A former colleague of mine in Ningbo, where I used to live, once told me that every time he transferred in Hong Kong, he would make sure to leave himself enough time to leave the airport and go running on Lantau island, where the airport is based. Now, I thought him slightly crazy because: a) who likes running that much?! and b) what the hell is there on Lantau apart from the airport, a big Buddha statue and Disneyland Hong Kong?!
Well, it turns out there’s a lot on Lantau and that it is one of the best places in Hong Kong to hike and go to the beach. We discovered this during a long weekend there and have since become a huge Lantau fan. Whether I’ll prioritise going running there during air travel transfers, I don’t know, but I do hope to visit again one day and tackle more of the amazing trails.
Where we stayed
We got ourselves a sweet Airbnb place in the cute village of Mui Wo, located on the west coast of Lantau island, about half-an-hour’s taxi journey up through lush hills from the airport. Actually, a collection of smaller villages dotted around the hills, Mui Wo is a wonderful place to base yourself. It has a lovely stretch of beach, some excellent restaurants and cafes, and is a major transport hub for Lantau – its ferry port has regular connections over to Central on Hong Kong Island, as well as to a number of other smaller islands that definitely looked worth a visit.
What we did
After getting hold of an excellent map from an outdoor shop in the centre of Mui Wo, which reveals dozens of hiking trails crisscrossing the island, we headed off on the bus from Mui Wo to the Big Buddha, which we had never actually seen in all our visits to Hong Kong. The bus journey was just stunning, following a road along the south side of the island, along the coast. It being November, the weather was absolutely perfect, warm and sunny but not too humid. The sea looked twinkly and beautiful as we travelled past, while the beaches – more on which later – looked so tempting.
When we arrived at the Buddha, which is one of the largest outdoor seated Buddhas in the world, we had a bit of a wander about and joined the crowds of tourists climbing the stairs up to the big guy himself. The views from the walkway that surrounds the Buddha are really impressive and we could see the coastline we had just passed. Armed with our map, we pinpointed a route down Muk Yue hill, upon which Buddha is perched, which would take us down to the beaches. I absolutely LOVE having a map, it means you can so easily explore the place you’re in and plot courses that actually lead somewhere. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried hiking in China, where maps are not easily available, only to realise that the route doesn’t lead anywhere and have had to double back. Very frustrating.
We set off on our hike, which took us through lush forests, past small collections of houses, and up and down some steep hills. It was pretty easy to navigate a route, although we did have trouble at a couple of points where paths had overgrown and become inaccessible. It didn’t matter though as with the map we were easily able to pick up alternative trails and head down towards the coastline. We decided, after seeing the height of it, to walk around Lantau Peak, the tallest on the island at 934 metres, rather than up it. The 70km-long Lantau Trail, which is divided into 12 sections, takes walkers up both of Lantau’s peaks, including nieghbouring Sunset Peak, and definitely looks like a challenge. Hopefully one day we can come back and tackle parts of it.
What we ate
When we arrived at Chueng Sha beach, after covering about 10kms, we were delighted to discover that not only was the beach gorgeous, there were also some amazing bars and restaurants down there! We decided to eat at South African restaurant The Stoep, where we sampled their lamb bredie, a kind of South African tomato and meat stew. The rich sauce and big chunks of lamb were delicious and, we felt, well deserved after our hiking! We also had a little drink at one of the beachfront bars and watched as families and day trippers enjoyed some fun in the sun.
How we travelled around
As well as travelling by foot, we also took advantage of the island’s bus system, with Mui Wo’s ferry pier the start and end point of many of the bus routes. While these buses are quite frequent, cheap, and go to most places of interest on the island, there isn’t a direct route to and from the airport that’s of any use to tourists. It is possible, however, to get a bus from Mui Wo to Tung Chung then change to the airport line, which is what we did on the way back. To get to Mui Wo from the airport, we used Lantau’s blue taxis, which are not cheap but definitely the quickest way of getting around.