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The islands of Hong Kong are always abuzz, lit up with scurrying executives constantly on the move, cloud-scraping towers densely packed on the bay, exciting kitchens and bars, and a dizzying array of shops. Whatever your taste, this pulsating, never-resting city works around the clock to cook it up for you. But when all that gets a little too much, explore the fringes of the city to gain an entirely new perspective on Hong Kong. The New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel in Kowloon's Tsim Sha Tsui can make the perfect base for your exploration.
Away from the Bustle on the Surrounding Islands
The centre of this densely packed land is built like a modern beehive so it's easy to forget that Hong Kong is naturally blessed with a sprinkling of fertile islands sprawling with rolling hills and beautiful beaches, deep blue oceans, and a diversity of flora and fauna.
South of the island of Hong Kong sits Lamma Island, an ancient fishing village that's a refuge from urban life for its 6000 residents. The mix of people that calls this island home include local fishermen and shop owners as well as expatriate bohemian types and stressed-out city folk longing for a simpler life. Perfect for a day trip, this car-free island is accessible only by ferry from Central and Aberdeen. Found here are casual seafood eateries such as Lamma Rainbow where you can get a taste of fresh dishes such as fried squilla with salt and pepper and steamed star garoupa (rainbow fish). There's also a scattering of health food stores and cafes, such as the long-standing Bookworm Cafe where you can order toothsome vegetarian dishes, smoothies and coffee.
A little off to the west, at the mouth of China's Pearl River, is Hong Kong's largest island, Lantau. This island teems with protected wildlife and offers stillness, fresh crisp air, and if you're lucky, a sighting of Chinese white dolphins off the coast. For a glimpse of the no-frills fishing life that was once Hong Kong, visit the 300-year-old settlement of Tai O where many of the houses are still built on stilts above the water. Outdoor types can take to the trails and soak in sunshine and views of the South China Sea from the picturesque 70-kilometre Lantau Trail.
The bottommost tip of Hong Kong island is now hiply called Southside and spans areas such as Ap Lei Chau Island, Aberdeen, Repulse Bay, and Shek O. It's made up of a diverse cluster of neighbourhoods and industries and has recently gained nods from the local in-crowd for being stylishly out of the way. The spacious industrial spaces here have given birth to art galleries such as Blindspot Gallery and Gallery Exit as well as interesting well-hidden concepts like Cargo 5, 3/3rds, and Elephant Grounds Coffee + Kitchen.
To experience old-school ambience, head to Aberdeen. Despite Hong Kong's fast-changing landscape, many locals have stuck to their traditional line of work: fishing. The centre of the action is at Aberdeen fishing village where scores of fishing boats come in daily to sort and sell their catch. Come on board a docked boat for a sea-fresh meal or reserve a table at the famous Jumbo Kingdom for a taste of Cantonese seafood dishes such as drunken shrimp and steamed crab with garlic and chilli.
When you forgo the usual tourist spots and instead traipse through the outskirts of Hong Kong's beautiful islands, you'll see this city in a totally different light. From the rustic charm of hippie-esque enclaves to hiking trails surrounded by awe-inspiring nature, there is always more than meets the eye when you travel off the beaten path.