Hong Kong - easy hike, easy access from Kowloon?
November 18, 2018 11:44 AM   Subscribe

A colleague and I are taking some students to Hong Kong over our university's December break, and some of the group is interested in organizing a hike. Our schedule is pretty full and I'm not sure everyone is up for a long, strenuous, or technical hike, so I'm reaching out for recommendations that are (1) friendly for casual hikers, and (2) relatively easy access from the MTR.

A few more details: We're staying near the Yau Ma Tei station on Nathan Rd in Kowloon, so right on the red (Tsuen Wan) and green (Kwun Tong) lines. A bus connection from an MTR station to a trailhead is OK, but there are probably too many of us to coordinate taxis.

Both of us faculty leaders have experience leading student groups to China, including stops in HK, but haven't hiked there beyond things like walking down from Victoria Peak (instead of taking the tram). The hope, I think, is to do something with a bit more wilderness, like a Country Park in the New Territories or a ridgeline hike somewhere on an island. The course is about livability, urban design and sustainability, so this is connected to a class discussion about parks and green space in/near urban areas. One goal, for ex, might be to compare the users (who, how, etc) of a more remote hiking trail versus a manicured green space nestled between skyscrapers (like Kowloon Park).

posted by brozek to Travel & Transportation around Hong Kong (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was recently in Hong Kong for a conference and a friend recommended this hike, which starts quite close to the Wan Chai station (blue/Island line) on MTR. I hadn't brought sneakers so I didn't attempt it, and it looks like it's paved the whole way, but it does get into relative wilderness fairly quickly.
posted by basalganglia at 4:19 PM on November 18, 2018

Lion Rock is a nice one with a great view.

The Maclehose Trail is also a good option. Just choose 1-2 sections to do.

Dragon's Back is also a classic.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:54 PM on November 18, 2018

When I visited some years ago I spent the day on Lamma Island and loved it. A half hour or so by ferry (qua Wikipedia, although I remember it being shorter), and you're on a tropical island with no cars and great seafood—and, to remind you of the weirdness of all of this, a huge power plant next to the beach. IIRC you can hike along the shore or up through the middle, or some combination.

And Chow Yun-Fat was born and raised there!
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 6:36 AM on November 19, 2018

Lamma Island is great - very busy with tourists but they tend to stick to the main paths, I found deserted beaches with some rocks to clamber on, small cemeteries/shrines and Japanese war tunnels.

Dragon's Back is great, you can take a bus to start it from various points and then finish back in Wan Chai.

Lantau Island has the Lantau trail and you can follow the path under the cable car to Tian Tan Buddha. The Lantau Peak is good with a big view and is the 2nd highest point in Hong Kong.

Generally I found people stuck to the main routes which were even paved in places (to prevent erosion I think) and with safety phones. Going off the main track got into proper wilderness very quickly, even if still on notional paths on an app, which was fun though passer bys looked confused and alarmed when I'd emerge from a bush!
posted by JonB at 7:16 AM on November 19, 2018

A walk around the south coast of Chueng Chau island is varied and pleasant. One can also walk around the north half, but I gather that's less interesting.
posted by kelper at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2018

Best answer: Hi, I live in Hong Kong, in 1960s-era "curvy" housing like that in this article from Gwulo, which is an excellent site full of old-Hong Kong urbanism.

Lamma Island is a good choice to illustrate the pressures our city faces in terms of where to put people and will definitely contrast well with Nathan Road in terms of green space users. Here's a bit of a Lamma backgrounder for you:

Lamma is part of the New Territories and so is covered in small houses despite being just 25 minutes from Central. In other cities this might mean the island would have denser or higher-rise housing, but the Small House Policy limits what can be done with the island's land. Understanding the Small House Policy and how 'rural' elections work in Hong Kong will help your students understand the legal framework that makes Lamma look the way it looks.

It's a good choice for the hike, too: the Sok Kwu Wan to Yung Shue Wan hike is pretty moderate. It's paved the whole way, if narrow, with nice views and toilets en route, and should take you between 3-5 hours depending on how your group is. You'll get excellent views of the huge ships belching out horrific pollution gliding past the famous feng-shui-accommodating Bel-Air complex in Cyberport, of Lamma Winds, and of the use of village vehicles, and Lamma's diminutive fire engines!

However, Lamma alone is a highly atypical lens through which to see the city. It is probably one of the most diverse communities in Hong Kong ethnically and economically: in addition to the island's Chinese residents, it also hosts a very high proportion of non-local residents for a community in the New Territories (about a third of residents aren't Chinese and about 15% didn't live in Hong Kong before 2011, according to the 2016 By-Census) yet is still being part of the heritage of New Territories land regulation and politics. The island has no public housing and is also home to a community of domestic workers, nearly all of whom are from the Philippines or Indonesia, as well as many multinational couples and many expat families raising children.

There's definitely a real lack of services, though, as there are on most of the other small islands - Lamma has no hospital or high school, and the small pathways linking the island's communities get easily blocked in bad weather; Typhoon Mangkhut did quite a lot of damage to much of the housing out there.

You may want to assign your students a bit of homework to explore the Lamma forums and pages on Facebook, which form a whole ecosystem of English-language life on the island I haven't seen anywhere else in the city.

Finally, Lamma has a surprisingly diverse industrial history.

Getting to Lamma is a doddle: get the Tsuen Wan Line to Central and walk to Pier 4 (~10 minutes) for ferries to Lamma - there are more ferries to Yung Shue Wan than Sok Kwu Wan. Ferries don't run all night so plan your afternoon well if you'll be leaving the students in the bars of Yung Shue Wan...

Some other aspects of Hong Kong urbanism it may be worth your students learning about:

- why the Mei Ho House was built
- what the roles of the Urban Renewal Authority and Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme are in reshaping older areas of the city
- how Lee Tung Street in Wan Chai was changed into 'The Avenue'
- which parts of the city are so Instagrammable that our local Time Out published a guide to them
- why the Sea Ranch failed
- micro-enclaves like the Korean community along Kimberley Road
- plans for the immense East Lantau Metropolis, as well as the Energising Kowloon East plan and the repurposing of the old Kai Tak Airport
posted by mdonley at 6:06 AM on November 20, 2018

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