Kenneth Yap wanders out to Hongkong's New Territories hoping to find some good luck, bet on a winner and learn about ancient China.
PRAY FOR BLESSINGSChe Kung Temple, a five-minute walk from the MTR train station (along the Ma On Shan line), which also bears its name, is a popular place of worship because of a reputation for granting good luck. It was built by villagers to honour General Che Kung’s magical ability to halt epidemics, as well as his courage and loyalty to his emperor and people. After Che Kung’s death, he became so revered that he grew to be regarded as a deity. The original structure, dating back 300 years, has been preserved and is located at the back of the building now in use that resembles a Japanese shrine. At the altar is a giant statue of Che Kung and in the main hall is a fan, which, when turned three times, is believed to bring blessings. Fortune tellers are found to the left of the main entrance. Admission is free, but it is customary for visitors to make a donation towards temple maintenance. Open daily from 0700 to 1800, www.ctc.org.hk VISIT THE BIG HOUSE Tsang Tai Uk (Big House of the Tsang clan) was built in 1848 by prosperous stonemason Tsang Koon Maan, who owned a quarry at Sai Wan Ho and a masonry at Shau Kei Wan. With business flourishing, he decided to build a village for his descendents. Said to have taken 20 years to construct, the ancient compound is built around five courtyards, with an ancestral hall in the centre. Visitors enter through one of the village’s three elaborately designed iron gates, with the two previously used wells in the front courtyard and the roofs specially designed to ward off evil spirits. Open daily from 0900 to 1700. Admission is free. tel 852 2609 1312. TRY YOUR LUCK You haven’t felt the real Hongkong vibe until you’ve tried out its favourite pastime – going to the races. A testament to its popularity, the Hongkong Jockey Club, the sole licensed operator of horse racing, is the single largest local taxpayer, contributing approximately 8.2 percent or HK$12.64 billion (US$1.62 billion) of tax revenue in 2006 alone. Weekly races on Saturdays see throngs eager to try their luck at striking it rich. Entry to the Public Enclosure costs HK$10 (US$1.28), while foreign visitors can experience the luxurious Members’ Enclosure for HK$100 (US$12.8) on normal racedays, but be sure to bring along your passport. Getting there is easy on racedays, with frequent train services running to the racecourse station. Otherwise, it is an easy 15-minute walk from Fo Tan train station. Gates usually open on Saturdays at 1100, while races tend to start at 1300 and end by 1800. Check www.hkjc.com for more information. CRUISE THE MALL Located in the heart of Shatin’s town centre, New Town Plaza is promoted as one of the biggest and best shopping experiences in Hongkong. Lucky are the trendy young residents and families of the New Territories who are the main target of the mall’s array of shops and restaurants. For their retail pleasure are over 360 stores offering well-known brands such as Zara and Marks & Spencer, while a cinema and a hotel enhance the place’s appeal. For the young ones, Asia’s first “Snoopy’s World” outdoor playground is a treat. Most establishments open daily from 1000 to 2200, while Snoopy World opens from 1000 to 2000, www.newtownplaza.com.hk DON'T MISS THE MUSEUM The Hongkong Heritage Museum provides a comprehensive insight into both Hongkong and ancient Chinese history. Opened in 2000, the 32,000-square-metre facility features 12 exhibition galleries, of which half permanently showcase the museum’s collections. These include the Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall, New Territories Heritage Hall and T T Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, which displays Chinese artefacts from the former Tsui Museum of Art. Admission is free for all on Wednesdays and is HK$10 (US$1.28) for adults on all other days. The museum is about a 15-minute walk from Sha Tin station or five minutes from Che Kung Temple station. Opening hours are from 1000 to 1800 on weekdays (closed on Tuesdays) and 1000 to 1900 on Sundays and public holidays, www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk