If hell is other people, Hong Kong is far from heaven. Come public holidays like National Day and Chinese New Year, the city is even more jam-packed than usual. If the heaving masses are starting to get to you, breathe and relax. As well as the far reaches of our SAR, even the centre of town has places where you can get away from people.
RECOMMENDED: If you think a drink will help you calm down, try one of Hong Kong’s best bars. Or find catharsis in this list of things that make Hongkongers mad.
Best places to avoid crowds in Hong Kong
The simple fact that Tap Mun, also known as Grass Island, is inhabited by only around 100 people should be enough to convince you that this is one of the best places in Hong Kong to get away from it all. Accessible by a kaito (either from near University MTR station or Sai Kung), this verdant green gem houses but a small fishing village and a Tin Hau temple, set against a seemingly uninhabited landscape, save for a few grazing cows.
Nestled in an old industrial building in Cheung Sha Wan, this unassuming café provides an excellent hideout for those who are in desperate need of a little me time. Come perch yourself on a swinging chair, snuggle up to a hot cuppa in the lounge area surrounded by pillows, or better yet, treat yourself to the cafe’s dreamy range of crepe cakes that taste just as heavenly as it looks. And if you’re still not satisfied, Healing, Go Yard also boasts a small, but nonetheless beautiful selection of clothes and accessories to shop from. With everything you need under one roof, there’s no better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The Tai Long Wan beaches are one of the biggest draws of a visit to Sai Kung, but they can be a bit tedious to get to. Not to mention, they get packed during public holidays. Long Ke Wan to the south is equally stunning and comes with far less people and hassle.
Another location that requires a minor trek to reach, but it deserves a mention as it’s one of the most tranquil spots on congested Hong Kong Island. Tai Tam is supremely calm at whatever time of day you’re there. Peer into the blue waters to see koi carp and turtles swimming in harmony.
Part café part record room, Moni Stand is a quaint space offering respite from the hustle and bustle of the more popular parts of town. On a back street, the shop is lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves that house a wide range of vinyl records. The space also contains numerous comfortable leather chairs to help you recreate a scene from Empire Records.
The heady Buddhist nirvana of Li Ka-shing, one the world’s richest men, this monastery is a means to promote Buddhism and to create a sanctuary for those who already practice it. With visitor numbers limited each day to protect ‘the sacredness of the monastery’, this is the perfect place to dodge the crowds.
A 15-minute boat ride from Sai Kung, Yim Tin Tsai wins hands down if you’re into the abandoned vibe. The island was originally populated in the 1740s by a family from Guangdong. The descendants of these people developed salt farms on the island and made their living selling the salt – the island’s name literally means ‘small salt field’. There were once around 1,000 inhabitants. However, as the salt industry declined in the early 1900s, so did the population. By the 1990s, no-one was left living on the island. Thanks to a regular ferry service, however, it’s now popular with day trippers.
You can easily explore most of this tiny isle in a few hours. Once you arrive at the pier, check out the nearby photogenic St Joseph’s Chapel, which was built in Romanesque style in 1890 and is now a Grade III listed building. Next door is the former Ching Po School that is now the Yim Tin Tsai Village Heritage Exhibition and houses a modest collection of historical artefacts. You can then follow the trail around, and you’ll go by the abandoned village houses (many of which are technically still owned by the villagers’ descendants). The houses still offer spooky remnants of the last people to live there, from radios, kitchen appliances and televisions to bed stands and crockery. The path takes a loop past the abandoned salt pans/fish ponds, before coming back to the pier, where there is a small kiosk selling tasty and chewy Hakka sweets.
Probably Hong Kong’s classiest nap room, Sleeep, with its capsule hotel style beds is an ideal spot for a bit of me-time. Home to a maximum of seven guests, few places are as devoid of others as this spot located on the stairs between Queen’s Road and Gough Street. With custom mattresses, circadian lighting and climate control, your only problem with Sleeep will be working up the will to leave and face the hordes again.
If a nap room is just too ordinary for you, why not try floatation therapy? This involves climbing into a sensory deprivation tank, lying back on warm Epsom salt water and drifting off into an extreme state of meditation for at least an hour. As well as some time alone, the therapy supposedly eliminates stress, boosts fitness and improves overall health. Bonus!
Where better to be alone than a literal ghost town? Once a thriving fishing town with several thousand residents, Hongkongers once flocked to Ma Wan for the seafood restaurants if offered. The construction of a gated luxury apartment complex saw the relocation of long-term residents but the project eventually proved a failure. The community now lies empty. Abandoned houses, restaurants and other community facilities make for an eerie and unique sight unlike any other in Hong Kong.