Hong Kong’s secret beaches – how to escape the tourist trail

Contrary to how it likes to advertise itself to the rest of the world, Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls. As a coastal territory it has beaches a-plenty, and if you venture off the well-beaten tourist trail, you’ll be richly rewarded with golden sands, clear waters and (often) not a soul around.

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Larks a-plenty at Yau Ley (High Island) in Hong Kong’s New Territories

 

Yau Ley and Millionaire’s Bay, New Territories

Both beaches require boat transportation, although it is possible to hike to Yau Ley from Sai Kung Country Park (however it’s a challenging hike and we wouldn’t recommend it in the heat with little ones). Haggle a deal with the sampan ladies on Sai Kung Pier or book a speedboat through High Island Seafood restaurant on Yau Ley. The restaurant is the draw-card here: it lays on a fabulous seafood feast, after which the kids can enjoy jetty-jumping off the small pier or playing on the sand next to the restaurant. Glorious Millionaire’s Beach is just around the corner in the next bay, and if you ask nicely the restaurant is usually willing to drop you off after lunch for an additional charge.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Yau Ley turn-off inside Sai Kung Country Park East

 

Hap Mun Bay, New Territories

Another sandy destination that can only be reached by sampan, Hap Mun (or “Half Moon”) Bay is a beautiful crescent of a beach on Sharp Island. Approach one of the sampan ladies (or kaito – small ferry operators) on Sai Kung pier – a round trip should cost about $40-50 per person. Hap Mun is the smaller of the two beaches located on Sharp Island, while Kiu Tsui stretches along the western edge. The water quality is generally good at Hap Mun and there are handy family-friendly facilities including toilets, changing rooms, showers, kiosks and barbecue pits. As with all Hong Kong beaches, mid-week is much quieter than weekends.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, taxi to Sai Kung

 

Trio Beach, New Territories

Beloved by Sai Kung’s locals, this beach can get crowded on weekends, but as it’s reasonable challenging to reach (a five-kilometre hike from the Sai Kung branch of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club or a sampan from Pak Sha Wan Pier), it tends to be quieter mid-week than many of Hong Kong’s more popular beaches. There is parking on Pak Sha Wan pier, from where you can catch one of two sampans that chug backwards and forwards all day to little Trio. Once you’ve disembarked, you’ll find a kiosk, BBQs (charcoal is available from the kiosk) and a children’s play area. The swimming area is protected and boasts a dive platform, and the beach is lifeguarded until the end of the summer.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, taxi to Pak Sha Wan

 

Turtle Cove, Hong Kong Island

Slip through the gap in the barrier just past Pak Pat Shan Road at Redhill Peninsula on Tai Tam Road and be transported to Hong Kong’s version of The Beach. The steep path winds through mountain-side terrain, gurgling streams gush seawards and you aren’t rewarded with a glimpse of the golden sands until you round the final bend. This is not a walk for strollers, so make sure you bring a carrier or sling for tiny tots. The beach itself boasts a small kiosk, lifeguards and a protected cove for swimming. Be warned, though: parking is practically non-existent up on the road, so a taxi is probably your best bet.

Nearest MTR, Ocean Park or Chai Wan, taxi to Redhill Peninsula

 

St Stephen’s Beach, Hong Kong Island

Head through Stanley on Wong Ma Kok Road and take a sharp right turn onto Wong Ma Kok Path (St Stephen’s College is also signposted here). There are a handful of metered parking spots at the bottom of the hill by the water. The sandy little beach has glorious views stretching back towards Stanley and The Twins hiking trails – it also faces west so expect fabulous sunsets on clear days. The beach is lifeguarded and the shallows are perfect for tiny beachgoers, so don’t forget your bucket and spade. There’s also a protected swimming area for those wanting a more substantial dip.

Nearest MTR, Ocean Park or Chai Wan, taxi to St Stephen’s Beach

 

Chung Hom Kok, Hong Kong Island

This tucked-away neighbourhood beach is a beauty. It’s just around the corner from Stanley but its sands are a lot quieter. Head down the leafy steps hidden on Horizon Drive. It’s a steep descent and not particularly stroller-friendly (take a sling if you have non-walkers), but it’s totally worth the effort. At the bottom you’ll find a children’s play area, barbecue pits and a compact stretch of life-guarded sand. There’s only one little kiosk serving small snacks and drinks, so if you plan on a picnic or barbecue you’ll bring your own supplies. The kids will have a ball splashing in the shallows.

Nearest MTR – Ocean Park, taxi to Horizon Drive, Chung Hom Kok

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Blue sky days in Clearwater Bay, New Territories

Clearwater Bay First Beach, New Territories

Clearwater Bay 2’s less-well-known little sister, pretty Clearwater Bay First Beach sits nestled in the northern crook of Clearwater Bay. The sand is clean and there is protected swimming to be had in the bay. Reached the beach from the main road by heading downhill by foot on Tai Wan Tau Road. There is some parking off Clearwater Bay Road by Shing Kee Store, otherwise park at Hang Hau MTR and grab a taxi. Expect crystal-clear waters, fewer visitors and a lifeguarded stretch of sand. There is no kiosk so bring your own supplies.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau, taxi to Shing Kee Store, Clearwater Bay Road

 

Hoi Ha Wan, New Territories

Lovely Hoi Ha is hidden inside Sai Kung East Country Park, which means you can’t drive there. The strict permit rules at the Country Park gates at Pak Tam Chung make green taxis (about $100 for a return journey) or the number seven minibus from Sai Kung Pier the order of the day. The beach is part of one of Hong Kong’s Marine Parks so it’s worth bringing the snorkels along. Hop off the bus at Hoi Ha Village and make your way past the village and towards the restaurants and beach. The bay boasts 64 of the 84 species of stony corals found in Hong Kong and the area has been a site of scientific interest since the 1980s. Kayaks are also available for hire, and when the tide’s in this is a fun way to paddle out to the corals. Please note dogs are not allowed on the beach on weekends. On an environmental note, corals should not be touched or taken away – stick with the adage “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories” (although the odd photo is fine).

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Hoi Ha inside Sai Kung East Country Park

 

Long Ke Wan, New Territories

Secluded Long Ke Wan can only be reached by foot or boat. Visually stunning, the beach is a long way from the bustle of the city and is arguably one of the best beaches in Hong Kong. On weekends the bay fills with junks, but its silky, icing-sugar sands tend to stay relatively quiet. If you’re hiking, catch a green taxi from Sai Kung or from the Country Park gates at Pak Tam Chung to East Dam. With the South China Sea on your right, you’ll soon see a sign to Long Ke Wan, from where you hike down to the beach. This walk is a section of Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail. Please note there is no kiosk or restaurant on the beach so do bring plenty of water and supplies. If you’d rather travel by water, head to Sai Kung Pier and charter a speedboat. Last summer drivers were charging up to $800 one way.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Long Ke Wan turn-off inside Sai Kung East Country Park

 

Turtle time

One to avoid this summer, and with good reason, is beautiful Turtle Beach on the southern coast of Lamma Island. The beach is a regular turtle-nesting site for endangered green sea turtles, and it’s currently their breeding season. Environmental groups are asking hikers, beach-goers and junk boats to steer clear of the area to give the little fellas a chance.

 

Sumptuous summer afternoon teas you won’t want to miss

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Life’s peachy at the Island Shangri-La this summer

Whether you have guests in town or just fancy an afternoon in the air con, afternoon tea is the perfect summer holiday respite, says Carolynne Dear. Pinkies out

The Kerry Hotel

The Kerry Hotel has invited award-winning French chocolatier Christophe Renou to design an exclusive Kerry Chokolate Afternoon Tea. Sweet treats include a decadent Tout en Choc – a chocolate torte whipped up using an exclusive chocolate recipe developed by in-house chefs with chocolatier Valrhona; a rum-soaked baba-boule with pineapple and vanilla whipped ganache (I have to admit a personal weakness for rum baba); and a cute little pot of verrine dame blanche. Savoury bites include bitesize rolls of king crab, yuzu aioli, cucumber and caviar; smoked poached baby pear with goats cheese; semi-dried tomato and foie gras terrine on brioche; and delicate poached organic chicken wraps . And of course there are plenty of fresh scones (both traditional and with candied orange) with lashings of clotted cream, berry preserve and apricot jam to complete the feast. 

The tea is available until September 3, 2.30-5.30pm daily, $538 for two. lobbylounge.khhk@thekerryhotels.com

Island Shangri-La

The Island Shangri-La has unveiled a limited-time only Peaches & Cream tea (pictured above). Pick your way through a smorgasbord of lavish ingredients, including air-dried Wagyu beef and peach on bruschetta, poached scallop and shrimp with lemon confit on spinach bread, plus a selection of delish sandwiches – white tuna mayonnaise is served on rye bread, while cream cheese is served between toasted walnut bread. Peach tart, Champagne mousse with peach, peach melba eclair, white peach and red currant mousse and peach mint macaroon polish things off beautifully.

$338/person, $558 for two; Mon-Fri, 3-6pm; Sat, Sun and public holidays, 2-6pm; until Aug 31; shangri-la.com

Kowloon Shangri-La

The Kowloon Shangri-La is pulling out all the stops to celebrate its 37th birthday with a pink-infused tea. And you can add sparkle to the event with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose in honour of the 200th birthday of the first blended rose by the formidable Madame Clicquot. The tea includes hand-crafted raspberry, sakura and Champagne jam with cranberry scones, pink rose Champagne and lychee jelly, plus savoury treats Balik-style salmon on blini, and lobster salad and beet sandwiches. Additional extras if you’re enjoying a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose include yellowfin tuna tartare brioche with ricotta cream and pink pepper-blanched peaches, goat cheese tortilla wafer served with blackberry compote and confit orange zest, and watermelon and rose petal shooter with white chocolate palmier.

Enjoy the tea between 2 and 5pm, Monday to Friday, $498 for two without Champagne, or $698 for two with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose and special items. http://www.shangri-la.com

Chocolate treats for two at The Kerry Hotel

EAST

Quarry Bay-based hotel EAST has launched a floral-inspired afternoon tea. Waft in on a weekend and enjoy beautiful blossoms infused into a sumptuous summer spread. Delicacies include a lychee rose chiffon, blueberry butterfly pea tart and cherry blossom macarons, as well as fruit scones (naturally) and triple cheesecake. Imaginative savoury bites including lobster treasure box, goose liver creme brulee, Hokkaido scallop tartlet and beet pesto crostini.  

The afternoon tea set is available between 3 and 5.30pm on weekends and public holidays, $368 for two and an additional $240/extra person. reservations@sugar-hongkong.com

 

Grand Hyatt

Cool off at Tiffin in the Grand Hyatt with a scoop of ice cream alongside your tea. Following a campaign earlier this year inviting Hong Kongers to come up with some inventive new flavours, the hotel is now including six of the best as part of its afternoon tea set. The intriguingly named Pigs can Fly, Frozen Lederhosen, So Thai and Royal Fantasy feature ingredients as diverse as salted egg yolk and pork floss to mango sticky rice and coconut. Meanwhile, the tea-stand is host to decadent salted caramel chocolate cake, raspberry cheese tart, pistachio profiterole, apricot jelly and Greek yoghurt mousse with honey lemon.

The tea is available 3.30-5.30pm daily, $298/person or $596 for two, and on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays at $328/person or $656 for two. www.hongkong.grand.hyattrestaurants.com

 

 

How it all began – or how a suburban family-of-six bagged a party lifestyle in Honkers

‘The Call’ comes through while I’m at the dentist, breastfeeding the baby, trying vainly to stop the toddler from sweeping all the magazines off the reception coffee table and overseeing the preschooler stutter through her reader. The seven-year-old is snuggly ensconced in the dentist’s chair watching Ice Age while I am being earnestly told that she needs a filling.
“Oh my goodness, I make sure she brushes her teeth every day!” I protest weakly, hooking the phone under my ear as I switch the baby to the other side.

It’s my husband on the line.

“Seriously, this is not a good time,” I mutter, trying to smile winningly and confidently at the dentist – I am a mother who knows what she is doing, not a rubbish mummy who forgets to wash and clean her children (not every day, anyway).

“My boss John’s resigned,” comes the hushed reply.

“What, Hong Kong John?”

“Yes, I’ve been offered his job.”

“Oh, that’s great!” I’m mentally calculating whether the promotion and subsequent pay-rise will be enough to pay for a new kitchen. “Hang on a minute, but Hong Kong John’s based in – Hong Kong?”

“Um, yes…”

The penny, or perhaps the dollar, drops. In my mind, I travel back in time to a hard-won few days off to visit to a friend in Singapore the year before – the maid, the driver, the spotless apartment, the swimming pool, the beautifully cooked dinners, the immaculately ironed laundry, the cocktails, the fancy restaurants, the fun… I think of my own home, the breakfast detritus still on the table, the dishwasher unloaded, the Cheerios stuck to the walls, the overflowing washing basket. I won’t go on.

“Sign the contract!” I squeak. “Have they sent it through? Sign it! Get it sent though now!”

“Why don’t we sit down and talk about it over the weekend?” suggests my level-headed husband. “It’s a big decision.”

“Sign. The. Contract. Now.” I demand through gritted teeth as the toddler sends the receptionist’s latte flying.

Three weeks later and the house is packed up, the furniture either sold, given away, donated to charity or left on the nature strip, six one-way business class tickets have been purchased, and we’re on our way.

Now, I realised we would be landing at Chek Lap Kok late at night, so of course it would be dark, but I still entertain elaborate visions of swimming pools and cocktails and elegant waiters serving me afternoon tea on arrival. Meanwhile, back on board CX100, the toddler has vomited up the Chuppa Chup kindly given to her by the air stewardess and the seven-year-old has locked herself in the bathroom. (Note to self, never, ever travel with kids in business again).

But what I hadn’t bargained for on arrival was the typhoon. Or the rain.

We are whisked to our serviced apartment in the pitch black, water streaming down the windscreen and lightning bolts streaking across the sky. We tumble out at Parkview and are taken to our rooms. A cot sits in the master bedroom (oh joy, sharing a bedroom with an insomniac nine-month-old is always such fun) and there is only one other room. The seven-year-old, the preschooler and the toddler will have to share the one other bed.

What follows are the toughest, funniest, most exhausting weeks of my life as we settle into Hong Kong life. My husband disappears off to work the following day and doesn’t return until midnight due to a mysteriously-labelled ‘black’ rainstorm (or possibly he discovered the Captain’s Bar; no doubt I’ll never know the truth), I am introduced to heaps of lovely ladies who all genuinely seem to want to have lunch or dinner with me (all suggestions are followed up with an emailed invitation the following day, something that rarely happens back ‘home’; “I can fit in a quick coffee in six weeks time?” tends to be the depressing norm), and what’s more, I actually go to all those lunches and dinners.

And the fun has never really ended. In the ensuing eight years, we’ve climbed mountains, kayaked the South China Sea, entered half marathons, gone to places we never would have anticipated visiting, made – and lost – a ton of friends, had posh brunches in hotels and enjoyed not-so-posh barbecues on boats and beaches. We’ve haggled in markets, investigated temples, stuffed ourselves with dim sum and drunk our own bodyweight in fancy French champagne. We’ve entertained guests from out of town, shown newbies around, celebrated landmark birthdays and anniversaries and enjoyed the longest of lunches. In short, we’ve had a ball.

Hong Kong grabs you like that. It’s sometimes not the easiest of places – I dream of the day the supermarket duopoly is smashed and a gleaming, competitively-priced Carrefour or Sainsbury’s opens up somewhere on the plains of Yuen Long – and some days it can be hot and sweaty and frustratingly you don’t achieve anything on your ‘to do’ list.

But mostly it’s fun, and ridiculous, and extreme, and fast-paced and alive. Which is why we hope to be here for many more years to come.

Oh, and the dentists are pretty good, too.

 

A green initiative to keep Hong Kong’s beaches clean

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Clean and green – Hong Kong just the way we like it

On a blue sky day, Hong Kong is nothing short of spectacular. But if a typhoon blows in, or a dodgy tide, so does a whole heap of rubbish and its beaches end up trashed. And it’s not just Hong Kong that is bearing the brunt of our obsession with throwaway plastic – there has been a marked and noticeable increase in the amount of rubbish strewn washing up on beaches all over South East Asia during the last couple of years.

With this in mind, two Clearwater Bay mums have launched The Green 52, an environmental blog aimed at encouraging followers to make lasting changes to their everyday lives to help reduce environmental impact.

Every Monday a green challenge will be posted on the blog and on Wednesday it will be explained how to achieve the challenge in Hong Kong.

“We will not preach, we will not make people feel guilty, rather we want to provide weekly, practical and manageable ideas on how to become more environmentally-friendly,” said co-founder Zoe Stevenson.

The pair, both British expats and Clearwater Bay residents, have five children under nine years between them and say the initiative was sparked by the worrying change in the environment that their kids are growing up in. “We are both lucky enough to live near the beach but over the past six years the amount of plastic washing ashore has increased dramatically,” explained fellow founder Laura Tyson. “It’s now easier for our children to collect bottle tops than shells.”

“We don’t expect people to do all the challenges, although that of course would be fabulous,” said Stevenson.

Sign up at thegreen52.com.

Women-only art exhibition comes to Hong Kong

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Art On The Line is the city’s largest international art exhibit and sale featuring exclusively women artists

Hong Kong’s American Women’s Association (AWA) is launching a charity women-only art exhibition and auction, Art On The Line.

Over 200 artworks by professional, amateur and student artists from around the world will be displayed for one night only, hanging on a line. This year’s artistic line-up hails from countries including Germany, the US, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, creating what is Hong Kong’s largest international art exhibit and sale featuring exclusively women artists.

“It’s such a coup to have this collection of such great artists all in one place,” said co-chair J’nee Hilgers-Easter. “Not only to kick off ‘Art Month’ in Hong Kong, but also raise the profile of these enormous talents right before International Women’s Day on March 8th. It’s an honor to be able to showcase these women and celebrate their achievements while doing good for the community.”

All money raised from the event will go to charities and scholarships that serve Hong Kong’s community. Previous Art On The Line events have raised over $500,000.

Art On The Line takes place 6-10pm, March 1, The Annex, Nan Fung Place, 2F-6, 173 Des Voeux Road, Central. Follow the event on Facebook or see www.awa.org.hk.

Rags to recycling

Start 2018 as you mean to go on – reduce, reuse and recycle. An environmental initiative from local university student Kathryn Davies hopes to rid Hong Kong of plastic bags. Find out how to join the movement…

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All sewn up. Davies with her shopping bags made of recycled scraps from the textile industry

What’s the big idea?

My big idea is to kill two birds with one stone – upcycle unwanted fabrics such as scraps from the textile or hotel industry to stop them going to landfill; and to create reusable, cloth bags that are a cheap alternative to plastic shopping bags. A further goal is to offer employment to those in need, particularly women.

How did it come about?

I was working on a PhD at Hong Kong University (HKU) until quite recently, but I was frustrated with the disconnect between lofty research and down-to-earth problems. Since being in Hong Kong, I’ve been mesmerized by the stunning natural environment that we have, but through participating in beach cleanups I have been heartbroken to see the senseless, even selfish, damage that we are causing. So, I decided to focus my time on doing something practical that would address the very real problem of plastic bag pollution. I thought putting together my skills with sewing would be the most realistic thing I could do.

So how does it work?

I want to create new systems of consumption and shopping so that there are reusable bags in place of plastic ones. The idea might involve rethinking how we can conveniently get reusable bags to where people need them – such as the supermarket or bakery – and how we could create a system for returning them. We’re very much in the planning stages at the moment.

How long has the idea taken to evolve?

It’s been brewing in my mind for a couple of years – as a PhD student you do a lot of procrastinating – but it was last September that we started to set the ball rolling by collecting fabric and sewing our first bags. We have just completed our first semester working with HKU social venture management students and we are still considering how best to move the idea forward. In the near future we hope to reach out to businesses who could distribute the bags, either as packaging for their products or directly into supermarkets.

How can readers get involved?

I hope one day all Hong Kongers will have a convenient reusable bag option available to them as an alternative to plastic bags. We may not be able to accomplish this easily in Hong Kong, so we may have to start by distributing the cloth bags to other countries where laws and habits are already favourable to less plastic consumption. I would encourage everyone to always carry a reusable bag with them – with each small change a difference is made. And I’ve discovered myself that it’s really not that inconvenient to live without disposable packaging. I’m also hoping to start up volunteer workshops, so people can come and help us sort and cut up the fabric to send to the ladies who sew for us. I’d love for Expat Parent readers to like us on Facebook and follow us when we advertise sales at local markets. Please do drop us a line and order some bags – our first prototypes! We hope to formally launch mid-year and have a website up and running by the end of this month, so stay tuned.

Follow Davies and her team at facebook.com/StitchUpX/

 

Yoga poseur

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Taking time out between yoga classes in Central, Hong Kong

 

From bubbly tv presenter to energetic party organiser, it’s been a rollercoaster journey to yogic bliss for Mindy Tagliente. She tells Carolynne Dear her Hong Kong story

When I was at university in England in the early ‘90s, I used to come to Hong Kong to visit family, look after my cousins and work in the bars. This was during the long summer holidays and I needed to bump up my finances for study. I totally loved the fast pace and buzz of the city. So much so that after I graduated I made the decision that this was the perfect place to start my career in television. I moved on April 17 1997 – I remember it clearly.

There have since been many highs and many lows – but luckily mainly highs. One of my biggest career highlights was presenting and producing a children’s show on ATV. I was pretty much given free reign and I tried to empower children by raising awareness about various, cultural, social and environmental issues.

The lowest point was when my programme was axed. It was decided that there would be now more English speaking productions filmed in Hong Kong. That was a turning point in my career.

I headed a start-up company in 2000 that focused on empowering young people through on and off-line market research, entertainment and online television. It was a great project but a little bit forward thinking. Not many people believed us when we said in a few years everything would be accessible from their phones! Sometimes timing is everything. So I decided to take a step back from the corporate world and start a family.

These days I’m a yoga instructor living in Sai Kung with my husband and three children. Yoga and wellness have always been a big part of my life so I thought it would be a good thing for me to pursue. I thought teaching yoga would allow me a degree of fIexibility (both literally and figuratively!) whilst concentrating on starting a family. So in 2004 I ended up founding Yoga For Life, the first organisation in Hong Kong to offer private yoga classes at home. I then went on to co-found Events for Life with a good friend – we organise all kinds of things, including wellness retreats.

I love everything about yoga. It keeps me young, grounds me after 20 years of practising and it’s become a huge part of my life. The physical aspects, like that all-round sense of well-being that you feel after every class, is just one reason why I would recommend yoga to anyone of any age. For me, it creates space in my body and space in my life, which allows me to see situations more objectively. It allows me to respond to events instead of react to them – well, most of the time. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to bring your mind and your emotions into a physical practice. Over time, you find you get better at aligning them and you finally manage to arrive at that place you never thought was possible – a handstand for instance. It’s an incredible feeling.

I teach classes all over Hong Kong. Although private classes is the majority of my work, I do hold a couple of group sessions in Tseung Kwan O and once a month I hold half-day retreats at Five Elements at the Hong Kong Golf and Tennis Academy in Sai Kung. These retreats include yoga, wellness treatments and the best plant-based lunches in Hong Kong at the Academy’s vegan restaurant.

Life is hectic, but in my spare time I like nothing better than hanging with my family in my pyjamas watching a good movie. If I’m out and about, I love heading over to Sham Shui Po to source new ideas for our events business. And I love my home in Sai Kung for its hikes, countryside and laid back nature – a rare thing in Hong Kong.

My favourite spot in Hong Kong? The view from the Peak at night – it still sends shivers down my spine after 20 years.

I have no resolutions this year. I gave them up a couple of years ago after realising I was just putting more pressure on myself to achieve goals that were often unrealistic. Ironically once I stopped making them, they started happening.

Contact Yoga For Life at mindy@yogaforlife.com.hk or WhatsApp 9748 4567.