Chung Hom Kok beach

For the first part of the Easter weekend the weather in Hong Kong was lovely – sunny and warm, but not boiling hot (somewhere around 28°C) so we thought we’d take the babies for their first trip to the beach. Our requirements were to find a beach that was fairly accessible, ideally not too busy and where we could hire a sun shade. So we thought we’d give Chung Hom Kok beach a go, never having been before.

Getting to Chung Hom Kok beach is actually very straightforward. Just get on the 6X bus to Stanley (not the 6, it doesn’t go through Chung Hom Kok) and get off at the Chung Hom Kok Beach stop. We had to get another bus to get from the Kowloon side to the Island first, but it was still a pretty simple trip.

There are two things I need to warn you about though! First, the 6X goes on quite windy (meandering, not gusty) roads and depending on how your bus driver drives you might feel a little nauseous! Secondly, when you get off the bus there are a LARGE number of steps down to the beach (although luckily I didn’t find it quite as bad going back up them to get the bus home as I was expecting!). Please note that there are two bus stops on opposite sides of the roundabout at Chung Hom Kok beach because the bus does a U turn to get to the beach stop and out again so you need to check you are at the right stop to get your bus home!

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After going down all those steps and through a little park you finally hit the beach (it’s only about a 5-10 minute walk). As you reach the beach you’ll see a lifeguard station in front of you, a little shop on the left (where you can hire sun shades and get cold drinks), and changing rooms with showers and a BBQ area on the right. When we went the beach wasn’t that busy but the BBQ pits were all in use, although I think if we had wanted one we wouldn’t have waited too long for one to become free.

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The beach itself was nice and quiet, and was pretty clean with decent sand. The water was lovely and clear, and also very clean (although in Hong Kong that is highly dependent on weather patterns, so we were just lucky that it was a good day). But the water was also very cold! Of course, it’ll get warmer as the summer goes on though.

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The beach has a nice view too, looking across to Ocean Park and various islands out to sea.

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It was nice to sit on the beach and paddle (although the babies didn’t enjoy the paddling because the water was too cold!), very quiet and relaxing. The other people we were with enjoyed swimming in the sea too. If shell collecting is your thing then there were lots of shells there to choose from. I collected quite a few pieces of sea glass, which I think are really pretty although I think it is a poor reflection on the cleanliness of Hong Kong’s water and beaches that it was so plentiful! We only stayed for an hour because the babies started getting a little too hot and tired but if you don’t have babies as a limiting factor you could definitely stay a lot longer!

We really enjoyed our little trip out and would definitely go back to Chung Hom Kok beach again!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi was the last stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year (if you don’t count our stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the way home). Our primary reason for visiting was to do as little as possible on the beach!

We stayed at the Tropical Resort on Pantai Tengah. The hotel itself wasn’t on the beach but a very short (2 minute) walk down to the beach. It was a complex of 1 storey rooms and some communal areas, all very clean and well maintained. We thought it was very good value for money!

Pantai Tengah and the adjacent Pantai Cenang are the two main beaches on Langkawi and are fairly touristy, although the beach at Pantai Tengah is a lot quieter. It suited what we wanted well: there were lots of shops and restaurants near to the hotel, and Pantai Cenang had a large selection of bars and restaurants on the beach itself which was a lovely way to spend an evening. We took quite a few sunset photos!

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My only complaint about Pantai Tengah was the lack of shade. It was very exposed for most of the day, apart from very early in the morning and our hotel did not provide sun shades. This made it difficult to spend too much time in one go on the beach! We would go for a little while and spend some time in the sea, and then have to go back to the hotel to cool off!

We didn’t do that much while we were in Langkawi as we just wanted to relax, but here are some things we did do:

Cable car and waterfalls

The Langkawi cable car on the north-west side of the island will take you up to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where there are some great views over Langkawi.

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There is also a ‘sky bridge’ up there but it has been closed almost since it was open from what I can gather.

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We went by taxi from Pantai Cenang and it wasn’t that expensive. The cable car is situated in a very strange purpose-built touristy “village” which was pretty much deserted when we went. But the cable car was good fun and we got some fairly decent pictures from the top. Having read reviews online, the best advice is to pick a clear day to go as you’ll be in the clouds otherwise!

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Nearby are the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls, which are about a 15 minute walk from the cable car. Unfortunately, once you get to the bottom, there are a large number of steps up to the top! It’s quite a climb but doesn’t actually take too long. Also, you have two options: you can go all the way to the top, or stop halfway at the base of the waterfall which gives great views of the waterfall itself.

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However, if you continue up to the top, you get to the beautiful pools where you can slide from one pool to the next! The water was cool and this was lots of fun. I think we went at quite a dry time of year (January) but you could still slide between the pools.

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Boat trip

There are lots of reasonably priced boat trips which will take you round some of the outlying islands. Our hotel recommended one that was organised by a nearby agent so we went with that. For the price it was pretty good value! Plus, our boat was a lot less crowded than some of the others so I guess we picked a good company to go with (unfortunately I don’t know the name).

The first stop on the boat trip was to the Island of the Pregnant Maiden (Pulau Dayang Bunting). This island has a large freshwater lake in the middle where you can have a swim or go on a pedal boat. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the lake but it really was a beautiful spot. There were a lot of monkeys though, and they were trying to grab anything they thought might be food.

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Our next stop was at a bay where they fed sea eagles. It was certainly an impressive sight to see all the sea eagles flying around, although afterwards we heard that they attract the sea eagles by feeding them chicken skin which isn’t nourishing for them and means that they have problems forming eggshells for their offspring.

We finished at a tropical beach on a small island. Unfortunately, our boat was doing the same trip as a number of other boats so whilst we were the first to arrive and enjoy the soft sand and clear sea, it wasn’t long before it was overtaken by a number of other people! It was a nice stopover though, and the beach had lots of shade and some food and drinks vendors.

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Rampant Sailing day trip

This was our ‘splurge’ whilst we stayed in Langkawi as it was pretty expensive, but I have to admit that it was totally worth the money! This day trip aboard a beautiful catamaran promises that there will be no more than 10 of you on the boat (there were 8 the day that we went) and sails around some of the small islands around Langkawi.

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The couple that own the boat are lovely and treated us like royalty the whole day! We were supplied with cold drinks whenever we wanted, and they provided an amazing spread for lunch. The views from the boat were wonderful, and we were never bored as there were activities to do as well – from a jacuzzi-like experience in a net being towed behind the boat, to kayaking, relaxing in hammocks in the water and a stopoff for a jungle trek where Tom saw a monitor lizard!

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So, that finishes my little summary of our Malaysian holiday, which covered Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi. We had a great time and would recommend Malaysia to anyone.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Life’s a beach in Shek O

I’ve said this before, but one of the best things about Hong Kong is that it’s not all built-up busy city life, it’s really easy to get out of the city and enjoy the surrounding hills, beaches and islands. Shek O is a great example of this. It’s a laid back small village with low rise buildings and a great beach that feels miles away from the city, when it’s actually just round the corner.

The best way to get to Shek O from central Hong Kong is to take the MTR Island line east to Shau Kei Wan. Exit the MTR station at exit A3 and you’re right next to the bus station. Hop on bus 9 and 20 minutes or so later get off at the last stop, which is on the edge of Shek O. You get some great views of the coastline on the bus journey too!

When you get off the bus, in front of you is a small roundabout, by which is a Thai restaurant. I can’t actually remember the name of it but it’s pretty good and has a massive menu! It actually makes it hard to choose what to eat as there is too much choice!

To get to the beach, turn right at the roundabout. This takes you into a car park and the entrance to the beach is on the left hand side of the car park. If you go in summer or early autumn you are likely to be trailed by a lady who will rent you a sun lounger and an umbrella. The umbrella is really a ‘must’ in summer! The prices are pretty reasonable too.

The beach itself is wide and generally pretty clean and well managed. There are toilets, showers and changing areas, and also lifeguards, rafts and a shark net in summer (April to October). The water quality really varies though, I have been both when it’s been immaculate and when there’s been lots of plastic in it, it just depends on what’s carried on the currents at the time. Also, on a sunny dry day in summer, the beach gets REALLY busy. I would suggest that you visit early or late in the summer season if you want a bit more space.

This photo was taken on a weekday afternoon in late May, as you can see, the beach was pretty quiet.

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There are public BBQ pits next to the beach too, which would be a fun way to end a day on the beach. I don’t really know how they work but I guess it would just be chance whether one is free when you want to use it. I heard that you can book private BBQ pits for a slightly pricey HK$400 (approx. £35) too at Liu’s Barbecue nearby, but then you are guaranteed your own pit for the whole night, plus it comes with charcoal provided.

Shek O village is worth a little wander round too. The headland on the north side of the main beach is apparently home to some of the priciest real estate in Hong Kong – and as they are massive houses with great views, I’m not that surprised! You can see some in the background in this picture:

Shek O beach and headland

By contrast the rest of the town has a more laid back, hippy style to it. It’s a maze of small alleyways and mostly 2 storey buildings, many of which have large windows, porches and balconies for enjoying the summer weather. In true Hong Kong style, I think even these buildings are split into an apartment on each floor – it’s a real luxury to own a whole house in Hong Kong!

Door in Shek O

Shek O is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, especially off-season or during the week. If you want to see a different side of Hong Kong without leaving the island, it’s definitely worth a visit!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Go Cheung Chau!

This is what is written on the sign by the ferry pier to Cheung Chau Island in Central, Hong Kong. It always makes me smile! I think it’s just a literal translation from the Chinese, and just means something like ‘go to Cheung Chau from here’.

Cheung Chau is a really nice place to spend a day. It doesn’t take long to get to from Central (pier number 5), although it depends on whether you take a fast ferry or a normal one. The normal one takes about 50 minutes and feels like it goes incredibly slowly! The fast one takes about 30 minutes. I think they roughly alternate, but I tend to just catch the next one that is leaving and have to put up with it if it’s a slow one!

Cheung Chau Island is very close to Lantau Island. It’s a really funny shape with a very narrow part in the middle and then a much wider part at the top and bottom. I’m afraid I can’t think of a better way to describe it! The main town straddles the narrow part, and your ferry will land on one side, in amongst all the fishing boats. On the other side is a beach. I’ve only been there when it’s been pretty quiet but I reckon it gets very busy in summer! The town is really nice and laid back, especially once you walk about 5-10 minutes away from the ferry pier and escape all the other tourists. It doesn’t feel like Hong Kong, more like a holiday seaside town. Near the ferry pier are many touristy shops, the usual dried seafood sellers (smelly!) and little cafes.

Cheung Chau Island

This photo is from the north side of Cheung Chau, looking back over the town. You can clearly see the beach side from here and all the boats in the harbour on the other side.

The north side of the island has some nice views, like this one, and on a clear day also out towards Hong Kong island (it wasn’t a clear day when we went!). To walk around this side of the island, turn left when leaving the ferry pier and keep going for 5-10 minutes until you get to the Pak Tin Temple playground. Walk round the playground and stop for a brief look at the temple. To the left of the temple is a path leading upwards, follow this to the lookout spots. You can then take a path for a short walk around the north side of the island and back into town.

I have to admit that I prefer to go the other way and turn right out of the ferry pier. Keep following the path by the waterside and you walk around the bottom of the main harbour. The boats (and people!) thin out and you get views like this:

Fishing boats at Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau port

Dragon boat training on Cheung Chau

You can see some dragon boat training in the last photo – it’s really popular here in Hong Kong and people train for months in order to do a few short races during dragon boat season (which I think is in May or June). It’s really hard work – definitely doesn’t appeal to me!

Anyway, keep following the path until you come to the end of the esplanade (after about 20-30 minutes) and you can take a smaller path straight on which is signposted to another temple, or you can turn right and go up inland. I’d recommend you go inland. This path is usually very quiet. You walk through houses for about 5 minutes and then you are in the woods on the back of the island. After another couple of minutes, there’s a turning to the right – take this and follow the path down to Italian beach, which is a nice and often very quiet spot.

Italian beach, Cheung Chau

After you’ve sat on the rocks or the beach for a while, head back to the main path and continue on your way and have fun wandering the paths of the back of the island and the quieter high areas of the town. There are many routes to take and places to explore, and periodically there are signposts telling you where you are. I often wander for 30 minutes to an hour and finish up on the main beach. A very pleasant way to spend a day!

Do you have any more recommendations for things to see or do on Cheung Chau? Please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel