.2km or half an hour.

    Total length is under 7km or 4.5miles downhill. Can be done in 2 hours if you find the right path. But of course, most would like to take time to visit Yin Hing and Ling Yan monasteries - two of the larger ones in HK.

    The old path down to Tung Chung, as Cicerone mentioned, is shorter and also easy. Just make sure you don't take the newer and much longer and strenuous path that goes under the NP360 ropeway.

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    Thanks for the additional information. I'm wondering if it is worth it to try to go to Tai O or I should just chose something closer to the Buddha. I think we would opt for the shortest route if the weather is humid. It seems a bit confusing, but I'll try to study the options more...including not hiking but just taking the various modes of transportation. I guess it also depends where we want to have lunch--at the monastery by the Buddha or somewhere else.

    On another topic. Wednesday night we want to go to the horse races. I understand that we can just get the passes to the Jockey Club once we arrive in HK, correct? Same with the DukLing? It is possible to get tickets a few days ahead of time?

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    There are short hiking routes just around the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery as well. Like the Wisdom Path and the area "behind" Po Lin Monastery.

    Duk Ling used to be free, but now cost HK$100. Just go to the HK Tourism Board offices as soon as you arrive in HK to buy tickets. You can get the information in PDF linked from this page:

    http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/things-to-do/cultural-tours.html

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