Hongkong is a true cultural melting pot: With its skyscrapers, it resembles an American city, and the doubledecker busses remind me of London. At the same time, the Chinese-Asian influence is very well noticable – and in the hinterland there are some great hiking opportunities.
In the center, the streets are very busy, and one building is higher than the other. Nonetheless (or maybe even because of that), Hong Kong has its charm. A bit further away from the main road, for example, you can find some nice markets that one would rather expect in some small town: The flower market, to name an example, is quite nice, but rather ordinary compared to the neighbouring bird market. There, you cannot only buy birds and all kinds of bird fodder (including live insects). It is also a meeting point for bird owners who take their birds in their cages there to to "socialize" with other birds.
A bit further along, in so-called "Pet Street", you can find all other kind of pet animals: puppies and kittens, some fish in plastic bags, and even tiny little turtles by the dozen (crawling around in a plastic box).
Finally, there are some delicacies available: pig’s claws and chicken feet, exotic fruits like the dragon fruit or the very smelly durian – and there are even stranger things like dried octopuses and dried gliding lizard. I wonder what they are used for?
A few minutes away from the city center (by funicular), you can already get in contact with the green hinterland: on the path around Victoria Peak. This hill is located right next to Downtown, and offers a great view of the city (especially of Hong Kong Harbour).
Just a bit further away (about 15 minutes by subway, and another 15 minutes by bus), you can actually go hiking on a proper hiking trail. Together with another traveller of my tour group, we hiked the Dragon’s Back Trail. From there, you have a great view of the surrounding coastline. At the end of the hike, we could even enjoy a swim in the ocean at Big Wave Bay – very refreshing, and very welcome after sweating a lot in the heat.
To reach Lantau Island (which is another green paradise), you need roughly an hour by ferry. I did another hike there, on Lantau Trail. As it was again very hot and humid, I cut my hike short, and did not hike up to the second peak. Still, I could already enjoy great views on the first part of my hike.
The hike ended in Tai O, a small (but rather touristy) fishing village. If you manage to get away from the crowds, the town with its stilt houses does have its charm. Even the tourist boat ride in between the stilt houses and out into the bay can be quite enjoyable – especially if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some Chinese white dolphins.
Finally, today, on my last day in Hong Kong, I took the cable car to Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. As the cable car starts close to the airport, you get a nice panoramic view of the tarmac at first. Only after crossing the first ridge, the green hills are dominating the view (you can still hear the planes, though). However, after having left behind the incredibly kitschy tourist village at the cable car station, the Po Lin Monastery itself is actually quite nice. I especially liked the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and of course the Big Buddha itself – even though it was only built in the early 1990s. Still, this means it is about 20 years older than the aforementioned Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.