Hong Kong has several trails of varying difficulties to cater to adventure-seekers of every fitness level
Hong Kong has several trails of varying difficulties to cater to adventure-seekers of every fitness level

The Hong Kong that most people know is one that never sleeps - a retail paradise lined as much with side shops and roadside as it is with swanky malls stocked with international labels; a dining destination filled with early morning yum cha sessions (tea with light snacks known as dim sum ) and late night suppers at cha chaan tengs (restaurants).

But there is a side of Hong Kong that is equally beguiling though less explored that I would like to introduce to you. This is the Hong Kong that can only be appreciated on foot as you venture into its many nature trails. So, strap on your hiking boots; we are taking the road less travelled.

1. Start Out Easy with Ngong Ping Fun Trail

About the Trail

Most people who visit my city do not realise it but Hong Kong is really more steep slopes than sophisticated city. About 40 per cent of the land is country parks and nature reserve while only about a quarter is developed.

For the novice hiker, Ngong Ping Fun Trail is a fun trail to begin with. Set on Lantau Island, the trail connects popular tourist spots in Tung Chung and Ngong Ping in an easy-to-manage walk. Following the series of specially constructed concrete and stone paths, steps, and timbre boardwalks will take you through mountains and valleys as well as under the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car for an up-close encounter with Nature.

The trail begins at the Ngong Ping bus terminus (a train, ferry, and bus ride away from Somerset Victoria Park Hong Kong). A tree-lined footpath next to Po Lin Monastery will bring you to the Tea Garden. Along the way, you can take in the splendid sight of Lantau Peak, the city’s second tallest peak and Nei Lak Shan, which, at 751 metres above sea level, is just the sixth highest mountain in Hong Kong.

Look out for the Tree Walk where you can see the 20 native plants commonly seen in Ngong Ping. You will also be able to spy the tranquil Shek Pik Reservoir, Hong Kong’s third largest reservoir. Your last stop is the Aroma Walk where the area’s famous Misty Tea grows. Feed your senses with the heady fragrance of the tea leaves.

Refuel After the Rendezvous

Along the Ngong Pin Fun Trail is the Buddhist Ancient Walk which takes you to Po Lin Monastery. Apart from the fact that the world’s largest sitting Buddha, the Tian Tan Buddha, looms 34 metres above the spiritual sanctuary, the monastery is also famous for its vegetarian delicacies and aromatic tea. Once you have conquered the 268 steps that takes you to the Buddha’s feet and found your way back down, settle in at a communal table for a meal of your choice of either rice or noodles accompanied by an assortment of vegetarian dishes.

2. Progress to Pottinger Peak Country Trail

About the Trail

Pottinger Peak Country Trail is a popular trail with the locals because of the excellent view of Big Wave Bay, Shek O, Sui Sai, and Junk Bay that it affords. It is slightly more challenging because the steeper but what makes the trek easier are the steps that snake their way to the summit.

500 steps up and you will encounter a Viewing Compass Marker. From here, there are three routes you can take. A left will bring you to the View Compass Area; a right will take you all the way to the top of the peak; and straight ahead is the way to Big Wave Bay. My advice is take a left first. This will get you to a sheltered resting area where you can have a little break.

Then go back to the crossroad and take a left to reach the top of the trail. Once you have conquered the peak, get back down and make your way down to Big Wave Bay.

Refuel After the Rendezvous

Big Wave Bay is a surfer’s hangout. If hitting the water is not your thing, there are several restaurants nearby that you can choose from to chill out after your hike. I recommend Sister Wah Clear Broth Beef Brisket Café. Beef brisket broth is one of the local comfort foods that should not be missed. At Sister Wah’s, the broth is thick with beefy goodness and there is a wide variety of noodles – wanton noodles, eefu noodles, rice noodles, egg noodles - you can pick to go with your beef brisket.

3. Challenge Yourself at Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail

About the Trail

Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail used to be a major communication pathway between Tsuen Wan and Yuen Long towns. Narrow and rocky, this trail that takes you across the scenic Tai Lam Country Park is for you if you enjoy a bit of a physical challenge.

The journey is tough because of the steep climb (by the time you are done, you would have gone from 50 metres to some 400 metres above sea level). Even getting to the trail requires overcoming plenty of steps. But I promise you, the view of the landmark Tsing Ma Bridge, the longest road-and-rail suspension bridge, and Ting Kau Bridge from the top is worth the effort.

Refuel After the Rendezvous

Hong Kong is famous for its roast goose and if all the exertion makes you crave some of this specialty, you can get some at the Sham Tseng exit along the trail. Many consider the goose at Chan Kee Roasted Goose one of the best in the city.

4. Go All Out at the Hong Kong Trail

About the Trail

If the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail tests your ability to scale great heights, the Hong Kong trail will test your creativity and stamina. Stretching from Victoria Peak to Big Wave Bay, the trail passes five country parks and is made up of eight sections. There is no way you can cover the entire 50-kilometre trail in a day. What you can do is to combine a few of the sections and make a day of it.

One section worth including is stage eight from To Tei Wan to Tai Long Wan. Graded very difficult, it covers part of the Dragon’s Back Trail, named Best Urban Hiking Trail by TIME Asia in 2004. The trail begins at Shek O Road and a good part of it is uncovered. So the cooler month of October is perfect for the adventure. Once you get past a steep 200-metre portion, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Tai Tam Bay. Higher up, you will enjoy panoramic vistas of the Shek O Wan area.

Refuel After the Rendezvous

At the beginning of the trail is the seaside village of Shek O which has plenty of local eateries. Give Welcome Garden a try. There is dim sum aplenty for the picking.

Hong Kong is one of those rare cities that has managed to retain its natural beauty. As with any good thing, though, it takes some patience and (in a few cases) substantial stamina to be able to savour that beauty. And when you do, I promise that the city will take you to great heights of delight.

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