Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Seeing Green

Discover serene, tree-lined parks and gardens nestled among the gleaming towers of Central

Words: Tamsin Bradshaw
Photos: Calvin Sit

Thump, thump, thump: this is the sound of feet stamping up the 105 stairs to the top of the “Tower of Power”, as Adam Upton calls it. Its real name is the Vantage Point, and it offers views across the canopy of trees that inhabit Hong Kong Park. In the distance, the pink and gold hues of sunset reflect off the mirrored surfaces of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.

Upton is co-founder of Hour of Power, or HOP as it’s affectionately known; a community of fitness enthusiasts who come together one evening a week for a free training session in the serene surroundings of Hong Kong Park.

“Hong Kong Park is a bit of an oasis in the concrete jungle, and it’s got very good varied terrain,” says Upton, an Australian who works in finance and has lived in Hong Kong for 11 years. “Sometimes, we have groups of up to 60 people. Safety is paramount, so we split the group up. There are enough things to do in Hong Kong Park that you can do that.”

“We spend some time on the staircase in the Tower of Power, and we also use Olympic Square, which we call the Coliseum. There’s also the rubber play area, which works quite well. And it accesses other sets of stairs and other parks and tracks.”

 

 

Clockwise from left: Hong Kong Park; King George V Memorial Park; Tamar Park; and the Zoological and Botanical Gardens are great places to get fit, or simly relax and enjoy the outdoors

Aside from HOP’s participants, Hong Kong Park attracts a host of different characters. People gracefully move through their tai chi routines; families bring their children for a run around; friends laugh and chat while eating their packed lunches; and couples come here to get married at the Cotton Tree Drive Marriage Registry.

“It’s great for a burst of sunshine at lunchtime,” says Emma Dickinson, who worked for a hedge fund in Central for several years and who often ambled through the park en route to the office. “It’s a much nicer path than along the road.”

Hong Kong Park is by no means the only green space here in Hong Kong’s bustling urban heart. Behind Cheung Kong Centre, there is compact Cheung Kong Park, which consists of stone paths hugged by landscaped greenery.

Further up the hill are the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens, one of the oldest botanical and zoological gardens in the world. Home to a small number of birds and other animals, the gardens occupy 5.6 hectares of sloping land protected by banyan trees and rare pincushion trees. Then there is the Bowen Road trail, a 4-kilometre path favoured by runners and dog walkers.

Parks offer breathing space among the the city’s dense urban landscape

Down on the waterfront, the 1.76-hectare Tamar Park sits opposite the significantly smaller – but rather lush and cosy – Harcourt Garden. Tamar Park provides a surprisingly quiet path between Admiralty and the Star Ferry Pier and Central Piers, as well as a particularly scenic one. Concrete walkways weave between expanses of green lawn, all set against the backdrop of the harbour and soaring glass towers.

Tamar Park’s wide swathes of grass were the main attraction for Ian Colley, founder of Primal Fit, who meets his bootcamp clients here and in Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun.

“A big part of outdoor fitness is being able to run, so these parks are perfect because they have lots of open space,” says Colley. “Many open spaces in Hong Kong are concrete, but Sun Yat Sen and Tamar Park have plenty of grass for ground work. It feels great on your back and in the summer, clients can feel grounded walking and running barefoot on the grass.”

For those simply looking for a moment of quiet, Blake Garden in Sheung Wan has seating under the shade of giant banyan trees, next to basketball courts and the Edwardian brick structure that is the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences. Hong Kong’s heritage is also on show at City Hall Memorial Park, and King George V Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun, which offer breathing space amid greenery.

“All great cities have space like this,” says Upton. “Hong Kong definitely needs more of them.”

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