* Note: This will be the first in what I hope to be an ongoing-series, which will give locals, expats and tourists alike an intimate glimpse into must-do, see, taste (I anticipate A LOT on this end…), touch feel, experience, etc. in Hong Kong.
But first, an introduction…
There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps.
- James Joyce, Ulysses
January began with a tremendous, hopeful bang that just as soon devolved into a tinny and pathetic toot. When I last blogged my cockles were still warm from Japan, my belly was relishing in the satisfied afterglow of crab ramen. I hit the ground running on January 4th in Hong Kong, my expat home-away-from-home for the past 4 ½ years: eager, productive, optimistic. A year’s worth of pictures and music were downloaded. New and inspired playlists for my yoga classes, done! Half-finished reports that I’d shelved in November, dusted off, concluded. That travel article I’d struggled with for months, and let idle on my desktop, met with a brilliant “aha” moment. A long and thoughtful household to-do list complied and stored into the loftily titled “goals and aspirations” folder on my laptop. Etc. Etc. Etc.
And then tragedy unfolded. Not yet a week into the New Year this massive swell of productivity came to a screeching halt when my laptop (may she rest in peace)—the center of my alternately professional and personal universe—was stolen, before I completed that long overdue backup [insert self-flagellation].
Long story short, involving: unseemly meltdowns, apathetic police, consoling friends and useless bartenders, 2010—once so full of hope—seemed doomed, empty, tainted. This doom was soon reflected in Hong Kong’s gray and polluted Winter skies; the unexpected cold January rain; the post ski vacation comedown, all which prompted a personal mantra of the “loathe-be-to-Hong-Kong and all the city’s thieves” variety.
But building a tent in my suffering was just not going to do. And so, inspired by Joyce’s Ulysses quote I found online when (admittedly) googling “pull yourself up by bootstraps,” I
1) Bought a brand new MacBook Pro, and
2) Decided to apply Oprah’s game “a few of my favorite things” to Hong Kong—in an effort to forgive and forget.
Hiking in Hong Kong’s urban jungle
Through my new rose-tinted life lens I mulled Hong Kong’s many attributes, ultimately deciding it would be best to just list my favorite things as they come. The great Parkview outdoors, where I spent several hours climbing, sweating and running last weekend with friends, emerged as my first favorite HK thing of 2010.
A little known fact of Hong Kong is that just 25 percent of its land mass is developed, and 40 percent has been kept for parks and nature reserves—something one would not suspect when navigating Causeway Bay Sunday chaos, or elbowing lunch crowds on Queen’s road any given weekday. But it’s true—a stone’s throw from some of the most crowded spots on the planet lay miles of rocky and shrub-covered hills, cleaner air, and bird’s eye views of the city. Tourists and newcomers usually flock to the popular Peak—and while I do not want to diminish that experience let’s just say I’d spend a balmy day in “h-e-double toothpicks” before circling around the top on a weekend, dodging strollers, roving bands of tourists, the prolific smoke-while-you walkers, dogs, etc.
But if an unmolested weekend hike is what you’re after, and you have neither the time nor inclination to make the journey to Sai Kung or the New Territories—which do in fact have fabulous hiking—then Parkview is your ticket. The hiking area is adjacent to the pink behemoth expat-executive compound for which it is named, former home of American “milkshake killer” Nancy Kissel, and her now-deceased husband. But that’s a different story.
Parkview’s rugged stretches of green, brown and intermittent cement steps offers everything you could want in an urban outdoor experience—zero cars, a great workout, cheerful fellow hikers, interesting terrain and fantastic city and countryside views.There are trails that head up into the hills on both the right and left side of the main road. My recommendation is to stay on the same side as the small public parking lot, and veer up the first set of steps you see on the left (walking towards the Parkview housing complex), where the Wilson and Hong Kong trails meet. From here you can set out on a vigorous 8K loop that takes you up to the top of Mount Butler and down past the Tai Tam reservoirs. For an extra 2-3K, walk past the bathroom/rest area once you’ve descended Mount Butler, and turn onto the first trail on your right, Boa Vista. My boyfriend and I often run this back bit, as it’s flat and kept cool by the woods—quite nice.
The masochists and Type-As among you may instead opt to climb up the cement steps across the road from the main parking lot and just down a bit—this wicked little number leads you on a steady and hearty climb and then dumps you at the base of “Twin Peaks,” or “Thousand Steps,” where the real fun begins. The nicknames say it all. I’ve ticked that box, no need to revisit the experience, as it is alive and well (and still smarts) in my muscle memory—but some are gluttons for punishment. You know who you are.
How to get there: I’m hopeless when it comes to non-MTR public transport in HK, but 9 times out of 10 any red cab you hop into and say “PAHK VIEW M GOI” should do the trick.
Post hiking recommendations:
1) Explore the foodtopia glory that is PARKnSHOP Superstore, in the Parkview complex. Huge. Westsern(ish). Cheap(er), than the usual expat grocery store haunts. Many a Sunday slow-cooked Moroccan style lamb stew has come to fruition in my household after a trip to the superstore.
3) Pack on the calories you’ve just sweated out at Dim Sum in Happy Valley on 63 Sing Woo do. Aside from the too-strong air conditioning, this is my absolute favorite dim sum spot in Hong Kong. My Chinese friends may scoff—but I remain loyal to one. And yes, the portions are large (for dim sum) & the fried items abundant–so perhaps it’s my inner Amer’kin shining through.
4) Cab to Stanley (some of the trails will spit you out quite close) and wile the afternoon away with beer -n- bites at Smugglers pub.
5) For the brave among you, who may choose someday to do the 25K hike from Parkview to Shek O, hitch a ride into the village, grab a shower at the public facility and then beeline it to the Black Sheep, for some of the Island’s best pizza, and roasted garlic + chili oil to boot. YUM!
6) Add an extra layer of sport to your day cooling off wakeboarding in Tai Tam