It is surprisingly easy to get away from the bustle of Hong Kong. Contributing editor Kate Donnelly takes a day trip to a nearby island for an altogether different view of the city.
HONG KONG – After the comforts of a five-star hotel and a welcoming waist-expanding lunch at Caprice, a two-Michelin-star restaurant at Four Seasons Hong Kong, which kicked off with cheese and Champagne and continued for six courses from chef Fabrice Vulin, I want to expand my lung capacity with a much-needed hike. Not only to burn some of the day's caloric intake, but also to shake the loopy, short-fused rhythms of jet lag. Plus, it would be a perfect way to gain insight into a place where I had a 24-hour layover. As I've said before, Hong Kong remains one of the best cities in the world to spend a short amount of time thanks to its remarkably convenient layout and excellent public transportation.
After a quick 30-minute ferry from Pier 4 across from Central's IFC Mall, my hiking companions and I arrive at Lamma Island, world's away from the sleek, stacked city of Hong Kong. Recommend by an in-the-know friend, the sleepy, blissfully car-less Lamma is home to a number of ex-pats, and the contrast between buzzy Blade Runner-esque skyscraper-laden Hong Kong and the tiny island is stark. On the east coast the island, the small fishing village Sok Kwu Wan sits quietly, its wet markets an orderly line of outdoor seafood restaurants with diners sitting under bright lights, the aromas of fresh-cooked fish, garlic prawns, lobster, and shellfish in the air.
We follow the signs for Yung Shue Wan, our destination, expecting a moderate, hour-long hike. There's not much canopy, so it's a journey that requires a brimmed hat, sunscreen, and water. (For the road less travelled, this would be a great hike in reverse, starting Yung Shue Wan and picking up additional trails that add distance and incline and lose the crowds).
Walking over the island's mountainous terrain hugging the coast, the stunning views overlooking the rich South China Sea. There's plenty to see in addition to glorious panoramic vistas — banana trees, beaches, and lush valleys. Finally, we reach Yung Shue Wan, with its brightly colored, low-storied dwellings with modest, delicious, open-air restaurants, local shops, and boats idling in the background. We feel invigorated — perhaps I even worked off some of that French couture lunch — and ready to take advantage of the many good local spots for food and beer.
On the ferry back to Hong Kong, the sun sets in glorious fashion, and I'm reminded that another day has slipped by with pleasing results. By the time I arrive back at the Four Seasons, I swim a few laps in the infinity pool before heading to the 45th floor, where a glass of champagne awaits high atop the sky, overlooking the wide, bustling, dappled expanse of Victoria Harbor.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
To Lamma Island
Lamma is served by ferries from Central Pier 4 on Hong Kong Island and from Aberdeen on the south side of Hong Kong Island. See the ferry schedule here. The journey to Yung Shue Wan takes 30 minutes and around 35 minutes to Sok Kwu Wan.
To Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Airways offers daily non-stop service to Hong Kong from eight North American gateways (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, New York JFK, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver). Layover in Hong Kong? Make a stop at the sleek black-on-gray-on-white Wing Lounge for a sip of champagne and a slurp of noodles.