Hongkong Island Hiking
It may seem strange, but Hong Kong Island that was the original British colony in the area and that now has the city of Hong Kong that has about the average tallest skyline of any city of the world, also has good hiking trails that even go up to near the top of Victoria Peak and its Peak Tower mall. If you like views of the city, then the 50 kilometer long Hong Kong Trail is for you. It starts at the top of Victoria Peak and is well marked and passes through the island's five country parks and ends up at Tai Long Wan beach. Hong Kong has several popular beaches called Tai Long Wan or Big Wave Bay, so don't get confused by that. To experience an amazing contrast between urban environment and natural environment and to also see a cool aviary and a great free public primate zoo along the way, here is a suggested route.
From Central District Star Ferry Terminal, walk to the IFC Tower. You can walk through what is known as the poshest mall in Hong Kong and window shop or stock up on McDonalds or Starbucks Coffee in air conditioned comfort. Walk to the other side of it towards the mountain. Walk out through the door and walk over the street and keep walking. Find the Mid-levels Escalator. This contraption sets you half way up Victoria Peak for free with little exercise. It set a Guinness Book record as the longest public covered escalator in the world. The escalator takes you near the Hong Kong Zoological and Botantical Gardens. That wonderful and free place has an unusually good collection of various species of primates from around the world. The best thing about the zoo besides the animals is that it is unusually quiet because it is not commercialized. It isn't crowded generally. Few people may even know about it.
If you have kids with you, they will be fascinated by the various monkeys and apes and other primates. Some are amazingly agile as the jump around their cages. The biggest apes just sit there. They seem lonely. The cages for them are too small. That's a sore point. This is a good place for close-up photography of animals you may not see again.
Hong Kong Park
After that, you can a little ways directly east to Hong Kong Park that has a world-class aviary or bird zoo. That is free too. The birds fly around inside a huge cage, and people can walk trough their habitat. At the park, you can also rest a while or enjoy the rest of the park and get something to eat. The aviary is open 9 to 5. But leave some time before sundown, about an hour or so unless you are in good shape, to catch the sunset on top of Victoria Peak.
There is a small road that winds up through some park of jungle and woods above the Mid-levels skyscrapers. Finding the entrance to this road is a little difficult. But ask the people you see where it is. You'll likely see hikers or joggers going back and forth between the top of the escalator system and the entrance to this small side road. You can follow this road and get up to the top in a stroll of less than an hour. Some people jog the road quite quickly to the top.
You can watch the sun go down there. On top of Victoria Peak, you can also get great daytime and nighttime photographs of the city. There is a spot you can get to by going up a small road from the mall area that gives a great view of the bay and the city. The city is lit up about 8 pm most nights for the ”Symphony of Lights” lighted building fashion display and skyscraper choreography. It is disappointing that the two tallest buildings in Hong Kong don't take part. However, you can't actually get to the ippy tippy top of the peak because there is an installation of some kind there. However, you can get within about 20 meters of the top.
You can start your hike on the Hong Kong Trail at the mall area. Doing it in the dark isn't recommended. The start of the hiking route is marked by a sign that says, “Hong Kong Trail.” The first part to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir is easy. The trail is broken up into eight segments. You can get into some natural jungle following it. This will take about 1.5 or two hours of downhill walking. The next section goes from the reservoir to Aberdeen. That takes another hour, and it is also easy downhill walking. How about having a fish meal there? Aberdeen is famous for that. The boat restaurants are expensive.
The last section called Section 8 is called the Dragon's Back. It was named by Time Magazine as Asia's Best Urban Hiking Trail. Though you are close to the city only a few kilometers away, it doesn't feel like that. The environment is that different. The whole route from the Peak Tram to BIg Wave Bay is 11 kilometers in a straight line. But the whole Hong Kong Trail takes a circuitous route covering about 50 kilometers. Because there are towns and roads along the way, you can use taxis and buses to get to the hiking spots you want to go to.
Also read Lamma Island's Family Walk in Hong Kong.
I updated this article on April 15, 2013
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