Hong Kong, whose name means "fragrant port", is one of the four Asian dragons. To run in Hong Kong is to discover a city of incomparable density, linked to its historically landlocked position. Its frenetical urbanism contrasts with the nature that surrounds it.
"When I lived in Hong Kong, I felt like Hong Kong was my family." This quote attributed to the famous actor Jet Li illustrates one of the often touted aspects of the city: its warm atmosphere.
Now often referred to as the "Chinese Manhattan", this former fishing village really took off during the British era, from 1842 to 1997.
7.5 million people live here, in an area of 1100 square kilometres - much smaller than a medium-sized French department. Its name means "the fragrant port" in Chinese. And indeed, the ideal geographical location of its port makes it one of the five largest container ports in the world. The question of perfume, according to legend, refers to the scent of the spices that passed through Hong Kong before setting sail. The fresh water springs that feed the city, a major supply point for sailors going around Asia, have also been mentioned as a justification for the name.
Victoria's peak to Central: the north of the island
Victoria Peak, also known locally as the Peak, is located in the western half of Hong Kong Island. At 552m high, it is the highest point on the island. The favoured area is famous for its astronomical real estate value, but also for the breathtaking views it offers of the glass and steel forest below. The top of the peak includes an observatory, from which you can watch the night fall over the bay. You can walk or run to the top of the Peak, but it is also accessible by a very old funicular, the Peak Tram, built in 1888. The Peak Tram is a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Not far away, you will also discover the Man Mo temple, one of the oldest in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to the god of literature - Man - and, paradoxically, to the god of war, Mo.
At the foot of the Peak lies Central, the business district. As you stroll through the bustling streets of this area, filled with skyscrapers, you will come across some of Hong Kong's largest shopping centres. However, on the two small streets of Li Yuen, East and West, you will find many colourful stalls whose merchandise contrasts with the big brands present in The Landmark or Prince's Building centres. You'll also find bargain electronics on Stanley Street.
Your run will then take you to the harbour, where the Hong Kong Giant Observation Wheel stands, offering a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbour. Opposite you, across the water, is Tsim Sha Tsui, easily accessible by metro or ferry. This cape stands at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, the southern part of which was ceded to the British Empire in 1860 and the northern part subjected to a 99-year lease in 1898. If you decide to leave the island and explore Kowloon, consider the legend behind its Cantonese name, Kau Lung, meaning "nine dragons". It is said that a Chinese emperor, admiring the eight mountains around Hong Kong, declared, "I see eight dragons." An eager mandarin is said to have replied that he saw nine, the emperor's symbol being the divine reptile.
On Tsim Sha Tsui is the Clock Tower, a symbolic monument of the city. A former railway station, it was a historical witness to the movement of people during the British presence in Hong Kong.
From Kowloon to Sham Shui Po
Kowloon Walled City, also known as the "City of Darkness", was a common setting for old Asian gangster films before it was razed to the ground in the early 1990s. This incredibly densely populated Chinese enclave - 50,000 inhabitants on 2.6 hectares, which amounted to nearly two million inhabitants per square kilometre in the late 1980s - was a veritable concrete block, a walled city almost standing on its own in the heart of the British-ruled "New Territories". Its sulphurous reputation was due to the presence of numerous casinos, opium dens, illegal dentists and dog meat restaurants.
Today, the Citadel Park, built on the site of the walled city, is open to walkers. Designed in an Asian style, it is reminiscent of the Jiangnan gardens of the Qing period. During your walk, you can also discover an exhibition of photos and relics from the former Walled City.
Today's Kowloon City is a multi-cultural district, where the Thai and Cantonese Chiu Chow communities live side by side. While it has skyscrapers like Central, some of its historical sites date back to the 13th century. And it's also home to many delicious restaurants, making it a foodie's haven! You can also see the colourful Wong Tai Sin Temple, which looks surprisingly traditional amidst the towering buildings.
Further west, you will find Sham Shui Po, a working-class neighbourhood where wooden houses gave way to the world's largest public housing programme after a dramatic fire in the 1950s. Nearly half of Hong Kong's population lives here, and the area is popular for raw materials: leather, cloth, buttons...
Many young artists and designers are also moving here because of the lower costs of setting up and thriving. As a result, a run through Sam Shui Po will allow you to admire the murals that have been flourishing on the walls since the HKwalls rie art festival in 2016. As in Kowloon City, visitors flock here for culinary reasons. You can enjoy excellent street food, including ravioli, soups and fried noodles. For example, you can try the ravioli at Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin-starred street food restaurant with affordable prices!
Cruises and leisure in the bay
If you want to take in the whole Hong Kong skyline at a glance, take a break from your walk to ride one of the tourist junks that criss-cross the bay. Before the existence of the metro, junks and a few wooden ferries were the only means of transport across the strait that separates Kowloon from Hong Kong Island.
There are also several theme parks to choose from if you want to relax: from Disneyland to Ocean Park, there is plenty to choose from. If you are interested in a cultural visit, you will find both technical and scientific museums, such as the Hong Kong Science Museum or the Stephen Hui Geological Museum, and truly historical museums. For example, the Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum, in honour of the first President of the Republic of China, considered the father of modern China, who studied medicine in Hong Kong.
Also, among the various lighter-themed museums in the city, don't miss the Chocolate Museum, located near Madame Tussauds and the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, east of Victoria Peak!
Run with Runnin'City from Victoria Peak to Kowloon City!