Tag Archives: Pui O

Rediscovering Lantau Island

28 Sep

Airport and Ngong Ping 360: two places that had become synonymous with Lantau Island. And this is what I thought Lantau was all about, up until only a few months ago when I started training for the MoonTrekker adventure race. I know… It’s a real shame. I had been to Lantau many times since my arrival in HK but only associated the island with the below:

  1. Going to and coming back from the airport;
  2. Visiting Ngong Ping 360 and its Big Buddha, a tourist attraction where I would often bring visiting friends and family members.

I deeply apologize to all the Lantau people out there. I had been an ignorant Hongkonger… But it was all about to change.

Yes, those days in the dark about Lantau are now over as I have been spending a lot of time on the island lately. No complaints. Lantau is a lovely place that offers an array of outdoor activities, especially in the hiking trails department. I have been hiking there a lot over the past months and it is nice to get a different perspective on the island. But little did I know that I would come to enjoy it so much and that it would become a regular playground and serve as a great escape from the city.

A few weeks ago, on a beautiful sunny (and very early) Saturday morning, our team, Team Moonshine, decided to train on Stage 2 of the Lantau trail (Nam Shan to Pak Kung Au), which entailed hiking from CP2 to CP3, as seen on the MoonTrekker race course map. We were not expecting something too difficult. We mostly wanted to get familiar with that 7km section of the route, which was where our team would be able to walk at a faster pace and gain some time before reaching the steepest part of the course. Therefore, it was going to be a nice Saturday morning hike, with great weather (the possibility of getting a subtle tan was definitely an incentive for us) and new areas to discover.

As we started the hike, I expected to witness similar panoramic views to what the Chi Ma Wan country trail had offered us recently. However, I was happily surprised to experience something totally different. While the Chi Ma Wan country trail looped around the peninsula, giving us the option of walking along a breathtaking coastal path, Stage 2 of Lantau trail presented us a distinct perspective of Lantau Island. The trail was higher up so we got to see all the way to Hong Kong Island which was quite something considering the smog that often clouds the city skyline. It was impressive to look at the urban scenery from so far away. The city almost looked like a mirage, as if it didn’t really existed. As I stated in a previous post, while hiking in Hong Kong, it is always intriguing to see the stark contrasts between the rapid urbanization and the natural environment.

On the other hand, when walking through the forest, we felt as if we were in a tropical jungle. With gigantic spiders, snakes and all. I repeat: gigantic spiders and snakes!

Half way through the trail, as we were resting and snapping a few pictures, we looked down and saw the town of Pui O. The sky was blue, but dark clouds were floating over the small urban area. It contrasted quite dramatically with the rest of the blue canvas. It suddenly started raining over Pui O. It was sunny everywhere else, except over the town. It was a rather odd sight. We silently wished that the cloud would follow its course opposite to where we were heading. Unfortunately, it ended up right above our heads, and for a good 20 minutes, we walked under some heavy, torrential rain. Oh well! What can we do…

After this beautiful 7km hike, we debated on whether we would keep hiking or head home. One of our teammate had a previous afternoon engagement so she caught a bus back to Mui Wo. But the rest of us decided to keep on training and headed for another section of the Lantau trail (Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping via Lantau peak). It was a difficult section, especially under the midday sun, but it turned out to be very rewarding in the end. One who chooses this route will be richly rewarded by the experience, as while the path can be very rocky and steep, the beautiful landscape that the difficult trail passes through is undeniable. This section of the Lantau trail definitely deserves a post of its own. Coming soon on The Kina Chronicles!

Where is it?

From Central Pier 6, you must take the ferry to Mui Wo. As you can see on the schedule, there are two options: slow ferry (1 hour trip) or fast ferry (about 30 minutes trip).

It is possible to walk from Mui Wo to Nam Shan. However that morning, we got a little lazy and ended up catching a bus to the beginning of the trail. The bus station is right in front of the ferry terminal. Just look for a bus going to Pui O. Make sure you get off before reaching the top of the hill heading towards Pui O. You will see the Lantau trail sign on the right hand side of the road.

When you finish Stage 2, you will have three options:

  1. Take the bus towards Mui Wo and catch a ferry back to Hong Kong
  2. Take the bus towards Tung Chung and ride the MTR to Hong Kong
  3. But if you still have some energy left, I strongly suggest you continue the hike and hit Lantau peak.

As stated previously, I will tell you more about Lantau peak in an upcoming post. But until then, here is a little teaser of the view you will get from up there. After that first Lantau peak escapade, our team has been doing that hike at least once a week (yes, that’s what I call motivation!) and the panorama still amazes me every single time.

The good?

Stage 2 of the Lantau trail is not too difficult physically, and it rewards one with breathtaking views. It is actually a hike I will most likely do again after the MoonTrekker event, when I feel like clearing my head in HK’s natural retreat.

Anything else?

At the beginning of the trail, you have the option to head towards Pak Kung Au or hike up to Sunset peak. I have never been to Sunset peak, but this is definitely on my to-do list for the upcoming months. I will keep you posted on that as well.

The Chi Ma Wan country trail: By day, by night

5 Sep

It was already late in the afternoon when Team Moonshine boarded the ferry from Central to Mui Wo. The weather had been good so far, but a menacing typhoon called Tembin had been hovering around Hong Kong’s shores and we didn’t know what to expect. We had been debating all day: hike or no hike tonight?

Thankfully, at 17h30 the sky was rather clear and we could still see the sun in the near horizon. It looked like luck was on our side. Today’s objective: the Chi Ma Wan country trail from Mui Wo to Pui O, an 18 km loop within the Chi Ma Wan peninsula. Being a segment of the MoonTrekker 40km race course (from Start point to Check Point 1, via the Chi Ma Wan peninsula), we had decided it would be better for us to hike at night this time around to best prepare ourselves for the strenuous event. We were hoping to shave some minutes off from our last training session’s time, which had occurred a week ago, under a blazing morning sun. Deep down, I believed we were just hoping to finish today’s hike before any thunderstorm could hit us.

On the ferry, overcome with my usual anticipation, I kept envisioning what the scenery at night would bring us. In the daylight, this trail has some stunning views. During last week’s training hike, I couldn’t help but constantly stop to take pictures of the amazing panorama, with its different shades of blue and green. My photo sessions might have slightly slowed us down, but there was no way I was going to miss taking these breathtaking shots. The trail is only a 30 minutes ferry ride away from Hong Kong and yet, we feel so far from the bustling city. Once in a while, you will see a ferry passing by. Other than that, it is just you and the natural landscape with its panoramic ocean views.

Isn’t it beautiful?

As much as I like my new city of adoption, Hong Kong can be quite overwhelming at times. Crowds of people, lights, noises, long office hours… I have been going through a lot of stress lately and these moments spent on the mountain and out in nature with my teammates are what have been really keeping me together. The great outdoors have that calming effect on me. Being in nature has always been a key component to me finding my balance. And right now, more than ever, I need a place where I can think, breathe some fresh air and break out a good sweat, all at once.

We finally arrived to the Mui Wo ferry terminal a little after 18h00. It was still sunny out but darkness was just around the corner so we took out our headlamps and headed towards the trail. Mui Wo is an outdoorsy hub so hikers with headlamps are quite common around here. But as I passed by a group of foreigners having drinks at the local bar, I must say I felt kind of goofy, with that big lamp on my forehead. Headlamps are just plain unsexy, and I will have to get use to this unflattering look. The army of dragonflies hovering over our heads was a clear warning that it would probably be raining fairly soon. Hiking in the rain doesn’t really bother me, but I was dreading the ferry ride back home, in my wet clothes, with the heavy dose of intense air-conditioning on the boat, something so typical to Hong Kong.

The night hike went well. We reduced our time by at least thirty minutes, which was probably due to the cooler weather, making it much easier to maintain a faster pace. Thankfully, it only started raining as we got off the bus bringing us back from Pui O to Mui Wo. It looks like Typhoon Tembin had decided not to venture towards Hong Kong this time around, much to my liking.

It was time for us to head back home. Sitting on the uncomfortable wooden chairs of the slow-moving ferry, I experienced a mixture of emotions. I was happy that Team Moonshine had done a personal best in time that night. I was tired from the 18km hike in the dark woods. But overall, I felt in peace with myself, the way I always feel after a good workout outside. I had a big week ahead of me but I was now ready to tackle in on with full force.

Where is it?

From Central Pier 6, you must take the ferry to Mui Wo. As you can see on the schedule, there are two options: slow ferry (1 hour trip) or fast ferry (about 30 minutes trip).

As you get off the ferry, turn right (towards McDonalds) and follow the waterfront. Keep walking in direction of the forest. A trail sign will be on the right-hand side of the road. From the ferry to the beginning of the trail, it is no more than a five minutes walk. On the trail, just follow the signs leading you to Pui O.

From Pui O, it will be easy to catch a bus back to the ferry terminal.

Anything else?

While hiking on that trail the past few times, we crossed paths with some mountain bikers. Mountain biking? Really? Great news for me! I had been wondering where mountain bikers were getting their fix around Hong Kong as I am an avid one myself. I did some more in-depth research afterwards and found out on the Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association website that Chi Ma Wan country trail is a great single track, with just the right amount of technicality and not too much hill climbing. Must try it as soon as possible.

On my next visit to my motherland of Quebec, my beloved mountain bike, which has been hibernating in my parents’ basement for the past year or so, will be dusted off and traveling back with me to Asia. This is definite. I am looking forward to rediscover this trail, this time on two wheels.

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