What makes a city more liveable than another?

Several organisations such as Mercer, Monocle and The Economist attempt to measure and compare the cities around us using variables such as personal safety, environment, health care, cultural assets, connectivity, education and green space. Hong Kong has featured in these lists, sometimes ranked significantly ahead of its neighbouring Asian and Chinese counterparts.

Whilst the pollution and crazy expensive housing in Hong Kong are some of the factors that work against it, one of the things that I love about this city is how easy it is to get out and be surrounded by nature. This may surprise visitors as most of them remember the metropolis for its iconic skyline of shiny steel and concrete towers.

Did you know that about 75 percent of Hong Kong, which spans 1,105 square kilometre, is countryside?

There are 24 protected country parks and 22 special areas dedicated to nature conservation which include woodlands, hills, reservoirs and coastline. Plus there are 130 peaks higher than 300 metres and 262 outlying islands.

The majority of the 7.3 million people in Hong Kong are cramped into the remaining one-quarter of the territory that has been developed. Hence the tiny “shoeboxes”stacked sky high that many people call “home”.

This makes being able to take a bus, the metro, a ferry or even just walk away from this concrete jungle into pristine or rustic land all the more liberating.

Last month we went on our first hike in Hong Kong since we moved here. We climbed up Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler and were rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

For more information about this route, check out the informative Walk On Hill website.

Tai Tam Reservoir 大潭水塘
Tai Tam Reservoir 大潭水塘
Hong Kong Trail Stage 5 + Wilson Trail Stage 2
Stage 2 of the Wilson Trail coincides initially with Stage 5 of the Hong Kong Trail. After two uphill climbs (Jardine’s Lookout and Mt. Butler) and a little more, the Wilson Trail separates from the Hong Kong Trail.
Rainbow spotted enroute to Jardine’s Lookout 渣甸山
Hong Kong in the horizon
Hong Kong Trail Stage 5
Hong Kong Trail Stage 5
Jardine's Lookout 渣甸山
From Jardine’s Lookout 渣甸山, you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view from Central to North Point on Hong Kong Island with Kowloon in the distance
Tai Tam
Tai Tam Reservoir 大潭水塘 and Tai Tam Harbour 大潭港 as viewed from somewhere in between Jardine’s Lookout 渣甸山 and Mount Butler 畢拿山
Hong Kong peaks and towers
Endless peaks and towers in the horizon
Mount Butler 畢拿山
Mount Butler 畢拿山
Hong Kong as seen from Mount Butler 畢拿山
Hong Kong as seen from Mount Butler 畢拿山
Bamboo on Mt. Butler
Bamboo corridor on the way down

17 replies on “Breathing Space in Hong Kong

  1. fantastic photos and i must admit to my ignorance, I’d have guessed it was 95% urban, you have taught me something new, amazing that there is so much countryside, how come the city hasn’t sprawled further? planning regulations?

    1. Hi Richard, I don’t know for sure why the city’s urban development has been contained. I think there are several reasons including the hilly terrain and protection of the country parks. Together with the latter point, your questions got me reading more on the ‘issue’ of land shortage for housing in Hong Kong, which has been used as pretext to use land in the country parks for housing. I say ‘issue’ because there are different opinions on whether it’s indeed so or if it is instead a myth created by those in power. This Forbes article is an interesting read: http://www.forbes.com/sites/beelinang/2015/04/03/hong-kong-real-estate-is-the-lack-of-land-a-myth/#6c8fd77c3d1b

  2. Like Richard, I did not know that Hong Kong was surrounded by so many green areas. I visited Hong Kong once but mostly stayed in the city, and the only thing I could see was buildings. Only buildings. Thanks for sharing, Angelina 🙂

    1. When you’re in the concrete heart of Hong Kong, it is sometimes hard to imagine that it’s surrounded by green mountains and blue waters because your view is obstructed by the many steel towers and massive shopping malls 😉

  3. Like Richard and Len, I had NO IDEA about the natural spaces that surround Hong Kong. I find myself wishing this were true of more major capitals. Thank you for making my world considerably bigger today, Angelina!

    1. You’re most welcome Heather! I was thinking of nearby cities that have a similar landscape as Hong Kong. Though the next thing that came to my mind was that several of them are prone to earthquakes. Yikes.

      1. That is the downside to vertical building, isn’t it? I don’t know how people can get used to living in a high-rise in Tokyo or Mexico City.

  4. Looking at these comments, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought Hong Kong was super urban with no green spaces at all – this is crazy! I guess it would make living in the little flats better if there’s somewhere outside and expansive to go?

    1. You’re spot on. It’s liberating to know that there’s this option and when you actually get down to doing it, it feels great (must be due to the adrenalin from the physical exertion and stunning views)!

  5. You have a beautiful blog – wonderful photography! I love Hong Kong and visit frequently myself – usually staying in the urban city areas, I’ve been meaning to visit the more remote rural areas and beaches! Which camera do you use to shoot the photos – they are so beautiful!

    1. Hello, good to know that you enjoy reading my blog, thank you! Depending on where you’re at, sometimes the mountains are literally in your backyard, including in the more dense ‘urban city areas’. For instance, the Mt. Butler and Jardine’s Lookout featured in this post can be easily reached on foot or bus from areas like Happy Valley and Quarry Bay.

      I use mostly an iPhone to take photos nowadays. All the pictures in this post were taken with my phone and I ran them through a quick edit with the VSCO cam app.

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