Hong Kong: Sai Kung East Country Park

Now this is the starting part of 100km MacLehose trail. I did not intend to finish all of it this time and I did not take too much notes on the day of the trek itself. In short, total distance covered is around 25-30km over two weekends in searing heat and full of uphill and downhill. Bonus would be the hidden beaches, at least in the morning until the yachts from Hong Kong drop their anchor and noisy daytrippers hang around for a bit of sunburning. Recommended, but bring more water. I love it… Here goes…

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Hong Kong Trail Part 5, Hong Kong: Shek O Road to Big Wave Bay

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View of Shek O from the ridge

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Highlight of this trip: Dragon’s Back ridge, which is what you think it is: trail on a ridge

And what a way to end the Hong Kong Trail. On this last stage, officially named Stage 8, but for me this would be the fifth section, the sun would be out in full force. I’ve been doing this long enough, my backpack and shoulder bag is rather standard by now, including dinner packed to enjoy when I get to Shek O later in the evening. Except this is the second time I’m out with a new GPS, and this is Garmin’s Colorado 300. Hardly new, but as a replacement to my old eTrex Vista, it is years more modern. The way to get to the start of today’s walk is still very fresh in my mind. Take a metro to Shau Kei Wan, and at the Bus Terminus, jumped into a No. 9. The fare is around 6.90 HKD and all this bus does is to go up Chai Wan/Tai Tam Rd and then on to Shek O Rd all the way to the town that bears its name. The only tricky part here is I need to get off at the right bus stop. On the map, the coordinate of the stop is somewhere near (22.227375, 114.239611). I didn’t have my GPS out at this time because everything is packed shut in my backpack and I wanted only to take them out when I get to the stop. I remembered what the stop looks like, but with the speed buses go in these out-of-the-way roads, it is difficult to anticipate.

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GPS plots of Section 5, from Tai Tam Bay to Shek O via Dragon Back ridge

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Tai Tam reservoir in the background, on the way up to Dragon’s Back

At the stop, amidst tourists an local hikers and families I start to put everything into hiking configuration – camel bak piping, gps latched on bag, etc. I must say that this is the day when it seems everyone attempts Dragon’s Back trail. I see families with kids barely able to walk, and mainland chinese tourists overdressed in their faux-Burberry shopping attire. And these for a trail that’s rated as strenuous? I think I have to be up against an easy day today. Its noon by the time I start, and the first kilometer up to the top of the Dragon’s Back are steps and relatively tree-cover free. If you remember the last post in Section 4, this part of the Shek O Country Park has a lot less tree cover than the part closer to Chai Wan. There are some shade, but a nice had is in order for sure. Around the coordinate (22.229759, 114.24293) the trail branches into two and there is where the first rest stop lies, the right path leading up the hill to the top of the ridge, while the left goes in parallel but at the same altitude as the branch.

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Two pictures of Shek O from the start of the ridge

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Hong Kong Trail Part 4, Hong Kong: Tai Tam Reservoir to Shek O

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Start of Part 4: Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir

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End of Part 4: Shek O village from Tai Tau Chau

This spring has been quite terrible here in Hong Kong. It rains everyday, and just like back in Shanghai, you rejoice when you get the sun, because it is rather rare. So it is with this I told myself, whatever happens I’m out to complete the Hong Kong trail this weekend. That would be Section 7 & 8 according to the official map. This would mean starting off at Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, go right through to To Tei Wan and then up to the Dragon’s Back mountain trail and ending up at Big Wave Bay. Lets just get to the plot here, to mention that there’s a Part 5 after all, and I never made it to Section 8 on this trip as Dragon’s Back trail is a little too tough to complete in one afternoon along with the hike from Tai Tam reservoir.

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GPS plots of the path (in green) for Part 4, with Stanley and Shek O in the picture for positioning

It’s the usual. After filling up on a heavy brunch, I’m off by MTR to Shau Kei Wan, and then onto bus 14 on the main road just before Chai Wan Road. Booted up my Garmin Colorado 300 GPS and got off the bus right before the reservoir. There are not too much space here for any lingering. The dam is so narrow, there is only room on the top for a 2 laned road, so the views will have to be appreciated either in the vehicle, or on one end of the dam. Water is choppy due to a drizzle, with wind from the sea whipping up small waves.

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A road runs on the Tai Tam reservoir dam, but being narrow, I don’t think I want to walk on it while double decker buses come charging down one side.

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Tai Tam Bay

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The initial part of the trek is along thick forests, along a concrete path, so it is quite safe.

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Tai Tam reservoir viewed across from the other side of Tai Tam Bay

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Tai Tam Bay coastline

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Lan Nai Wan Village

Then it is a short walk up Tai Tam Road before going into the forest on the right following a path where I left off in Part 3. Here the path should be rated as easy as it follows a catch water and the altitude reading on my GPS is pretty much constant throughout. Under this heavy tree cover, there are no photo opportunities except for plants macro. The trail are paved almost all the way to Tung Ah Pu Village. The trail is not really straight, quite simply because it follows the contour lines of the hillside. There are some areas where there are clearings and this is where the views of Tai Tam Harbor can be had. It looks across to a bunch of apartments on Red Hill. Some sections I could see Lan Nai Wan village in the foreground and the expensive houses on Red Hill in the background. So a nice mid telephoto lens like 105mm can be useful here. Wide angle lenses are ok, but because there are always shoulder level undergrowth, it is not possible to get a clear shot. When I was there, there were patches of rain cloud and some patches of sunlight, so I was hoping for perfect lighting to capture an interesting shot. I don’t think I was given that opportunity anyway.

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Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir

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From the top of Quarry Bay on the way up to Mt Butler

Part 3 for me would be equivalent to section 5 and 6 of the Hong Kong trail, but with a twist. I will start at sea level in Happy Valley, walk up the hill along Stubbs Road and Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and join up the Hong Kong Trail where I left off the last time, walking up Jardine’s Lookout and to Mount Butler, before coming downhill all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir water system and ending at Tai Tam Road where I will take a bus back to civilization. A little bit like Man vs Wild, but less drastic.

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GPS plots of the path looking from Causeway Bay. Waypoints in capitalized scripts are my own GPS waypoint.

Packed lunch I made myself, and a 1.5L Camel bak and my usual grab bag filled with a tripod, and landscape filters, though I don’t think I will make use of them today. Brought a D3s with 24mm f3.5 PC-E as the primary lens, and a macro and another spare lens just in case. And for audio recording, I needed the Sony PCM-D50 PCM recorder. I also packed in a rolled up waterproof jacket and all sorts of rain covers just in case. The weather today was not that great. Some weather forecasting service predicted rain, and some sunshine, but I think looking out my window all I could see was just heavy fog coming from the ocean.

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Recreation boats stacked up on Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (22.257078, 114.19507)

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Like all reservoirs I’ve seen throughout this trail, they all have lower than usual water level. This is Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Sure enough, the walk up from Happy Valley along Blue Pool road is a long slug up the mountain, and looking up I was able to see the mountain and quite likely most of Mount Butler will be up in the clouds. There are no sun today in the dense fog coming in from the sea. Before long I reached Wong Nai Chung reservoir up along Wong Nai Chung Gap. This reservoir is surrounded by apartments, and like most of the reservoirs I have seen so far in Hong Kong, the water level is way below the highest water line. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a drought here. At this reservoir there are boats tourists could rent to paddle around the small lake formed by the dam. I had to rest a little bit as the walk up was quite tiring, sweating in a sub 20C weather.

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Here’s a substation just after passing the reservoir, before hitting Parkview apartments

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Guess I shouldn’t get too close…

A little bit up hill, just when reaching Hong Kong Parkview apartments is the left turn branch off up to Jardine’s lookout. It started off with dense forest and a sign indicating Osborn’s Memorial. A Plaque stands there erected by the Canadian army telling a story which I read, and something about this guy that saved his comrades. Was a good break from the uphill climb. There are plenty of places to look out to the city, but today the peak where I was is just up above the clouds so all I could see was white. Everything was white. Nothing but white. I could see that the clouds are coming from the sea as it flows up along the mountain and crests at the top. The trail goes along the spine up to Jardine’s lookout, the first peak. It is marked with a geological marker and this is where I stopped for lunch as it is already 1pm by now. Started my walk around noon. I marked my GPS so that I can get back here in the future for the HK view when the weather is better.

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Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley

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Boarding the water taxi at Aberdeen

The second part of my trek on the Hong Kong trail will be quite interesting. I start off at the town of Aberdeen on the other side of Hong Kong island, go through Aberdeen reservoir, up the mountain, and end up hopefully in Happy Valley. Looks straightforward enough, but I have lost my Nokia E71 since the last trip, so I will not have the luxury of blogging live and viewing googlemaps when I get lost. However, I stick to my theory it’s not easy to get lost in a small little island.

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The only thing you will see are tug boats like this one and water taxis here in Aberdeen.

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GPS plots of the path from Aberdeen to Happy Valley

Just for the record, I will be attempting Section 3 & 4 today on the official Hong Kong trail maps. The start is easy enough, I’d catch bus 76 from Causeway Bay to Aberdeen at the foot of Yue Kwong road. But made a earlier stop at Wong Chuk Hang Road to have a look at the boats between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island. It’s good I still remember where to go to get to Aberdeen Reservoir Country Park. Walk along Aberdeen Reservoir Road up hill, in fact the road up to the main gate is steep enough for anyone to stop for breather more than once. The gate to the reservoir is at (22.253006, 114.15855). And I’m back at the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir visitor centre, a familiar sight from the last trip.

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The walk up to the reservoir and country park entrance. The slope is not a visual trick. It IS steep!

The walk from Aberdeen lower reservoir to the upper reservoir is relatively easy with a little bit of slope. There are barbecue pits all over the path, so I guess this the very young to the very old that I saw on the way up here would be coming here for a barbecue. The pits near to the entrance are the most busy, and if you would like to have a little peace while browning those chicken wings, the barbecue area close to the Upper Reservoir was empty when I was there. This, compared to the full house at the pits closer to entrance. The two reservoirs look like they are a little short of water on the way I was there, yellow soil was visible, indicating drop in the water level. Various lines indicate the different water levels it was holding over the months, similar to tree rings. In fact, I don’t think I remember the last time it rained in Hong Kong.

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No kidding! I still believe all these fire warning are not updated regularly. I’ve seen more flammable forests in my life than this one.

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Upper Aberdeen Reservoir

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Water levels here has seen better days

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Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen

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Two IFC Tower from the Peak

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This section of the trail is going through mainly Pok Fu Lam reservoir system

I have always thought that the Hong Kong trail was at least 100km long, but I was brought to realize that it is only half of that. It is Maclehose Trail that is of that distance. Then again, the closest one to where I live should always be the one to try out first. So, the rough plan is this (there is never a real plan when it comes to a good hike) I will break it down to either 4 or 5 sections that I can do in a day each (finally it ended up that I will need 5 days to cover it all), and time it so that I start off around noon, and end up before sundown someplace where I can extract myself back to civilization, which for me means a public transport of some sort. That should put the daily distance between 12-15km. My GPS and a camera will come along to document the trip. The Hong Kong trail is an interesting one, and what a way to present a long hike but like this: start off in the picturesque vista up on the Peak mingling with the tourists and ending the hike couple of days later at Shek O beach right on the eastern end of Hong Kong island.

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Google Earth view of the first half of the trek

However, let me start by saying that I suck at writing, and especially checking for typing errors – but it has to be done. I start the hike by taking bus 15 from the bus terminus at Central, next to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. This bus is filled to the brim with tourists, but guess tourists would be the first group you’d expect to be taking that bus up to the Peak. The bus winds its way up till it reaches Peak Galeria (22.270343, 114.14996). This is one last chance to top up that big bottle of water, and some ice cream and coffee before I dive into nature.

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Private apartment buildings in Central

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View of Hong Kong Central from Lugard Road

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Hong Kong MTR


Started off my new project weekend, to photograph the station names of every single MTR station in Hong Kong. I don’t know how long it will take to do them all, but 3 or 4 weekends may be just enough. The idea is simple, take a camera, one lens and stop at every single station and then move on to the next.

There has not been any over eager security guard asking me to stop photographing so far, and to keep things interesting, I’ve got 2 months of backlogged podcasts to keep me company while continuing the task. The only thing I learnt is that there is a limit to the time you can spend in the metro, once you pass the gates. Its about 2.5 hours. And I spent a little more than that, and the Customer Service office let me out without a penalty. Otherwise it would cost a little more than 20HKD. I believe it was 21HKD that they mentioned.

Chai Wan MTR Station

There’s no deadline to this project. It will be completed when its completed, and I will figure out then what to do with all the database of photos! Today I managed to shoot 512 NEF files!

Travels: Hong Kong Outlying Lamma Island, Hong Kong

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I have been to Hong Kong many times but always to either side of the harbour and whenever the flight circles the islands I would be wondering what it will be like hiking on one of those barren hills. No more wondering. Going this weekend. However, instead of going all rambo this weekend, why not start with the largest and possibly most popular of them all, Lamma island. And thinking if I have time,a to do another one. Getting there seems to be easy enough. in short, MTR to Central, walk to the Central Piers next to Two IFC, and pier 4. I will start at Yung Shue Wan, where apparently everyone will go as well looking at people crowding at the entrance to the pier. One way ticket cost 14.5 HKD and octopus card works here. And it seems the crowd only starts going into the holding area 10 minutes from boarding time and the ferry only holds 370 souls.

Ferry ride takes somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes. I didn’t time it. Feels like the same type of fast ferry that connects hong kong with macau. The boat lands right at Yung Shue Wan village, and although there are normal village shops, most of them are restaurants, shall I say, catering to tourists flooding the village.

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15 minutes hike out of town and the crowd starts to thin down, on the trail to Sok Kwu Wan. It starts in the forests with farmer’s lodges everywhere and before long I start to get to the bald and barren hills with trails along the hill side. There are a couple of pavilions en route, doubling as a rain shelter. I’m now typing this out at one (N22.20922, E114.12299). Today started with heavy cloud cover, and surely as the forecast said it would, periods of sunlight could be seen. And I had to forget my sunblock lotion!

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