Hong Kong – Lantau Island

Lantau Island is larger than Hong Kong Island and is often referred to as “the lungs of Hong Kong”, because of its abundance of indigenous forest and relative scarcity of high-rise residential developments. However, with the way Hong Kong is going, I wouldn’t be surprised that these lungs will soon collapse.

Anyway, the plan for this island was to climb to the highest peak (Lantau Peak) for sunrise as it’s suppose to give you a very good view. And after the sunrise, the plan was to go to the big buddha to get my mom some pictures of it (a direct request).

So when you google hiking to Lantau Peak, most websites tell you to start from Tung Chung MTR, take a bus or the cable car to Ngong Ping and stay at the youth hostel there and then start the climb from the hostel. However, living on Hong Kong Island, I ddin’t want to go all the way to Tung Chung, much less staying at a hostel. Instead, I wanted to climb starting from Central.

In order to do so, we (my friend A and I) took the last ferry from Central to Mui Wo at 12:30am. The ferry takes about 30 minutes to reach the other side and from there, we decided to walk to the base of the mountain. The path was relatively straight forward, as in, there was only one road the whole way (but incase we missed a potential other road at the beginning, when you get out of the ferry terminal at Mui Wo, follow the road which goes right and then go left at South Lantau Road). However, after 90minutes of walking, we only finished South Lantau Road and was maybe 1/5 up Tun Chung Road. Wanting to make sure we left a window, we knew that we wouldn’t reach the top on time given the way we were going and so we (luckily) found a taxi that took us to the starting point next to Pak Kung Au (no idea what that is, just giving you directions via google maps). The taxi ride started at 15hkd and was still 15hkd by the time we reached the enterance; FYI.

The hike itself, in my opinion, was not a difficult one. It consisted of a permutation of big stones arranged like a set of stairs and some flat parts where you should be careful not to step into a puddle of water with two resting areas. I don’t really know what this means, but at the beginning of the trail, you start at #21 and the peak was just a bit further from #24. The whole hike up took 2.5 hours but approximately an hour was used for resting. I do have to add that flashlights are necessary as it can be pitch black if the moon is covered by the clouds and although it is possible to solo the journey, it is not recommended as only a handful of people climb it during the night and so if you get hurt, you may not have any support.

Our climb up was in ideal conditions (ie, no rain for a couple of days) but if it were to have rained recently, I could see parts of the trail to be a little more dangerous due to slippage. So along the way up, I would assume that there would be things to see on either side if there were no clouds. That being said, our view on either side was just fog.In fact, it was thick enough for me to get a picture of my shadow by just shooting straight ahead (while my friend pointed the flashlight at me from behind)
Thick fog

However, there were brief moments when the fog subsides and a view like this suddenly appears.
Hong Kong Airport

We reached the top around 4:30 and by 5 the sun was already rising (google stated 5:30) but our view looked like this:
It's a donkey!

It didn’t make for good sunrise pictures, but it made for good cloud pictures.
Just floating by

After staying up there for an hour, we decided it was time to leave and for me to go see the big buddha. There were a couple of ways up to the top (well 2 that I’m aware of) and luckily, the other way down is towards Ngong Ping (the one that most websites use as starting point) and the Big Buddha is just next to it.
View coming down towards Ngong Ping

We encountered this fella along the way. Probably the highlight of the trip.
Talk about random encounter...

So it took us about an hour to get to the bottom and when we got to the big buddha, I find out that it doesn’t open until 10am (for those still following the time, it was around 7). Knowing that I did not have time to come back here, and that my mom really wanted pictures of this, I decided that I’d wait it out and so my friend left first. There wasn’t much to do during this time and so I decided to nap for an hour at one of the tables around the area. That was probably a terrible idea as when I woke up, I could feel mosquitoes just hovering around me and knew I was already past the point of saving. It turns out, at the time of writing, I have over 20 bites on each of my legs and also on my right arm.

When it finally hit 10, I quickly ran up the stairs to the big buddha, took multiple pictures of everything I could and was at the bottom of the stairs within 15 minutes. 3 hours and 60+ bites for 15 minutes of pictures; the things one does for their mother… oh well, the trade off would’ve just been sleeping so no regrets!
Big Buddha

Travel Tips

So with this experience down, here are a couple of travel tips that I think are important:
Know where the entrance is prior to leaving. If it wasn’t for my friend who had internet and google maps, we would’ve been lost.
Bring a flashlight per person and bring extra batteries. Luckily for us, our batteries didn’t run out but if it did, it would’ve been a difficult climb.
Do not hike alone on a path that doesn’t get regular visitors. If you get hurt, you’ll be in trouble.

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