The image of Hong Kong conjured up by even the most seasoned traveller is one of endless skyscrapers and congested streets, teeming with masses of ever-hurrying people. This is true, in part; but there is much, much more. The average tourist spends two days on a “stopover” in Hong Kong and visits only the urban areas. Ramblers Worldwide Holidays’ groups spend two weeks exploring the unspoilt coastlines and mountain ranges of the New Territories and the traffic-free and verdant islands which lie within Hong Kong waters.
It is a little known fact that 40% of the territory of Hong Kong is designated as protected “country park”. There are four long distance hiking trails, the longest of which, the MacLehose Trail, extends to over 100 kilometres. The beaches of the east coast rival many in Australia, and the peaks, although not particularly high, make for some rewarding climbs. The classic “Serious Hikers Guide to Hong Kong” runs to 364 pages!
The Ramblers Worldwide Holidays’ tour starts with two days of orientation in the urban areas of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, including a ride on the funicular Peak Tram and a walk around Victoria Peak, with an ever changing panorama of the city and bustling harbour below. From then on, the daily excursions are out into the hills of the New Territories or onto the outlying islands.
There are visits to Lamma, Chueng Chau and Lantau islands, the latter being the home of the largest Buddha in Asia, perched on a hilltop and nowadays reached by a spectacular cable car ride. The walk from there covers part of the long distance Lantau Trail and finishes in Tai O, a bustling fishing village and market town, with a chance to see the rare pink dolphins which live in the Pearl River delta.
Two days are spent visiting the remote coastlines of Sai Kung and Double Haven, the latter close to the border with mainland China. These areas are almost unpopulated, yet can be reached with ease on a day trip from down-town Kowloon. West of Sai Kung is the Ma On Shan ridge, where a day’s walk culminates in a rocky peak.
One day is spent visiting the former Portuguese colony of Macau, an hour’s jetfoil ride from Hong Kong, but with markedly different character. Vestiges of Portuguese colonial architecture abound and Portuguese food and wine can be sampled in the many restaurants.
Transport throughout the tour is by Hong Kong’s cheap but highly efficient public transport system, using underground and surface railways, trams, mini-buses, ferries, sampans and the ubiquitous double decker buses (all air conditioned nowadays). The ride across the harbour on the famous Star Ferry is a repeated delight. Dinners are taken in a variety of local restaurants.
Hong Kong cuisine is truly cosmopolitan and there is a chance to sample Cantonese, Turkish, Italian and Indian cuisine, in addition to the city’s famed sea-food. Whilst most days are spent “out of town”, there is still every opportunity to experience the bustle, the street markets and the bright lights of the city in the evenings and on the two “free days” included within the tour.
The reaction of most Ramblers Worldwide Holidays’ groups is usually one of amazement. ”I never realised that there was so much more to Hong Kong” is a typical comment. An unlikely destination for rambling it may seem to be, but the element of surprise makes it all the more rewarding.