Winter in Hong Kong has many benefits. Apart from its fashion advantage, this is probably the best season to explore the many hiking trails in Hong Kong. I don’t know about you but I don’t fancy perspiring like a pig in heat mounting the slops in the oppressive hear of summer.
Which is why when I was invited to go for the easy trail (I am speaking in relative here) of Discovery Bay towards Mui Wo at Lantau Island one cold Sunday, I agreed without a second thought.
(P.S. I could go on and on and on about the principles of having second thoughts, which comes second nature living here, but that could be as long as its own post and will be totally irrelevant here)
Where was I? Oh yes, the hike. We took a quick, painless and surprisingly modern ferry for a thirty minute journey from the Central pier towards Discovery Bay, the start of the trail.
The Discovery of Discovery Bay
Discovery Bay, also nicknamed as the Delivery Bay, was chokeful of expatriates and their babies with the omnipresent maids. As this was my first visit here, I was quite taken by surprise. In my mind, the Discovery Bay was more of a laid back, rustic beach town, probably with some sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and electric cars. I was only right in one count out of three. DB was more of a residential Disneyland than an actual expat village with character. It would be pointless to visit, unless (of course) you have friends who lived here. I imagine the living condition here to be great, secure and predictable… very much like Singapore.
I meant it, of course, in a good way.
The Village of Nim Shue Wan
Further into Discovery Bay, just before you hit the start of the hiking trail, was the village of Nim Shu Wan the only part of DB which come close in terms of characters. At first you might think you have stumbled upon a wrong route. There is no need to worry; you were meant to walk past, in close proximity to the villagers’ house. It is also expected of you to sneak stealing glances into their simple abode, while skirting around the many leashed dogs around the area. You will also come across some organic farms and lines of vegetables drying in the sun (I think that’s “salty vegetables” in the making, though I can’t be sure)
The Cheung Sha Lan Beach
The only beach I came across during that trip was Cheung Sha Lan. Despite its name (“cheung sha” means “long sand” in Cantonese), the beach is relatively short and the shoreline close to the promenade. Apart from some sailing boats dotting the sea and a lazy dog, there wasn’t a human in sight. I wonder if this is a popular place for sun lovers during summer. Probably so. Every inch of real estate in Hong Kong is crammed with people.
The Mystery Of Trappist Haven Monastery
If you find the name to be somewhat familiar, you are one of the few. Trappist Monastery was more known as the small-scale producer of Trappist Milk, a home-grown bottled milk available at some places in Hong Kong. The place itself, however, deserves better recognition for its aura of serenity and mystery.
First, the way up to the monastery was dotted with twelve crosses, signifying the twelve sacrifices Jesus made on the cross… or something. Apparently this route is packed during Easter.
There was this chapel, which was totally devoid of worshiper but obviously well maintained.
Then, there was the father who spoke not in Cantonese but rapid Mandarin.
Finally, the Chinese pagoda with (wait for it) a cross at the top and a statue of Mary. One of those “only in Hong Kong” moment.
The Ground At The Peak
As you near the top of the hill, take the steep slope next to the staircase for that final few metres of ascend. At the end of the trail, I discovered a grassy plain offering the best view of Hong Kong all around. With the cold breeze and brown grass, it was easy to imagine that I was in Europe. My heart soared with joy as I took in the incredible sights around me.
It was the highlight of the entire day trip. All was peaceful until we decided to test the camera timer for a group shot.
You can never take the monkey out of a man.
The Way Down
From the grassy plain, it was a steep descent back to sea level. I was glad we didn’t do the trail the other way round. As I took one step after another painful steps, my knees screamed in agony, but not as much tortured as those unfortunate hikers braving the many steps in the other direction.
The Town of Mui Wo & China Bear
What’s a better way to end a hike than pints of ice cold beer? We took our time and had a leisurely lunch at the famous China Bear. Perhaps it was after the hike, or it could probably be due to the sea breeze, but I was starving close to the point of cannibalistic. One spring chicken (yes, I kid you not) and two pints of Tiger later, I became one of those satiated bears like my fellow hikers.
To me it was somewhat a grueling hike, but apparently the hiking trail from Discovery bay to Mui Wo was hardly taxing. I shudder to think what will be ahead for me as I start to like hiking more and more.
Like eating, this is somewhat a religion in Hong Kong, and I am fast becoming a devotee.
Some photography by the ever talented Christian Glassl