I know. When you think of Hong Kong, you probably picture this:
or maybe this
There are roughly 1.3 million people on the island, or around 6,420 per square kilometre, which makes this one of the most densely populated places in the world. Most visitors probably assume that the quality of life in Hong Kong is best measured by the services and convenience for which the city is famous. But Hong Kong’s tightly-packed millions have more than Miuccia Prada and 24-hour delivery services to make their lives more liveable.
It may seem hard to believe but there’s a whole other Hong Kong on the island. A Hong Kong of trees and greenery, of walking paths and hiking trails, of beaches and surfing spots, some of it just minutes from the busiest, most congested parts of the city.
Take the walking trails that come down from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island’s best known attraction. Most visitors take the old tram up to the top (return journey costs HK$ 56/€5.18 and takes about 20 minutes), hunt for souvenirs in the Terry Farrell-designed terminus and then catch a bus or a taxi back down. But if you’re prepared to take your time, you can walk back down and for most of the well-paved trail, which exits at the top of Conduit Road, you’re deep in dense sub-tropical rainforest.
The trails on the Peak are part of a network that criss-crosses the Island and they’re known collectively as The Hong Kong Trail.
The Trail runs from Victoria Peak to Big Wave Bay. On the map, the Peak and Big Wave are only 11 kilometres apart but the Trail weaves across the Island’s hills, passing through five national parks and runs for a total of 50 kilometres before finally ending up at the Bay
Big Wave is on the Island’s south shore and so it faces directly onto the South China Sea. As a result, the bay gets a lot of waves, including some fairly big swells in the winter and in summer storms and in recent years, it’s become a mecca for Hong Kong’s small but dedicated community of surfers.
Admittedly, when it comes to rollers, Big Wave has nothing on Hawaii’s North Shore but when Hong Kong’s stressed-out millions need to relax in a hurry, they know the answer is as easy as taking the Island Line subway out to Shau Kei Wan and then hopping aboard the #9 bus. The journey takes between 40 – 50 minutes, sometimes less, so as they sit sweltering at the desks in Central and Causeway Bay, it must be enormously comforting for Hong Kong’s office workers to know that if they so desired, in an hour or less, they too could be relaxing under the trees at Big Wave or any of the Island’s other south shore beaches.