Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Running and biking experiences near to the skyscraper city
It would not be surprising if the image of Hong Kong to the typical person were as a bustling, densely populated city dominated by high-rise buildings soaring into the sky. And while that would not be a wrong impression, in actuality Hong Kong is dominated by green area, which comprises approximately 75 percent of the territory. The network of country parks set up in the 1970s makes up more than half of this green space.
This makes for some extraordinarily scenic – and challenging – biking and running opportunities. The challenging aspect comes from the extreme elevation change that characterizes the region, particularly in the New Territories to the north of Hong Kong Island. A 20 to 25 mile bike ride through Sai Kung Country Park could easily exceed 2,500 feet of elevation change and a 10-kilometer jog around the Clearwater Bay Peninsula can imply more than 1,000 feet! Suffice it to say there is no escaping a serious hill climb here.
There is a serious biking culture developing in Hong Kong. On weekend mornings in the two country parks that I have ridden, there will be packs of cyclists sporting colorful and expensive gear. Cycling in the Sai Kung Country Park obliges a very early wake up call because the more picturesque east side of the park is closed to cyclists, but the park police do not arrive before 8am (hint taken?). So there is considerable bike traffic around the High Island Reservoir and East Dam very early morning. The Pak Tam Road through the west side of the park is open to cyclists, but does not have the dramatic views of the east side reservoir road. It does, however, have very dense forest and prospects for sightings of monkey, wild boar and Sai Kung water buffalo.
The ride from Tai Po into Plover Cove Country Park is equally scenic. It begins as a very flat amble along the Tai Po waterfront but then becomes very undulating and ultimately very hilly in the vicinity of the Reservoir. At the end of Bride’s Pool Road, which is nearly the end of the Country Park, there are two very informal restaurants that are a popular rest stop for cyclists, especially for a traditional English breakfast.
The running culture is not as strong as other places I have lived or visited, but there is no shortage of interesting or dramatic places to run. Scenic waterfront jogs can be had at Tai Po waterfront park and Tseung Kwan O waterfront promenade, but more sensational is the newly completed Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui affording spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline.
For the more adventurous, there is a very challenging 11 kilometer run through Aberdeen Country Park near to Victoria Peak where you can get a bird’s eye view of the skyscraper city and harbor. A local running club called Gone Runners meets every Saturday morning at Wan Chai Gap Park to circle the Aberdeen Reservoir. Less sure-footed runners should take note that the run is extremely hilly over an uneven trail.
The Clearwater Bay peninsula is an excellent base for running, biking and triathlon training. Two of the nicest public beaches in the New Territories are located on Tai Au Mun Road between the Clearwater Bay roundabout and Po Toi O. Both beaches are safely monitored and surrounded by enclosure nets and the parking lot at Second Beach can be used as a staging area for biking, running and swimming. Dramatic vistas extend the entirety of the route from Po Toi O, up to Clearwater Bay Country Park and out to Lobster Bay. Because this peninsula is not densely populated, vehicular traffic is usually light and not threatening to cyclists or runners.
And do not be surprised if a local resident shouts “ga yao” at you as you run or cycle past. Literally, this expression means “add oil”, but is a local idiom used as an expression of encouragement, something akin to “keep it up” or “push on”. I have encountered groups of hikers in the Clearwater Bay Country Park that bellow “ga yao” in unison, followed by loud clapping and laughter. That helps make the steep climbing a lot easier!
You can find me on Strava and Garmin Connect as Gregg Rockett.