Green Spaces in Hong Kong

Green Spaces in Hong Kong

Did you know…Hong Kong covers roughly 426 square miles and has a population of over 7 million residents, 90% of which live within a quarter mile of a park?  Of course you didn’t know that, why would you unless you were a “park geek” like me. I’m not sure if park geeks exist, but I was a parks and recreation professional in my pre-travel life (yes, that exists and it is as cool as it sounds).  Upon further examination I learned that the parks in urban areas of Hong Kong are generally only within 10 minutes walking distance from the MTR stations. It is incredible to me that 90% of the people in Hong Kong only have to walk three blocks to get to the nearest park. What is even more amazing is the quality of the parks, these are not just a patch of grass with a swing, these parks could rival Central Park in New York City.

The large variety of gardens, urban parks and country parks in Hong Kong are functional, beautiful and meticulously maintained.  The harbor may be the big tourist attraction and the tall buildings may be the source of Hong Kong’s economic stronghold, but the parks really make the island shine.  The perfectly manicured hedges of Kowloon Park’s maze to the gorgeous ponds of Nan Lian Gardens; Hong Kong is an example of urban planning at its best.  We enjoyed as many of the parks as we could below are the highlights.

Located right next to the busy Nathan and Haiphong roads, the Kowloon Park is a beautiful oasis in the otherwise crowded and noisy shopping district. Formerly a site for the British army’s barracks, some of the buildings were preserved and now serve as museums. The Park also boasts a state-of-the-art Sports Centre with an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool as well as a huge outdoor water-park.  The sports center is open to the public and has free wi-fi if you really want to stay inside instead of playing hide-and-seek in the hedges. You can’t miss the signs for Kowloon Park if you are on Nathan Road, otherwise take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui station and follow the signs.

The well-maintained hedges of Kowloon Park’s maze of greenery.

In 2004, part of the Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island called the Dragon’s Back was voted the Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia by Time Magazine. Up on the trail, you can see the vast South China Sea unfolding beneath you, all the while enjoying the scenery of Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley and Tai Tam.  The short hike takes a couple hours, but in that time you will completely forget that you are in one of the most densely populated cities in the world.  To get to the trail head, take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station Exit A3 and take Bus 9 for Shek O at the Shau Kei Wan bus terminus, making sure to get off at Cape Collinson Road.

The hiking trail along the Dragon’s Back.

The Diamond Hill district may not have made it on many tourists hit list until 2007 when a nine-acre public garden opened, setting it apart from the rest of the concrete jungle. Modeled after the Tang Dynasty’s Jiangshouju Garden, manicured Nan Lian has bonsai trees, a waterfall, 59 types of ancient trees, and ornate wooden pagodas. A gold pavilion sits in the middle of one pond, and a set of stone steps leads to the Chi Lin Nunnery, which is charged with maintaining the garden and worth a visit itself.  To get to Nan Lian Gardens take the MTR to Diamond Hill and then follow the signs.

The zen-like Nan Lian gardens could easily consume an afternoon.

The largest park in Hong Kong at over 19 hectares is Victoria Park.  The size of the park lends itself to large public gatherings often with a political bent.  One such event sponsored and broadcast to the public by Radio Television Hong Kong is the City Forum, usually held in the park every Sunday. It brings together politicians, academics and prominent public figures to discuss current public issues. Just like speakers corner in Hyde Park, London the speeches can quickly become controversial.

Victoria Park is also home to the annual, quite controversial,  candle light vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.  The event has been held since 1991 and attracts tens of thousands of people.  We were able to attend during our visit and it was quite a moving experience despite the language barrier.  Victoria Park is easily accessible from either Causeway Bay MTR station or Tin Hau station.

The Tiananmen Square candle light vigil in Victoria Park

The jewel in the Hong Kong park systems crown is Hong Kong Park, which creates a stunning synergy between the natural world and the skyscrapers of the Central district. Built at a cost of $398 million Honk Kong dollars, it is a must-see.  The park features several gardens, the largest aviary on the island and a greenhouse.  To get to the park take the MTR to Admirality station, exit C1 and follow the signs.

The Lippo Building creates a stunning back drop to Hong Kong Park.

If you are looking for a respite from the pavement and vertical landscape of Hong Kong find a park nearby.  You can indulge your inner-child winding your way through the Kowloon Park hedge maze, get a piece of the political action at Victoria Park or completely bliss out at Nan Lian Gardens.  Whatever you are looking for Hong Kong’s green spots got you covered.
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Comments

» Donna :
Jul 8, 2011

I have fond memories of IPA playground days when Peter Tsang Hon Man, better known as Peter Hong Kong, was active in IPA and wonder if he managed to get any adventure playgrounds established there and if so, if they still exist. They would probably be well off the beaten path, I suspect!

Our parks are taking a beating in MN right now with the government shutdown. State parks are being vandalized and mother nature hasn’t been kind either. Last weekend winds caused a major blow down in St. Croix State Park taking out hundreds of trees. Wirth Park got hit with our northside tornado in May and most of the trees around Wirth Lake are gone.

Would that our society would place such a high value on green spaces as the folks in Hong Kong.

Donna

LOCAVORista Reply:

Donna, we didn’t see any adventure playgrounds, but they could be off the beaten path (I hope so). The government shutdown is definitely not good for parks. I would love to see 90% of people in any state (granted they are much bigger than Hong Kong) be able to walk only three blocks to the nearest park. Someday.

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LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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