When I first received my travel itinerary, I was puzzled, and a little disappointed. Hong Kong? Really? I knew Hong Kong only as a stopover city en route to the world’s more exotic destinations. I doubted the existence of adventure within this concrete jungle and had serious concerns about all the hiking gear I'd crammed into my carry-on. Would I really get to use any of it? That was the big question.
DRAGON BACK TRAIL
My answer came the following morning. With a belly full of congee (savoury porridge) and a slight Tsingtao (local beer) hangover, I was told to lace my boots and make tracks for Dragon’s Back trail. Just a hop from the bustling Central district, the undulating 8.5km hike from Wan Cham Shan to Shek O beach follows a beautiful coastline. It's so beautiful that it’s been named the world’s best urban walk. Surprised? So was I. After all, this is a city with a container ship to human ratio like no other.
Dragon’s Back is not a particularly difficult hike, but it’s a rewarding one. The top of the 284m-high peak treats trekkers to a panorama of gold coast and Jurassic Park-like islands; the vista an astounding palette of emerald and teal. But the best part? Finishing the hike on the white sands of Shek O beach, stripping off your hiking layers and swimming out to the ocean pontoon.
"I can’t believe we’re only just outside the city", I think to myself as I stretch out on the warm wood. ‘I can’t believe we’re only just outside the city,’ echoes Dan, swimming up beside me. It seems there might be more to Honkers than just dim sum and designer shopping, after all.
Two days later, drenched in early morning sweat, calves bubbling with lactic acid, I’m watching the sunrise over the city. From the top of the iconic Lion Rock, the city looks like a Lego wonderland built according to the imagination of a 5 year old architect. Skyscrapers sit stacked on top of each other, the waters of Victoria Harbour laps at front steps while back doors open onto yards of lush jungle. I look around at the rest of the Kathmandu crew, faces red from the dawn humidity, and I see the same thing - amazement. It would’ve been quite a moment, if it wasn’t for the noise of the drone flying overhead. Ahh, how’s the serenity.
TEMPLE STREET MARKET
The archipelago continues to earn its adventure stripes. We sharpen our navigational skills at the chaotic Temple Street night market, streetside karaoke requires a not-so-small amount of bravery and bouldering at Ha Fa Shan was, well, physical. But arguably Hong Kong’s greatest adventure scene is its back alley, alfresco dai pai dong restaurants.
DAI PAI DONG
Uniquely Hong Kongese, these traditional eateries once dominated the Kowloon streetscape but are now down to fewer than 25 restaurants. The pace inside is always frenetic - in the corner, tattooed Cantonese men play cards; a family of young kids squawk over the last duck breast; a local soap opera blares on the tv; and outside, two half naked men dance over the flames of a red-hot wok.
Service is brisk, English is non-existent and while the Tsingtao flows, we pore over the menu. ‘Zac, I dare you to order the frog legs’, ‘fried milk custard sounds...interesting’, ‘what exactly is bird’s nest soup?’ On our final night, we celebrate Hong Kong with a feast of fried beef and peppered squid, BBQ pork and roast duck. Across the lazy Susan, our local guide Danny catches my eye. He waves down a waiter and whispers in his ear. Minutes later, the waiter returns, this time with a heaving bowl of steamed chicken feet.
The adventure has come full circle; it’s just me and a chicken foot once again. And just in case you were wondering, they’re surprisingly delicious.