Hong Kong 3 of 3: The Natural Choice
Post 100!!!! It has been almost one full year since I started blogging. Crazy. Okay….back to Hong Kong.
Friday evening after my elite tour I came back to the hotel satisfied with my trip to Hong Kong. I had come to see the hustle and bustle of the city, and I had seen it. My day of independence and solo travel was great because I did exactly what I wanted when I wanted and had gone for an entire day barely speaking five sentences. Now that it was done, I was ready to tell my companion all about it and to go back to him. Twenty-four hours in the city alone was enough. After a good night’s sleep, I would wake up early and check out of the hotel so that I could make it to the Shenzhen train station in time to purchase another upper berth ticket on the overnight train home to arrive in Shanghai by Sunday morning. I could surprise Nik by knocking on the door a day early and we could spend the daylight hours of Sunday together before another week of work. My mind was set.
Then I thought about it for another second. Was it really worth spending 36 hours on a train only to spend 24 hours in Hong Kong? The last time we were here, we had so many ideas of what we could do. We wanted to live here, and yet I couldn’t come up with something to do for one day? Missing Nik had given me tunnel vision to the point that I had forgotten that Hong Kong had more to offer than the tram and a few shopping malls. I powered up my computer and went to the wikitravel site for the city. It mentions a lot of food and shopping, and then I saw a list of beaches. That’s right, Hong Kong has beaches! Why didn’t I think of that? If Nik was here, we probably would have been on the beach within 2 hours of arrival. In his absence, I made the decision to head south to Big Wave Bay first thing Saturday morning. The 18-hour train ride would have to wait another day.
My eyes opened early, and I was up and at ’em by 8am. From my research, I knew that I could catch the #9 bus towards Shek-O outside of Shau Kei Wan. Then I would keep an eye out for a car park with a trail head for the “Hong Kong Trail”. When I saw it, I would get off the bus and take a mild hike to the Big Wave Bay beach. Just to be safe, I stopped at the concierge desk on my way out to verify. After he appeared confused by my question to simply verify that I could get to Big Wave Bay via the #9 bus to Shek-O, he went on his computer and seemed to be staring at the screen for a good ten minutes. I was ready to go and contemplated leaving several times, but that would be rude. I asked him a question, so I should give him the courtesy of waiting for his reply. Eventually he looked up and handed me a post-it with “8-8E-8N-S” written at the top and “Chan Wai” written below. By implication, I assumed that I was supposed to take the #8 bus from the Chan Wai subway station, so I did. Well, at least I tried. I made it to the Chan Wai subway station and exited into a bazaar back-alley neighborhood that did have several bus stops close by. Unfortunately, none of them were for the #8, and none of the buses were headed to Shek-O. After trying to ask a few locals, I gave up and got back on the subway to go back one stop to Shau Kei Wan. (I was very lucky that these two stops were so close AND on the same line!)
I took exit A2 out of the Shau Kei Wan subway station and straight into a large outdoor bus station. Bus #9 was towards the back of the line and was indeed headed for Shek-O. I boarded the double-decker, paid my $6 HKD fare, climbed to the top level and found a seat. I was on my way to the beach!!!
The bus immediately climbed the steep slope to the top of Hong Kong island and turned onto Shek-O road. It stopped a few times to pick up or drop off passengers, but I stayed on as I kept my eye out for the car park with the “Hong Kong Trail” sign. I thought I saw it once, but still didn’t get off. Then I saw a city in the distance, consulted my map and decided that it must be Shek-O. Maybe I should just spend the day wandering around the waterside town of Shek-O. I was kind of hungry, and surely they would have food. Maybe they would even have a quaint little shopping district. No. I was going to the beach, and on a short hike. I needed to stay focused.
A couple stops later I looked out the window and saw a big sign that said “Big Wave Bay”. Well, I guess this is me! I got off and walked towards the sign looking for the trailhead. The road I walked on curved to the right and as I made the turn I saw four or five shacks selling board shorts, boogie boards, bikinis, floats and flip flops. Then I saw a family of blonds get out of a van wearing bathing suits, sun hats and flip flops. How long can this short hike be if these kids were going to make it in flip flops? I guess I wasn’t in for a strenuous day.
I passed a few more beach shacks, and there was Big Wave Bay in all of it’s beach glory.Â The website said that it was a small undiscovered surfer beach. The website was wrong. Big Wave Bay has certainly been discovered by the entire expat community of Hong Kong, and on this Saturday afternoon it was teaming with caucasian families throwing frisbees, building sand castles and playing paddle ball. There was a small restaurant to one side where the parents sat with their friends drinking coffee as the kids ran wild on the sand. It didn’t take long to decide that this was not the relaxing beach I was looking for.
The Dragon’s Backbone section of the Hong Kong Trail was not far away, so I headed in that direction. It turns out that the Hong Kong Trail terminates at Big Wave Bay on the eastern coast of the island and begins at the Peak in the middle. The total distance is 50km and the trail is marked with a small post every 500m (100 posts total). In addition, detailed maps are at every fork so that hikers know exactly where they are. The maps show the trail km by km as well as all of the secondary trails that lead to main roads. They also call out all of the bus stops which was extremely helpful for me, the unprepared hiker, so that I was confident I was in the right place and could always find a way home.
I started at marker #100 and by #85 I had walked the entire length of the Dragon’s Backbone and hadn’t seen a single vista because the entire ridge of the mountain was in a cloud. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind. It just meant that I would have to come back with Nik. The cloud also made the temperature perfect and probably deterred several people from taking the hike that day. I would go for over 20 minutes at a time without seeing another sole. Really, I think I was in heaven.
#85 was my original stopping point, but when I reached it the day was still young and I wasn’t ready to go back to the city. I continued on and eventually made my way all the way to #70, 15km (9.32 miles). My rewards for continuing were having all 7.5km to myself, finally having a view of the ocean, watching a flock of butterflies feast on wild flowers and the sight of the aqua blue Tai Tam Reservoir. By the time I reached the bus stop, I was exhausted and extremely happy that I had seen Hong Kong’s nature instead of heading home.