Into the Wild
Twenty-one awesome things to do in Hong Kong's great outdoors.
As the weather cools down, you can finally get outside without sweating through your clothes within five seconds of leaving the house. Adam White and Justin Heifetz find 21 awesome things to do in the great outdoors.
Hit the Trail
Fall is the perfect hiking season in Hong Kong, so ditch those skinny jeans and grab that water as you set out on these easyish trails.
Oh My God
Ever wondered how much Jesus suffered? Get an inkling on the beach-to-beach hike from Discovery Bay to Mui Wo. Dehydration, sore muscles and the struggle to put one foot in front of the other—there’s a fair amount of uphill on this Lantau hike, but it’s only really torturous because the walk up to the Trappist Monastery halfway between the two bays is lined with statues of the 12 Stations of the Cross, which brings this hike closer to religious ecstasy that you’d expect. Best done on a Sunday, for obvious reasons.
How long? About two hours.
Getting there: Take the ferry from Central Pier No.3 to Discovery Bay. Walk up the road and turn left, then right to get to the starting point of the hike.
So you’re a weakling who wilts at the first sight of a flight of stairs? No problem. Take a gentle downhill stroll through Tai Tam Reservoir where the Tai Tam Family Walk segues into the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail, which is pretty great if you like colonial masonry. Can’t even manage that? Hire a pedalo and splash around the nearby Wong Nai Chung Reservoir instead.
How long? About two and a half hours.
Getting there: Take bus 6 from Central, 76 from Causeway Bay or 41A from North Point Ferry Pier.
Stage 2 of the Wilson Trail is a fairly straightforward hike with unbelievably good views looking out over North Point and Kowloon. Be warned: There are quite a lot of steps where you least expect them. The best thing about doing this trail this time of year is that it ends in Quarry Bay, next to the Tong Chong Street Market which runs every Sunday until the end of the year. This means you can reward yourself with hipster street food at the end of your trek, which is a pretty compelling incentive.
How long? Around three hours.
Getting there: Get a cab to Parkview. The trail is clearly signposted.
Wilson Trail. (Photo: Adam White)
Wan of Us
There are few things more rewarding than the hike to Tai Long Wan. Yes, these days the trail will be pretty busy on the weekends. But it’s still a great hike with pristine beaches which await at the end of it, and you can hire camping equipment to spend the night under the stars before grabbing a ferry back the next morning.
How long? A strenuous two hours.
Getting there: Take the 29R minibus from Chan Man Rd. in Sai Kung, across from the McDonald’s, to the last stop, Sai Wan Pavillion.
How Now, Macau?
Macau isn’t all casinos and that ruined church. The rest of the city may have been glitzed over, but the southernmost island of Coloane still retains plenty of greenery. It’s an easy walk around the island, and best of all: You can go for a well-deserved dinner by the beach at Fernando’s (9 Praia de Hac Sa, Coloane, (+853) 2888-2531) afterwards.
How long? Two hours.
Getting there: Hail a taxi and stop at the barbecue pits by Estrada do Altinho de Ka Ho.
Tai Long Wan (Photo: Flickr / Mark Lehmkuhler)
You might not be able to discover all 263 of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, but you can start with five.
Tap Mun, aka Grass Island, is a popular camping site, thanks to its gentle slopes and panoramic views. The fishing village is a true slice of old Hong Kong, and cattle roam freely on the hills. So if you’re cooking, make sure to seal everything up before you go to sleep.
Getting there: Kaito ferries run from Ma Liu Shui and Wong Shek Piers in Sai Kung.
The island of Yim Tin Tsai was once home to a thriving Hakka community who farmed salt in the area. But as the industry died the population moved away, and now the island is home to all of one person. Which means it’s full of spookily abandoned buildings which nature has begun to reclaim—and, for some reason, the UNESCO-rated St. Joseph’s Chapel, built by Catholic missionaries in 1890.
Getting there: Kaitos run from Sai Kung pier and Yim Tin Tsai on weekends and public holidays and take about 15 minutes.
Tung Ping Chau is in the far northeast of Mirs Bay, and is actually much closer to China than to the SAR. But that’s not the only reason it’s adventure worthy. This quiet island is famed for its rock pools, unique geology and stunning sunrises. The only downside is that it takes so long to get there.
Getting there: Kaitos run on weekends and public holidays from Ma Liu Shui pier. The ride takes 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Yim Tin Tsai. (Photo: Flickr / Paulwan8)
Tee for Two
Now that the weather’s cooler, it makes sense to spend half the day on a barren landscape looking for a tiny white speck. Yup, it’s prime golf season. Head to Kau Sai Chau in Sai Kung, which is the city’s only public golf course (from $390 for 9 holes). Yes, a golf course on a remote island does sound like a Bond movie scene. What better reason to play there?
Getting there: Ferries run regularly from the dedicated pier in Sai Kung.
It’s island exploration-lite if you visit Cheung Chau, but there are a couple of lesser-trodden paths on everyone’s favorite island. Plus you can always visit Cheung Po Tsai Cave, a little wriggle space said to be where the famous buccaneer hoarded his treasure.
Getting there: Take the ferry from Central Pier No.5.
Camping for Wimps
If you like the idea of staying out in the open, but you’re pretty sure you’ll get scared halfway through the night and run for shelter, try AirBnBing a place in the New Territories. Lots of space to run around in—and a roof over your head for when the typhoon rolls in.
Go Shoot a Wild Boar
No, not really. But if you’re out and about in the New Territories there’s a good chance you’ll see these little (and big) critters. The government urges that you report them if they’re being a nuisance: The complaint hotline for these porcine pests is 1823. And remember, heed the government’s somewhat wordy advice: “If you see wild pigs in the wild, you should keep calm, stay away and leave them undisturbed.”
Tung Ping Chau (Photo: Flickr / XexeX)
The lower the ambient temperature, the more time you have before you collapse of heat stroke! It’s time to get active…
Rock Out on a Rock Face
Thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies or those of you with just a really good grip: Hong Kong is actually pretty great for rock climbing. Turns out Lion Rock, the mountain crag that tears through the line between Kowloon and the New Territories, has more functionality than tunnels and Occupy banners: The buttresses can be climbed—for details check out hongkongclimbing.com. If you’re more of a beginner, Tung Lung Chau, which can be reached by ferry from Sai Wan Ho, has the “technical wall”—a fairly easily navigable climb on pure volcanic rock. It’s the most popular climbing destination in Hong Kong. Looking for a more controlled setting? Head to the outdoor climbing wall at YMCA King Park’s Centenary Center (22 Gascoigne Rd., Yau Ma Tei, 2782-6682). Climbing lessons cost $450 per hour, but less if you go in a group.
Learn to surf
It doesn’t matter that the water’s getting cooler—you’ll be wearing a wetsuit and falling in a lot anyway. The Surf School in Tai Long Wan (3482-3912, surfhongkong.com) offers lessons to the woefully inexperienced and annoyingly experienced alike. Sessions start at $350 if you organize a group booking of more than eight people, with smaller groups costing more.
Get Rugged for Charity
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like taking disaster relief to the most remote corners of the world, now’s your chance. The IP Global TriChallenge on December 5 recreates the conditions that employees from relief charity Shelterbox must face out in the field: rafting, abseiling and running across 10km of terrain in Sai Kung, all while carrying an enormous crate of goods. Challenges will pop up along the way and there’s a tougher 16km race if you’re... insane. But best of all, proceeds from the event will go to Shelterbox. Register by October 25 at trichallenge.com.hk.
Surf School (Photo: SCMP / Martin Chan)
Grill ‘em, Cowboy
Soon you’ll be able to stand by a collection of embers without sweating out your body’s entire supply of moisture in seconds: It’s time to go BBQ!
Shek it Now Baby
Shek O main beach has a few BBQ pits, but they go quick. Play it safe (and easy) by booking a spot at Liu’s BBQ (Shek O Main Beach, 2809-4579). This private BBQ site provides the charcoal and the space, so you don’t have to show up at 6am to guarantee yourself a spot. The only problem? Trying to get a cab home at the end of the day when you’re drunk and dealing with a serious case of meat sweats...
Pick a Platform
Forget private kitchens. What you want is Private Corner in Yung Shue O (facebook.com/PrivateCornerYSO, 5986-6868). You’ll get speedboated out to this converted fishing platform, where you can spend the day swimming and grilling in your own private corner of Sai Kung: It’s like a sedentary junk trip. If you’re really lucky with a line, you can even cook up what you catch.
Grill up some history at Pinewood Battery in Lung Fu Shan Country Park, a picnic site set in the ruins of a military fort built in 1901. One of the two barbecue sites is also home to a lookout built on top of a World War II pillbox. It’s an easy walk from The Peak.
What better time of year to lie under the night sky and look into the infinitesimal void of space, wondering if that shooting star means your fate will—oh, wait, it’s just a plane.
Gaze for Days
The Hong Kong Astropark in Sai Kung was the SAR’s answer to light pollution—well, that’s what the government said when it opened in 2010—and it’s comforting to know that somehow, in this little corner of Hong Kong, neon signs on blast at 3am aren’t causing full-on mania. Head to the Astropark for either an overnight experience, where the park (or “naked-eye observation area,” as it’s called) promises a laid-back camping experience under the stars; or go and have a field day with the telescopes instead. Download the free SkyView Free app to guide you through the stars, data-free.
Getting there: Obviously, the Astropark is in the middle of nowhere. Take bus 94, 96R or 698R, or green minibus 7 or 9, to Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung and then take a taxi for about 15 minutes. There are also scheduled shuttle buses to and from Sai Kung Tang Shiu Kin Sports Ground.
Carry on Glamping
Go glamping—that’s “glam camping,” if you’ve not been reading much Cosmo recently—at Mingle Farm, who have caravans and tents available for rental. But it’s not just tents: Mingle Farm also has see-through bubble igloo tents for hire (from $1,200), so you can spend the night gazing up at the wide universe overhead. Either that, or someone’s just stolen the tent.
30 Fung Ka Wai, Tin Chi Rd., Yuen Long, 2891-8263, www.minglefarm.com.
Get Your Zen Back
All those numberless stars generated an existential crisis? A massive injection of spirituality should help you rediscover your zen. Luckily, this is readily available in the form of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin, where, yes, 10,000 iterations of the Enlightened One festoon every available surface. In fall, the half-hour or so steptastic slog lined with unique (and silly) buddhas will be far more manageable. Your crisis of self? That's up to you.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (Photo: Adam White)
Top Three Alternatives to Being Outdoors
Hate fresh air? Try these foolproof indoors solutions.
1. Seal yourself off from the world in an “isolation tank” aka “floaty nap pod,” at Float On Hong Kong (www.floatonhk.com). For an all-too-short hour, you will be alone with yourself. Hope you’re interesting.
2. Live in Elements shopping mall forever, because once you set foot inside you will NEVER get out again.
3. “Netflix and chill” when the movie and TV streaming service launches in early 2016.