China travel · Travel

Hong Kong hiking- part 1

I actually started writing this piece back in September after I came back from Hong Kong but didn’t bother to complete it or post it, especially given there was no publication opportunity. After reading a story on hiking in HK in one of our competitors last week caused me to change my mind so here it is.

For many people, Hong Kong is a shopping paradise or a prosperous and bustling financial metropolis. A lesser-known fact about HK is that it has a lot of attractive nature landscapes especially spectacular mountains and hills, similar to Taiwan. In fact, much of HK is made up of forests, hills and mountainous terrain. Much of Lantau island, where the international airport and Disneyland are located, and the New Territories, are covered with mountainous and hilly terrain. There are several mountain parks where visitors can hike and enjoy breathtaking views. For visitors who want to experience something other than shopping, eating and going to crowded tourist traps, making a trip to any of these nature parks should definitely a great option.

Lantau island is HK’s largest island and sparsely populated but it teems with interesting places. Besides the airport and Disneyland, the Ngong Ping 360 cablecar, Big Buddha statue and Tai O fishing village are also located on Lantau. Chinese white dolphins, which are actually pinkish, can also be viewed off the waters of north Lantau. However it is the 2 main country parks- North and South- where one can experience good hiking on mountain trails and enjoy great scenery. Lantau’s highest mountains are Lantau Peak and Sunset peak. At 942m, Lantau Peak is actually Hong Kong’s second highest mountain, after TaiMo Shan in Kam Tin.

A good way to get to the Country Park as well as combine several activities in one day is to take the Ngong Ping 360 cablecar which takes you to the Ngong Ping plateau. From here it is a short walk to the Big Buddha statue and the Po Lin monastery. To get to Lantau peak, first follow a short trail from the monastery to the Wisdom Path where there is an arrangement of tall wooden poles etched with Buddhist sayings in chinese. From here, you will encounter a fine view overlooking the Shek Pik reservoir downhill and the sea. As there are benches and signs in this area, it’s a good place to relax for a while, take some pictures and then get ready for the long trek up Lantau Peak, which looms in the near distance.

There are several trails but some were closed because of landslides, the result of recent typhoons. The main trail towards Lantau peak, which I went on but didn’t finish unfortunately due to lack of time and proper preparation, is part of the larger Lantau trail which winds across the whole island and consists of 12 stages. The trail runs along the mountainside, snaking its way upwards on gradual inclines on stone steps. The trail is relatively well maintained though the absence of much human traffic means there is a proliferation of insects specifically grasshoppers. Small trees and bush grow along the outer side of the trail but there are breaks at several spots which provide fine vantage points to look out onto Shek Pik reservoir and the sea, as well as their surrounding hills. Walking higher up, one can also look back onto the Wisdom Path, the Big Buddha and Sunset peak which looms across from Lantau peak.

A word of warning to the wise- hiking on an August afternoon is tremendously hot and tiring, with the summer heat bearing down in full effect. Further due to the lack of other people and guard rails, much care has to be taken in navigating the steps. However the great views and the solitary atmosphere on the trail provide an enticing reason to make this trek. This vibe of tranquility and intimacy with the beauty of nature is apparent all over Lantau, making it a fantastic contrast to the rest of Hong Kong.

Wisdom Path

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Wisdom Path

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Looking out onto Shek Pik reservoir and the sea

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