5 alternative Hong Kong hotels: It's all about island living
If Hong Kong hotels were awarded stars for originality and character rather than swank facilities and bowing-and-scraping, then this quintet of alternative hotels would head the list.
Cheung Chau B&B
Cheung Chau’s accommodation tally hovers between the Scylla of overlarge, dowdy hotels and the Charybidis of in-and-out short timers. Step forward the B&B: bright, friendly, welcoming, why isn’t there a rash of similar hostelries across the island?
Roughly in the middle of the handle of the dumbbell-shaped island, the B&B’s more of an inn than a conventional bed-and-breakfast. Steps from the beach, a few more steps from the main restaurant strip, it’s in the hub of things yet very pleasantly secluded.
The rooms (standard, deluxe, suite) are on the small side, but merrily decorated. Hop up to the roof terrace for a panorama of village, harbor and the sea beyond. When the Michelin inspectors came through town in 2008 they turned their noses up at this joint -- the fools!
Silver Lining on Lantau
Search in vain for another Hong Kong hotel with a pukka beach on its doorstep; there ain’t one, and that includes the so-called Gold Coast.
The Silvermine Beach Resort gives itself few airs and graces -- the rooms are low-key, the restaurant’s more hooray than gourmet, you can lap the pool in a couple of strokes, and the gym’s a long way from California. This, however, is part of the attraction of the Silvermine -- no high pressure stuff, just the essential bed and board with a few nice frills.
The resort plays host to crowds of Mainlanders, budget-minded business travelers, mom/pop +2.4 groupings, and a discreet assemblage of long-stayers who tend to congregate in the bar of an evening to tackle the international beer selection.
A great bolt-hole, or simply a pied-à-terre for exploring the rest of Lantau, even if you never get further than the beach.
Room prices from HK$480. Silvermine Bay, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, +852 6810 0111
It’s called Palm Beach, but Hong Kong’s most audacious accommodation owes as much to Dakota as it does to Florida. The Tipi Village at Palm Beach is primarily aimed at large groups -- a single 30-foot wigwam can hold up to 20 -- rather than Hiawatha and Mini Haha on a romantic break.
The tipis are decorated with hand-painted artworks and come equipped with traditional Indian mattresses and fire pits. So it’s a cool party joint, and cooler still thanks to the water sports center (kayaks, windsurfers, a whole bunch of boards) that’s part of Palm Beach. It’s said that it’s location that really makes a hotel, and there’s no quarrel with that aphorism here. Cheung Sha, on Lantau’s southern coast, is one of the SAR’s prettiest beaches, relatively clean and with a grandstand view of the ferries skimming across the horizon to and from Macau like so many jet-propelled water beetles.
Rental for a 12-foot tipi (sleeps four) starts at HK$450. On Cheung Sha Beach, +852 2980 4822 www.palmbeach.com.hk
Eastern Eden at Tung Ping Chau
First of all, don’t get Tung Ping Chau (way out east near the border with China) mixed up with Peng Chau (next to Discovery Bay on Lantau). Suffice to say that illegal immigrants who leap-frogged their way across to Hong Kong may well have slept as comfortably here as lodgers do at the Ping Chau Store nowadays. It’s essentially a dorm, with bunk beds, open only at the weekends and public holidays and other times when the owner feels so minded. But at HK$30 a head, Hong Kong’s cheapest lodging is also one of its most idyllic.
A day can be spent exploring the uninhabited island ringed by a marine park that has some amazing coral and is lightly wooded. End it with seafood which can be supplemented by your own picnic. There is, unsurprisingly, no website to surf: call ahead as reservations are essential.
Ping Chau Store, Lei Uk, Tung Ping Chau, +852 2661 6941
Teahouse in Plover Cover
In numerous other countries, hiking along a chain of inns or bed-and-breakfasts has become a well-established form of vacation. Sad to say, the Fook Lee Teahouse is about the only accommodation between Sha Tin and Shenzhen, and its sister establishments in the country parks have yet to open. No matter, for Fook Lee is a gem.
The teahouse is in the hamlet of Sam A Tsuen, in Plover Cove Country Park, a two-hour hike from the main road. The three guestrooms are adequate but entertain no great flights of fancy as far as interior décor is concerned. Simple but incredibly fresh fare is served up in the kitchen. And as for nightlife, there’s a brilliant son-et-lumiere staged by the heavens, rendered visible by the dearth of artificial light.
Again, it’s more than wise to reserve ahead (+852 9789 8295); rates are HK$80 a head. Fook Lee Teahouse, Sam A Tsuen, Sha Tau Kok, +852 9789 8295.