Hong Kong- a little off the beaten track
Hong Kong is usually associated with bright lights and skyscrapers but that’s not all it has to offer
Beginning a trip to Hong Kong with a visit to its lesser known New Territories is a bit like taking a detour to Whitstable before hitting the bright lights of London.
The region's quiet sandy bays and relaxed feel are a million miles away from the frenetic urban image usually associated with Hong Kong -but they are still well worth a look.
Before the 1980s the New Territories were mainly rural farmland, but in more recent years they've rapidly developed with new housing and hotels springing up all over.
The area we chose to start with was called Castle Peak Bay, which is about a 30-minute drive from the main Hong Kong Island.
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Our base was the Gold Coast resort, which had its own private beach and overlooked a pretty harbour -lined with expensive looking yachts -called Dolphin Bay.
After exploring the hotel's well kept grounds, housing tennis courts, a pool and an impressive pagoda in the centre, we settled down to observe a local wedding reception taking place.
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It was quite a spectacle to see the bride floating around in a voluminous white creation as the Gold Coast staff brought out what seemed like endless courses of food for the guests. We later enjoyed our own little feast of one of the hotel's tasty specialities -barbecue braised porThe next day began with a trip to the nearby Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue or the "Big Buddha", which is nestled on the high plateau of Ngong Ping in the Lantau hills.
We initially took a cable car up to see the gigantic bronze Buddha, which gave us a chance to take in the incredible views across the mountain range, before getting some serious exercise walking the rest of the way up 268 steps.
Once at the top we also visited the historic Po Lin Buddhist monastery, dating back to 1906.
Sadly, with the monks engrossed in their daily prayers we narrowly missed out on the chance to dine at the monastery's recommended vegetarian restaurant.
In terms of getting round, we were advised by the ever-friendly staff at the Gold Coast to get an Octopus card -which is Hong Kong's equivalent to an Oyster card. So getting back to the hotel we just used our card to jump on the shuttle bus.
The last night of our short stay in the New Territories was spent exploring the sprawling modern shopping complex linked to the resort. Not the most romantic place, but it did include a surprisingly wide variety of restaurants ranging from Italian and Chinese to Thai and Indian.
We opted for an Italian -which in hindsight was something of a mistake. It turned out that this type of cuisine is perhaps not a strong suit for South East Asian chefs.
On day three it was goodbye beach life and hello neon lights and busy city when we left for Kowloon.
Our destination was the iconic Victoria Harbour and the Five Star InterContinental Hotel. The contrast could not have been greater.
Pulling up in a taxi at the door of the InterContinental was like being transported into Park Lane -times 10. Aston Martins, Porsches, Mercedes and Ferraris lined the pathway to the entrance.
But with a mission to see Hong Kong rather than simply gaze at the bells and whistles of our hotel we headed straight out on a shopping trip.
Most of the stores near the InterContinental are dedicated to high-end brands, with names such as Rolex, Hermes and Chanel jumping out everywhere.
But once we headed away from millionaire's row we found a more affordable shopping precinct, before deciding to jump head first into HK madness.
We headed over to Nathan Road - the main thoroughfare through the famous Kowloon tourist area -where we bought the obligatory Chinese fans.
And with limited time it was straight onto the equally well-know Stanley Market, which sells everything from art to clothes.
We unsuccessfully attempted to haggle over a pair of Levi jeans and then just bought them for the price offered anyway.
At the end of the day we treated ourselves to a pricey meal at one of the hotel's four restaurants, The Steak House, where we were offered 12 different types of salt.
And after a heady day of tourism the previous day, we then opted for a more off the beaten track experience by visiting a nearby food market with hotel chef Simon. Here, without another tourist in sight, we plunged into the maelstrom of shoppers buying fruit, veg, live fish, sharks, chickens, herbal medicines and all manner of other unfamiliar delicacies.
It was something of a culture shock to say the least.
Then it was back to the more refined confines of the hotel's Alain Ducasse restaurant, Spoon, for a cooking lesson.
Thankfully shark wasn't on the menu but a lesson in how to prepare fillet of lamb and make an Easter egg from scratch were.
A two-hour meal followed where the whole class enjoyed the fruits of their (or more accurately the chef's) labour.
Our final excursion of the day was an evening walk which led us over the famous Avenue of Stars where we were treated to Hong Kong's spectacular nightly laser show. With coloured light beams criss-crossing the harbour from building to building, the skyscrapers seemed to be communicating through the illuminations. It honestly was an amazing sight to behold.