Walks 12: Lantau Peak

Hong Kong is a small place, and you can get from anywhere to anywhere in an hour or two. But living here skews the way you perceive distance. It’s like how the US is huge, so Americans think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to the nearest drive-thru. Or how the UK is medium-sized, and you could drive the length of it in a day if you really wanted to, but nobody really admits that you can. Well, I know some people in Hong Kong (*cough Island people*) who think 4 stops on the MTR to Mong Kok is an expedition. So trekking all the way out to Lantau Island is something you save for the most special of occasions.

Such as Chinese New Year! For the 5th edition of our annual CNY Hike, we conquered Lantau Peak – Hong Kong’s 2nd highest summit. We cheated, as you will probably want to do too, by taking the bus from Tung Chung to Pak Kung Au (as seen in the sign below).

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The cloud was so thick and the wind so relentless on that day that we might have been halfway up any hill, anywhere in the world. All you could see was the path and a couple of feet of shrubbery on either side. It made the hike seem easier, I think, what with the howling wind and intermittent rain distracting us from the long trudge up the slope. We did see a very regal looking mutt, though, making its slow way down the path. An auspicious omen in the Year of the Dog, I’m sure.

The views from the top are supposed to be among the finest in Hong Kong: the Big Buddha and the airport on on side, Hong Kong Island and the South China Sea on the other. Our views were a little more limited. We didn’t linger long, what with the hammering rain and the stinging wind in our faces.

But, the very second that we started our descent towards Ngong Ping, the mist began to break. A glimpse of ocean here, and speck of distant mountain there. And then, suddenly, we were on top of the clouds. It made the hour and a half spent in a sodden grey bubble worth it.

By the time we were halfway down the other side, the weather had changed completely. The sun was out, and there was the Big Buddha in the distance. You can, of course, do the hike in reverse, starting from the Buddha or even Tung Chung. I think the climb is even more severe coming from the south, though. You have been warned.

And there it is, Lantau Peak later that same afternoon, having cast off its cloudy shroud, gazing benevolently down on the tourists milling around the temple at Ngong Ping. There’s an interesting vegetarian restaurant nearby, serving things that look like meat but aren’t, or there’s a traditional Chinese Starbucks on the way to the cable car. From Ngong Ping, you can either tread the additional few kilometres further down to Tung Chung or, if you happen to be a little numb from all the rain and wind, like us, you can get the bus.

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