Hong Kong is home to thousands of expats many of whom work in the city’s highly respected financial or legal sectors. Most work in high-pressure jobs and look forward to the weekends when they can enjoy a well-earned break. As a truly cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong has everything an expat would desire in terms of entertainment and excellent restaurants. However, these are all activities that you can enjoy at any time, but if you want to spend it with family and friends, Hong Kong has so much to offer.
When parents and students first visit our international school in Hong Kong, they have often never lived in or even visited Hong Kong before. The expat lifestyle maybe something completely new, and as such, they are naturally apprehensive about their work, the change of culture and, of course, making new friends. As it is a topic that frequently crops up, we thought we would give you an insight into a few of the things that expats do at the weekend.
When outsiders picture Hong Kong, they usually imagine a bustling city and a vibrant way of life. Sometimes they imagine the harbour area, but often the beaches go overlooked. Hong Kong has some excellent beaches, such as Repulse Bay, the largest and most popular beach, often filled with expats. The beach is at the southern end of Hong Kong Island and is ideal for families with lifeguards on hand and plenty of options when it comes to dining.
Other popular beaches include Tai Long Wan, a particularly scenic beach with a magnificent mountain backdrop, Tai Wan To (Power Station Beach), which attracts runners, and Big Wave Bay, as the name suggests, attracts water sports enthusiasts. Other places of note are South Bay, Stanley, Cheung Sha Beach and Shek O Beach.
Golf is an incredibly popular pastime in Hong Kong, and if it is a sport that you enjoy playing, you in luck, as there is an abundance of golf courses in Hong Kong. It is pretty common for expats to have their favourite course, and like anywhere else in the world, they all have their own little quirks. Some of the most popular golf clubs, as many have more than one course, include Hong Kong Golf Club, Clearwater Bay Golf Course, Discovery Bay Golf Club and The Jockey Club.
All have excellent facilities and are well maintained throughout the year. The prices vary considerably, with some courses requiring players to have an official handicap and others insisting that guests must play with a member. It is worth shopping around or joining a golf society as this will grant you access to more courses, often at discounted rates. Naturally, golf societies are a great way to meet like-minded people, and après golf has always played an essential role in the social aspect.
3. Shopping & Nightlife
A significant proportion of Hong Kong’s shopping, the larger malls at least, and nightlife are in the Central and Wan Chai areas with excellent shopping available in Causeway Bay. The Western Market is in an impressive Edwardian-Style building close to Sheung Wan Station. If you prefer something more authentic, there is a large market at Mong Kok in Kowloon where you can quite literally buy everything from clothes to goldfish!
In Yau Ma Tei, you will find the Temple Street night market and the jade market, which are excellent places to take visiting friends. When it comes to nightlife, Hong Kong has something for everyone, including stylish cocktail bars to buzzing nightclubs that continue into the small hours. Most expats tend to enjoy a meal in one of the superb restaurants and then hit the nightlife, which doesn’t typically kick into life until later in the evening.
We often find that new visitors to Hong Kong are amazed by the amount of greenery available. Hiking is a surprisingly popular way to while away the weekend, exploring the hills outside the city or on the surrounding islands. There are thirty-eight hiking trails in Hong Kong, the best known being the Hong Kong Trail, which takes in five country parks, the Maclehose Trail in the New Territories and the Lantau Trail.
The trails are all well signposted and can be reached by public transport or by car. Some trails are more challenging than others with steep climbs and sharp descents. However, the paths are carefully maintained, although we would always recommend wearing appropriate footwear and, of course, jackets in the winter months.
5. Surrounding Islands
Sometimes it is easy to forget that Hong Kong is far more than Hong Kong Island, with some of the surrounding islands being excellent places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city at weekends. Lantau, famed for its 85 foot high Buddha, is the largest of Hong Kong’s islands and can easily be reached by ferry or bus from Central. Lamma Island is another option for expats, and it has an abundance of pubs, western restaurants, and some fabulous authentic Chinese restaurants.
Cheung Chai is a small island with excellent beaches, cafes and a historic temple, while Peng Chau is another small island with a laid back way of life – a complete contrast to that you experience on Hong Kong Island. Both islands can easily be reached by ferries that run from Central to Cheung Chai, with a ferry running to Mui Wo from there.
6. Junk Boat
A typical weekend pastime with many expats in Hong Kong is to hire a Junk Boat. Of course, this is more appealing in the hot and humid months when you can head out onto the ocean to visit islands such as Lantau and Sai Kung to relax. If you are a seafood lover, Po Toi and Lamma islands have some outstanding seafood restaurants.
Alternatively, you could hire a boat between friends and enjoy a meal on board. Most of the boats can comfortably accommodate 20 adults and some children, with boats available from the main public piers at Aberdeen, Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai. Group trips can represent excellent value for money, and if you are new to the area, a great way to meet some new people and see Hong Kong from a different perspective.