Oct 16, 2008|
We all love Hong Kong for its feverish, frantic pace. But there are also times when we need a little breathing room, somewhere to collect our thoughts while the world whizzes by uncaringly around us. Whether you’ve been stuck in the office for hours listening to pile drivers outside, or spent all morning crammed against a stranger’s armpit in the MTR, here’s a list of the calmest spots in town for whenever and wherever you need that hefty dose of Zen.
If you thought the only way to unwind on Queen’s Road was with a stiff drink at MO Bar, think again. Cheung Kong Park allows you a quick return to nature in the middle of one of the busiest areas in town. Just follow the path up from Cheung Kong Centre and you’ll suddenly find grass, shady trees and the peaceful St. John’s Cathedral in the background. That said, this one’s really an afternoon retreat—avoid it during lunchtime when it’s crammed with office suits and their Pret salad boxes.
A Room with a View
Despite the tough-guy security guards, the 55th floor of IFC is open to everybody. Here the Monetary Authority keeps an information center and library for any members of the public interested in whatever it is the Monetary Authority does. As you might have guessed, it’s not exactly a hit destination, and you can usually turn this place into your own personal crypt high above the hustle and bustle of Central.
55/F, Two IFC, 8 Finance St., Central, 2878-1111.
Hit the Roof
Who’d have thought Mody Road could be home to a haven of tranquility? The Royal Garden’s Sky Club is a fitness and relaxation center tucked away in a serene walled garden. Here you can swim in the outdoor heated pool year-round, enjoy a sauna and Jacuzzi, and even practice your aim on a putting green. The membership fee also reaches for the sky—a lofty $28,000 per year.
69 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2733-2800.
A great place to escape the welter of the modern world is the Vajradhara Buddhist Meditation Centre. If you find you don’t quite reach nirvana on your first visit, dharma-teacher Tonglam offers regular guided meditation sessions in English and Cantonese (English on Tuesdays). When you’re done, you can keep your karma by enjoying a wholesome vegetarian meal at the World Peace Café downstairs, where the staff are all friendly volunteers. Check out www.meditation.hk for more on the Meditation Centre’s programs and pujas.
21 Tai Wong East St., Wan Chai, 2507-2237.
Winnie Chau asks two Hongkongers working in noisy and stressful environments how they find peace of mind.
Jan Lo, audio technician and vocalist of indie band Qiu Hong
Of all things, Lo looks to loud rock music for his peace of mind. “Living in Hong Kong is stressful,” he says. “The cost of living is high and there are so many people crammed into such a tiny place.” Working as a technician for demanding clients only adds more pressure. To let go, he vents his urban angst through his songs. Naturally, he also enjoys quieter activities. “I like reading in my favorite chill-out place, my studio, when the TV and stereo are switched off. I also love swimming. You can hear nothing underwater.“
Being a policeman is probably one of the most stressful jobs imaginable. Fai has spent 33 years in the force with a fair share of on-the-job stress. Among his various duties, the 51-year-old finds his motorcycle beat particularly demanding. “I need to respond to all emergency calls, from domestic violence to traffic accidents,” he says. He adds that abuse of the 999 hotline is frequent: “Parents have called in before because their kid wasn’t doing his homework.” To relieve pressure, Fai hits the water. “I’m an active member of different police recreation clubs, and do dragon boating and windsurfing,” he says. The veteran policeman has represented the force in a number of international competitions.
Lose yourself among the lotus ponds at Long Valley. This wetland park is over double the size of Victoria Park, and home to over 200 bird species. Organic farming methods are also used to grow rice, water chestnuts and watercress.
How to get there: It’s just a 10-minute walk from Sheung Shui East Rail station. Guests can sign up for an eco-tour of the valley by contacting the Conservancy Association (9/F, Breakthrough Centre, 191-197 Woosung St., Jordan, 2728-6781, www.conservancy.org.hk).
Ping Nam Stream
Of all Hong Kong’s waterfalls, Ping Nam Stream is perhaps the most relaxing—mainly because it doesn’t require any arduous hiking to get to. Bring a straw mat, find a comfortable rock, and let the sound of running water from 70 feet high wash away your worries. If you do feel like exploring further, the Twin Falls and Ka Lung Pool are nearby.
How to get there: Take the MTR East Rail to Fan Ling station, then take minibus 56 to Nam Chung Road. Walk along Cheng Uk village toward the dam, then down the path on the right-hand side for about 45 minutes.
To really escape the city for a day, get out to Tap Mun—also known as Grass Island. With just the cows and a few other ferry passengers for company, you can enjoy a picnic on the famous grassy banks, or a special meal in the island’s only seafood restaurant.
How to get there: Take the 90-minute Polly ferry from Ma Liu Shui Pier, a 15-minute walk from University East Rail station. Alternatively, take the 94 or 96R bus from Sai Kung to Wong Shek Pier and get a 45-minute ferry from there.
Most local attempts to recreate the café atmosphere of Gay Paree fall pretty wide of the mark, but Café Lavande does have its own special charm. Just off the Mid-Levels escalator on Prince’s Terrace, this cute little spot with mix-and-match outdoor seats overlooks two art galleries a quiet footpath. You’ll find
tea, cake, and plenty of books and magazines to help you laze through an
4 Prince’s Terrace, Mid-Levels, 2537-7998.
Coffee and Calm
Main Street Café is one hidden gem we hate to have to out. Amid the traffic fumes and over-packed restaurants along Nathan Road, this quiet coffee shop with plush couches, great coffee and light snacks is the most secluded spot
B/F, Eaton Hotel, 380 Nathan Rd., Jordan, 2782-1818.
Sosam, So Good
Serenity might be the last thing you expect to find in To Kwa Wan. But tucked away on a backstreet among numerous car-repair shops is Sosam Tea House, a quaint, quiet restaurant/café with homely and comfortable décor that serves innovative Chinese dishes. Nothing beats sitting here with a book, a coffee and some toast with fermented tofu paste.
Shop 10, 1 Maidstone Rd., To Kwa Wan, 2714-3299 (closed on Mondays).
Though this neighborhood grocery store and deli isn’t the easiest place to find, it’s well worth the effort. Just around the corner from all the trendy new K-Town bars, The Grocer sells imported foodstuffs, mainly from Europe. But what we love best is the side tables for customers to sit at and tuck into their goodies when they can’t wait to bring them all the way home. Grab some fresh cheese and bread and enjoy the peaceful sound of the waves on the Praya.
Shop 1, Grand Fortune Mansion, 32-34 New Praya, Kennedy Town, 2817-0686.
Traditionally, Chinese poets would sip countless cups of tea while waiting for inspiration. While the Ming Cha Warehouse in Quarry Bay may not sit in the middle of West Lake, the tranquility of their new warehouse shop might just inspire you to write a verse or two. The salespeople are also as knowledgeable about tea as any of the old sages, and hold regular workshops where you can bone up on your tea knowledge while surrounded by fragrant leaves.
Suite 12D, Wah Ha Factory Building, 8 Shipyard Lane, Quarry Bay, 2520-2116.