Gift Guide: Less Stuff, More Experiences
What do you get the person who has everything? Refrain from buying the same old, tired gift and branch out a bit. Get them something that can’t necessarily be wrapped but will be an experience they’ll never forget. Want to know what we’re talking about? Read on and get inspired…
A day hiking the mountains outside the city, immersed in nature and surrounded by waterfalls should do the trick for the adventurous type. The three-hour hike ($319) on the fabulous setting of Tai Mo Shan mountain offers a glimpse of small villages, ancient temples and gorgeous waterfalls including Ng Tung Chai and the famous “Main Falls”, the highest in Hong Kong.
The gift of travel – who would say no to that? Flight Centre’s gift cards will make their eyes pop, helping bring their travel dreams closer to reality. And it needn’t be a splurge, as the cards can be loaded for any value between $350 and $30,000. Are they worth a short hop to the beaches of Da Nang, Vietnam or a luxury getaway to Fiji? Either way, this is a gift card that won’t be forgotten in a drawer.
Join the city’s craft beer boom and learn how to make your own. HK Brewcraft’s homebrewing workshop is a 3-hour crash course on how to brew beer at home. They supply all the ingredients and equipment, along with a lesson in the four basic elements of beer and six basic steps of brewing. The workshop costs $680 per person, or $600 each for a group of four friends or more. After three weeks of watching yeast and grains transform into delicious suds, you’ll be able to crack open a bottle of your very own brew, complete with beer labels you made yourself.
If you know someone who’s a real foodie and has checked out all the top restaurants in the city, mix things up a bit and surprise them with a seafood dinner on a sampan. It’s a truly authentic Hong Kong experience that shouldn’t be missed, as you dine aboard a swaying sampan boat on the water. This food tour from popular local guide and blogger Humid with a Chance of Fishballs costs $888 per person and includes a five-course seafood feast, including the famous Spicy Typhoon Shelter Crab and a traditional ceremony to “scare off evil spirits”, all washed down with some Chinese wine.
If hanging off rocks and zipping over the water is more their style, nothing beats a day of zip lining and abseiling with Hong Kong’s spectacular scenery as a backdrop. Experienced local zip lining instructors guide a group of daredevils over stunning views on a remarkable trek across the island. The 6-8 hour adventure costs $680 via Klook.
Meals in a box are all the rage, but they entail actually cooking. Instead, let them sit back in a beautiful setting and indulge in a night of delectable food prepared by a talented chef. Andrea Oschetti’s Cuore Private Kitchen is one of the most popular choices in town, serving a four-course Italian dinner using top ingredients imported directly from Italy, in the comfort of his amazing loft. Chef Oschetti’s large space in Wong Chuck Hang, adorned with curios and art from his many world travels, can entertain a minimum of 15 people at $880 a head (excluding drinks). It’s a great gift idea for getting together dear friends or family.
Maybe you’ve had one too many of your friend’s rock-hard cupcakes, or you’d like to do some baking bonding with your little one. The Mixing Bowl has several enjoyable classes for kids and adults alike, whether they’d like to master the art of French baking, or make their own bread. Classes start at $550 and last around 2.5 to 3 hours, with a home-baked snack and coffee or tea served during the lesson. The best part is you’ll be able to take home everything you bake! Vouchers (valid for 6 months after purchase) are available to make gift-giving easier, in denominations of $300, $500 and $700.
This is a great way to say I REALLY like you to that someone special, as when the gift includes a helicopter ride, it’s no ordinary present. The iconic Peninsula Hotel has teamed up with Heliservices for a real treat, taking guests from The Peninsula’s rooftop helipad on a thrilling 15-minute flight over the city, paired with a luxury hotel experience. Choose from a spa treatment (“Fly and Relax”, starting at $14,715) dining (“Fly and Dine”, starting at $9,843) high tea (“Fly and Tea”, starting at $4,256) or a stay in one of The Peninsula’s luxurious suites (“Fly and Room”, $8,890).
Adrenaline junkies, start your engines. BlackArts Racing lets amateurs zoom around their Zhuhai International Circuit, with different tailored driving experiences available (prices vary depending on type). A Formula racing background isn’t necessary, as a professional instructor and team will be on hand to help, logging lap times and looking after the car, making them feel like a regular Andretti.
A fully guided horse riding lesson in Hong Kong’s beautiful Clearwater Bay Country Park is a lovely present for horse lovers, or those curious to ride the beautiful creatures for the first time. Two people can enjoy a 2-hour private horseback excursion, including 40 minutes of horse riding time, a stable tour, plus horse care and stable management instruction for $2,298. For a little bit extra, they’ll throw in balloons for some festive fun.
Treasure those special moments with a family photo session (from $3,600), whether you want to treat yourself or extend the love to family or friends. Paula Weston is well known in the city for capturing memorable moments in dynamic outdoor HK settings. Her lively and candid photography, be it on a neon sign-splattered Kowloon street or a tranquil beach, makes for a unique keepsake.
Time to perfect that swing! A 60-minute session ($1,280) with the pros at GOLFTEC will please the avid golfer in your life, or someone wishing to start. Help them improve their game with one-on-one instruction from a personal coach who will provide a custom plan, plus instant video analysis and motion measurement. No cleats required, as classes take place indoors with special technology imitating a putting green.
The water sports enthusiast who has tried everything probably has never ridden a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat). These “4x4s of the seas” are a thrilling way to see Hong Kong from a completely different angle, with daily trips departing from Aberdeen with Zoom Adventure RIBS. RIBS go fast but the ride is comfortable and safe, which is why they’re the preferred boats of rescue services, marine police and Special Forces.
A present never to be forgotten – spending half a day with the world’s pinkest dolphins right here in Hong Kong. The trip from Hong Kong Dolphinwatch includes return coach transport from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lantau Island, where a luxury cruiser awaits to take you out on the sea for the main event. Experienced guides will be on hand offering information on all things dolphins, and light refreshments will be served on board. The educational and exciting adventure is priced at $460 per adult, $230 per child aged 3-11 or $50 per child under 3.
Imagine spending a night under the sea. Well, now your loved ones kind of can at a sleepover in Ocean Park’s Grand Aquarium. The “Nighttime in the Ocean’s Depths” package (starting at $1,185 per adult, $1,035 per child) has dates scheduled throughout the year. It includes dinner with an incredible view of the Grand Aquarium’s main tank, then breakfast the next morning after a night observing and sleeping beside more than 5,000 fish and sea creatures.
There is no shortage of pampering locales in Hong Kong, what with the many 5-star plush hotels dotted around the city. We all know someone who deserves a day of indulgence, and one of the famed spa experiences in town is at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Couples can have the pleasure of their own private spa suite, gentleman may opt for bespoke treatment at The Mandarin Barber (known for their legendary Shanghainese pedicure), and there’s opulent massages, facials and wellness programmes for everyone else on your list (prices vary depending on treatment).
Let them be a pop star for a day with a recording session and CD to take home ($1,900). This is perfect for teens, or that spouse who’s often crooning in the shower. They’ll get to spend the day in a recording studio and sing a track of their choice, then design their own CD cover. Once they’ve got the perfect take, the recording will be professionally edited by qualified sound engineers, who will hand over five copies of what could be the next best-selling album.
Break out the spray cans and your inner urban artist with a street art session from Pantone C. Participants will make their own cool stencil art to transform a choice of two items (canvas, bag or T-shirt). The affordable two-hour workshop ($488 per person) is an entertaining gift for ages 10 and up, and comes conveniently presented courtesy of Red Packet.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London, who will happily accept any spa voucher this Christmas.