A selection of top places for a DIY al fresco experience, together with tips for packing the perfect picnic.
With the summer heat ebbing away, autumn is a great time for revelling in Hong Kong’s many-spendoured great outdoors. For an especially memorable outing, try picnicking. Here’s a selection of top places for a DIY al fresco experience, together with tips for packing the perfect picnic.
Victoria Peak Garden
Difficulty: By car: 1; by public transport: 2.
Appeals to: Anyone looking for relative peace near the city. Especially suits families with young kids.
Why: Very pleasant, seemingly secluded park in a valley high on the Peak. Grassy areas you can walk and sit on, with woodland on either side, nearby vantages with expansive views of the city and western waters. Plus, you can loop around the Governor’s Walk, or head off on hikes, such as to the craggy summit of nearby High West.
Getting there: Peak Tram or bus to the Upper Peak Tram station, then walk for 15-20 minutes up Mount Austin Road.
30 minutes by car; 40-60 minutes by public transport.
Shek O Headland
Difficulty: By car or public transport: 1.
Appeals to: Coastal scenery fans; beachgoers.
Why: Enjoy an amazingly different coastline of Hong Kong Island, little more than a stone’s throw from the metropolis. Shek O is a quirky village to stroll around; the headland boasts bizarre mansions, and a footbridge leads to an uninhabited islet, Tai Tau Chau, where you can pick a picnic spot overlooking hills, shore, and South China Sea. Plus, with an onshore wind, enjoy surf pounding the rocks.
Getting there: Bus 9 from Shau Kei Wan. Walk from mini roundabout, along road to tip of headland, where a flight of steps leads down to the coast.
1hr by car; 1.5hrs by public transport.
Fei Ngo Shan: Dining on a Dragon
Difficulty: By car: 2; by public transport: 4 [2 by taxi].
Appeals to: Hikers and car-bound hill climbers, hill and city photographers.
Why: Fei Ngo Shan – Kowloon Peak – is one of the eight “dragons”, the line of hills rising to the north of Kowloon, and supposedly guarding the city. Hiking routes cross the area, but you can also drive up to the heights. To the south, the Kowloon peninsula is laid out below, with the harbour and Hong Kong Island beyond. Turn to the north, and the landscape is dominated by Tai Mo Shan. Try the trail leading towards the summit of Fei Ngo Shan, where there are several potential picnic sites. Long pants could be advisable if you walk through long grass.
Getting there: Minibus 1 or 1A from Choi Hung MTR station to Fei Ngo Shan Road, and walk up the road; or taxi from the station.
45-60mins by car; 1-1.5hrs by public transport including taxi; 2.5hrs by public transport including minibus.
Tai Mo Shan: High Table
Difficulty: By car: 2; by public transport: 3 [2 by taxi].
Appeals to: High minded scenery lovers, avid hikers.
Why: The highest mountain in Hong Kong, surely with the SAR’s highest designated picnic site, around 700m above sea level. On a clear day affords magnificent views, with rolling hills to the west, the upper slopes of Tai Mo Shan to the east, and Deep Bay beyond a plain to the north.
Getting there: Bus 51 from Tsuen Wan, and walk up Tai Mo Shan Road to the picnic site, near the barrier beyond which vehicular access is restricted. Or taxi from Tsuen Wan to the barrier.
45-60mins by car; 1.5hrs by public transport.
Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls
Difficulty: By car or public transport: 5.
Appeals to: Keen hikers, cascade clamberers, photographers.
Why: A superb series of waterfalls in a wooded ravine plunging down the north slopes of Tai Mo Shan. You can picnic on rocks along the stream, close by plunge pools beneath columns of spray. A trail leads into the ravine, soon reaching from the Lower Fall and Middle Fall, from where steep flights of steps zigzag up to the Main Fall, the highest waterfall in Hong Kong.
Getting there: Bus 64K from Tai Po Market or Kam Sheung Road KCR station, to near Ng Tung Chai; or taxi from either station to the village. There’s a well-signposted trail from here.
45mins by car; 1-1.5hrs by public transport; plus 30mins hiking to the Lower Fall, 1hr to the Main Fall.
Nam Sang Wai: Nostalgia
Difficulty: By car: 2; by public transport: 3.
Appeals to: Strollers, cyclists, birdwatchers, photographers shooting brides n grooms and wannabe models, model helicopter enthusiasts.
Why: A large area of former fishponds within Deep Bay wetland, near Mai Po Marshes. Also attracts birds, especially in the muddy river channel to the north. Landscape of reedbeds and lines of eucalyptus helps make it a magnet for photographers, and ramshackle buildings plus a ferry rowed by a standing man lend a sort of olde worlde charm. As you enjoy your sandwiches, perhaps wonder if this area really should be largely developed for luxury housing.
Getting there: From Yuen Long MTR station, walk to Shan Pui Road, turn right, and look for simple signs to the ferry across the narrow Shan Pui River.
Top Tips for Picnic Packers
Aim higher than lukewarm soggy sandwiches [which, err, I had on Tai Mo Shan!], by following this advice from food and wine columnist and stylist Nellie Ming Lee:
Keep It Cool If you use ice blocks, remember heat rises, so place them on the top and sides of a container. Another option is a bottle of water placed in the freezer overnight, with enough space for the water to expand. If you’ll carry the food in a knapsack, you can line it with a coolbag [such as from city’super.
Keep It Moist Use recyclable containers with seals.
Keep It Together Cupcake liners can safeguard fragile items like peaches n figs.
Keep It Green Cloth napkins are reusable, and not readily blown in the wind. Designate a garbage bag, too.
Super Sandwiches Use something fairly dense such as rye, poilaine or a crispy baguette. Instead of butter that may go rancid, try a a smear of mayonaise and mustard, or cream cheese.
Make It a Wrap For homemade sandwiches, wrap in a napkin and tie with string.
On-site Sandwiches Don’t forget the mayo if you’ll create sandwiches on site. A squeeze tube is good, along with a small jar or tube of mustard. Pre-slice ingredients, and keep lettuce crisp by wrapping in a damp paper towel placed in a sealed bag or container.
Saucy Salads Creamy dressings may go off if warm, so stick to vinaigrette. Use firmer, bite sized pieces of veggies. Greek salads travel well. For coleslaw, bring the dressing and apply at the last minute. Couscous and tabouleh are other good options for picnic salads.
Written for South China Morning Post 48hrs magazine.