Jason’s Trot: The Other Hong Kong
When one thinks of Hong Kong, one thinks of a densely populated island, with limited privacy, limited space and limited breathing room. While the former two are right, I question the latter. Head out a bit on the MTR or buses and you will be surprise to see what lies a short 15 minute ride away on Hong Kong Island.
A Hike Away
The most obvious candidate for this breathing space would be both The Peak and the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens, both beautiful sites in their own right. Quite a number of my mates in Hong Kong swear their (almost) unrivalled mountaineering skills are because of their morning hill runs up along the alleys leading up to and splitting from Victoria Peak. The view, I can say with certainty, is worth the thigh and calf burns.
The endless greenery and dense foliage in the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens only belie their urban locale due to the northern section facing the concrete jungle of Central. Come a nice spring, summer or autumn day, this becomes a fine spot for a light exercise, people watching, or people watching while doing a light exercise.
The Southern Shores
The South Island line, opened n 2016, opens up the quieter side of Hong Kong Island, long only accessible by bus (if you rely on public transport), and for possibilities for even more breathing space, if only for an expanse of concrete towers but devoid of people during office hours.
Aberdeen, on the southern side of the island, like her Scottish namesake, is often eclipsed by her louder and more hip sisters Victoria (or Glasgow and Edinburgh, if we’re still talking about the ‘original’ Aberdeen). Taking the Island South Line at Admiralty MTR station and passing Ocean Park, a large amusement park and the first before Hong Kong Disneyland, towards Lei Tung Station, you will be transported from a concrete jungle with all its noise and bustle and jostling crowds to a quiet(er) concrete jungle with boats lazing in the harbour and a quiet belying its urban setting.
Rugged Coastline Drive
The coastal road hugging the coast along the southern side of Hong Kong provides for a stunning drive or ride. Regular buses ply the route from Aberdeen to Stanley, making a for a scenic tour of the south of Hong Kong Island, if a convertible or sportsbike isn’t handy.
The rocky cliffs and steep falls provide for a mesmerizing view, if the narrow single-lane carriageway does not get to you. Precariously perched houses and condominium buildings seemingly defy gravity, and you start to wonder if you really are in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.
Urban Beaches, Green Hills
One of the biggest draws of the south of Hong Kong Island are the numerous beaches that dot the coastline. Deepwater Bay and Repulse Bay are two of the more well-known and easily accessible beaches in Hong Kong, both being urban beaches with good facilities.
Repulse Bay is the poster boy for urban beaches in Hong Kong: popular with locals and tourists and having some of the most expensive real estate on the island, if not the region, this beach is a destination unto itself. Think Bondi Beach, but without Icebergs. The area is well provisioned with a promenade, terraces and an array of food, dining and entertainment options. Even on a weekday, expect bus-loads of tourists.
However, on the coastal drive between Aberdeen and Stanley, and before Repulse Bay, Deepwater Bay and Deepwater Bay Beach is, arguably, a nicer beach. While it does not have as many facilities, food, dining and entertainment options as Repulse Bay, this beach is quieter, more intimate and has a good view of the surrounding islands. Plus, it is easy to catch the bus here.
Hong Kong has many facets to it behind the glitz and glamour, the gleaming towers and glowing cocktail bars. A visit to Hong Kong may be filled to the brim with the usual tourist haunts, but the joy of this destination is her array of urban entertainment options, from the usual steel and glass to the not so common sand and tree.
Even though I have been to Hong Kong quite a few times, I always find something new to plan on my next visit. There are prettier walks to the east of Hong Kong Island, and I have yet to even mentioned the New Territories or Outlying Islands. The possibilities for urban escapes are endless, somewhat. Dense, yes. No breathing space? Nah. Unless the smog rolls in from Southern China.
Get an Octopus Card. The 3-day pass with Airport Express ticket is well worth it, and you can always add value to your card for fare on the bus, Star Ferry or trams.
The Island South Line starts at Admiralty MTR Station and ends at South Horizons. I got off at Lei Tung Station, which is in the heart of Abderdeen Island ‘village.’
Frequent buses ply the route between Aberdeen and Stanley, and stops at Deepwater Bay and Repulse Bay. The bus has an info screen and announcements in English, at least the double-decker ones.
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.