Peddling through the Hong Kong countryside I thought to myself, “Who’s dumb idea was this?” as I slowly peddled my way up a steep hill, sweating profusely, may I add, under the hot afternoon sun. “Oh yes, duh…it was mine,” I reminded myself as cars whiz past me on the narrow highway. My tour guide and lone companion are slightly ahead of me and encouraging me to keep peddling. My bike is on the easiest gear so I can peddle, yet my bike hardly seems to move. Ever so persistent, I make my way toward the top of this mountain pass, slow as a snail!
It’s Easy to Travel to the Hong Kong Countryside
Hong Kong is an amazing place; it is where East meets West and where Asian culture is infused with a colonial English past. One of the nicest aspects of visiting Hong Kong is that it is a great introduction to Asian culture, while still being easy for a newcomer from the West because most signs are in English, and most people (in certain areas of the city) speak English. You also have sufficient infrastructure and accommodations to choose from in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately for my parent’s peace of mind, I chose to travel to Hong Kong by myself, which didn’t please them. But I assured them that it is a very safe travel destination (which it is). In all honesty, I had to get a way from regular life; have a little adventure, and do some personal introspection.
Hong Kong seemed far enough away that I could get a whole new perspective on things. Plus, I found a great deal on airfare; buying my tickets 2 weeks before I left, so it was kind of a last minute adventure!
Hong Kong Countryside
Beyond the typical tourist sites you must visit in Hong Kong, I wanted to do something unique so that I could see the real Hong Kong and get away from the city for a day. A friend of mine from college was living in Hong Kong, and she recommended an expatriate who ran independent, outdoor activity tours, Hansen’s Hikes and Rides. So I signed up for his biking tour of the countryside. The ride was roughly 30 km roundtrip, through countryside and small villages. I was so stoked for this adventure; the only problem was that I knew I wasn’t in the best physical condition.
So here I am peddling ever so slowly up this hill; trying desperately to prove that I’m not as out of shape as I know I am. This is the only mountain pass on the journey and the guide assured me that once we were over it, there would be smooth sailing on the other side. I was very much looking forward to that. I was also silently praying that no car would hit me from behind while I focused on peddling slowly up this hill…on the wrong side of the road (the whole drive on the left side thing can really throw you off).
Finally, success was mine as I crest the top, and the thrill of my accomplishment is overshadowed by the joy I feel as I begin flying downhill at a high rate of speed. The cool wind feels amazing on my face, and cools me down while drying the sweat from my tired body. It is exhilarating, and just what this stressed out twenty-something needed on this vacation. I feel a sense of freedom and triumph, as I take in the scenery and peacefulness of the countryside.
Way Off the Tourist Trail in Hong Kong
Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, our threesome takes a break at a local café for a beer and some dessert. Then we peek across a channel of water toward mainland China and our guide explains the difficulties of crossing the border from both sides, and the unique impacts it has on local life and business.
At this point during the journey I’m starting to get too comfortable, which leads to a little carelessness. As I ride on a narrow, winding, elevated path above some unknown field, I cut a corner, lose my balance, and tip over! I not-so-gracefully fall off my bike and into the crop almost 3 feet below, the entire contents of my bag (including passport) go spilling into the foliage. Luckily, I was in the back of our group and I quickly gather up my belongings and mount my bike. I breathe a sigh of relief as I realize, thankfully, that no one saw that embarrassing maneuver!
The remainder of the trip takes me through rural farming villages, where I witness locals tending to their crops the old fashioned way. We also pass numerous local temples and learn from our guide about the living situations and unique property laws in the area. Hours later, as the tour comes to an end, we stop at a local restaurant to dine and talk about our journey, and commiserate over our shared exhaustion from the 30 km ride in the heat.
Overall, this was one of the best experiences I could have had in Hong Kong. It allowed me to witness a different side of Hong Kong, the rural lifestyle and villages…not just the big skyline. I also had a chance to mingle with locals outside the city in a way that most tourists do not get to experience. In the end, nothing beats getting out of your comfort zone and exploring. In fact, we all need a little adventure now and then.
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