I’ve been inspired by the sunshine streaming into my study today and the glorious site of the islands on the horizon across a deep blue sea. This post originally appeared on Lifestyle Asia last year, but I never uploaded it to Caustic Candy. Once again, huge thanks to Debra Meiburg for her fantastic picks.
Forget perching atop a bar stool sipping bubbly in your Choos, the best places in Hong Kong to share a bottle of Champagne require a little forethought, a cooler bag and some sensible flats to reach (don’t expect photos of these locations here I have no intention of spoiling the fun of discovering these places for the first time).
Each of these spots is best to visit at a specific time of day, and so I thought it appropriate to enlist the help of an expert and find five special Champagnes that would match perfectly.
When I say expert, what I really mean is Master of Wine and all round superstar Debra Meiburg, and I can’t thank her enough for taking the time out of her busy schedule to carefully select some truly unusual and special wines.
If you haven’t heard of Debra, where have you been? She is one of only two Masters of Wine in the whole of Asia, and apart from being an educator, speaker and journalist, she also has her own TV show Taste the Wine which you can catch on Cathay’s inflight entertainment.
1. Long Ke Wan, Sai Kung
Champagne: Pommery Summertime Blanc de Blancs NV
Going to this beach should be done on a whim when the skies are clear as the view into the bay will be at its best (I’m thinking summer with its maritime airstream).
It’s great to get here by mid-morning as the sun will sparkle off the sand and bring out the colours of the sea. With the right weather, it’s breathtaking.
Have a taxi take you to the very far end of the East Dam at High Island Reservoir. At the end of the road there is only one path up the hill, so scurry up. At the top there is a short saddle, and then suddenly below you is the perfect bay of Long Ke Wan.
Descend the hillside through the buddhist pines to the beach to enjoy some of the softest, whitest sand in Hong Kong. The horseshoe bay gets popular at weekends with motor cruisers, but mid-week or even just mid-morning it’s invariably deserted. Make sure to pre-arrange a speedboat to come and take you back to Sai Kung Town. It’s the quickest way back to civilisation, especially after a few glasses of bubbles. I get my lifestyle manager at Ten to organise this kind of thing for me — I think it, they manifest it.
2. Hor Lan Geng, Mid-Levels
Champagne: Vouette et Sorbé Saignée de Sorbe Rosé NV
One of my favourite paths on Hong Kong island Hor Lan Geng is known to some as Snake Path and to many others as Dutch Path. Winding through the trees above Bowen Road with kilometre long sections with not a splash of concrete underfoot, the path connects Magazine Gap Reservoir with Wan Chai Gap Road.
Slip away from the office and get a taxi to drop you off in the water work’s road opposite The Harbour View, 11 Magazine Gap Road.
Walk past the playground and covered reservoir to the far end where you will see a tiny path winding into the trees. Follow this path until you come out onto the concrete road some 20 minutes later and around the start of this section you will find two or three gaps in the trees where you can sit and swing your legs over the edge and enjoy stunning views over Victoria Harbour.
There is nothing quite like being in the jungle, and yet looking out over one of the most spectacular modern cityscapes in the world, especially when you know that all of those offices below are crammed with people beavering away.
Carry on until the end of the path and you will hit the crazy steepness of Wan Chai Gap Road. It’s a 100 metre haul to the top where you can grab a taxi straightaway, or go and enjoy an ice-cream at Wanchai Gap Road Playground (avoid the coffee, it tastes like pee).
Snake Path is also a brilliant place to watch Harbour Fireworks from. You’ll still need to arrive an hour or two early to get a good spot, but it’s well worth it.
3. Sham Wat Wan, Lantau
Champagne: De Sousa & Fils Cuvée des Caudalies Brut NV
For sunset, you have to be west-facing, and so we may as well go as far west as possible and pretty much as far back in time as possible to enjoy the next bottle on the sea wall at Sham Wat Wan on Lantau.
Again, this is a bit of an adventure and may mean you having to bribe the taxi driver another HK$100 to take you and wait.
To reach Sham Wat Wan by car (you can walk from Tung Chung or Tai O but it takes too long in my book for this specific endeavour), the taxi will turn left off the road that leads to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha. You will snake down the side of Lantau peak for about 15 minutes until you find yourself in the village of Sham Wat.
It’s a very old fishing village, where inhabitants dig for clams at low tide, grow their own fruit and vegetables, and farm oysters in the bay.
With the pollution from the airport and the factories of the PRC you can count on a stunning sunset, and, if you are brave enough, you can enjoy one of the famous oyster omelettes that the two village restaurants serve. It’s difficult to find a more chilled out, old-school spot in Hong Kong, and the locals are super welcoming.
4. Rock pools, above Ngau Kwo Tin, Lantau
Staying on Lantau for this next bottle, there’s nothing quite so delicious as skinny dipping in a rock pool on a hot and humid night with some good crystal-wear and an ice-cold bottle of Champagne.
My favourite pool is above Tai O at the end of a waterworks road that begins just below the Li Ka Shing funded Kwun Yam temple. You have to choose your seasons for rock pools, and the hot, rainy season is best as pools are likely to be full.
To be safe you shouldn’t really swim in them for 24 hours after heavy rain as you don’t want to be drowned by a flash flood or crushed by a landslide of boulders that sometimes get shifted in the rainy season. So exercise some common sense.
Get the taxi to drop you off in the car park on the right soon after the entrance to the Kwun Yam temple. Cross the road and follow the Water Supplies Department track for about 25 minutes to its end. There you will find a waterfall whose pool has been dammed making a lovely swimming hole. Set up your hurricane lamps and citronella coils and while away a couple of hours in one of the most secret infinity pools in Hong Kong. For those who can’t drive on Lantau, there is now the option of making a night of it by staying in the utterly charming Tai O Heritage Hotel in the old colonial police station. The establishment has dinky rooms but they beautifully furnished, and having Tai O to yourself in the morning before the hoards arrive is delightful.
5. Mount Davis Battery, Pok Fu Lam
Champagne: Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs
After a hard night’s partying, you need somewhere convenient but spectacular to watch the sunrise. For me, it’s at the summit of Mount Davis on top of the battery.
You have a wonderful view across most of Hong Kong, a fascinating network of military buildings to mooch around and some great spaces to lie down and watch the sky turn from night to day.
It’s a blissfully quiet moment in a busy city. Ask the taxi to take you to Mount Davis Youth Hostel and pay him to wait for you, otherwise you will have to wait for the minibus service to start (not a terribly sophisticated way to end this venture). You will see an incredibly steep concrete “road” continuing another 50m upwards and you just use the steps at the side to walk to the top.
Cross the huge open space (keeping left) that really should be used to host outdoor music festivals, and at the far end you will see the battery.
Clamber on top of the complex and find a comfortable spot to enjoy the view of Hong Kong coming alight; more beautiful than any laser light show. If you go at the weekend you may be disturbed (in every sense of the word), by the Airsoft brigade who use the battery as one of their battlegrounds. They aren’t usually there at dawn, but try to restrain yourself and not point out where their enemies are hiding if they happen to be there.
These are some of my favourite spots in Hong Kong, so go and find them to enjoy.