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There are two sides to every story in Hong Kong. Twenty years after the former British colony was returned to Chinese control, exploring this territory reveals a place that is at once ancient and modern, an urban metropolis with a sprawling rural hinterland.



It’s still before dawn when the first joggers set off along the Lugard Road, the tarmacked path which circles The Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong island. It’s only when they reach a break in the surrounding canopy of trees that they see the city laid out below them. From this perspective, Hong Kong looks like a vast collection of toy skyscrapers, somehow amassed by a child, with over 7,800 high-rises reaching towards the heavens. As the sunlight breaks through the clouds it lifts the film noir gloom from the city, revealing the colours of the day. Looking down, the closest tower blocks are painted in muted beige and pink while beyond them tower the gleaming glass obelisks of the bustling commercial centre. Some of these joggers will soon be heading towards them to start their working days. For now, they continue to pad around The Peak as the dawn chorus intensifies with the sun and butterflies dart through the air. This is a city that rewards the early birds.

A return ticket on the Peak Tram funicular railway is £4.50;


A world away from the heaving crowds on the streets of downtown Hong Kong, on the MacLehose Trail you’re more likely to have your path crossed by a scuttling land crab. Chirping crickets replace the sound of traffic. The long and winding route curls around the Sai Kung Peninsula before heading west across the New Territories and is evidence of a startling, oft-forgotten fact about Hong Kong: despite being one of the planet’s most densely populated places, less than 25 per cent of its total area has been concreted. The vast majority of its land remains as it always has been: grassland, woodland and shrubland. This makes for unexpectedly fine hiking. Soon after setting out eastward on the MacLehose Trail, walkers are afforded perfect views down over the shimmering waters of the High Island Reservoir (pictured) and up towards Sai Wan Shan, a grand peak which itself will be dwarfed further along the trail by the New Territories’ central mountains. When the trail reaches the coast it dips down towards the gorgeous wave-lapped beaches of Long Ke and Sai Wan, where sweaty hikers reward themselves by stripping off and splashing into the cool water.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - December 2017
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