Tai Po's best running trails
Beyond the skyscrapers and traffic-choked streets, Hong Kong is a paradise for runners. This Sunday, some 73,000 people will take part in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. In the lead up to the race, local runners will take you on a tour of the city's neighbourhoods, pointing out the best running routes, shops and pit stops. In this final week, we explore Tai Po with our Health Editor, Jeanette Wang.
First, a disclaimer: I do not live in Tai Po, but the SCMP has its main premises in the Tai Po Industrial Estate.
Competitive running has been a big part of my life since I was teen until recently, when I became a mother. In secondary school, I represented my native Singapore in an international track meet. Later, I was part of the Singapore national triathlon team that competed all over Asia.
Over the years, my racing distances got progressively longer and, in 2013, I did my first hundred miler (160km) race, the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji. Since moving to Hong Kong in February 2011, I've also drifted away from road running in favour of trail running, because it's just so much more interesting, varied and challenging.
However, with the responsibilities of motherhood, I've had to forgo long runs; my near-daily runs are now limited to just 60 minutes. I've also had to do more lunch break runs, because outside of work, almost every second is devoted to the baby.
Our Tai Po office is the perfect location for a lunch run, because we're in the countryside. There are myriad flat road options: by the Tai Po waterfront along Tolo Highway that stretches about 10km to Sha Tin; in the opposite direction towards Sam Mun Tsai, through the Yim Tin Tsai graveyard to the little islet of Ma Shi Chau; or on the footpath by Lam Tsuen River towards Tai Wo station.
For trail, run along the Tai Po River for about 15 minutes and you'll get to the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve where there's a spider's web of trails. In the other direction, a 10-minute jog will take you to the trailhead at Chung Nga Road near Pinehill Village that joins the Wilson Trail and rises steeply to the 440-metre high Cloudy Hill.
The latter is part of my favourite route. I'd rather burn my lungs and legs on the shadeless trail up to Cloudy Hill and be amid nature than have the easy option of a flat, boring road run accompanied by the sound of traffic.
At the peak of Cloudy Hill, after savouring a panaromic view of northeastern Hong Kong, I follow a sign that points towards Sha Lo Tung - and it's pretty much all downhill from here.
Hundreds of steps take me down to a T-junction: I take the right to get onto a road that descends towards Fung Yuen. The road ends at Ting Kok Road, and from there it's just a couple of minutes before I'm back in the office.
My post-run refuelling is done with takeaway from our office canteen.
Scan this QR code to see Jeanette's favourite route