The public face of Hong Kong reads dense urban jungle, with a population figure of more than 7 million and an energy that vibrates across the city 24 hours a day.
But beyond the modern themes of international commerce and technology, Hong Kong also runs on a natural frequency of the leafy green variety. It is Hong Kong’s softer side, and it is the antidote to urban overload.
Hiking trails are abundant in Hong Kong, a city comprised of four areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon peninsula, the New Territories and outlying islands. Hong Kong University is seated at the base of Victoria Peak, and several hiking trails start there. My morning exercise routine has included a daily walk up the steep paved path called Hatton Road which leads to a flatter path around the Peak on Lugard Road. The views of the city from here are breathtaking, a way to stop and quietly marvel at the man-made metropolis below.
In the morning, these paths are alive with elderly exercisers. Some walk quietly, some greet good morning (‘zhou saan’)’, some listen to radios. Yesterday the sound of wooden flute wafted through the thin bamboo trees, another man’s way of communing with nature. Birds rustle in fallen leaves while workers dressed in wide-brimmed hats sweep the path with huge bamboo brushes. The cool temperatures and relative dryness of January in Hong Kong let you forget the torrential rains that fall in this climate, but concrete reinforcements offer reminders of the need to steel the mountain against landslides.
As you walk on, you hear only the sound of your breath and look forward to the next overlook that unveils sparkling vistas and shadowy islands that dot the water’s surface into the distance. Yet another example of Hong Kong as a world of never-ending contrasts.