I am not what you would call a naturally active person. When I was eleven years old, my well-intentioned mother got me a membership to not only the local YMCA, but a neighborhood center with an indoor swimming pool. Although I don’t recall her explicitly telling me that I needed to lose weight, I recall a distinctive memory around the same time period where I calmly explained to my piano teacher during a lesson that I was fat.
Suddenly, she took her hands off the keys, turned towards me, held both my hands in hers, and asked me to remind her how old I was.
“Eleven,” I said, wondering what on earth had prompted such a reaction. “Abject horror” was not, at the time, an emotion I was skilled at identifying.
“Oh no, honey.” She shook her head. “Listen to me. You’re eleven. You do not need to be worrying about your weight.”
I’m not sure if that time was the beginning of my fraught relationship with exercise, which was marked by a short-lived attempt to be on the track team (followed by refuellings at McDonald’s), endless 30-minute runs on the treadmill in oversized T-shirts and sweats, and resolutions to do crunches every day, which I immediately gave up doing after three days.
I like to think that today, I move my body for the sake of how good movement feels to me and how much it benefits me emotionally and mentally – and not for the calorie-burn that I’d live and die by on the treadmill, once upon a time.
Also, those calorie counts are totally bogus. It’s not worth it.
Whether that means a 10 minute ab workout from Youtube, a half-hour yoga-inspired stretch, or a full hour pounding the weights, it doesn’t matter, as long as it feels right to me.
To that end, hiking in Hong Kong has been a total game-changer. Unlike hiking near Boston where I grew up, where you’d need a car to access any of the hiking trails, most of the trails here are accessible by public transportation. So, your pocket 20 HKD lighter and 40 minutes later, you’re hitting the trails, sand and sea and mountains, a world away from the Lego-scape of urban Hong Kong.
How to Get to the Start of Dragon’s Back
The Dragon’s Back hike is located in the southeastern part of Hong Kong Island. Here’s where it is.
You can get to the start of the hike by catching the Island Line MTR (that’s the blue one) to Shau Kei Wan Station.
Get off at exit A3 from Shau Kei Wan station and come outside to find the bus terminal. It’s a popular hike, so it’s more than likely that there will be a long snaking line of people in various states of kitted-up to get to this hike.
Take Bus Number 9 and get off at To Tei Wan station. It’s best to get this stop on Google Maps loaded on your phone first, and then watch painstakingly as your little location-icon snails towards this stop.
Some people may leave the bus at this point, but don’t be worried if not the entire bus disembarks. The start of the hike is the start of the hike.
And it’s marked clearly by adorable little dragons.
The Dragon’s Back Hike (Views and More)
Within half an hour of following the trail (of easy to moderate difficulty, depending on your fitness level), you should reach the main draw of this hike. It’ll be sloping hills, most of it taken up by the the emerald green of a gold course, and then dotted by little white houses. The hike gets its namesake from its characteristic undulating surface. On a clear sunny day, the water stretches for what seems like miles.
You’ll follow the path for about 20 more minutes, until you reach dirt brush and some descent.
Dragon’s Back’s pros (and cons) are that the payoff to the hike comes within the first half hour of the hike. If you’re not so into that hiking life, it’s very easy to make a circle and just come back to the start of the trail and take the bus back.
However, I recommend walking the rest of it all the way to Big Wave Bay.
Here’s my own journey on this hike, which lasted about 2.5 hours (with plenty of gratuitous photo stops along the way). Right when I was about to finish with the sweeping sea views at the beginning of the hike, I dead-ass heard a guy mutter to his girlfriend, “All right, we’ve seen this view 30 times).
The remainder of the hike is a flat and easy walk, and will take you all the way to Big Wave Bay, with some snippets of gorgeous blue sea to tide you over.
Big Wave Bay beach is anchored by a little cluster of homes, shops, and beach-front restaurants. Stop and grab a local beer (two beers by local company Hong Kong Beer Co. are named “Big Wave Bay” and “Dragon’s Back”, so for a little fun meta-ness, get one!).
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