In the Mist | Lantau Peak

Lantau Peak is the second highest peak in Hong Kong, and is a very popular place to watch sunrise. Why? Even on a normal day, there are already a lot of clouds midway up the hill. In the morning, the sun nicely sits above the sea of fog and cloud. So yesterday morning, I was lucky to be driven up right to the start of the trail at Pak Kung Au, which is already around 400m above sea level. At first, I thought the hike was going to be quite flat, so I got 2 more mates to tag along. But, I was deceived by Google Maps. It was actually quite a steep ascent till the peak at around 950m above sea level. So to summarise, it was quite a tough hike. But we took a lot of breaks in between for photos, as well as playing around with my friends drone and vlogging. So the whole journey honestly was pretty fun.

Duration: 3 – 4 hours
Views: 5/5
Difficulty: 5/5

The route begins at Pak Kung Au. To get there, you can take any bus from Tung Chung MTR Station that goes into Lantau Island (Ngong Ping, Mui Wo, Tai O etc.) The bus will first enter the restricted area and ascend this very steep hill. This is when the bus goes very slow – almost like it’s about to run out of engine. But don’t worry, that’s totally normal. All the cars around you will be just as slow. Just endure the slowness, and get off once you reach the top of the slope – Pak Kung Au station. Cross the road to the other side, and you will see the route that leads to Ngong Ping via Lantau Peak.

The beginning of the trail is well shaded. There are a few gentle steps up. But not long, you can already see the 3 peaks that you need to conquer. This is when you begin to regret your choice of hiking this hill. But don’t worry, there are quite a few nice resting stops up the hill for you to appreciate the views. For this hill, I do highly recommend you to fully appreciate the views. Because you are so high up, you can actually see the clouds move, and the whole atmosphere changes depending on how the clouds are like – quite mysterious when the hills are fully masked by the clouds, a bit heavenly when they are half covered (especially with a glimpse of sunlight), and the mountains just stand majestically when the sky is clear. It is also very nice to look beyond to the sea and spot little islands just popping out of the surface. On the other side of the hill, it’s the Chep Lap Kok International Airport, where you can see the planes flying right above this beautiful landscape. It’s honestly a sight to be viewed by the eye – no camera can capture this soothing moment.

IMG_9029
The route uphill
IMG_9031
Small islands out on the sea

As you go higher and higher, the clouds become more and more dense. And for most of time, besides the footpath in the front, you can’t really see anything around you. A good 2-3 hours will allow you to reach the peak. Again, what you see is really dependent on the clouds. But just find any rock to sit on and chill – it’s honestly a very relaxing place to chat or even just to think about life.

IMG_9063
The clouds become more dense as you ascend
IMG_9079
Lantau Peak – a sea of clouds surrounding the mountain
IMG_9073
The International Airport from the top
IMG_9075
Chilling at a rock, surrounded by clouds

For most hikes in Hong Kong, the downhill part of the hike is not very interesting. The Lantau Peak surprisingly still continued to amaze me downhill. The clouds helped a lot. When the clouds cleared away – it was just wow. The Shek Pik Reservoir was just right in front of our eyes. The blueness of the reservoir just naturally sat in between the vast mountain range. On the right, you can just make out a statue sitting between the hills – The Big Buddha. On the far right, you can also see the bridge connecting Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai. The scene looks very busy, but it all somehow works together and is rather calming to watch. That’s what I really like about Lantau Island – maybe because it’s a restricted area – so it’s not heavily polluted by the buzz of the city.

IMG_9112
Impressive view downhill – with the clouds slowly revealing the reservoir
IMG_0778
A glimpse of Big Buddha (Ngong Ping) and the bridge connecting to Macau and Zhuhai

Downhill is a lot less strenuous than the downhill. A quick 45 minutes will allow you to reach the end of the trail at Wisdom Path, and the Big Buddha. If your legs aren’t shaking then, it is also quite worth to walk up the steps to enter the Big Buddha. If you are hungry, there are quite a few vegetarian/Buddhist restaurants around the area, as well as Hong Kong style cafes closer to the bus stop.

IMG_9111
The Wisdom Path

To leave the area, you can take the bus or ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable car back down to Tung Chung.

IMG_9045
Panorama of the sky and clouds – didn’t know where to fit it in the blog but I really like it, so decided to place it at the end
Advertisements

The Eight Fairies | Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail

Hiking Pak Sin Leng has always been on my list this summer. This is because I used to bike a lot from Sha Tin to Plover Cove Reservoir, and there would always be a row of mountains surrounding the reservoir. One of them – with 8 peaks – is Pat Sin Leng. “Sin” means fairy in Chinese – I guess the trail was named to highlight the heavenly view you get once you reach the peak.

Duration: 3 – 4 hours
Views: 5/5
Difficulty: 4/5

To get to the beginning of the trail, you can take Bus 275K that leaves from Tai Po Market to Tai Mei Tuk and walk up. Alternatively, you can drive/cab all the way to the start – as there are spaces (but limited) to park. There will be a big sign saying “Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail” – this is where you enter. The ascent has a lot of stairs – that’s the main way to reach the top. It can get quite steep, so do take your time and take some rest in between. Although mostly shaded, a glimpse of Plover Cove Reservoir and Tai Mei Tuk can be seen along the way.

IMG_8928
A glimpse of Tai Mei Tuk during the ascent

There will be a split in the route after an hour, take the route on left uphill towards the peak of Pat Sin Leng. This is where the trail gets more intense as the ascent become more vertical. This will last for around 700m until you reach the first peak – Hsien Ku Fung! On the left, you can already see parts of Tai Po. On the right, you can see the popular dam that separates Plover Cove Reservoir from Tolo Harbour – a very popular place for photos when biking.

IMG_8935
First peak – Hsien Ku Fung
IMG_8931
View from the first peak

Continuing on, there will be gentle descents and ascents as you hike across the 7 other peaks. The route quite at the top is quite bare and opened to sun, so bring loads of water to drink as well as putting on sunscreen. The view of Tai Mei Tuk becomes clearer and clearer as you move across the peaks – Ma On Shan is visible in the distance, as well as Sharp Peak from Sai Kung. If the sky is clear, you can just about point out Lion Rock. Do also remember to look backwards once in a while to appreciate the view and route you’ve just hiked!

IMG_8944
View along the peaks – Plover Cove Reservoir, Sai Kung, Ma On Shan, Lion Rock etc.
IMG_8945
Walking along the peaks of Pat Sin Leng

The last peak, also the highest, is called Shun Yeung Fung. Here you can really get a nice 360o view of everything – even the buildings of Shenzhen behind the mountain ridges. There are a lot of nice big rocks for you to sit/stand on for photos at this peak.

IMG_2276
View from the 8th and final peak – Shun Yeung Fung

 

IMG_8956
Mountain ridges beyond Pat Sin Leng as well as a glimpse of Shenzhen behind
IMG_8948
Looking backwards from the last peak

To walk back to the beginning, continue walking along the ridges. There are a few ascents, but it is a more relaxed hike compared to the hellish steps at the beginning. You’ll reach some signage soon – take the path on the right where it leads back down to Tai Mei Tuk.

IMG_8960
Hiking along the mountain ridges

It’s just slow and steady downhill from then on. There are some loose rocks along the way so do be careful when you descend. Most of the route is shaded from now on. Around an hour later, you’ll reach the end of the trail as you connect back to the road. Turn right and you’ll find yourself at the bus stop of 275K! There are vending machines there if you are dying of thirst or craving for some cold stuff to drink!

Rocky Beasts and Where to Find Them | Rhino Rock Hiking Trail

It was supposed to be an hour hike, it took us 3. It wasn’t a hard hike but the rhino kept hiding away. We kept on seeing turtles, but the rhino was nowhere to be seen. After a good 2 extra hours, we finally found the iconic beast. Feel free to try this hike if you’re up for a nice hide and seek session.

Difficulty: 2/5
Duration: 1 hour + 1-2 hours of rhino rock hunting
Views: 4/5

The start of the trail is quite tricky to find. First, make your way to Stanley. You can do so by taking Buses 6 or 260 from Central Exchange Square, or Bus 14 from Sai Wan Ho Station. Once you get off from Stanley Market, walk along Wong Ma Kok Road. You’ll pass by Stanley Military Cemetery and St. Stephen’s Beach. Continue uphill until you reach Regalia Bay Club House. Stay on the opposite side of the clubhouse and you’ll see stairs leading to some water pipes. Go up those stairs and not long, you’ll see a rather vague route to your right that will lead you uphill.

The ascent is quite short, but it is quite rocky and steep. You have to hold on to rocks at times to pull yourself up. Ropes have also been set in place to aid your ascent. Not long, you’ll reach a nice bare rock surface where you can see Stanley and its waters.

IMG_8904
Stanley centre from above

Continue uphill and you’ll reach another landmark – the turtle head rock. This is a great photo spot for an amazing view of not only Stanley, but also Ocean Park, Tai Tam Reservoir. Stanley Prison can also be seen from above.

IMG_8908
Turtle head rock
IMG_8909
Stanley prison from above

From then on, you’ll pass through some bushes and short bamboos. The world seems to have shrunken as you walk through the bamboos as they are just a few centimetres taller than you. After passing the bamboos, you’ll reach an electrical tower. Take the route on the left.

IMG_8911
Short bamboos

As you descend, you’ll see loads of interestingly shaped rocks on the hill. It is here where you start playing hide and seek, and look out for a rhino looking rock. There are many different short routes down. It is very hard/almost impossible for me to tell you which route will lead you to the rhino. You have to trial and error – I guess that’s the fun of it. I bumped into loads of turtle rocks. A tip for you is to follow the direction of a small island right next to the hill and descend there – that’s the general direction that will lead you to the rhino.

IMG_8915
Another turtle rock
IMG_8917
Small island facing away from the rhino

If you find the rhino on the first go, then good for you! If you don’t, don’t worry. It took us a good 4-5 tries. Feel free to climb onto the rhino and take some photos!

IMG_8918
The hidden rhino

You have to take the same route back. After you’re done, do explore around Stanley – its markets, westernised style building as well as the beach!

Suicide Cliff | Kowloon Peak

After being featured on National Geographic, the Suicide Cliff on Kowloon Peak has become an increasingly more popular hike. So it’s not surprising that the Suicide Cliff was on my to-hike list this summer. The route is quite steep so do make sure you check the weather beforehand before climbing up!

Duration: 3 hours
Views: 4/5
Difficulty: 4/5

The route starts at Fei Ngor Shan Road. To get there, you can get off at Choi Hung MTR Station and walk up from Exit B, along Clear Water Bay Road to the starting point. Alternatively, you can take minibus 1A from Exit C1 and get off at Fei Ngor Shan Road. There are a few paths up. We took the quickest route (which was also the steepest route). That route was not really well demarcated – when you reach Fei Ngor Shan road, you have to turn left on the first branching point. Walk in, and the route can be found right before a residential building.

Unlike typical hikes in Hong Kong, there are no stairs to aid the ascent of the hill. The route is mostly covered with leaves and small trees. With the heavy rain that persisted for a few days previously, the ground was pretty slippery when we hiked. Most of the time, we had to hold onto rocks and tree branches to pull us up. At times, we had to really climb rocks and push ourselves up in order to continue the hike. Not long though, you can already start seeing the views, mostly the residential estates of Choi Hung, and the Hong Kong Island further in the distance.

IMG_8857
View halfway – Choi Hung Estate

The hardest ascent takes around an hour. From then on, because you’re closer to the top, the route becomes more bare, and the ground becomes more flat as you circle around the hill until you reach the Suicide Cliff.

IMG_8848
Circling route up the hill after the steep ascent

The Suicide Cliff is pretty easy to spot – a random rock that projects horizontally out. The view there spans all the way from Sai Kung to Kowloon Tong. In the middle you’ll see Kai Tak – a newly built cruise docking platform. There’s actually a path that will let you walk all the way to the rock and just sit on it. Usually, there will be a queue of hikers waiting to take a photo on the rock. Fortunately, we were the only ones that morning, so we took our time appreciating the views on the rock as well as taking photos.

IMG_8854IMG_8863IMG_8879

IMG_8888
Suicide Cliff

After that, you can continue walking up to the Kowloon Peak, which will take a further 15 minutes. You know you’ve reached the top when you see the weather observatory tower. To get back to the bottom, follow the steps down and it’ll bring you back down to Fei Ngor Shan Road. Continue winding down the road, you’ll reach the beginning of the trail again!

IMG_8883
Weather observatory tower at Kowloon Peak
IMG_8885
The route downhill

To get back to the city, you can walk all the way back down to Choi Hung MTR station or take minibus 1A!

The Changed and Unchanged | Tung Chung to Tai O Trail

I remember walking this trail a good while ago as a kid. Besides being drawn by the several instant noodle stores on the way, the route sits quite nicely parallel to the airport, therefore I was easily mesmerised by the planes landing and taking off the runway. Many has changed since then. Construction can be seen along the route in the middle of the sea – most evidently the bridge that connects Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai. At first, I thought the bridge would ruin the view. Quite surprisingly, it turned out to be the contrary. The view now definitely looks a lot more scenic and dynamic than before. The fishing village, thankfully, has remain unchanged.

Difficulty: 1/5
Duration: 3 hours
Views: 3/5

The route is a continuation from the airport viewing point that I’ve reported last year. Continuing from there, the route is paved, flat and well shaded from the sun. Along the route, there are a lot of local houses, pretty much secluded from civilisation. Surprisingly, the route is well equipped with public toilets that are cleaned quite frequently. Around an hour in, you’ll see a row of restaurants selling cold and refreshing drinks. Feel free to sit down and have some instant noodles with spam and egg, as well as their organic vegetables. From then on, the route becomes bare to sunlight. The view also becomes a lot more impressive then.

IMG_8754
The view becomes more scenic after the viewing point
One of the biggest wow factor would be the bridge. Spanning all the way from the Lantau highway to the vast sea, it will be connecting Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai. The brightness of the white bridge nicely harmonises with the clouds and the warming blue of the sea and the sky. The route is quite comforting to walk on when there’s breeze especially as it is mostly a flat route.

SDZP7698
The newly built bridge amidst the sea and mountain

IMG_0501
Panorama of the bridge
The bridge will be in sight for the entire route until you reach Tai O. This will take around another hour. From the distance, you can see Tai O as a very tiny village enclosed and surrounded by mountains. The consistent greyness of the stilted houses reflects under the sun’s rays. As you approach closer to the village, you can finally pay more attention to the detail of the houses – supported by wooden pillars, floors are very well laid out with wood. It’s very impressive that these houses can withstand the occasional typhoon that strikes Hong Kong. The air is filled with the scent of dried seafood – a very signature characteristic of this fishing village. Walking along the houses, you’ll see the water channels that flows beneath the houses – it all seems very picturesque and historical. It’s nice that the unique and vivid character of the village has not faded these past few years.

IMG_8764
The bridge is always in sight all the way till Tai O

IMG_0517
Stilted houses and its water channel in Tai O

IMG_8765
Stilted houses
A bit beyond Tai O, there’s also the Infinity Pool, which is great for a splash on a hot summers day. If you feel tired, then you could take bus 11 or the ferry back to Tung Chung, and then back to the city.

The Horse Saddle | Ma On Shan Country Trail

Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) means horse saddle hill in Chinese. It is named to portray the periodic steep incline and descent of the hills, separated by an area of flat surface – just like that of a horse saddle. After climbing up Lion Rock for another sunrise session, I’ve decided to tag along another hike along the Ma On Shan Country Trail that sits nicely between the fishing town of Sai Kung and Sha Tin.

Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: 4/5
Views: 3/5

The trail begins at Ma On Shan Country Park. A taxi ride up from Heng On or Ma On Shan MTR stations would be the most convenient. The route begins with a gentle 1-1.5km slope upwards, followed by a few rocks along the stream towards Ngong Ping – which is a merging point between the MacLehose Trail and Ma On Shan Trail itself. At Ngong Ping, follow the sign leading towards Giwell Camp. This is where true views of hiking come in.

IMG_8691
Beginning of the trail
IMG_8647
Walking towards Giwell Camp

Not long, you’ll see a steep hill to your left – Pyramid hill. This is where you will conquer later. But first, let’s appreciate the view at the flat surface. Here, it faces the fishing town of Sai Kung and its various islands. On a nice day, Sharp Peak can be spotted in the distance – the sharpest mountain in Hong Kong. You can also see many yachts, windsurfers as well as residential houses along the sea – giving Sai Kung a more chilled vibe compared to the city. On the other side, Sha Tin and the Hong Kong Science Park can be spotted – a popular location for biking along the Tolo Harbour.

IMG_8656
Pyramid Hill
IMG_8659
Panorama of Sai Kung

After appreciating the views, it’s time to conquer the Pyramid Hill. It’s steep and the height allows you to see as far as the Hong Kong-China border to Shenzhen. I wouldn’t say it is as steep as Sharp Peak, but it is definitely quite a tough climb. You’ll definitely have to use your hands to hold onto the rocks. Again, take time to look backwards and appreciate the spiralling and majestic nature of Ma On Shan. Not long, you’ll find yourself at the very top – do enjoy the breeze you deserve.

IMG_8669
Half way up Pyramid Hill
IMG_8673
Looking backwards from Pyramid Hill

Going down may seem quite daunting as first, but small steps will allow you to reach to the bottom of the hill again. Hold on to rocks to prevent yourself from slipping down. Here, there are 2 options. One is to carry on climbing uphill towards Sai Kung, the second option is to take the downhill route on the left to Ngong Ping, therefore back to Ma On Shan Country Park. I took the latter because I was quite tired from the hike in the morning. But feel free to take the route forwards!

IMG_8681
Downhill from Pyramid Hill

The route now joins back to where you’ve started and you’ll find yourself back in Ma on Shan Country Park. In no time If you intend to drive to the starting point, feel free to bring some meat and vegetable as there’s quite a nice barbeque pit at the park!

It’s Dam Nice | Violet Hill Trail

So I’ve been off the grid for almost a year, not that I wanted to, but being a student in London meant that I couldn’t really do any decent hikes until I’m back for summer! Although the weather has been pretty grim lately (think I brought the rain back from the UK), but I’m very excited to carry on hiking new trails and letting you know what’s good out there in Hong Kong! So this morning, I took advantage of the sun and went on a nice short hike up Violet Hill with a mate, spanning across 2 reservoirs and above the beach areas of Shek O and Repulse Bay!

Duration: 2 – 3 hours
Difficulty: 3/5
Views: 3/5

The route starts in Wong Ngai Chung Reservoir. The best way to get there would be to take buses 6, 6X and 66 from Exchange Square, Central (Central MTR Station, Exit A) which brings you directly to the reservoir. Take the path on the right as you walk towards the reservoir, and not long you’ll see a sign pointing up towards Violet Hill. As with most hikes, it starts bitter with all those steps uphill, but the descent is pretty sweet.

IMG_8474.JPG
Wong Ngai Chung Reservoir 

There are 2 major peaks to conquer in this trail. The first peak faces the buzz of Victoria Harbour with its overwhelming skyscrapers which contrasts nicely with the majestic mountain ranges on the opposite side. The theme park, Ocean Park, can also easily be spotted as well as Lamma Island with its iconic chimneys in the distance.

IMG_8479
View of Victoria Harbour
IMG_8484
Ocean Park (middle) & Lamma island (right)

To walk to the next peak, it’s just a bare route opened to direct sunlight, which reminded me of Dragon’s Back just across the bay. On the way to the second peak, there are many split routes but just continue walking in the direction of Tsin Shui Wan Au.

IMG_8494
Unshaded route towards the second peak

Not long, you will see Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir sitting rather peacefully below Violet Hill, Mount Butler and Mount Parker. It’s quite impressive to see how much water this reservoir actually stores. From then on, it’s just a steady downhill then flat ground until you reach the Tai Tam Reservoir. The days before were quite wet, so our shoes got all muddy and it made walking slightly more challenging as we sank into the pools of mud water, but on a typical sunny and dry day, the route should quite easy to walk on.

IMG_8491
Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and its surrounding mountains

You know you’ve reached the reservoir when the ground surface turns from mud and rocks to flat concrete. Feel free to walk across the dams as the views of the reservoir are dam nice. There’s also a nice 5km cultural heritage trail that brings you around the reservoir and along the bridges, with billboards touching upon their architectural design and history.

IMG_8504
View from the reservoir on the dam
IMG_8511
Tai Tam Dam

At the exit, there are buses leading towards Stanley or to Chai Wan – it’s absolutely up to you how you want to leave. But Stanley will be quite a great place to visit for first-timers to experience the more westernised side of Hong Kong with its markets and Victorian-style building!

IMG_8515
One of the many bridges at Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir