Solitude within the metropolis
Hundreds of chiselled hexagonal columns soar gloriously in the direction of the sky, glistening with a red-brown tinge beneath the scorching solar.
This is just not one other modern skyscraper hemmed in by Victoria Harbour in densely populated Hong Kong. Instead, I’m kilometres away in a volcanic geopark in Sai Kung, a secluded coastal zone within the north-east of the territory.
The 100m-tall rock columns, stacked symmetrically like gargantuan matchsticks, are a geological marvel in Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark (www.geopark.gov.hk).
Overlooking the ocean and the East Dam, the columns have been shaped within the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that occurred 140 million years in the past, says my information Cindy Choi, a volunteer with R2G Tours (www.hkr2g. web). The eruption spewed a lot ash and lava that the magma chamber within the volcano collapsed, making a despair or caldera, she explains. Over time, volcanic tuff, a rock shaped from the ash, consolidated and cooled right down to kind the alien hexagonal columns.
On the opposite aspect of the East Dam are views of rolling emerald hills and extra hexagonal columns. A basin of placid midnight-blue water in the course of these hills belies Sai Kung’s fiery volcanic previous.
These hexagonal columns pepper the craggy volcanic shoreline, which I see throughout my morning hike in Sai Kung. It is wonderful that they’d have remained out of sight if not for the development of the High Island Reservoir – Hong Kong’s largest reservoir – that was constructed within the 1970s to alleviate water scarcity. It was solely then that the columns have been found.
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific fly from Singapore to Hong Kong each day. The flight takes about 4 hours.
• The finest interval to go mountain climbing is from September to mid-October, when the local weather is cool and dry.
• Those who are new to mountain climbing ought to take alongside a mountain climbing stick. The paths are sometimes rocky and steep. Wear mountain climbing sneakers and stroll in a zigzag method when tackling rocky paths to keep up steadiness.
• Plan your route and take alongside maps and guidebooks as cell phone indicators can get weak. Look out for distance posts alongside the way in which, which state the latitude and longitude of a spot that may be traced again to the map. •
• There aren’t any meals and water factors alongside the way in which, particularly in Sai Kung, so it’s important to hold water and snacks comparable to cookies, vitality bars or dried fruit.
• Skip stage one of many MacLehose Trail, which presents little or no change in surroundings and little shelter alongside the way in which. Instead of beginning at Pak Tam Chung, get the taxi driver to cease at East Dam to discover the hexagonal columns and sea cave.
• For extra ideas, go to bit.ly/2EvRy4k
In some methods, Sai Kung sums up Hong Kong’s bounty of pure sights, which have remained inconspicuous amid its huge urbanisation.
The metropolis is actually identified extra as a procuring and eating haven than a nature sizzling spot. When I give it some thought, that is shocking, provided that about three-quarters of its land is countryside. Hong Kong is wealthy in nation parks and mountain climbing trails, together with the famend 100km MacLehose Trail that spans a lot of the New Territories.
This is my third journey to Hong Kong and it’s vastly totally different from my first two. This time, I commerce procuring baggage for mountain climbing sneakers to discover geological websites, waterfalls and prolonged wilderness trails over 5 days. I additionally sojourn to Cheung Chau Island, the place I sleep beneath the celebs in a geodesic “glamping” tent.
In latest years, mountain climbing has develop into extra fashionable amongst Hong Kongers. Ms Choi, who goes on month-to-month hikes, says with a chuckle: “Our homes in the city are so crammed, that’s why we find peace and tranquillity during our hikes.”
In November final yr, the Hong Kong Tourism Board launched a nifty free e-guidebook, Great Outdoors Hong Kong (bit.ly/2CPfIGq), which maps out 15 mountain climbing and biking trails, full with transport guides and mountain climbing ideas.
To ease myself into mountain climbing motion, shortly after I arrive, I start with a straightforward inexperienced city path from The Peak to Lung Fu Shan Country Park. I take two hours, beginning at Lugard Road, a stone’s throw from The Peak Tower mall on Victoria Peak and ending close to hip eating enclave Kennedy Town.
Just 5 minutes in and I enter a leafy retreat lined with vantage factors to see the glitzy skyline. It is thrilling to see the town’s skyscrapers peek beneath my toes on the lookout factors.
This warm-up prepares my legs for levels one and two of the 10-stage MacLehose Trail. My two levels, which comprise one-fifth of the 100km path, begin on the East Dam, which is flanked by sprawling slopes of gigantic dolosse – concrete blocks used to guard harbour partitions – and volcanic boulders. It is an enigmatic scene that evokes a way of being stranded in a barren desert.
The hike is blessed with panoramic views of coves, ridges and uplands which can be carpeted in dense grassy vegetation and open out to the silent seas.
I detour for a number of moments to Long Ke Wan – an idyllic inlet of pearl-white sand seashore close to a drug rehabilitation centre. I’m delighted on the silky softness of the tremendous sand and harbour ideas of lolling round and taking a dip within the clear blue waters, however I have to maneuver on.
The hike takes a difficult activate the ascent to the path’s highest level, Sai Wan Shan, which is 314m tall. Instead of concrete slabs, the trail is now riddled with rocks and steep steps, a few of them knee-high.
It might be straightforward to lose one’s footing when taking within the sights of undulating hills that fade out to the horizon. Along the way in which, Ms Choi rubs her palms towards the dwarf mountain pine shrubs and inhales the invigorating balsamic-nutty scent of the pine needles. I comply with her instance – the perfume of the pine is a refreshing treatment for fatigue.
My five-hour hike ends at Sai Wan Pavilion, the closest pick-up level for taxis and buses – an excellent 10km away from the place we started. Once on the path, there is no such thing as a turning again. I start to really feel a way of accomplishment for soldiering on.
A much less strenuous hike, one other day, is at Hong Kong’s tallest mountain, Tai Mo Shan, which implies “big hat mountain” in Cantonese. Standing at 957m, the volcanic rock is nearly twice as tall as Hong Kong’s tallest constructing, the 108-storey International Commerce Centre, which I’ll glimpse a few instances alongside the way in which.
I be part of the Tai Mo Shan Sunrise Hike Tour by travel company Tour three.zero (www.tour3g.com), which ferries hikers three-quarters up the mountain to catch the dawn at its peak. Walking previous get together revellers in my resort foyer at three.30am, I zip up my windbreaker in anticipation.
At the park, chilly winds buffet my face and I’m shrouded in darkness save for a mini torchlight, a blinding constellation of stars and two twinkling purple lights from the Hong Kong Observatory that sits on the height. Looking up, my information Ming Ko says: “This is the closest spot you can get to the stars in Hong Kong.”
Just earlier than day breaks, the hue of the sky adjustments dramatically from black-navy darkness to orange-pink inside 15 minutes. I’m mesmerised by the wisps of clouds drifting previous the dreamy mountains.
A preferred post-hike refuel cease is Duen Kee Chinese Restaurant in Chuen Lung Village, a 10-minute drive away. The 70-year-old restaurant is abuzz with the chatter of the breakfast crowd and the chirping of birds as many older clients exhibit their caged pets whereas digging into dim sum.
I assist myself to baskets of siew mai, glutinous rice and bao which can be piled on steamers. The wait workers speedily compute the invoice based mostly on the color of the plates on the finish of my yum cha breakfast.
After breakfast, I head to the Ng Tung Chai Waterfall, additionally a part of Tai Mo Shan Country Park, the place I seen the dawn. The waterfall, at about 70m, is likely one of the tallest in Hong Kong. The cascade, which is nestled in a thick jungle, is split into 4 sections that current progressively dramatic falls.
The uphill hike will get rockier and steeper, so sure-footedness and a mountain climbing stick are required. At one level, I have to bend and cling onto bigger rocks to hoist myself up.
Much of the primary degree on the backside, actually named the Bottom fall, is obscured by lush foliage, so spend extra time on the second or Middle fall. This 20m waterfall gushes down ferociously and sprays a cool bathe over me after I step nearer.
The higher two sections – named the Main and Scattered falls – might be harmful as a few of the rocks are unstable and the paths are obstructed by thick vegetation. After consulting my information, I flip again after trekking one-third of the way in which to the Main fall.
After days of solitude in nature, it’s surreal to return to the town centre. I stumble upon frenzied folks in Causeway Bay each 5 steps.
A shopping center launches certainly one of Asia Pacific’s largest out of doors screens – the dimensions of 5 tennis courts – on my final day. Above the display’s luminous glow, I spot a full moon within the sky and picture how lovely it will look within the wild.
•Kenneth Goh, a contract meals and life-style author, was hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Sleep in a tepee and windsurf on Cheung Chau
Lying inside a clear geodesic dome-shaped tent, I’m intently counting the 30-odd stars that hold above. Giddy from gazing, I shut my eyes whereas listening to the crashing waves and chirping of cicadas and drift to sleep.
I’m on Cheung Chau, a dumbbellshaped island south-west of Hong Kong Island and one of many quietest inhabited locations within the territory.
Time and custom have stood nonetheless in Cheung Chau. Every April or May, through the fourth lunar month, hundreds throng the island for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which options “bun snatching” – climbers scale towers clad with 6,000 imitation buns and seize as many ping an (peace) buns as doable as symbols of blessing.
A dose of vibrancy has been injected into this sleepy island. Last July, Sai Yuen Farm (www.saiyuen farm.com), a 400,000 sq ft leisure facility, was transformed from an deserted backyard of a delivery magnate’s household.
The farm homes an eclectic vary of lodgings comparable to tepees, African safari tents, Mongolian yurts and the geodesic domes.
The farm additionally levels greater than 20 actions, together with an exhilarating six-station treetop cover stroll impediment course that entails balancing on picket blocks and ropes suspended within the air, Segway rides, archery and a waffle-making workshop.
A 10-minute stroll from the farm is the Cheung Po Tsai cave, named after a infamous pirate who commandeered a flotilla of 600 junks within the South China Sea through the 18th century.
The cave is accessed by a gap vast sufficient for just one particular person to squeeze by way of at a time. With the sunshine from my cellphone, I hunch and crawl my approach out of the comfortable hideout.
Near the historic Warwick Hotel is the place to begin for the Mini Great Wall, a marble-like stone footpath that appears nothing like the actual deal. The 15-minute path ends at a pavilion that appears out to Lamma Island, Hong Kong Island and Zhuhai, China.
Besides exploring the island on foot, water can also be a significant a part of Cheung Chau’s id. It produced Hong Kong’s first and solely Olympic Gold medallist, Lee Lai-Shan, who gained the windsurfing medal in 1996. The achievement is proudly marked in a mural on the entrance of the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre (www.ccwindc.com. hk) in Kwun Yam Beach, the place she had skilled.
Water infants can windsurf, kayak and paddleboard. I kayak across the western a part of the island, which is sprinkled with unusually formed granite boulders that resemble bread loaves, a goat and an elephant.
Cheung Chau is a 40-minute ferry trip from Pier 5 at Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island.
Forget the standard foodie hangouts in Hong Kong. Here are 5 extra uncommon spots to take a look at
What: Strolling alongside the picturesque Lee Tung Avenue – home to the well-known Omotesando Koffee from Tokyo and ice cream parlour Givres, identified for its Instagram-worthy rose-shaped gelato cones – one would by no means count on to enter the fantasy world of Ophelia. Behind heavy inexperienced velvet curtains is a dimly lit sultry cocktail lounge with peacock-inspired interiors (above). Tapas can be found, together with signature cocktails together with Cheongasm (left), which incorporates tequila reposado, housemade pomegranate cordial and La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Rouge; and The Jade Cat, which incorporates Iwai Japanese whisky, Baika Ranman umeshu and housemade bitter inexperienced tea liqueur. Perfect for a hen’s get together.
Where: Shop F39A & F41A, 1/F, Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
Open: 6pm to 2am (Mondays to Thursdays), 6pm to 3am (Fridays and Saturdays), closed on Sundays Info: Call +852-2520-1117 or go to www.ophelia.com.hk
What: Although it opened in 2014, this contemporary European restaurant has remained beneath the foodie radar as it’s tucked away in a non-descript constructing in On Lan Street. It is finest to make a visit earlier than the crowds flock there because it has earned its first Michelin star on this yr’s Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau.
Run by Australian chef Shane Osborn – previously of Pied a Terre in London – its concise menu options loads of seasonal components together with ones from his terrace kitchen backyard. Highlights embrace Japanese fruit tomato with imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), rocket pesto, bitter cream and marfuga olive oil (HK$248 or S$42.10); hamachi carpaccio with avocado puree, shaved child daikon, citrus dressing and ice plant (HK$258); sauteed potato gnocchi with caramelised leek, cep French dressing and shiitake duxelle (above, HK$348); and roast pigeon breast and confit leg with lentils, morteau sausage, parsley root puree and port wine sauce (HK$508).
Where: Level three, 18 On Lan Street, Central
Open: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10pm (weekdays), 6.30 to 10pm (Saturdays), closed on Sundays
Info: Call +852-2728-0178 or go to www.arcane.hk
three COBO HOUSE BY 2AM: DESSERTBAR
What: While one would possibly count on Singapore pastry queen Janice Wong of 2am: dessertbar to open in a swanky location in central Hong Kong, she picked the western district of Sai Wan, a peaceable oasis amid tall buildings and residences, for Cobo House (proper) and its neighbouring Artisan Room cafe.
She affords a lunch menu which adjustments weekly, alongside desserts and teatime choices. And there are many savoury dishes to select from, together with scallop somen with sakura ebi, ikura, lobster oil and egg yolk (HK$338); lobster with uni orzo and mushrooms (HK$488); and wagyu with brown black pepper crab ravioli, bamboo shoot cream and puffed quinoa (HK$498). Of course, there are many candy choices, together with her signature cassis plum dessert (HK$168) and “Purple” (HK$108), which incorporates purple potato puree, blackberry parfait and lavender marshmallows.
Where: Ground and first flooring, eight/12 South Lane Sai Wan
Open: Noon to 3pm , 6pm to midnight (each day), 2.30 to 6pm (weekend tea)
Info: Call +852-2656-3088, e-mail [email protected] or go to www.cobohouse.com
four SAI KUNG CHUNG KEE CHE CHAI NOODLE
What: Cart noodles, or che chai noodles (left), are to not be missed when in Hong Kong. And whether or not it is advisable gas up for a hike in Sai Kung or wind down from one, head to the 42-year-old Sai Kung Chung Kee in your noodle repair. It is just not the simplest to search out as it’s off the principle street, however it’s price navigating by way of the buildings to get right here. Choose your noodles, then take your decide from a wide range of components (above) together with pig blood jelly, braised mushrooms, beef tripe, curry fishballs and greens. Prices begin at HK$25.
Where: Ground flooring, Ko Shing Building, 19-21 Fuk Man Road, Sai Kung
Open: 7.30am to 7.30pm (weekdays), 7.30am to 8pm (weekends and public holidays)
Info: Call +852-2792-9172
5 KWAN KEE BAMBOO NOODLE
What: It is just not typically that you simply see eateries making noodles by hand, a lot much less ones kneaded with a bamboo keep on with get the right texture. Few do it just like the Bib Gourmand-rated Kwan Kee Bamboo Noodle, which was began within the 1990s in Macau and has been in Hong Kong since 2010. Prices vary from HK$30 to HK$70 for noodle dishes such because the signature wonton noodles; noodles with shrimp roe and oyster sauce (left); and beef brisket noodles. Kwan Kee Bamboo Noodle additionally retails its noodles and sauces.
Where: Ground flooring, 1E Wing Lung Street, Cheung Sha Wan
Open: 10am to 11pm each day
Info: Call +852-3484-9126 or go to www.kknoodles.com
•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ
•The author’s journey was sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Go west for an eclectic mixture of old-school shops and hipster joints
The western aspect of Hong Kong – specifically Sai Ying Pun and Sai Wan – is shortly making its mark as a buzzing foodie enclave to not be missed.
It is an eclectic mixture of old-school shops interlaced with hipster joints. Think conventional retailers promoting salted fish and baked items to craft beer bistros and artisan cafes.
Plus, the streets within the quaint hill city are straightforward to navigate and there are a number of MTR exits linked to the Sai Ying Pun and HKU stations.
Some of the institutions in Sai Ying Pun embrace Chi Loi Heung Egg Rolls (66 Third Street), an establishment for greater than 40 years within the space which nonetheless makes its egg rolls by hand, together with different merchandise comparable to peanut sweet, spouse biscuits and sesame biscuits.
Head subsequent door to Yu Kwen Yick (66A Third Street, www.yukwenyick. com.hk) chilli sauce company. The model was based in 1922, adopted by the store opening in 1950. The chilli (HK$40 or S$6.80 for 250g) – an ideal steadiness of candy, spicy and bitter – is made with fermented candy potatoes, which lend a thicker texture to the sauce. It additionally sells chilli bean sauce, black bean paste and chilli soya sauce.
These stalwarts are on the identical avenue as The Hideout cafe (Shop B, 63 Third Street, www.fb.com/ thehideoutcoffeehousehk) and Potato Head Hong Kong (100 Third Street, www.fb.com/ potatoheadhk), which has an all-day eating house, bar and retail part.
Save house in your baggage to select up extra foodie souvenirs from Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company (12 Western Street), a 100-year-old store which relocated from Guangzhou to Sai Ying Pun within the late 1950s so it might ship its items to Chinese teahouses within the space. The bamboo steamers are nonetheless made by hand and the business is now run by fifthgeneration proprietor Raymond Lam.
If you favor a tour, join a Sai Ying Pun strolling foodie tour (e-mail [email protected]), which is priced at HK$2,600 for one to 2 folks and HK$three,000 for 3 to 4 folks.
Or the day is definitely spent exploring Sai Ying Pun and past.
Kick again with craft beer at Craft Brew & Co (36 High Street, craft brew.com.hk) or head to Locofama (9-13 Fuk Sau Lane, locofama.com) to dine on natural produce sourced from native farms.
And when you want a break from the strolling, head to Winston Cafe (Fu Kwok Building, 213 Queen’s Road West, www.fb.com/winstons coffeehk) for a cuppa.
If you enterprise additional west in the direction of HKU MTR station, unearth extra gems to have brunch at, such because the Artisan Garden Cafe (23 Po Tuck Street) and Lifetastic Cafe (31 Hill Road, www.fb.com/ lifetastic.official), which is understood for its fashionable watermelon cake.
So the subsequent time you’re in Hong Kong and really feel such as you have seen all of it, put in your strolling sneakers and go west.