Thursday, January 29, 2015

The great escape: some easy Hong Kong hikes

Day 1 - High Junk Peak

Since December J has been back Stateside to spend Christmas and New Year with his family, and get settled in to his new lab/ grad programme, so I've been flying solo since then while waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waitingggg) for my spouse visa. (Which, frankly, leaves me in a pickle: how do I clean my ceiling fan and change the kitchen light bulb that's on the fritz? I really am not keen on falling off a chair.)

So to get away from it all, I took a quick jaunt to Hong Kong two weeks ago with Holly for some cooler temperatures, gorgeous hikes, and good eating.

Hong Kong is an intense city; everything is taken to extremes. The urban part of Hong Kong is way built-up - from the AirBnB hostel we stayed in, we had a lovely view of...neighbouring blocks' air-con compressors and neon street signs. I was just glad to have a window. On the other hand, because of the city's steep, hilly geography, all the urban area is concentrated in a few spots, with some suburbs perched on hillsides and on the outlying islands, and the trail part of Hong Kong is...well, it's beautiful.

At 23 weeks pregnant I wasn't going to do anything ridiculous, and both of us were lugging along work and deadlines anyway, so we ended up doing probably three of HK's easiest hikes, half a day each or less including travel time. All of these are suitable for a reasonably in-shape beginner walker and I did them in regular old running shoes, with one of those stupid uncomfortable string nylon backpacks - I forgot I'd shipped my usual daypack. If you are a newbie hiker, take it slow and steady with photo/ drink breaks.

Day 1: High Junk Peak, Kowloon

Our flight got in about 6am, and we started the day off with breakfast (not pictured) and a bit of an adventure getting (in)to our hostel*, followed by conking out for a nap.

- Get to security-code-enabled front door at 8am. Ring the number provided. No one picks up. (Repeat 7-8x.)
- Message AirBnB host, who turns out to manage/ own a number of different hostels, each with an on-site property manager. Host is tremendously responsive online, but we still can't get in because the property manager isn't picking up.
- Wait an hour. This preggo lady needs to peeeeeeeee. Look longingly at trash bin in stairwell. (What? I'm a runner. I pee in the woods. Someone who isn't opening the front door despite multiple phone calls arguably may or may not deserve to have their trash bin peed in.)
- A couple of tourists emerges from front door, whereupon we walk in
- And make ourselves at home in one of the empty rooms - they are empty after all, and we have paid. - Wake up from nap and ring property manager again.
- A very drowsy property manager arrives to officially check us in and give us keys and security code.

By now, we were starving. What better to fuel up with than a hearty lunch of roast goose and rice?

And some pretty views, although at the end of the above spit you can just about make out the fancy-pants golf club.

Day 2: Dragon's Back, Hong Kong Island 

Dragon's Back is perhaps one of the most famous hikes in all of Hong Kong, and with good reason - it's lovely! The trail goes up up up for a good half hour, but then is almost flat along a long spiny ridge that goes south-east. 
Above: Looking north-ish towards the city bits of the island. 

Goofing around on the trail. (Not pictured: Holly yoga selfie - newly minted yoga instructor, had to take yoga selfie. I did not follow suit for fear of overbalancing and falling off the hillside.)

The trail ahead

With a chaser of dim sum. This was a mere fraction of the spread we had: fried dumplings, steamed dumplings, steamed rice cake, lotus seed paste and custard buns, baked char siew rolls, congee, and pan-fried rice rolls with sweet sauce and sesame-peanut sauce... 

After running some shopping errands for my mom I had some work to do to make a deadline, so I fairly rolled back to the hostel in a food coma while Holly trundled off to the museum, and we got dinner after she got back. 

The first portion of this was up all the way for a good half hour, but it's lots of stairs, nothing crazy. We saw plenty of little old ladies and tourists doing it. Views: definitely more urban skyline than bucolic countryside. The link above says it's 'difficult' and takes 5 hours; I found it relatively smooth sailing and we took about 3.5, I think. (There is a slightly tougher option to actually ascend Lion Rock, but we skipped that to climb Beacon Hill and see the 'lion' from afar on the way down.) There are longish flat sections, and the ascents and descents mostly involve paved steps like these:

City view at a wee pavilion en route, looking south towards the bulk of urban/ residential Kowloon. 

A view of Lion Rock - the tallest peak is the top of its head, and it's looking towards the right, sphinx-like. 

After all these stunning views it was of course time for lunch; we decided to go hunt for Vietnamese food and found some in a basement food court right near the hostel. Pho and pomelo soda! 

In the evening we went down to the Kowloon waterfront, where the Avenue of Stars is (if you are a HK movie/ pop buff, that's where the stars' handprints are, just like Hollywood's Walk of Fame - Tsui Hark, Bruce Lee, Gong Li etc. One day many millennia in the future, aliens will land and wonder if that's where we buried our dead celebrities) but it was kind of hazy and thus really funny to see tourists try to take photos with the blurred neon skyline. 

Later, I went for hot pot with some friends who live in Hong Kong. Good times and lots of laughs. (In the pot: vegetables, pork bones, fish maw, corn, fish paste, sliced shabu-shabu beef, mushrooms, glass noodles, etc etc etc etc, all simmering away to make this rich umami stew-ness.) 

That was the last night of vacation; we flew out at 7.30am the next morning. Feel free to ask me where else/ what else I ate!

And yes, work has been kind of crazy with interviews and deadlines, which is why it's taken me two weeks to post these photos.

What's running like at 23-25 weeks? I am SO SLOW these days, and my runs are peppered with walk breaks. (Sometimes my walks are peppered with run breaks?) It's kind of like an inverse training plan: you get heavier and heavier and slower and slower as things progress. In other words: still not very exciting, sorry guys. The highlight of last week was running a whopping 6km without stopping to walk.

This is me at 23 weeks; there is definitely a bump going on. Said bump has since expanded. 

And I'm trying to cram as much time in as possible with this little squish before I leave for the US (still don't know when, but at least I have a visa interview date). <3 #favouriteniece 


  1. Wow that bump is coming along nicely. You're no longer in that 'has she put on a bit of weight phase'. It's in that 'when are you due?' phase. And by that I don't mean that you're big I mean that it's obviously a pregnancy baby not a food one.

    1. Oh yes. I've had a few brave souls ask me if I was in the family way. A little over three months to go - then the eighteen-year marathon begins!

  2. What a cute bump! Your trip looks delicious. I have a friend in Hong Kong and I'd love to visit her, but she keeps having major life events (like graduating, getting married, having a baby) that are not conducive to hosting!

    1. Thanks! If you ever make it there, be sure to eat all the things, for they are indeed delicious :)

  3. The one time I was in Hong Kong (over 20 years ago), I fondly remember the delicious food and ubiquitous shopping. Unfortunately, we never went hiking, but I'll definitely put that on my list if I ever go back.

    Your baby bump is so cute! Also, I'm impressed that you're still running!

    1. I'm not much of a shopper, but I think you'll enjoy the hiking even better than the shopping! HK has something for everyone :)

      I'm barely running these days as it is. It really depends on how I feel - the other day it was 6km without stopping (took me >40 minutes; I no longer pay much attention to the time), the other day I stopped to walk after a mile, and today it was 5 minutes on/ 5 minutes off on the treadmill for 40 minutes. I guess the lesson here is: do what makes you feel good and go by time not distance!

  4. You look amazing, to be honest. And that trip looks spectacular - i'm going to remember it if the husband goes to HK again with work as he'd love to do some of those hikes. He went last year and came back declaring we needed to move there, he loved it.

    1. Thanks!
      Ha, HK has a massive hiking/ trail running community :) If he goes back for work you guys should tag along!

  5. Wow! Congrats Mommy!! I did a few hikes around sg while I was pregnant too but I basically stopped running. You're doing really well (I envy women who are still fit even when pregnant) and you look great. LoL on the wanting to pee part. Part of the preggo package! I'm really excited for you. The greatest adventure is coming in a few weeks and will last the rest of your life time :P

    1. Heh, thanks! Unless it's a high-risk pregnancy, there's no reason to abandon all physical activity...says my doctor. So, I still try and get out and about because I know I won't regret it afterwards, and I usually feel great after a short run or a swim.