Hong Kong - A City of Contrasts

by MaryLou Driedger, Sep 14, 2008 | Destinations: Hong Kong / China
Hong Kong isn't all skyscrapers and high rise office buildings.

Hong Kong isn't all skyscrapers and high rise office buildings.

Hong Kong isn't all skyscrapers and high rise office buildings.
Ceremonial burial pots in abandoned hill villages in Hong Kong.
Take the tram to the top of Hong Kong's Victoria Peak.

It’s a city of contrasts.  One of the things that surprised me about Hong Kong when I first moved here was the variety of landscapes. I thought Hong Kong was just skyscrapers, office towers and high-rise apartment buildings. To my surprise it is also a city of mountains, forests, small fishing villages, lovely beaches and hundreds of islands.

         I’ve explored a number of Hong Kong’s mountains. The most famous is Victoria Peak. It has a cable car to whisk you to its heights where there are fancy shops and restaurants and the elaborate homes of Hong Kong’s richest residents. Our church in Hong Kong is at the top of The Mountain of the Christ Wind (Tao Fong Shan) We always take a taxi up the mountain for Sunday 5:30 pm services but walk down through the forested hillside later in the evening when church is over. Sometimes members of the band of wild monkeys who live on the mountain join us on our journey. I’ve never climbed over Lion Rock Mountain but my husband Dave has traversed it many times with hiking buddies. I have however become enchanted with the legend of Amah’s Rock, perched atop Lion Rock Mountain and visible from a great distance. It looks like a woman carrying a baby on her back. She is said to have been the loyal wife of a Hong Kong fisherman lost at sea.  Every evening she climbed Lion Rock Mountain with her son to watch hopefully for her husband’s return. To reward her faithfulness the Goddess of the Sea turned her into a rock so her spirit could be united with her husband’s.

        I enjoy Hong Kong’s many lovely beaches. We tend to stay away from the popular ones and head out to more secluded stretches of seaside sand. One of my favorite beaches is in the village of Cheung Sha on Lantau Island. Although the white sand, clean water and scenic rocky outcroppings are beautiful what draws us to this beach is The Stoep. It is a small South African restaurant with wicker tables and chairs near the water. The salads, fresh bread with dipping sauces and sangria are divine and you can enjoy it all while sitting in the sand, watching the waves and listening to the surf.

        Hong Kong includes an archipelago of 235 little islands many of them inhabited. You can visit them by renting a junk that will ferry you out from the mainland. One Christmas when our children were visiting us we rented a junk and had it take us out to High Island. Moored just off its coast is a floating fishing village. The island itself has a few houses, a Buddhist Temple and a dozen or so small farms. We walked through its hills stopping outside one house to watch a group of elderly men playing mahjong on a table set up in the courtyard. Later we explored a cave said to be the hide out of one of the many pirates who plagued Hong Kong a hundred years ago.

            We do lots of weekend hiking in Hong Kong. 40% of the island is covered with wilderness that is protected in 23 parks. Several times we’ve hiked through the forests up to remote abandoned villages where we can still see stone houses, communal wells and the huge earthenware pots where the bones of the village ancestors are stored.

          Hong Kong is lots more than just skyscrapers, office buildings and apartment towers. It has many contrasting landscapes for the adventuresome visitor to explore. Come and see for yourself!