THE DRAGON’S BACK IN HONG KONG IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST MOUNTAIN HIKES, AS BERNARD O’RIORDAN DISCOVERED.
Stand at street level almost anywhere in Hong Kong and it can be hard to see the hills for the high rises.
But less than half an hour from Hong Kong’s bustling business hub, the forest-covered paths of the Dragon’s Back offer some much-needed respite from the city’s frantic pace.
Here on the 8.5km Dragon’s Back trail, an undulating ridge said to resemble a dragon’s back, you really do feel a world away from the 7 million people that call Hong Kong home.
It’s best to go early though, particularly on weekends, as the queues for the bus can be 100 deep by mid morning.
Dragon’s Back is a ridge to the south east of Hong Kong Island that was voted Best Urban Hiking Trail by Time Asia in 2004.
It’s easy to get to from any part of Hong Kong thanks to the super-efficient underground rail system, the MTR.
Simply take the MTR Island Line to Shau Kei Wan station and head for Exit A3. At the bus terminal outside take the No 9 bus to Shek O Road near To Tei Wan village.
A wooden signpost (pictured) and a framed map show that you are at the starting point of the Dragon’s Back hiking trail.
This is also the place to change or have one last loo stop, because there are no toilets anywhere on the trail.
From here, the climb up the Dragon’s Back is relatively easy, but as the trail progresses you’ll find there are areas that are unpaved and rocky and uneven. So be sure to have some good walking shoes, as well as sunscreen and a bottle of water.
We did an abridged version of the 8.5km hike that took about 90 minutes to complete.
At first, as it climbs steeply through low scrub, there’s little to distinguish the trail as anything particularly special. But as it rises to the crest of the ridge, it’s as though somebody has opened the blinds on the world.
Suddenly the rolling ridges are blanketed with wild azaleas and rose myrtle and there are stunning unbroken views of Clear Water Bay, the beach playground of Shek O, Stanley and Hong Kong’s outer eastern islands.
At its highest point – atop the 284-metre Shek O Peak sightseeing platform – you are presented with sweeping views down to Big Wave Bay, which is the end point of this hike.
I’m not the biggest fan of hiking, and although I found this trek challenging at times, it was more than tolerable. The views alone would be enough for me to walk the Dragon’s Back again.