Now that it is officially autumn, we’re over the heat and humidity and ready to start experiencing cooler weather. Of course, this being Hong Kong, we’ll have to wait a bit for that to happen here. Thankfully you can take a quick flight to experience the full glory of autumn – gorgeous leaves, sweaters and boots are only a few hours away! Here are our top 5 picks. Pack your bags!
Leaves peak mid to late November to early December
You’ll want to take advantage of leaf peeping season by walking through some of Tokyo’s lovely parks. Hamarikyu Gardens is on the river and easily accessible via the subway.
For a stunning view of golden ginkgo leaves, stroll down Icho Namiki Avenue which is situated within Meiji Jingu Gaien Park. The avenue starts about a block away from Aoyama-Itchome Subway Station so it is easy to access without walking too far! Other parks to check out include; Shinjuku Gyoen, Koishikawa Korakuen, Rikugien, and Imperial East Garden. If you fancy venturing further into nature you can plan to hike Mount Takao, which is in the mountains outside of Tokyo. You can even take a chair lift or cable car up a portion of it so you don’t need to be an avid hiker.
We suggest you rely on your hotel’s concierge to point you in the right direction for everything from where to eat to having them write out addresses in Japanese so you can use a taxi without language issues. Also, the subway looks far more complicated than it actually is and you should totally use it.
For more Tokyo specifics, check out Sassy’s 24-hour guide to Tokyo
Flight Time: 4.5 to 4 hours and 50 minutes.
Airport: Hong Kong Express flies directly to Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND). It takes about an hour to get into Tokyo from Narita. Take the bus – it is comfortable and easy. A taxi costs a bomb and doesn’t offer any additional comfort. Fun fact: Hong Kong and Tokyo have the exact same taxis!
Other things to consider: The Shinkansen, or bullet train, makes it very easy to travel outside of Tokyo for a few days. Head south to Kyoto (and be sure to keep an eye out for views of Mt. Fuji and more foliage from the train) or Osaka to round out your trip to Japan.
Leaves peak end of October into mid-November
Pop culture and beauty products (and procedures) might come to mind when you think of Korea but we can assure you that the country has so much more to offer. Like many world capitals, Seoul has an exciting mix of modern and traditional woven throughout the city’s architecture, fashion, and food.
The top choice for city leaf viewing is Namsan Park but you’ll want to pull yourself away from the city after a day or two so you can make your way to Seoraksan National Park – the place to see autumn leaves and to decompress away from it all. The park is a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Seoul. You should also consider Odaesen National Park (about 2 hours away on bus), the Garden of Morning Calm, located in Gapyeong (2.5 hours away), and the Gangchon Rail Park where you can pedal on special bikes fixed to old train tracks while you gaze at the trees. We like to note that most parks have serious food vendors at the entrance (buckwheat noodles, BBQ meat, etc.) and Koreans are known for enjoying a good drink after their hikes.
Flight Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes to 4 hours and 15 minutes depending on what kind of plane you’re on and which direction you are going.
Airport: Hong Kong Express flies directly to Incheon (ICN) and you can get amazing prices pending your itinerary. It takes about an hour to get into Seoul from the airport but longer if there is bad traffic (and there has always been traffic in our experience!). We’ve taken the bus and had a hotel car pick us up and both options are okay. Also, don’t forget to the airport early – the duty-free options here are pretty good with lots of brands we don’t always see on the regular.
Peak time: mid-October but there should be foliage through early November
A little more than an hour car ride from Beijing, you’ll find yourself in front of one of the great manmade wonders of the world. The Great Wall is easily accessible by taxi and most hotels can book private or well-priced tours.
Juyongguan, Badaling and Mutianyu are probably the most accessible places to walk on the wall and they are restored. You can make an epic hike out of it and even camp on the wall. Or, if you aren’t up for a hike, Badaling (downside: this part is crowded) and Mutianyu have cable cars that bring you to the wall (sign us up!). Either way, you’ll be able to take in all the sights and get all the Instagram shots. After spending about 3-4 hours at the wall you’ll be ready to head back to the comforts of your hotel. Make sure to make time to explore Beijing itself.
Read more: 72 Hours in Beijing and where to stay in Beijing
Flight Time: Three and a half to four hours to Beijing
Airport: There are a lot of well-priced options direct from Hong Kong into Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) with a variety of carriers. If you are staying in Beijing, it is a 30-minute Airport Express train ride into the city.
Other things to consider: Don’t forget your visa. For your trip to the wall, it is recommended to bring sturdy shoes with grips – even the restored areas are uneven. Also, skip weekends and holidays to avoid huge crowds (easier said than done). Fun fact: You can take a mile-long toboggan ride from the Mutianyu area of the wall to the village at the bottom!
Leaves peak in November
You might not need a proper woolly sweater in Taipei but you can still get into the Autumn mood by taking in the stunning maple leaves. It goes without saying that your first order of business will be a trip to Din Tai Fung (the chain was founded in Taipei).
Once you have a full stomach, an hour and a half drive from Taipei will bring you to the Xiao Wulai Scenic Area, which is a one-stop shop for waterfalls, forest and of course, the colourful maple leaves. If you fancy taking a hike, head to Manapan Mountain (just under two hours from Taipei) for fantastic views. Another great option for a short hike is Aowanta National Forest Recreation Area. A little over 1km hike will bring you to three waterfalls and the freshest air your poor Hong Kong lungs haven’t inhaled in quite a while. Totally worth the 3-hour drive from Taipei.
Flight Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Airport: There are a lot of well-priced options direct from Hong Kong into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Other things to consider: The higher you go in altitude, the redder the maple leaves so it is worth seeking higher ground on your hikes here!
Peak time – September and October
We’re in Asia so we’re expanding our definition of foliage to include rice. Okay, this might be cheating a little bit but once you lay your eyes (and camera) on the stunning terraced rice paddies you’ll be on board! Once the rice fields turn a blazing yellow, it is time for the harvest season to start so you’ll have to act quickly to get there before they disappear. Note that while it is a quick flight to Hanoi, it can be a bit of a ride on the bus, a motorbike or combo of train and bus to get to Mu Cang Chai.
Flight Time: Under 2 hours
Airport: You’ll fly into Hanoi, which is an easy and cheap flight most weekends. We like Hong Kong Airlines’ prices and flight times.
Other things to consider: You’ll want to add a day/night in Hanoi on each end of your trip to eat bun and enjoy the other amazing meals. Stay at the Apricot Hotel for a treat to break up your trip. The hotel can also help you book a motorbike or bus to Mu Cang Chai.