I don’t know about you, but recently I’ve noticed that more and more people have been climbing mountains and going on hikes whenever they’re out of town. Every so often, someone I know would post a photo of an incredible vista of a mountain range or a sea of clouds at the break of dawn.
It’s awesome, this renewed interest in the outdoors. We’re practically reminding ourselves that, yes, there’s something more to life than the city and our everyday lives in and out of school/work.
My friend and I headed to Hong Kong last May to enjoy the Labor Day weekend. Only this time, I was set not to do the usual things one does in Hong Kong. The last time I was there, I’d already had my fill of the Avenue of the Stars, the Victoria Harbor skyline and the cable car to Lantau Island (tip: head there nearing closing time; you’ll get a cable car all to yourself and you’ll enjoy the ride more!). Interestingly, it was all made a little more exciting because the Umbrella Revolution was happening.
This time, we were thinking, ‘Why not join the hiking bandwagon?’ I coerced my friend to accompany me on one of Hong Kong’s more popular urban hikes – the Dragon’s Back Trail. Time (Asia) had named it ‘The Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia’ in 2004, and on top of that it was fairly doable for a non-hiker like me. It was long, tougher than we’d expected, and a wee bit too hot (note: do not start the hike at past ten in the morning in summer time!), but in the end it was worth it and it was the one memory from that trip that I really, really, really liked to look back to.
How to get there:
Hong Kong’s official Tourism Board website has pretty clear-cut instructions on how to get to the start of the trail. We were coming from Tsim Sha Tsui, and took the MTR from Jordan Station to Shau Kei Wan Station. From the station, we exited from Exit A3 and looked out for a bus terminal wherein we took Bus 9 to To Tei Wan bus stop. Odds are that the longest queue you’ll see at the bus terminal is the one heading to where you’re going, as that was what happened in our case. Funnily enough, we got down a stop or two too early where Cape Collinson Road and Shek O Road intersected and only realized our mistake too late.
In any case it was quite nice, because the road is lined with tons of overgrown trees and the breeze was lovely, and in ten minutes’ time, one of those older, smaller buses came by and it was a far more interesting ride than the first. It’s just slightly more expensive than Bus 9 in that I remember it cost us at least $5-$10 more (and only by cash!), but at least we were only a handful of people inside the little bus. All you need to tell the driver is that you’re headed to To Tei Wan, and he’ll most likely already know you’re on your way to hike up the Shek O / Dragon’s Back Trail.
He’ll drop you off right at the base, where you’ll see steps leading into the trees, but then you’ll also see portalets on the side. (And here, I shall suggest that you already go to the toilet because you won’t see another one for the next two to three hours.)
Lots of people do this trek – families, friends, people with dogs, people on dates, people with babies – but it’s a long enough trail to find a bit of solitude along the way. On the way up and while you’re there on the Dragon’s Back, the sun can be unforgiving; there are no canopies of trees or a chance of comfortable shade. Bring sunglasses. Bring a cap. Don’t forget your sunblock. And wear comfortable shoes.
On the way down, you’ll lose the view but get tons of shade. It’s a long, long way down (for some reason, going up took us about a quarter of an hour to do, but going down took us almost over two hours), and there’s nothing to see, really, and you’re left to wonder where you’re gonna end up. On the bright side, a local was slicing up and selling pineapples on the way down, and by the time you think it’s best to give up, you’ll have made it to the beach.
We ended up at Big Wave Bay, popular among the locals, where there is a restaurant selling burgers and sandwiches and fries, local beers they aptly named Dragon’s Back (or so I remember) and really great mango shakes. We had a late afternoon lunch and proceeded to doze off on the sand. (The beach! I can’t stress enough how one who has grown up in the tropics needs a doze of sand and sea every year.)
Going back to the city:
From the beach, walk up to the main road where you will find Bus 9 and the tiny buses waiting for people to take back to Shau Kei Wan Station. Fare remains the same as earlier, via Octopus Card or cash.
We probably napped on the beach for over an hour, and when it was time to go, I felt really sad to have the day end. Exhausted as we were, this was the highlight of our trip, and looking back, I’d probably do it again. Hong Kong’s pretty awesome to have both the city and the very accessible outdoors!
All photos were taken with an iPhone, post-processed with VSCO.