Tall skyscrapers, swanky structures, bustling city crowd and a seductive nightlife – these were the first and only bells to ring in my head whenever I heard or visualized Hong Kong. Why not? Afterall Hong Kong, like Singapore, is one of the significant financial hubs in Southeast Asia and along with that reputation, comes all the above aspects that are supposed to be. However, my urge to explore the relatively uncharted aspects of any place during my trips led me to experience a completely different and beautiful face of Hong Kong. A mountain hike, losing my way in the hilly terrain, a delightful beach and an hour of surfing – I got all I could ask for, although it was pleasantly unexpected.
How did I get the urge for a mountain hike?
I was on an AirAsia flight to Bali in June and I came across an article in the in-flight magazine. This guy had apparently traveled to one of the most remote parts of Hong Kong where he had to trek his way through jungles and hills before finally setting up camp at an isolated beach under the open sky. That is when I decided to add this to my bucket list for Hong Kong. Alas, it was my bad that I did not remember the name of that place by the time I started planning the next trip. But I was convinced enough to be adamant in finding that place if not a similar trek/hike.
What was it?
The Dragon’s back trail located across a ridge in South Eastern part of Hong Kong is a path connecting two mountain peaks that seemingly look like a Dragon’s back, hence the name. It was once voted as the best urban hiking trail by TIME Asia. Starting from Shek-O country park, the trail meanders along the slopes of Shek O peak with few occasional but short steep climbs and thick vegetation. As one ascends towards the peak, plenty of viewpoints (designated or otherwise) are to be found that displays the far-reaching views across South China sea and the scattered islands of the rest of Hong Kong.
While the two peaks are not that high – Wan Cham Shan at 226 m and Shek O Peak at 284 m – and the ascent time would be around an hour and half, like any trek/hike it does get tiring due to the heat and humidity. Yet, all that would be forgotten once you reach to the top and get a 360 degree view across the mountain range, the ocean and the beaches of Shek O and Tei Wan.
The trail continues as you descend (again a couple of occasional steep ones) and approach towards Tai Long Wan village that also is the gateway to the lovingly named “Big Wave Bay”. I personally was quite impressed with this sleepy and pleasant little town Tai Long Wan. There is a relaxed laid back rustic vibe and with the mostly blue-white colored houses gives a charming look to the place. And of course the beautiful beach nestled within the hills is a perfect place to unwind (even better with a Corona) after hours of exhausting walk through the rough terrain. The waters are safe enough to have a swim and also the waves at the eastern side of the beach are big enough to interest scores of surfers. This beach seemed to be the perfect go to place over the weekend for most expats living in Hong Kong. Groups of friends , families, couples or solo travelers – everybody were to be seen out there having fun.
Some useful Information
There aren’t many location indicators on this trail, hence it would be quite easy to lose way and go the wrong path, which obviously doesn’t worry me. As a traveler who is always looking to explore the unknown, I would be doing it wrong if I didn’t lose my way. Yes, I did take a wrong turn after which I lost sight of my companions whom I had just met on the way to this hike. Probably that made the duration of this trail longer than it actually could be for me. Following the exact path would take around 3-4 hours for the entire trail – it took 6 hours for me due to my unintended detour. Also, once on the trail, there are no places or shops for refreshments, so it is sensible to stock up on a few bottles of water/juices/energy drinks.
The paths are often rough and rocky with very few bits of well-made steps thrown in. That was the last I saw of those people too.
How to get there and back?
A short train ride to Shau Kei Wan MTR station followed by a 40 minute bus ride to Tei Wan leads to the start of this trail at Shek O country park. While returning back, the bus from Shek O to Shau Kei Wan is the most convenient way unless you prefer to hail a cab (which would need longer wait time).
There is a really fantastic website that provides each and every detail of not only this trail but anything about Hong Kong. You can get the most useful information about Hong Kong here. Here is a map of this particular hiking trail taken from www.discoverhongkong.com
There are places to be seen everywhere that are not the most popular but are equally beautiful and provide a fulfilling experience. Against many suggestions from people for my Hong Kong trip, I skipped Disneyland and instead went for a nature trail which was one of the most wonderful experiences I have had. Yes, I did soak in the city life but being on those hills and finding my way through the jungles is what is going to stay with me for a long time from this trip.