Easily accessible from the city, Hong Kong’s myriad mountain ranges are prime turf for bouldering and rock climbing. Founder of Hong Kong Climbing (hongkongclimbing.com), a comprehensive online resource for the climbing community, Stuart Millis has been addicted to the sport since he was 16. He explains how to rock out with your chalk out.
Photos by Stuart Millis
What’s the deal? “Today it’s a big and active scene—there are a lot of climbing walls and meet-up places. But 15 years ago, there were a few government climbing walls and that was basically it. It took a bit more effort to find the scene but once you did find a few people, they were welcoming. Today there are climbing walls popping up all over: Sheung Wan, Kwai Fong and Tuen Mun as well. Go have a play, and see if you have that natural ability.”
Risk factors: “Learn the basics inside: how to tie yourself into the ropes and harness, and how to clip yourself into the rock face. Then when you go outside you are doing it safely. Once you know how to belay someone—feed out rope and lock it off so you catch them—then there’s not too much to worry about.”
Where to go: “Lion Rock is probably my favorite. It has a unique feel to it. There are not many places in the world where you can do high-quality climbing and have a backdrop like Hong Kong behind you. There’s also some diverse bouldering, like in the hillsides above Shek O. With bouldering you are playing on big bits of rocks and you don’t need ropes. You carry around a foam crash pad, and rely on that to (hopefully) break your fall. For beginners, I’d say Tung Lung Chau. There’s a place called the ‘Technical Wall’ there that’s very user-friendly. It’s also a beautiful setting and away from the busy city. The other place might be Beacon Hill behind Kowloon Tong—it’s accessible, and the climbs are easy to set up and try.”
Get the gear: “You’ll find the best range of equipment at the most reasonable prices from Chamonix (G-1/F, 6A Nelson St., Mong Kok, 2388-3626, www.chamonix.com.hk) and RC Outfitters (467-473 Hennessy Rd., Causeway Bay, 2398-3551, www.rcoutfitters.net).”
Take a class: Check out Da Verm ($1,200 for intro course. Unit 1, 419G Queen’s Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2803-0567, www.da-verm.com) or the YMCA ($220 for intro course. 41 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2268-7099, www.ymcahk.org.hk).
Easy does it: Mountain climbing too intense? Stroll up the Peak Morning Trail then reward yourself with dim sum at The Sweet Dynasty (Shop 1B, The Galleria, 118 Peak Rd., The Peak, 2890-2005).
If you’ve gone hiking in Hong Kong, you’ve probably come across a paraglider about to take off on Dragon’s Back, or spotted colorful sails floating among the peaks of Lantau. Paragliding is among the slowest forms of aviation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a breeze. Vincent Christian, the chairman of the Hong Kong Paragliding Association (www.hkpa.net), walks us through the basics.
Photos by HKPA
What’s the deal? “Though it’s technically considered an aircraft, a paraglider is actually made out of ripstop nylon. It takes about a year to get certified in Hong Kong, due to unstable weather and site issues—most sites aren’t suitable for beginners. Once you earn a P2 license, you can fly on your own. It’s nerve-wracking at first, but once you’re more comfortable, it becomes all about the scenery. The essence of the sport is simple: most free-flyers are just happy to turn up, carry their gliders behind their backs, walk up the mountain, take off, play at being a bird, land, pack-up and go home, happy to have seen their world from up high!”
Risk factors: “It’s a growing community in Hong Kong because of many new instructors. Unfortunately with that comes more people in the air, safety issues and problems with traffic. Good training is crucial to take on unpredictable weather or unexpected issues. Paragliding is only as safe as the pilot. There are two age-old adages to remember: ‘It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground. And, my favorite, ‘Taking off is optional, landing is mandatory!'”
Where to go: “Hong Kong is one of the most beautiful places to fly. Around Shek O, the scenery is staggering. But my favorite place is Ma On Shan, because I can go up during my lunch break. If conditions are good, you can stay up for hours—eight hours if you want!”
Get the gear: Lots of online paragliding supply stores ship to Hong Kong, including Para Supply(www.parasupply.com), Gin Gliders (www.gingliders.com), Advance (www.advance.ch), andOzone (www.flyozone.com) among many others. Load up on sunglasses, a helmet, radio, variometer, and of course, a glider and harness of your own. Expect to spend about $35,000.
Take a course: The Hong Kong Paragliding Association site lists several instructors, including Paraglide Hong Kong (P1 license program from $8,600. 9450-0851, paraglidehk.homestead.com).
Easy does it: Can’t get the hang of this flying thing? Soar vicariously through the indigenous butterflies at the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve ($20 day pass by appointment. 150 Fung Yuen Village, Tai Po, 3111-7344, www.fungyuen.org).
Since 1994, the Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association (www.hkmba.org) has been working to improve the quality of mountain bike trails and open up new routes. Just last weekend, the government opened up a highly anticipated trail in Tai Mo Shan, which is the first purpose-built trail of its kind in the region. Steve Coward, a volunteer at the HKMBA and founder of mountain biking training company CrossCountryHK, talks about how to get involved.
Photos by Steve Coward
What’s the deal? “The popularity has absolutely exploded in the past 10 years. There were no legal trails in Hong Kong when I first got here 21 years ago, but now the government’s parks department has made an effort to open up trails for shared use.”
Risk factors: “I think you really just need to know your limits. Know where you are going and prepare before you go. Especially in the summer months, you need to make sure you have enough water with you. You can wear yourself out if you lack the basic fitness. Some of these parks, like Tai Lam Country Park, have a huge network of trails so you need to know which are suitable for biking, and which are not.”
Where to go: “We are very lucky in that most of the rides have great views. In Tai Tam Park, there’s amazing scenery and bamboo and open views in certain places, where you can see Hong Kong in glorious colors if the pollution isn’t too bad. For beginners, I’d say the Tai Lam Chung Reservoir trail. It’s a 14-kilometer loop that’s relatively flat.”
Get the gear: “Beginners will want to invest in some kneepads and elbow guards. Inevitably you will fall off and it’s all part of learning. Check out Friendly Bicycle Shop (Shop B, 13 Mui Wo Ferry Pier Rd., Mui Wo, Lantau, 2984-2278), a favorite among Lantau Island mountain bikers. I have been going there for 15 years.”
Take a course: The HKMBA makes it easy to get involved, thanks to free Rock Up & Ride events the first Sunday of every month. The next one is this Sunday, February 8. Want a private lesson? Coward’s company CrossCountryHK (6300-1980, www.mtbhk.com) offers guided rides and lessons from $1,050 per half day.
Easy does it: Start off a bit lighter with a leisurely, flat pedal around Tai Mei Tuk. Try the Plover Cove Reservoir trail, which runs along Bride’s Pool Road and passes by a few charming Hakka villages. There are dozens of bike rentals in the area.
Motocross, or MX, refers to off-road motorcycle racing around a track. One of the oldest motocross tracks in Hong Kong is MX Club (www.mxclub.com.hk), which has been training riders and promoting the sport since 1996. We hear from MX Club instructor and professional motocross competitor Michael Maverick.
Photos by MX Club
What’s the deal? “Sometimes MX gets lumped in with dirt biking, but it strictly refers to track racing, jumps and tricks. The scene here is still small now, but there are a lot more Hong Kong people taking an interest. The sense of freedom is huge—but it’s also a fun outdoor family thing that kids can do with their parents instead of playing on their iPad or Xbox.”
Risk factors: “A lot of people think it’s a dangerous sport, but it’s up to you. The bike is only as fast as you let it go. After a day of training with us, people are usually really comfortable and often come back.”
Where to go: There are only two tracks in Hong Kong: MX Club (Cheung Lek Village,Tong Kung Leng, Sheung Shui, 2668-0948) and X-Camp (Ki Lun Tsuen, Kwu Tung Rd., Lok Ma Chau, 9288-8993).
Get the gear: “Moto Mart (Flat A, G-1/F, 5 Ha Heung Rd., To Kwa Wan, 2362-0388) sells all types of riding gear: chest protectors, elbow guards, knee guards, helmets. There’s even a full-body suit that you can buy for your kids to ensure their safety.”
Take a class: MX Club offers beginner-level classes (from $550 per hour), as well as more advanced training.
Easy does it: If you don’t have a need for speed, try your luck at a slow bout of paddle boating atInspiration Lake, a free-entry park created as a part of the Disneyland resort.
Everything about parkour street running looks cool—the graceful leaps, climbs and rolls. It’s all about seeing the obstacles in your environments anew, and you can learn how to do it right here in Hong Kong. Coach Tim Yeung of the Parkour Association (www.parkour.hk) tells us what it’s like.
Photos by Hong Kong Parkour Association
What’s the deal? “Some years ago there seemed to be a negative perception of parkour, but more recently society has grown to accept it as a sport and embrace the spirit. Aside from keeping you fit and healthy, parkour is a way of thinking: you have to continuously think of a new solution to your problem, the same way you approach the obstacles. Every obstacle is an opportunity.
Risk factors: “We also emphasize strength in our drills because muscles will protect your joints when you fall. Some people associate parkour with stuntmen, or those dangerous leaps and rooftop jumps that you might see in the movies. We do need to face our fears and sometimes go up two-story buildings, but we are careful. Every time you do something that’s a bit scary, you have better control of yourself mentally and physically.”
Where to go: “You don’t really need to find a place to train parkour—that’s the beauty of it. You can do it anywhere. We usually practice in the parks or somewhere with a lot of space, like Kowloon Park and Lai Chi Kok Park: basically anywhere without too many people.”
Get the gear: “Aside from a pair of running shoes, you don’t really need anything else.”
Take a class: Join the free group training every week, or purchase a batch of five classes for $600 from the Movement Lab (Unit 1011, Shing King Industrial Building, 9-11 Ng Fong St., San Po Kong, 6198-2734, www.parkour.hk).
Easy does it: Jumping around on the streets a little intimidating? Get your bounce on in a more controlled environment, like Ryze Trampoline Park (3/F, 321 Java Rd., Quarry Bay, 2337-8191,www.ryze.info).
This article originally appeared as an HK Magazine cover story, in print and online.