Hong Kong Hiking Escapes
The Hong Kong Tourist Association is extremely helpful and has many useful brochures.
Getting around: It's really, really easy. When you think about it, it should be, because the City of Life's 6.8 million people have to be able to get around conveniently. The MTR (Mass Transit Railway), KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway), and LRT (Light Rail Transit) are interconnected. They link Lantau Island, where the spectacular new Chek Lap Kok airport is located, to Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the New Territories. The network is efficient and inexpensive. You can use the magnetically encoded "Octopus" card on all transit systems, including the many ferries.
Accommodations: Every level of accommodation is available, from the bare basics at the (in)famous warrens of Chung King Mansions to the comfortable Regal Riverside in the nearby suburb of Shatin.
For a real treat, sample the elegant service at the Regent overlooking Victoria Harbor, the busiest port in the world. Even if you don't stay here, at minimum treat yourself to a martini (try the Dirty Martini) in their lobby restaurant and watch the spectacle of nightfall. Hong Kong's office towers provide a stunning light-show as twilight descends on the City of Life.
Tip: After six days of hiking, we prepped ourselves for the 15-hour flight home by indulging in a relaxing 90-minute spa and massage at the Regent Spa. Heavenly!
Personal guides: Paul Etherington operates Natural Excursion Ideals, featuring "The Other Side of Hong Kong" tour. Paul took us on the Sharp Peak trail as well as another to Plover Cove.
Samson So was our bird-watching guide and is a professional naturalist at Mai Po Nature Reserve. On his days off, he leads tours through Mai Po and nearby Tai Po Kau. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable birder, Samson is informed and delightful company. He will probably bring along his high-powered scope and tripod to share views with you.
Mai Po Nature Reserve: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conducts tours. Book ahead whether you're in a group or traveling alone. Contact: WWF Hong Kong, GPO Box 12721, Hong Kong.
Books: Sai Kung Peninsula, Lantau Island, and others are part of the Coastal Guide Series of booklets and maps on Hong Kong trails published by Friends of the Earth. Contact: Friends of the Earth, 2/F, 53-55 Lockhart Rd., Wanchai, Hong Kong. They are excellent resources but the maps are not topographic: If you go without a guide, get yourself a topo map from the Map Publication Centre at 23/F North Point Government Offices, 333 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong. Tel: 2231 3187; Fax: 2116 0774.
Exploring Hong Kong's Countryside by Edward Stokes: An excellent guidebook full of photos that, well, shatter your concepts of Hong Kong being full of 50-plus-story apartment buildings. The author includes bus numbers, plus nearest access by metro, road, and rail.
Birds of Hong Kong and South China, by Clive Viney, Karen Phillipps, and Lam Chiu Ying.
The last word: Almost all the trail toilet facilities (even at remote trailheads) were clean. But remember: this is Asia. Only in the cities will you find North American flush toilets. Most are holes in the ground with "footprints" on either side to show where you put your feet. Simply squat and do your thing. Always, always have your own toilet paper. Women, take your own sanitary supplies, exactly as you would for any wilderness trip, and you'll be fine. All trail toilets had running water for washing but no soap.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication