Shaded by canopies of banyan trees and waxy palms, the trail meanders past old orchards and abandoned huts. Lizards resting along the path and fiddler crabs on the beach skitter away at the crunching sound of our approaching feet.
Eventually, after following the shore of a tidal creek, we reach the quaint fishing village of Tai O. Here, corrugated-iron houses perch on stilts over streams.
Old men play mah jong and sell dried salted shrimp in the streets.
And villagers live the same unhurried pace they’ve lived for generations.
This is Hong Kong?
True, the city is better known for its dizzying shopping and neon-lit skyscrapers galore and the energy of people, people everywhere.
There are trails galore for Hong Kong hiking
But more than 70% of the territory’s land mass is made up of rural mountains, forests and over 200 outlying islands.
Almost half of Hong Kong is protected by 23 country parks.
There are more green spaces, hiking trails and beaches, all close to the central action, than most cities can boast. When the fancy strikes, it’s easy to flee into the great outdoors.
We love hiking – and we have to tell you that Hong Kong hiking is really quite a treat.
Hon Kong hiking on Lantau Island
Take lush, hilly Lantau Island.
Hong Kong’s largest island, it’s popular with day-trippers who catch the ferry over to visit (a 30- to 50-minute ride). Many come to see the world’s largest seated outdoor Buddha.
Sitting atop a mountain at the Po Lin Monastery, the 110-foot high bronze Buddha has drop-dead views of the island and surrounding emerald waters. But to gaze at what the Buddha sees, you have to climb 268 steps to reach the base on which he rests.
The monastery also serves delicious vegetarian lunches, prepared by grey-robed monks. From there, you can walk the mostly-downhill four miles through the countryside to Tai O.
The stilt village of Tai O
The tiny village of Tai O is a trip back in time.
A wide creek splits it in two. On some weekends, you can still cross from side to side on the slow rope-pulled ferry that was operated by old women of the village for 86 years, until a new drawbridge was built in the mid-1990s.
Stroll Tai O’s streets, and you can’t help but feel the pressures of modern-day life fall away.
Children ride rusty bicycles, ding-a-linging their bells as they weave in and around gawking tourists.
At the Kwan Tai temple, devotees burn incense and pray to the goddess of the sea.
Wandering into an old Chinese calligraphy shop, we watch the silver-haired proprietor mix inks for his paintings and weigh supplies on ancient balance scales.
Hiking the Lantau Trail
There’s also the Lantau Trail. A circular 44-mile hiking route, divided into 12 sections, it winds through forests of acacia and pine trees.
Some sections are relatively flat and easy. Others? Well, let’s just say you’re gonna know where your thighs are the next day.
Wildlife is plentiful. Birds, butterflies, lizards – and yes, even snakes and spiders – are spotted.
On the coastal cliff section that we walk along one day, there isn’t another soul in sight. Talk about escapism!
Hiking to Mui Wo
Another day, we hike with Janice’s brother (who – lucky fella – lives on Lantau Island) to Mui Wo, where no-frills seaside eateries serve tasty prawn and duck specialties. Apart from a few other hikers, the only living creatures we encounter on this trail are cranky cows.
So don’t forget to pack your sneakers or hiking boots when you visit Hong Kong!
Because there are oodles of places to stride out, enjoy nature and get away from it all.