It’s a rite of passage for the freshly arrived expatriate in Hong Kong – doing the Dragon’s Back. Despite sounding like a Medieval euphemism for something saucy (“‘Tis true, Sir Beaumont, I espied them in the master’s chambers, attempting the Dragon’s Back…”), it’s actually a hike. And not just any old hike: a hike once voted by Time Magazine as the best urban hike in Asia… That’s right. Asia.
Despite claims to the contrary, it’s an easy hike. Many locals will claim that it’s a tough one but… it’s really not. I’m sure that the two main reasons for this common misconception are that a) it’s called the ‘Dragon’s Back’, which just sounds like an ordeal and b) it’s so famous that beginners rush there to pop their hiking cherry in heels and chinos. This fame also guarantees that if you come here on a weekend you will find yourself amongst hundreds of extended families, great-grandparents and all, trudging single file along the ridge.
The best way to start is to take the Shek O bound bus from Shau Kei Wan at the eastern end of Hong Kong island – the stop you want is somewhere innocuous-looking along the winding road but you won’t be the only ones getting off, don’t worry. It’s only really the first half of the hike that’s earned its reputation, as you scale a ridge overlooking the village of Shek O on one side and the southern coast of Hong Kong island on the other. In the distance you can perhaps see as far as Clear Water Bay in the New Territories. After that, you descend in to forest and wander down to Big Wave Bay. From there you can take a minibus back to Shau Kei Wan. In all, if you’re not stuck behind half of Hong Kong, it should take a couple of hours.