Hike – Beach – Boat: The Sai Kung Triathlon
Sai Kung in the northeastern New Territories features arguably Hong Kong’s best beaches and – as they pass along these beaches – some of its most beautiful hiking trails, too. Ever since I have hiked the Section 2 of the MacLehose Trail (without any doubt the #1 hike in Hong Kong!) for the first time, I wanted to climb that peak that rose steeply towards the sky somewhat north of Sai Kung’s three “deserted beaches”, living up to its name: Sharp Peak.
Getting to the Starting Point of the Trail
It requires quite some time (at least for Hong Kong standards) to get to the trail leading to Sharp Peak, as the Sai Kung East Country Park is one of the most remote areas in the whole territory of Hong Kong. One option to get here from Central is as follows: Take the MTR (Island Line) to North Point and change to the purple Tseung Kwan O Line there (take a train to Po Lam, not that one going to LOHAS Park!). Get off in Hang Hau, exit the MTR station towards the Minibus station and enter the Green Minibus No. 101M to Sai Kung. In Sai Kung, you can stock up on supplies before you enter Bus No. 94 for another 25-minutes ride to Pak Tam Au. The whole journey can take about 2 hours, but it is so much worth it, as I will show you shortly.
Having arrived at Pak Tam Au, you embark on the MacLehose Trail Section 2 in reverse direction first, leading down for 2 kilometers to the mangrove bay of Chek Keng. Straight from the beginning, you will be able to enjoy views of your target in the distance: awe-inspiring Sharp Peak, towering above this part of Sai Kung. At the same time, below to your left, there is the beautiful shallow coast of To Kwa Peng. Continue for another two kilometers until the marker no. 40 and the hut at Tai Long Au. Here, you have to leave the MacLehose Trail to follow a smaller gravel stairs path to the left leading uphill towards Tau Long Au Fresh Water Tank.
Ascent to Sharp Peak
Soon, you will come across a warning notice asking you not to proceed any further, due to the “very treacherous and difficult” nature of this trail. And even though Hong Kong authorities are often overexaggerating things in order to be on the safe side, you should take this warning seriously: Don’t do this hike if you’re not confident enough in your own strength and don’t do it if weather conditions are not favorable! As the ascent might involve some scrambling, gloves are not a bad idea. And, as especially the descent later will be technically challenging, it is also recommended to bring hiking poles. Hiking Sharp Peak is not more exhausting than for example Lantau Peak or The Twins, but rougher, so please don’t underestimate warnings and only go on dry days. Moreover, don’t forget sunscreen, as you will be exposed to the sun for the largest part of the hike.
Behind the Tau Long Au Fresh Water Tank, follow the red ribbons knit into the vegetation along the trail whenever you reach a junction and wonder in which direction to proceed. A few minutes of walking through undergrowth will eventually lead you to the steepest parts of today’s ascent, the challenging uphill climb towards mighty Sharp Peak. With loose rocks and gravel beneath your feet, you should better focus on your environment instead of marveling at the views of Sai Kung and its beaches, even though I know it’s very hard to resist.
When you stay focused, cautious and committed, you will eventually reach the summit of Sharp Peak after a few arduous segments, and will be rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views, approximately two and a half hours after you started at Pak Tam Au. Ko Lau Wan and Nam She Wan to the North, the panoramic vista on the three Sai Kung beaches to the southeast and the green hills of Sai Kung East Country Park to west will ecstasize you.
Descent from Sharp Peak to the beaches of Sai Kung
However, what goes up must come down at some point of time. And in this case, going down is no fun… To get to the knoll of Mei Fan Ten, you need to descend steep slopes full of loose rocks and gravel. After 45 minutes of challenging descent, you will reach a junction, where you turn right to follow the trail further down for another half an hour of relentless climb-down with views on secluded Tung Wan bay to the north. Eventually, you will arrive at a green meadow, possibly with cattle grazing, and a stream flowing nearby. Well done: You’ve almost made it!
Relax and refresh at Sai Kung’s beaches
The good thing about hikes in Hong Kong is that you often have something to look forward to which justifies all the efforts: the view from Victoria Peak after hiking up there, the Big Buddha after surpassing Lantau Peak, and here it is the beaches of Sai Kung, the first one of which being Tai Wan. After four hours of strenuous hikes, you can lay down here and refresh yourself in the water, or you walk southwards to another small trail which leads over to the more populated Ham Tin beach.
At Ham Tin, you will also find two local restaurants serving food and drinks (Hoi Fung Store and On Kee Store) as well as – equally important – tickets for speedboat rides back to Sai Kung. Of course, you could also walk all the way back up to Pak Tam Au. In this case, plan for another long and exhausting ascent of about two hours, which will save you 150 HKD per person (the price of the boat ride), but you will most probably have to queue up in a long line at Pak Tam Au waiting for the bus to Sai Kung, what can be quite annoying.
Thus, better follow my recommendation and invest those 150 bucks for the boat ride instead, which leaves every hour until at least 5pm. It’s the faster option – and a thrilling one as well! The boat trip will lead you at high speed through rough waters along the rocky shores of the UNESCO Global Geopark to Sai Kung pier – nothing for a weak stomach, but an exciting experience, definitely worth the money and a nice end to your eventful day!
Have you been to Sai Kung and experienced the “green side of Hong Kong” as well as the most beautiful beaches in the territory? How did you like it? Please share your experiences with me and other readers by leaving a comment below. Thanks!