Skyscrapers vs. Peaks
Hong Kong, the 7 Mio city with almost 60 Mio visitors per year, is not only known for its iconic skyline, and the largest number of skyscrapers in the world but as well for its protected nature around the city. We decided to have a look down to the enormous buildings from the surrounding peaks and observe more nature than traffic and busy people. Spending seven days right before Christmas to discover the surroundings of the megacity was our plan before we headed towards our next destination.
From our hotel in the New Territories close to the Tsuen Wan MTR station, we started the first trip towards Hongkong Island. We tried to use as much public transport as possible although this became a very tough and time-consuming task during the rush hours. Taking the Star Ferry to cross the sea from Kowloon to Hongkong Island is one of the mandatory things to do in Hong Kong, and gave us a first glimpse of the skyscrapers around.
View from the Star Ferry towards Hong Kong Island
We wondered how they were able to build these high towers by just using the bamboo scaffold we saw everywhere. To make the opening day not too strenuous, we queued up for a ticket with the tram to Victoria Peak. It took almost an hour before we approached the ticket counter. Luckily, we purchased already an Octopus card for our MTR travel, and we could pass the last 40 people in the queue by using the card to enter the tram platform.
View from the top platform from Victoria Peak
On top, we had to pay again to come to "The Peak". But the view from the platform was worth every dollar this evening. As we arrived back at the lower tram station, the queue became even longer. Be assured that weekends get even worse.
Our first day dedicated to hiking. We started with the easy walk above Dragons Back, one of the popular hikes around Hongkong. On the mountain ridge we had some beautiful views, and past the bit crowded first part. Luckily most people didn't make the whole roundtrip down to the Big Wave Beach.
The trail on Dragon's Back rim, in the distance Tai Mo Shan
Back in Central of Hongkong Island, we found an excellent opportunity to embrace the skyline and the surrounding skyscrapers. You can get to the Skye Terrace of the Park Lane Hotel by Pullman at level 27th without paying a dollar. Of course, having a drink here is a great option, too.
View from level 27, Pullman Hotel
The travel back to our hotel was a real challenge due to the hundreds of people waiting for the train to get back home from work. We had to let three trains pass before we were able to enter the hustle in the subway.
This day was assigned to approach Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak with 957m in Hong Kong. After a 20 minutes bus ride we started a decent hike from the visitor center through the forest up to the summit. Like many other hikes, a vast portion of the trail is built out of stone steps. They ensure a proper path otherwise the high amount of precipitation would destroy every trail.
View towards Hong Kong from the Tai Mo Shan Trail
Although we started with sunshine at around 700m everything became covered in clouds, Due to the strong wind, the temperature dropped, and we had to put on our hats and windproof jackets. The last section of the hike could be either done on the old road leading to the summit or as an alternative through a narrow single trail. To avoid getting lost in the mist we had chosen the road although it was not our preferred way.
Last section of the Tai Mo Shan trail covered in clouds
On the way back, we enjoyed the mystic scenery created by the fast-moving clouds and returned to the starting point quicker than expected.
We were ready to approach "The Challenge", crossing Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak in one hike. To make it not too challenging, we took the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to overcome the first 500m of elevation.
View from the Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride
After a 25 minutes ride, we started our hike from the Tian Tan Buddha Statue, the largest in the world. Lantau Peak is the second highest elevation in Hong Kong, and we had the luck that the clouds teared up and we could catch a glimpse of the surroundings. After passing the bus stop at Pak Kung Au, the ascend started again towards Sunset Peak. As we sat down near Sunset Peak, we had a view moments of clear stay before Lantau Peak got covered by clouds.
Sunset view with Lantau Peak covered in clouds
So, we missed a bit of the magic sunset at this peak, but anyhow it was worth the strenuous ascend, and one of the best hikes in Hong Kong. Back at Tung Chung, we stopped by the mall to grab some highly required food after the 27.000 steps we did this day.
This day should become a more relaxed adventure up to Lion Rock, one of the closest elevations to the city of Hong Kong. From here you get a fantastic view over the city and in the afternoon a great scenery to view the sunset. Because we choose a regular working day for this hike, we were lucky not to run into many people. At weekends this place gets packed full of tourists and residents. From the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, we first caught bus 211 to get out of the town. Close to the Lion Rock Park, we started the well paved ascend just beside tall residential buildings.
View to the city from the Lion Rock trail
After 45 minutes we reached the top and sat down to capture the sunset in time-lapse. We had luck, and not many clouds destroyed the view towards the city with its skyscrapers.
Sunset at Lion Rock Peak
In the darkness, we walked down using our flashlights and called it a day.
On weekends many attractions and hikes around the city become crowded therefor we decided to try a more remote short trail with beautiful scenery at one of the underrated places in Asia according to a CNN post. Sharp Island also known as Kiu Tsui Chau, is located close to the fishing port of Sai Kung. Instead of the time-consuming public transport, we took a taxi, which is not expensive in Hong Kong. To make the communication with the cap driver easy, we used the "Take Taxi" app. It not only provides the destination picked from a map in Chinese language but as well an estimate of the costs for your journey. In Sai Kung, we took one of the ferries to Sharp Island using the extended trip version.
View from the Sharp Island rim trail
The boat surrounded the island once before it approaches the jetty. What we didn't know is that Sharp Island got heavily hit by super typhoon “Mangkhut” in September 2018. The promenade close to Kiu Tsui beach was almost destroyed, and we saw many fallen trees lying around. Luckily, the trail from Kui Tsui port to Half Moon Bay was not much impacted, and we could enjoy this short, and easy hiking trail over the island.
To regain energy for our next destination we did a short excursion this day. A visit the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery was on our list. We arrived around midday, and the garden was not yet crowded. Clouds covered the skyscrapers around this beautiful silent place in the middle of the vibrant city. The relatively new garden build in Tang style is located close to the Chi Lin Nunnery and was opened to the public in 2006. In the center of the garden, we found the "Pavilion of Absolute Perfection" beside four other larger timber structures.
Pavilion of Absolute Perfection
The Chi Lin Nunnery located above caught us with its silence and peacefulness. We enjoyed this special place a while and just took the feelings with us as taking photos was strictly forbidden.
In summary, a hiking trip to Hong Kong is worth the effort and there is much more to discover. If you just come here for a stopover, carefully decide your trail based on the forecasted weather.