Hong Kong Hiking Escapes

Natural Wonders Abound in and around the City of Life
By Katharine Fletcher & Eric Fletcher
  |  Gorp.com
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Hiking in Hong Kong. Sounds improbable, doesn't it?

That's what we thought, too. After all, the "City of Life" and surrounding countryside is home to a bustling 6.8 million people. Shopping, high finance, and jostling crowds are synonymous with Hong Kong, where 50-story apartment buildings march into the countryside to accommodate the ever-growing population.

Yet in the shadow of the hustle and bustle, there is another Hong Kong — tranquil, uncrowded, and great for hiking.

Believe it or not, 40 percent of the land within greater Hong Kong's borders is relatively unspoiled by civilization. Extensive parklands comprise much of the undulating rural landscape, with everything from easy, contour-hugging hikes on Lantau Island (where you walk to a monastery) to a vigorous pull up Sharp Peak, which overlooks deserted blond sandy beaches. There are also several sanctuaries that offer outstanding bird-watching.

But perhaps even more surprising than the plenitude of hiking destinations near the city was the lack of people: We hardly met a soul on our hikes. There's a special kind of rush walking in a landscape where you can turn a corner and see the densely packed city but not run into a single other urban escapee for hours — even days — on end.

For four of the six days we spent on the trail, we hired guides, and not because of not knowing where to go or how to get there. We enjoyed hiring locals because they provided texture and substance to the reality of living in Hong Kong. Paul Etherington is a 20-something entrepreneur who grew up in Hong Kong and is passionate about preserving wild Hong Kong. A former manager of the International Hostel Association and a keen member of the Hong Kong Hiking Association, Paul now leads guided hiking and kayaking trips.

Another Hong Kong resident, Samson So, works at the Mai Po Nature Reserve — a wildlife habitat seriously endangered by the encroachment of urban sprawl. Samson lives and breathes birds — if you want a guide who can tell his Chinese bulbul from a chestnut bulbul just by its song, he's your man. He's fluent in English, has a great sense of humor, and quietly impresses you with his passion for wildlife conservation.

Still, there's nothing like being on your own — exploring your own path, enjoying your personal journey. For two days that's exactly what we did, reveling in the sound of the breeze through the trees, birdsongs, and cheerful cascading brooks.

Remember: If you go to hike in Hong Kong, you'll need to spend more time there than the average North American does (3.8 days). Somehow, we suspect you won't find that difficult.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 4 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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