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Just Another Hong Kong Weekend

July 27, 2009

On Being Locals

Hiking through the jungle one day and riding a double-decker bus into the city the next…it’s all par for the course here in the ol’ HKSAR.

On Saturday, Husband Extraordinaire and I decided to cross another “must-do-while-we-live-in-Hong-Kong” item off our list and finally travel out to the New Territories for a hike.  Now here’s the thing: we live on the south side of Hong Kong Island.  The north side of the island is considered the main downtown area, and then across the harbor to the north is Kowloon, which is another major shopping, cultural and residential district.  And then as you continue further north, you reach the New Territories—still technically Hong Kong—and then as you keep going you hit China.

hong-kong-map

So on this (very simplified) map, we live near Stanley, the southernmost red dot, and our destination was the Sai Kung Peninsula (in bold).  As you see, the New Territories is massive compared to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.  But our Hong Kong experience has been limited to the two latter areas—and a few of the 230+ outlying islands, for good measure.

In our defense, you could easily live here for years exploring only Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and still never see and do everything there is to, well, see and do.  But being the 18-month natives that we are, we felt it was time to branch out.  You know, ‘cause we’re hardcore like that.

If you don’t have a car—and really, it’s hardly necessary in this most efficient country—your trek from our flat to Sai Kung involves several modes of transport.  We were out the door by 6:30 am (OK, fine, it was closer to 6:45) to catch a mini-bus, the trusty #16, around the east side of the island, then transferred to the metro’s island line and rode a couple stops along the north side, then switched to the (never previously experienced by yours truly!) purple line, which crossed underneath the east side of the harbor and then took us north into the New Territories.  From the town of Sai Kung, we hopped on another mini-bus (the 101M, in case you’re keeping track) and headed out to the entrance of the Sai Kung Country Park.  From here we could have caught another mini-bus, but since we weren’t sure which one—and there are dozens, I mean, DOZENS, to choose from—we opted for a taxi to take us to the beginning of the MacLehose Trail, stage 2.

Now, I always feel like a bit of a sell-out taking a taxi in Hong Kong, and this decision was no exception.  Sure enough, just as we were feeling all proud of ourselves for navigating thus far and arriving in plenty of time to complete our 15 km “strenuous” hike before the worst of the heat, we realized that we had to drive along a road that is part of the MacLehose Trail, stage 1.  And so we passed scores of people who were not ONLY out earlier than us, and not ONLY opting to start from the trail’s origination, but in most cases backpacking in, with loads 3 or 4 times heavier than our light daypacks, or even worse, RUNNING, and now forced to choke on the fumes of our taxi and we went sailing by in air-conditioned decadence.

Anyway, we made it to the start of our chosen section of the trail and summitted the first 1000 foot (300 meter) climb with gusto.  The views were splendid.

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As the photos reveal (aside from cool things hanging from trees), it’s pretty hilly out there, and after this first ascent, it occurred to me that we weren’t just going up, snapping a few pictures, and heading back down.  No, no, we were going down, and then back up, and then down again, and up.  Repeat.

Usually when Husband Extraordinaire and I go hiking, we look at the anticipated time allotted by whichever guidebook we are using and shave off a fair amount, knowing that WE are hardly AVERAGE.  So in this case, our Serious Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong projected 5 hours, and Husband Extraordinaire confidently predicted 3 hours, while I secretly assumed 4.  Ha!  5 and a half hours later—which does include a 30 minute lunch break—we stumbled down the last descent and thankfully hailed a mini-bus.

Truly, it’s a gorgeous hike, and while definitely strenuous, as in “Wow I’m still a bit sore 2 days later,” it’s certainly not very strenuous, as in “Honey, save yourself, I can’t make it, just go on without me and tell The Kid I tried.”

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On Sunday we set out the find the Hong Kong Farmer’s Market, which allegedly takes place at the Star Ferry Pier from 11-4 and boasts such novelties as affordable free-range eggs and organic produce.  Since the ferry departs from Central (as in, the most downtown part of the sprawling downtown), we packed up The Kid and caught the 260 (Central Express) bus from Stanley.

The Kid adores all methods of transportation, but in particular, he loves the double-decker buses.  And even more particularly, he loves riding in the very front seat of the very top of the double-decker bus, where a wide window is all that separates you from the outreaching arms of overgrown trees that arch over the narrow, winding road.  When you pass another double-decker coming the other way, you can seriously count the freckles on the eager faces of the tourists who are sitting in the seat corresponding to yours.  It’s a thrill, alright!

I am happy to report that the Farmer’s Market does exist, and that our arrival at about 10:50 a.m. assured me an advantageous spot in the queue for free range eggs.  We also bought some lovely asparagus, but my hopes of garden tomatoes were quickly dashed when I glanced across the spread of almost exclusively green offerings.  Yep, the Chinese love their leafy veggies.

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The photo on the right portrays the figure whose sign communicates the very strict rules for how and when you can acquire the free range eggs.  On the left, the queue for the coveted eggs themselves.  Oh, and what’s that, you say?  You see a Subway in the background?  True enough, my friends, and make no mistake about it—we had turkey on wheat and spicy Italian on parmesan-oregano for lunch.  Like I said, we’re totally natives.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah Hagelin permalink
    September 2, 2009 6:46 am

    Laura! This is such a great blog. 🙂 Love the pics from the hike….

  2. February 10, 2010 4:19 pm

    Hi Laura,

    I lived in the Sai Kung area for more than 20 years, so I recognize all your views. Did you know that on your hike you walked past the most spectacular ravine in the area (seven waterfalls) without noticing it? Very few people know it’s there.

    You might be interested in this post from my blog (all pics taken in the Sai Kung area):

    http://dennishodgson.blogspot.com/2009/11/another-side-of-hong-kong.html

    I now live in the northern New Territories (near Fanling). My (mis)guided tour of this area is here:

    http://dennishodgson.blogspot.com/2010/01/hong-kong-country.html

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