For our Sunday in Hong Kong we decided to get out of the city area and hike the spectacular ‘Dragon’s Back’. A 9km hike with 2 tired kids in 30+ degree heat and humidity might have been a bit fraught with danger, but both kids were keen, and what was the worst that could happen?
It was the best morning of sleeping-in so far, neither child waking up until quarter to 7. It was still less than 10 hours sleep though after our previous nights visit to the laser show, so not exactly good! Especially before a big day of walking……
The buffet breakfast was a long affair, with too many options and kids who couldn’t decide what they wanted to eat. We did eventually manage to convince the kidlets to eat enough calories for the day. After almost a week we were rapidly tiring of posh buffet breakfast!
Soren was already rather tired and being somewhat special, so we briefly debated not going ahead with the hike. In the end we ignored our better judgement and figured he would probably refuse a nap in the hotel anyway so we might as well get out and about and he might nap in the ergo.
We packed up (as lightly as possible for a long walk in the heat with a couple of kids) and were on our way before 9am. We weren’t exactly sure how long the Dragon’s back walk was. The reported length seemed to vary depending on sources, and whether you could find the ‘shortcuts’ but it looked like the walk was going to be somewhere between 6.5 and 9km, we thought around 8ish km, for the route we wanted to take, including a fair bit of hill. Fairly achievable with the kids within a couple of hours. Especially with encouragement (aka bribery).
Unlike the previous few days it was rather overcast day and looked a bit rainy but we thought we’d risk it. The overcast day ended up being a huge blessing as it kept the temperatures down.
We went out through the Pacific Place exit and down to Admiralty station to catch the MTR. The temperature inside was perfectly pleasant, if only it would stay so cool! We caught the Island line for 20 odd minutes out to Shau Kei Wan, this was the first time we’d ventured out to this area.
Once at Shau Kei Wan we located the bus interchange and the kids were very excited to be getting their long-awaited double-decker bus ride. Us and about a million other tourists and locals in hiking gear were gathering around waiting for bus number 9 to Shek O. We were definitely not alone in our Sunday morning activity, the Dragon’s back hike is known to be a popular weekend walk.
Unsurprisingly some locals figured out where we were headed (and that we were tourists) and ushered us over to another waiting bus, where to Astrid’s excitement we secured front-row seats on the top deck.
Even if you don’t do the Dragon’s back walk, taking the bus ride up to Shek O is worthwhile. Heading out of Shau Kei Wan you immediately head up some pretty steep hills but there are wonderful views over Hong Kong Island.
The trip up was mildly terrifying, the bus just fitted along the road and the bus roof kept hitting branches from all the overhead trees. You’d think with buses whizzing along every 15 minutes there would be no branches left, but it was a pretty noisy ride. We also passed quite a number of cyclists heading up the hill, apparently local riders are not fussed by a huge double-decker bus stalking them from about 30cm behind.
We kept going up for around 15 minutes and pretty soon we hit stop 12, where us, and the majority of the bus (all the ones in hiking gear) got off. Even from the start point of the walk there were lovely views down towards Stanley. As usual though the amount of haze meant that everything more than 2km away looks very grey!
The Dragon’s Back is a ridge in southeastern Hong Kong Island, between Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak. It lies within the Shek O Country Park. In 2004 the Dragon’s Back Trail was selected by Time Asia as the best urban hiking trail. The Dragon’s Back trail connects Wan Cham Shan (at 226m) and Shek O Peak (284m), stretching vertically over D’Aguilar Peninsula. The path undulates between these hill tops, reminiscent of the shape of a dragon’s backbone, hence the trail’s name.
The Dragon’s Back hike through to Shek O is rated as moderate, mostly due to the first bit (up and over the Dragon’s Back) being quite steep with lots of huge stairs. Astrid did very well with her little legs considering I was stretching to get up some of the stairs. We knew there was no chance that Soren would make it up the large and steep dirt and stone stairs so he was in the ergo on my back. This made it extra hard work for me!
The first half of a kilometre was very hard work as there were lots of rocky bits we had to pick our way through. Very soon though we were rewarded with amazing views. Once you make it up between the peaks there are stunning views of Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam, and the South China Sea. As we looked over Stanley we got views of expensive houses and apartments. As you look over the D’Aguilar Peninsula you could can see down to the beach and the golf course.
Despite it being quite hot and humid there were lovely breezes up on top of the ridge. This kept us at a reasonable temperature as we were walking, but in no way stopped us from dripping in sweat pretty quickly! As predicted the tired Soren didn’t take long to fall asleep on my back, he ended up snoozing for a good hour as we were walking.
The first couple of kilometres were very hard going, but within 45 minutes we’d reached the flatter section along the ridge, although there was still a lot of mud and rocks to pick our way through. Astrid walked well with bribery (jelly lollies) and kept telling us she was having ‘lots of fun’. We’ve also found that having her wear a fitbit is great motivation on days with lots of walking, she loves to see how many steps she’s done! The rocks were quite slippery and it was hard work for little legs and Astrid had one slip that ended in a slightly sore ankle, but we escaped without too many injuries.
At 284 metres high, the hilltop sightseeing platform on Shek O Peak gives the best views in every direction and also lets you see ‘the Dragon’s back’. Astrid was fairly impressed that it did indeed look like the back of a Dragon. Soren slept through it all!
It was fairly busy out on the trail and as you reached the peak you could see all the brightly coloured dots of other hikers snaking up and down the Dragon’s back.
After an hour and a bit of walking we hit the forest section of the trail, known as Pottinger Gap. This section has less impressive views but was lovely and shaded and it was much flatter so we made good time. We also came across a few waterfalls and the odd butterfly, so it was a pleasant section of the walk.
There were a lot of hikers going in both directions. Most seemed impressed that a little kid was doing the trail and I got a few people impressed I was trundling along with a toddler on my back.
We went through a lot of water (and a fair few bribery lollies) but made good time. At just under the 2 hour mark we reached the end of the forest section of the walk, there was a sign to Big Wave Bay indicating another hours walking (although only 1.5kmk) or a shorter walk in the other direction. After walking down a tonne of stairs we realised we were actually meant to take the Big Wave Bay route, but there was no way we were walking back up the stairs so we opted to catch the next bus (we had conveniently landed at a bus stop) and head straight to Shek O village.
We were all pretty hot and in need of a sit down so the bus seemed like a good option. It was a very short wait until a bus arrived and again it was a hair-raising ride as the bus sped along the winding roads at reasonable speed and we could see the drops down to the bottom of the island. The kids thought it was rather hilarious. The bus had to cover significantly more distance than the walk would have, with all the winding around the hill but we eventually made it to Shek O village.
The bus deposited us at Big Wave beach, which is located next to Shek O village, at the South- Eastern end of Hong Kong Island. The name “Shek O” literally means the “rocky bay”. The entire area is a peninsula, facing the South China Sea.
The beach was filled with locals have picnics and BBQs as well as quite a number of tourists. Big Wave Bay is a popular spot for windsurfers but there didn’t appear to be much wind the day we visited.
Astrid and Soren were happy to run on the beach while Anto went in search of a good spot for lunch.
There were plenty of good eating options and we picked a open-air ‘French’ cafe not far from the beach. We couldn’t see what was French about it other than they served croissants…….. To motivate the kids on the walk we had been promising lunch and they were duly rewarded with a pineapple-coconut and a banana-coconut milkshake (that were very tasty) and a burger, wedges and garlic bread. I was still full from breakfast, but apparently the kids and Anto were hungry despite the million lollies we ate while walking.
The food was pretty tasty and all was going well until a very tired Soren decided to pee his pants while sitting on my lap, about 5 seconds after telling us he didn’t need to go to the toilet. We of course had spare pants for him but nothing for me, it was going to be a long trip back to the hotel! Soren also managed to score a dodgy souvenir t-shirt as the one he was wearing also got wet.
After getting Soren changed we hopped on the next bus back to Shau Kei Wan. We didn’t have to wait longer than 10 minutes, so had been fairly impressed with the efficiency of the bus service.
Again we were scored seats on the top-deck of the bus, which gave us excellent views of the bus hitting the low-handing branches of trees and the other amused but slightly terrified passengers as the bus had to keep pulling over to let buses in the opposite direction past. You could easily wave to passengers on the passing buses as there was about 2 cm between the buses as they passed each other.
The trip to Shek O was definitely interesting, it was good to get out of the more glamorous city area and see the difference in the apartments and villages. There were still an enormous number of extremely tall apartment buildings, they were just nowhere near as attractive and clean as the city ones! On another trip to Hong Kong it would be good to explore this area further and visit some of the outlying islands.
We arrived back at Shau Kei Wan after 2.30pm and decided to have a look through a local weekend market we had spied from the bus on the way out of town that morning. The market was filled with fruit and veg and an array of fresh meats and seafood. There was a huge number of rather disgusting looking things that had the kids fascinated, but I wasn’t keen on taking photos of them!
All feeling a little hot and tired we left the market and were back in the MTR station pretty quickly and it was a fairly efficient trip back to Admiralty station and our hotel. By 3.30pm we were down in the pool for a big swim which was lovely and refreshing.
It was going to be our last dinner in Hong Kong. We had the whole day in Hong Kong, the next day, but were flying out that night so were planning to eat in the airport lounge. We decided on dumplings for dinner, and an attempt at getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour.
There was a local restaurant that specialised in dumplings not too far from our hotel, so we ventured out not long after 5pm. Again we managed to get most of the way there through the shopping centres, so only had a short walk in the heat. Soren was clearly tired, he had refused to walk to dinner, so we obliged by putting him in the ergo on Anto’s back and he was asleep before we reached the restaurant.
Due to misreading some street numbers we accidentally ended up in a Vietnamese restaurant. It looked really nice, but we decided we’d try to find the restaurant we had intended to go to since Astrid and Anto were keen on dumplings. It turned out it was only a few doors down, so the mistake was easily corrected.
Despite being removed from the ergo and carried from one restaurant to another, Soren was not going to wake up! We let him nap on me for a bit while we ordered dinner and assumed the smell of food would eventually rouse him from his slumber.
Dinner ended up being pork and chive dumplings (which Anto awarded the lofty title of the best he’d ever had), vegetarian dumplings, Sichuan tofu (which turned out to have meat and I couldn’t eat) and sweet and sour pork, which was the kids choice.
The food was really good, and we all ate pretty well. The place was tiny (only 5 tables) but was already packed before 6pm.
The kids were tired but wanted to go back past hotel bar with us and while we had our last free round of hotel cocktails. I think they were mostly keen because we mentioned the word dessert. The hotel bar, while lovely, is rather slow. We did eventually get our drinks and we even manage to order some desserts from the attached restaurant. Of course had we of realised that the dessert menu was so good, we would have been ordering dessert every night!
The kids decided on the ‘smores’ and a white chocolate egg (which had passionfruit and caramel filling). Both were amazing, we were bummed it was our last night as we had missed out on trying the rest of the dessert menu!
Our hotel room had lovely corner windows. We didn’t face towards Victoria Harbour, instead our room looked out towards Victoria Peak (which is not far from the hotel). We still had pretty good views and everything looked very pretty at night. Here are a few shots of our nightly view……..
Statistics for Sunday the 28th of August 2016, in Hong Kong – the temperature was 26 to 31 degrees celsius with a humidity of 94%. The heat index reached only 35.4 degrees, it was by far the coolest day we had in Hong Kong! The total walking for the day was 13.7km, a pretty fair effort by 5-year-old Astrid, who walked the whole lot!
Up next, our final day in Hong Kong. We had plans to go to Hong Kong’s aquatic theme park ‘Ocean Park’, but lets just say things didn’t quite go according to plan…..