While visiting Hong Kong, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Lantau Island. Strolling through the city, there’s no shortage of fun foods to try and sites to see. But Lantau Island is a bit of a different pace, and it’s a great way to experience a bit of the countryside.
Day Trip From Hong Kong – Lantau Island and Sai Kung
For a fun day trip away from the city, I recommend visiting Lantau Island and Sai Kung where you can see the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monestary, partake in a tea ceremony, try some delicious vegetarian food, and indulge in sweet pineapple buns.
In the seaside area of Sai Kung, there’s a legendary bakery with a queue outside that wraps around the building. Usually, that’s sure indicator of excellent food, and the comforting scent of fresh baked bread confirmed that this treat is worth the wait.
Sai Kung Pineapple Buns
While in line, I watched as a baker emerged from a side door every five minutes or so with a steaming hot pan full of puffed up yellow rolls. My guide informed me that these were Hong Kong‘s famous “pineapple buns,” named after their golden crust that cracks into a crisscross pattern.
Fresh out of the oven, they were almost too hot to hold. I passed the bun back and forth between my hands to let it cool, but my impatient craving to taste the delicious sweet scent had me pulling apart the soft dough with my fingertips and relishing the crunch of the sugary crust that makes these pastries so popular. Had we not had other plans for the rest of the day, I would have happily returned to the end of the queue and waited another hour just to have another.
After a indulging in pineapple buns, we headed over to Lantau Island climb the stairs up to the Big Buddha and enjoy a vegetarian lunch at the monastery. But before we made the climb, we sat down at Linong Tea to experience a tea demonstration.
Green tea happens to be one of my favorite afternoon pick-me-ups at home, but typically I just throw a tea bag in a mug and nuke it for a minute. This process was much more beautiful, more delicate.
First, the tea is washed to “awaken” it to its true flavor. Then, hot water is poured over ceramic ‘tea pets’ that change color when the water is at just the right temperature. After ceremoniously nourishing the tea pets, the tea is brewed in a clear glass kettle so we can witness the tea blooming. It’s beautiful to watch as the tightly bound tea leaves open into a flower. Once ready, the tea is shared between our thimble sized cups — light in color, floral in flavor, and supposedly packed with medicinal benefits.
It was the perfect afternoon refreshment before exploring the rest of Lantau Island and climbing the steps to reach the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery. There are 268 steps, which feels like a bit of a fitness challenge, but the views from the top are worth it.
You can get to Lantau Island by train (there are very easy directions on the tourism board’s website), by taxi, or by private guide.
This post was originally published Jan 17, 2014, and updated in 2019.
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