Before living in Hong Kong I had a very stereotypical image of the city: buildings, buildings, and more buildings...I quickly realized my error: 70% of the territory is nature, so there is a plethora of places to explore when you need to escape the overwhelming urbanization. I am going to tell you about three of them: an island, a park, and a fishing village.
Po Toi is a small island to the south of Hong Kong reachable by ferry from Stanley at the weekend only (40HKD return trip, in the week the ferry leaves from Aberdeen). I like going to Po Toi to have a bit of a walk, a swim, and eat at the island's seafood restaurant, which has a very good reputation (Ming Kee – 2849 7038). An easy walk, which passes through some rock carvings dating back to the Bronze age, takes you to an old lighthouse. Once you arrive on the little peninsula the view of Hong-Kong is magnificent. According to the day's temperature I either climb the steps which lead to the island's summit, or I go directly to the restaurant for fresh fish and fried calamari. On the way back I always stop on the sea front opposite Stanley to have a drink and enjoy the activity...A great day out.
Sai Kung is a park situated to the north-east of Hong Kong and one of my favorite places to go walking. One of the best known trails of the country begins there: the MacLehose. An ideal day in the park begins at Pak Tam Au and finishes at Si Wan Pavillion, an itinerary which follows part of the second stage of the MacLehose trail. It's a heavy program: views over the ocean and the mountains, mangroves, white sand beaches (especially Ham Tim, where you can have lunch), and unexpected meetings with the wild cows that live in the park. I always feel like I'm in Thailand, even though I'm only 30 minutes drive from the center of the city!
Tai O is a small fishing village on stilts on the Island of Lantau. Although a large part of it was destroyed by fire a few years ago, the village was rebuilt and preserves its traditions and its charm. This is home to the Tanka, the first inhabitants of Hong Kong, who still live like their ancestors in a labyrinth of houses on the water. Apart from visiting the village, trying the dried fish, and the hypothetical sight of the pink dolphins (I was lucky, I saw them!), I recommend you visit the former police station which has been turned into a boutique hotel (Tai O Heritage Hotel – 2985 8383), a bit different and very classy!
There are other outings: the fishermen of Cheng Chau, the tranquil village of Peng Chau, the ghost villages of Plover Clove, or the hippy atmosphere of Lamma... It seems that Hong Kong is the easiest world financial center to get away from!