I enjoy experiencing different sides to Hong Kong and an MTR ride to Sha Tin in the New Territories is a worthwhile side trip away from the frantic pace of the inner city.
Sha Tin is largely made up of public and private housing residential complexes and has the accompanying shopping malls (I have reviewed NEW TOWN PLAZA in my shopping tips) that you find everywhere in Hong Kong. Sha Tin is also home to some important Hong Kong landmarks including the Hong Kong Heritage Museum (reviewed separately in things to do tips and the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The Prince of Wales Hospital which is the largest hospital in the New Territories is also located here.
However the Sha Tin Racecourse is probably the most visited landmark as gambling is the most popular local pastime. It is one of two horse racing venues in Hong Kong, the other being the famous Happy Valley Racecourse on Hong Kong Island (reviewed separately). Sha Tin has the capacity to hold around 85, 000 people and is administered (like Happy Valley) by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
For visitors to Hong Kong who would like to attend a thoroughbred horse racing meeting you will find that racing is normally held on some Wednesdays and most Saturdays and Sundays. Entry to the public enclosure is just HK$10.00. Payments can be made using your Octopus Card.
If you are a tourist, you may go into the Members Enclosure by purchasing a Tourist Badge for HK$100 on normal race days or for HK$150 on major race days. You will need to show your passport at the Members Badge Office which is located at the Main Entrance of the Members' Enclosure.
The MTR East line stops at a station adjacent to the track on race days only.
Horse gambling is a huge business in Hong Kong. In fact, gambling in general is huge, whether it is betting on horses, a game of mahjong, or a football match.
You can have a close up look at the horses in the parade ring.
Even if you don't gamble, you can still go and enjoy the huge green space in the middle of the track called Penfold Park. The park is well-known for birdwatchers. Part of the racecourse and the park was used for the 2008 Olympic Games equestrian event.
Admission to the race track area is HK$10. I think Penfold Park is free to enter daily, but closed during horse racing days and non-holiday Mondays.
The race track can be easily accessed by the MTR East Rail, just a short walk from Racecourse Station. There are also buses and minibuses stopping in front of the main entrance.
For a nominal entrance fee (10 HKD), you can go watch weekend horseracing at the course in Sha Tin. It's a unique local custom passed down from the British and can't be found anywhere else in China. Take the KCR train there and get off at the Race Course station (or follow the crowd of men on the train listening to handheld radios or reading about their favorite horses on the newspaper).
Shatin used to be a tiny village along the Shing Mun river in the middle of the New Territories and has since developed to a metropolitan city with a population of more than 700,000.
Apart from its horse-racing, Shatin also has one of Hong Kong's biggest shopping malls, the New Town Plaza. You will automatically step into it once you exit from Shatin's KCR (railway) station. A perfect place for shop-a-holics.
However, one of the sights that not many people are aware of (even though mentioned in most travel guides) , is the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. Founded in 1950, the monastery is probably the most interesting one in the whole New Territories.
The temple was built on the top of a hill and can be reached by some 400 steps leading up the hill. Don't get confused with the impressive monastery/cemetery that sits right beneath the temple. The path leads AROUND the cemetery, through the woods and up the hill.
On the inner walls of the temple hall are shelves with lots of tiny golden Buddha statues. In total there are now about 13,000 statues, all of similar height but rendered in slightly different positions.
How to get there?
Take the KCR (railway) until Shatin station, exit towards the bus terminus, turn left and follow a ramp leading down to the taxi and minibus stands. From there, you will already find signboards guiding your way to the monastery, which is about 5 minutes from the station (keep left).
Shatin is a large modern town in the New Territories. The KCR (train) will bring you into a large shopping centre (New Town Plaza) with 8 floors of shopping. Sha Tin Town Hall is right next to the shopping complex which also serves as a Hong Kong Arts Festival venue.
Wandering outside of the complex you have the Shun Mun River with several bridges spanning it and a park along side of the river. The Lantern festival is held there every year.
More in my Temples travelogue
This picture shows Shatin City Hall in the far left & Snoopy Adventure Playpark on the right. Look how cute the characters are ! ! ^_^
Anyways, the picture was taken at the rooftop terrace of Shatin's biggest Shopping Centre, which is crowded to the max all the time.
Shatin is accessible by bus & KCR. Get off at Shatin station, it is really hard to miss.
Also nearby is Shatin's Racetrack, one of HK's biggest.
By taking the KCR north from Kowloon/Hong Kong Island, you could reach Shatin. Once considered a wilderness area before the seventies, it is now one of Hong Kong's biggest neighbourhoods. Since land area in this area is small, its shopping centres & public areas can get really crowded. Many times, even worst than in Causeway Bay or MongKok.
The most popular attractions in the area include the Shatin Race Track & the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
In the picture is the Annual Dragon Boat Race.
Shatin in New Territories which can be reached by the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) . This place will make you feel as if you've left Hong Kong . Attractions here include the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery , Che Kung Temple and a poorly marked Tsang Tai Uk , an authentic Hakka Village .
Other than the famous shopping area in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, you can visit New Town Plaza in Shatin. Shatin can be reached by KCR (the local train system). New Town Plaza is the role model of Hong Kong shopping center. You must take a look of it.
The suburb of Shatin is quite an ugly place full of highrises, but it has quite nice shopping fascilities. Today more than 500,000 people live there. A second horse racing course was built there. You can reach Shatin with the Kowloon Canton Railway in a few minutes. The first big shopping mall is located directly next to the Shatin Station.
This is a photo of Grand Central Plaza (about 300 metres from Shatin Station). It contains many shops, for example IKEA, a swedish furniture store.
About 500m west of Shatin is the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery.
A must if you're into buddha's but also a great place to visit for everyone else. Take the KCR to Shatin station and go trough the left-hand exit, following the signs.
It's quite a climb up (400 odd steps), but it's worth it!
The monastery was built in the 1950's and there are actually 12,800 miniature buddha's in the main temple. There's a nine level pagoda with larger than life statues of buddha followers in front of the temple.
Walk up a few more steps to find a smaller temple huosing the embalmed body of the founding monk who died in 1965.
The monastery is free, altough it is polite to leave a donation to help pay for the temple's upkeep.
Back in Kowloon, we took the train north to Sha Tin, another modern suburb. BUT there is the Temple of the 10 000 Buddhas. You´ll reach it over 400 steps.
Temple of a 10000 Buddhas. Take the commuter train to the suburbs, then climd up hundreds of steps to get there. And you'll find the garish temple - but it does have 10000 buddhas.