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Island adventures: beaches and hikes in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Island skyline

Along with industry visits and workshops, our two week Hong Kong advertising and public relations study tour had time to explore Hong Kong. And I still find myself amazed by the extraordinary diversity that Hong Kong has to offer. Within minutes you can go from wandering along the cluttered, neon-clad alleyways of central Hong Kong, to sitting on the coarse sand of an undeveloped island beach. We endeavored to discover as many of these hidden gems as we possibly could, with the following three standing out as “must do” experiences when you’re in Hong Kong.

Cheng Chau (Long Island)

The colourful, vibrant market streets of Cheng Chau

Following a “late” night out in Hong Kong’s notorious nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong, Dom and I vehemently agreed that the best way to nurse ourselves back to full health was with a refreshing dip at a local beach. Armed with nothing more than a tip from Geneva Vanderzeil (http://apairandasparediy.com) and our sophisticated, finely honed online research skills (Google search: “Beach somewhere near Hong Kong Central”), we boarded a ferry bound for Cheng Chau.

Cheng Chau Pier

This turned out to be the first of what become a recurring lesson in Hong Kong – you don’t need a clear plan of where you’re going in order to find something incredible. The island was fantastic – littered with colourful shops and funky cafes, and more importantly home to a couple of wide, sandy beaches.

Cheng Chau is home to several picturesque beaches
Small lifeguard offices adorn the waterfront
The beaches were littered with tourists and boats

We selected the less crowded of the two as our swimming location and enjoyed the next hour or so happily floating in the cool water, dodging a local man clad in what can only be described as a male G-string as he happily frolicked among the knee high waves.

A temple on Cheng Chau

Back on the shore, we decided to set off in hunt of the several cultural attractions that occupy Cheng Chau, including a small temple, an impressive local education complex and a miniature replica of the Great Wall of China that spanned several kilometres of the coastline. Despite melting in the 35 degree heat and quickly discovering that flip flops were not appropriate footwear for hiking across a mountainous island, some of the scenery was downright breathtaking and we easily killed a couple of hours taking in everything that the island had to offer.

Colourful artefacts embellish the local temples
Cheng Chau’s “Mini Great Wall” spans a large section of the coastline
The island is home to several impressive rock formations
Hiking around the island is a great way to take in the spectacular views

Point of Interest:

Fish balls are a local delicacy of Cheng Chau, and as you wander through the markets you will come across a large number of vendors peddling ridiculous quantities of them fried on skewers like a seafood shish kebab. Trying one is a MUST for all cultural eating aficionados.

Dom “enjoys” a fish ball

Full disclosure – if you do not enjoy eating stress balls and pencil erasers, these might not be the food for you.

The texture is highly reminiscent of a car tire

Lamma Island

Lamma is home to an abundance of green trees and sapphire blue coves

During the second weekend of our tour, after spending an exhausting day exploring the chaos and excess that is Macau, Angus, Jacob and I decided we could do with more of a relaxing day. With this idea at the forefront of our minds, we set off for idyllic, quiet Lamma Island, which had been recommended to us by the fantastically knowledgeable staff at Hotel Jen. Despite this, within minutes of setting foot on the island, all plans of relaxation were promptly tossed out of the window.

Lamma’s main village is situated around a bay
The village is predominantly home to fishermen and businesses catering to tourists

Located within a short 20-minute ferry ride of Central Pier, Lamma is the ultimate mix of beach and bush. Overwhelmed by the thought of cruising around the island to peruse quaint fishing villages and postcard-worthy beaches, we quickly hired bicycles and embarked on Le Tour de Lamma.

Jacob led the way as we hopped on our rented bikes to explore the island
We rode through several smaller villages and tourist sites
The path winds across a variety of fantastic beach areas

The ride started out as peacefully as we had imagined, as the path wove its way through the main town centre and along the waterfront to the first of several beaches. What we had failed to consider however, was the fairly large mountain in between us and the other side of the island.

At this point, we were starting to have doubts about our plan

The next couple of hours was some of the best fun I had on the entire trip – flying up and down narrow paths, pausing only to take photos and avoid impromptu encounters with 50m sheer cliff faces. A litany of luxury yachts stretched out through the surrounding waters, providing an absurd backdrop that greeted us every single time we labored over the top of a peak.

Views from the top of one of Lamma’s mountain ridges
At times, the road became nothing more than a thin dirt path that snaked its way between the trees
On the far side of the mountain range, the path brought us down to a vibrant fishing village
Lamma’s relatively untouched beauty is a stark contrast to the vibrant metropolis of Hong Kong Island

After several pit stops to make use of the fantastic beaches that stud the island’s shores – including one with a diving pontoon – we finally made it to the other side of the island where we were ecstatic to find a strip of waterfront, fresh seafood restaurants to pick from for lunch. As we sat on a floating deck above a small fishing cove and feasted on an array of prawns, calamari and Chinese delicacies, we simply could not wait to get back to HKBU and brag about our incredible experience to the rest of the group.

Enjoying lunch at one of the many waterfront restaurants

Only first we had to ride back across the damn mountain.

Dragon’s Back & Big Wave Bay

This hike is a “must do” if you visit Hong Kong

I cannot state this strongly enough – if you visit Hong Kong, YOU NEED TO DO THE DRAGON’S BACK HIKE! Even if you don’t like hiking, this 8.5km of luscious green terrain delivers such amazing and unique views that it simply cannot be missed.

The path winds its way along the breathtaking coastline
The team stopping to enjoy the amazing view
Dragon’s Back consists of several consecutive mountain ridges

Only a short cab (or bus) ride out of the city, the walk takes you across a series of coastal mountain ridges whose peaks provide ample vantage points to overlook both the majestic city and the captivating Hong Kong archipelago. As a lover of nature walks, I always find it useful to judge a hike by the amount of complaining from less enthusiastic trekkers, and its in this regard that Dragon’s Back really stands out.

Cooling off at a small fresh water stream
Enjoying a drinks break while taking in the view

 

The trail gives way to views of both the coastline and the city

Despite the steep inclines, rocky steps and torturous heat (Angus actually began to liquify), the group’s spirits remained high as we roamed, enthralled by the beautiful countryside.

Hiking in 35 degree heat is always a struggle

Of course it helped that the finish line of the hike happened to be one of Hong Kong’s most famous beaches – Big Wave Bay. Honestly, I struggle to think of many better ways to spend a morning.

As one of the more popular beaches, Big Wave Bay was absolutely packed
The countryside surrounding the beach is blissfully untouched
The team enjoying a much needed swim after the long hike
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I'm a third year advertising and marketing student with a slightly unnatural obsession with Batman memorabilia.

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