When most people think of Hong Kong, biking and nature are not the first things that come to mind. Instead, it’s bright lights, skyscrapers, lack of personal space and the tallest hotel in the world—the Ritz Carlton. Although these are some of the more popular attractions in the city, the magic doesn’t stop there. Hop on a train and travel thirty minutes from the downtown area and you’ll arrive at Tai Po Market, a traditional residential area with an array of surprises for you and your family.
Choosing your bicycles
Located on the East Rail Line of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, it is a busy station constantly filled with foot traffic from residents, students and curious tourists. Walk about 15 minutes from the station to Tung Cheong Street (東昌街) where you will find Tokyo Bicycle Centre. Take a moment to enjoy your child’s excitement over the colors: the subtle white bikes with a dash of color on the rims or the neon yellow bikes that stand out on the bike paths. After you choose your bike, the shopkeeper will help you to a nearby alleyway where he will adjust the height and let you test ride to ensure the bicycles are comfortable for both you and your child.
There are multiple bike rental shops in the area. The cost will vary between $20 and $60 HKD per day depending on the shop, which equates to roughly three to seven USD. The return times vary as well, with some as late as 8 p.m. Most require you to pay the daily rental fee and deposit an ID card before you can take the bikes out.
On the move
The Tolo Harbor Cycle Track is a 20-kilometer bike route that runs alongside the harbor, providing active families with the unique smell of salt water and a stunning view of the mountains. There are blue street signs indicating which side of the track bikers should use to prevent accidents with pedestrians. The pink informational signs will indicate which direction you should go to reach your destination.
You and your child will experience a sense of calm while riding with the tranquil harbor on one side and the highway on the other. It is a magnificent reminder of the beauty of traveling—these roads are able to take you from the middle of the towering concrete jungle to the harbor side where the buildings are merely dots in a distance.
Along the path, there are two parks that you can spend the afternoon in. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Park is hard to miss with modern architecture. Surrounded by state-of-the-art buildings that serve as a space for technological innovation and collaboration, you and your child can roam around and admire the architecture. Hunt for the unique Charles K. Kao Auditorium, a golden oval-shaped dome that looks like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie.
Last but not least, cool off from the heat with a free Science Explorer tour. Watch as your little scientist learns in amazement! The tour teaches the history behind and development of everyday technology. Within TechUniverse, one of the four main sections of the tour, your child will be astonished to experience gesture recognition and see how his emotional responses can be detected and analyzed.
With lush trees, a children’s playground and a lookout tower with a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Tolo Harbor and picturesque mountainside, the Tai Po Waterfront Park is the green oasis for children who enjoy time spent outdoors. Another place to escape the smog of the city, many locals and visitors come for their daily jog or to relax on the waterfront promenade. Watch as the seabirds and kites fly and dive in the reflection of the water. Walk through the maze of the park and introduce your child to the creepy crawlers in the insect house. Soon enough, they will be showing off their finest bug-sighting skills.
Off to the market
When you’ve returned the bikes to the bicycle center, it’s a short walk to the Tai Po Market and Cooked Food Centre. The modern building is a large, white complex with glass curtain walls that allow more daylight in. As soon as you walk in, you will be met with a variety of foreign aromas and feel the hustle and bustle of the city as you observe a mix of maids and the elderly purchasing their meals for the day.
There is a peculiar blend of the sounds of voices, loud chopping and fish scaling. The raw poultry hanging in the stalls and fish flapping on the counter stand out among the rest. Beware of the fish jumping out at you and your little one! Wander with your child to fulfill his curiosity as you come across all kinds of fresh meat and seafood that your kid may never have seen before.
Filling little bellies
You may build up an appetite looking at fresh food in the market so head up to the second floor for some authentic Hong Kong cooking. Overcome a language barrier by looking at mouth-watering photos of the food options and observing what other people are eating. If you are having trouble deciding what to eat, most of the locals and stall owners will be ecstatic to help you order and suggest the best dishes on the menu for you.
Try the soup of the day—Hong Kong locals make delicious and healthy soup. Even if you don’t know what the ingredients are, you can be sure it is good for you. The deep-fried mantis pod with garlic and garlic squid ink noodles are among the most popular dishes. Encourage your child to try everything once, as it may be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. It may not be as comfortable, but the food will likely leave you and your child wanting more.
While here, you will sit in chairs bolted to the ground, use plastic chopsticks taken from a tall tin can, drink Chinese tea from white glass teacups and eat flavorful Hong Kong cuisine. It will be like nothing else you come across in the more touristy neighborhoods of the city. Not to mention, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a tiring yet fulfilling biking adventure.
Joanne Lam was born and raised in Hong Kong and has been traveling with her family for as long as she can remember. She worked as a teacher assistant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a year before completing her undergraduate degree at Emerson College with a focus on communication and business studies. You can follow Jo on Twitter at @jo_lam