I did this walk in October – in sweltering, hazy heat. We thought it was going to be another short, couple of hour jaunt (much like the Kowloon hills) but it wasn’t. Looking at the pictures you can see just how bad the visibility was. The views still look picturesque; but on a clear day they must be stunning. The trail takes you up and along the very crest of Hong Kong island: one your left you can see the towers and landmarks of Victoria Harbour, to the right green hills slope down to Tai Tam Reservoir and the South China Sea. The very best view is from Jardine’s Lookout – a spot probably named after a rampaging former colonial Chief Executive. Sadly, there wasn’t a monkey in sight.
That weekend, as I huffed and puffed and dripped with sweat, there were a lot of runners zipping past us, all lycra and wrap-around shades. There was an event on, they were doing something maniacal like jogging the length of Hong Kong and South East China, and I am truly in awe of anyone who can run up a mountain. But, personally, I prefer a slow hike with lots of refreshing pauses – to appreciate the views, of course, not at all to rest my gasping lungs.
Overall the walk took around three and a half hours (including stops). It felt very remote in parts, as we stood atop the ridge overlooking Hong Kong, but it ended in a public park filled with grannies doing Tai-Chi. In Hong Kong, you know you’re near civilization, or at least a 7/11, if there are old ladies doing Tai-Chi. Out of interest, to start the walk you take the Stanley-bound bus from Central to Wong Nai Chung Reservoir and walk up the road until you reach a dirt track marked ‘Wilson Trail Section 2’. I’ve attached a photo of the petrol station next to the bus stop – not just for any would-be walkers reading this but also because the petrol station offers (giggle, giggle) ‘Easy Joy’. That’s nowhere near as good, however, as the petrol station near my work which offers – honestly – a ‘Quick Lube’.
I was, I’ll admit, never a big fan of walking before I came to Hong Kong. I did it, obviously, as a means to get to a shop, or pub, or my fridge. But in the UK I wasn’t a ‘walker’. Here, though, it’s really easy to go for a walk. Hong Kong’s tiny, in the grand scheme of things, and most of it (80%, or a similarly shocking figure) is green. Yes, yes, everyone thinks it’s a big swarming city but that’s not the whole picture. Hop on a bus, or MTR, or minibus anywhere in the city and I guarantee that you can be al fresco in a half-hour, max. So, I’ve decided to take a few pics whenever I do a walk, and pop them up here.
The first entry is my favourite walk (so far) – mainly because it’s a 15 minute bus journey from my flat. I also like it because it’s short. I can leave at 10am and be back in town, having done enough exercise to not feel guilty about a dim-sum orgy over lunch.
There are nine hills behind Kowloon (Kowloon means ‘nine dragons’ in Cantonese – a reference to the ‘humps’ created by these hills), and there are a few routes you can take. Most are easy, family routes (this is not an intensive hike) with lots of families, joggers and, oh yes, monkeys. Lots of monkeys. One of the hills is called ‘monkey hill’, for God’s sake. Just don’t look them in the eye – they’re probably not rabid.
There are also 3 reservoirs that supply Kowloon – you can see them in the pics too. But the most interesting thing about this area are WWII ruins – the Gin Drinkers line – which was a serious of tunnels and fortifications designed to slow up the Japanese advance through the territory in 1941. They have names like ‘Oxford Street’ and ‘Shaftsebury Avenue’, which must have made the British soldiers feel the warm glow of home, even under heavy Japanese fire. Anyway, they didn’t slow down the enemy’s advance too much and have lain abandoned ever since.
If you are of a squeamish disposition, look away now. This cup contains: hot water, a raw egg and a liberal-sized spoonful of sugar. It’s something of an old-fashioned tradition in Hong Kong, their equivalent of jellied-eels or spam. I spent lunchtime today sharing a table with this very beverage and it was, to say the very least, a traumatic experience.