hong kong

Photo: William Perry / 123rf.com

 

Hong Kong is a buzzing metropolis that is crammed with glitzy skyscrapers, shopping malls and food joints at almost every turn. However, a mere train or ferry ride away from the city centre is a refreshing bounty of hiking trails that snakes across numerous rolling peaks. Surprisingly, three-quarters of the Hong Kong’s land is protected countryside, which is home to parks and the renowned 100km MacLehose Trail that spans much of the New Territories. These hikes are well-signposted and designed in sections that allow hikers to explore the trails in stages. Drop your shopping bags and put on your hiking shoes to enjoy Hong Kong’s hidden wild side.  

 

1. Explore Hong Kong’s little-known volcanic past at the East Dam Walk

east dam walk

Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Tucked inconspicuously in the remote Sai Kung East Country Park in the New Territories are hundreds of chiselled 100 metre-tall hexagonal volcanic rock columns that frame the East Dam. This awe-inspiring stretch, which resembles gargantuan matchsticks, is a result of a catastrophic volcanic eruption 140 million years ago. Start the 30-minute hike at East Dam, which is flanked by sprawling slopes of gigantic dolosse and red-brown volcanic boulders.

east dam walk

Photo: Kenneth Goh

Walk down slope to ogle at the columns up-close where you can spot waves of distorted columns and dykes that hint at the ferociousness of the magma flow and chaotic tectonic forces. The end point of this trail is a sea cave that came about as a result of decades of crashing waves that eroded rock columns. Examine the concaved columns closely and admire the placid midnight-blue waters on a wooden boardwalk. The hike is not sheltered so it is best to wear a hat to fend off the relentless scorching sun.

east dam walk

Photo: Kenneth Goh 

Getting there: Take a taxi from Sai Kung town. Instead of starting at Pak Tam Ching (commonly known as the entrance to Sai Kung East Country Park), alight at East Dam directly. Remember to ask for the driver’s telephone number for a pick-up later as the secluded place is not accessible by other forms of public transportation.

 

ALSO READ: 6 CHEAP AND GOOD PLACES TO EAT IN HONG KONG

 

2. Scale to the summit of Hong Kong, Tai Mo Shan

tao mo shan

Photo: Kenneth Goh

Standing at 957 metres tall, Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s tallest peak, is twice as tall as Hong Kong’s tallest building - the 108-storey International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon. For a much cooler ascend, hike closer to the break of dawn with the Tai Mo Shan Sunrise Hike Tour by travel company Tour 3.0 (www.tour3f.com), which ferries hikers three-quarters up the mountain to catch the dramatic sunrise at its peak just before daybreak.

tao mo shan

Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

The 2km hike is a relatively easy climb, but brace yourself to be pounded by gusts of chilly wind. Much of the climb, which starts at 4am, is shrouded in darkness, save for a mini torch light and a dazzling constellation of stars that hovers above. Look out for two twinkling red lights from the Hong Kong Observatory that sits at the peak. Take your position at the top of Tai Mo Shan just before day breaks and witness the mesmerising hue of the sky that changes dramatically from black, navy blue to orange-pink within 15 minutes. Don’t be afraid to venture out of the road path to neighbouring stone tracks to get better vantage points of the sunrise. Take in the mesmerising sights of lofty wisps of clouds drifting past dreamy rolling mountains.

tao mo shan

Photo: Jessica Li

Feeling hungry after the early morning work-out? Refuel at Duen Kee Chinese Restaurant (57-58 Chuen Lung Village), a 10-minute drive from Tai Mo Shan Road. The 70-year-old yum cha institution is a crowd-favourite with many elderly villagers showing off their caged birds while digging into value-for-money dim sum, which are diners can help themselves from towering piles of bamboo baskets.

Getting there: The Tai Mo Shan Sunrise Hike Tour offers pick-up at hotels. To get there by public transport, alight at Tsuen Wan MTR Station. At Exit A, take bus 51 at the bus stop on Tai Ho Road North. Alight at Country Park stop on Route Twisk, then walk along Tai Mo Shan Road.

 

3. Sojourn to Cheung Chau Island for an idyllic getaway

cheung chau island

Photo: Kenneth Goh

A mere 40-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island and one enters one of the quietest inhabited spots in the territory – Cheung Chau Island. The dumbbell-shaped island, which is southwest of Hong Kong Island, is steeped in sea-faring culture. Every May,  thousands throng the island for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which features ‘bun snatching’ – climbers scale up 6,000 bun-cladded towers and grab as many ‘Ping An’ buns as symbols of blessing.

The main mode of transportation on the island, which seems to be trapped in the 1950s, is by foot. The occasional vehicles are limited to motorised carts and ambulances. From the island’s ferry pier, walk towards the slender Tung Wan beach, which doubles up as a popular windsurfing spot. The island is synonymous with this sport as it produced Hong Kong’s first and only Olympic Gold medallist, Lee Lai-Shan, who won the windsurfing medal in in 1996.

cheung chau island

Photo: Kenneth Goh

From the beach, head to the historic Hotel Warwick, which is the starting point for the “Mini Great Wall”, a marble-like stone footpath that looks nothing like the real deal. The 15-minute trail ends at a pavilion that gives a bird’s eye view of Lamma Island, Hong Kong Island and Zhuhai, China.

If you are not pressed for time, stroll to the other side of the island to visit Cheung Po Tsai caves, which is named after a notorious pirate who once commandeered a flotilla of 600 junks in South China Sea in the 18th Century. The cave is accessed by a hole that is wide enough for only one person to squeeze in at any one time. A torchlight or mobile phone is a must or else you will be hunching and crawling in the snug pirate hide-out in pitch darkness.

cheung chau island

Photo: Kenneth Goh

Getting there: Take a ferry to Cheung Chau Island from Pier 5 at the Central Ferry Piers in Hong Kong Island.

 

ALSO READ: 5 BEST AIRBNB HOSTEL APARTMENTS TO BOOK IN HONG KONG FOR UNDER $110 A NIGHT!