Natural therapy: Hong Kong’s mountain warriors

This file photo shows trail runner Stone Tsang, 39, running on Hong Kong’s highest peak Tai Mo Shan on Dec. 14, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 02 January 2018
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Natural therapy: Hong Kong’s mountain warriors

HONG KONG: Wooded hillsides, craggy ridges and wheeling birds of prey are a world away from Hong Kong’s famous skyscrapers but the city’s country parks are a necessary balm for its stressed out residents.
With some of the world’s highest property prices, many can only afford tiny apartments, some living in infamous “cage homes” big enough only for a bed.
Hong Kong’s fast-paced lifestyle and long working hours also take their toll.
Fortunately, within easy reach of the densely packed tower blocks and traffic, there is an extensive network of hiking trails which snake over hundreds of peaks across the territory and along its coastlines.
Forty percent of Hong Kong is protected country park and nature reserves, amounting to 443 square kilometers (274 sq miles), drawing hikers, runners and campers all year round.
For 29-year-old Dai-yu Cheung, those natural landscapes changed his life.
As a keen amateur photographer, he decided to document some of the city’s remoter areas, never having explored them before.
His discoveries led him to ditch long hours in his job as a graphic designer, during which he had developed a bad back, and go part-time as he sought a healthier, happier existence.
Cheung lives with his family and cut down his financial outgoings so he could work three days a week, often hiking with friends.
“When we go hiking, we feel free, relax and forget our troubles,” he told AFP, carefully gathering scattered litter as he walked through tall grass to a rocky outcrop in the northern New Territories.
He and his friend AM Renault, 29, also a keen hiker, have set up Facebook and Instagram pages under the name Yamanaka Yuko, sharing photos and video of their hill climbs in Hong Kong and abroad. They describe themselves as artists inspired by nature.
With a growing band of followers, the pair is now regularly asked for tips about routes by local walkers and have teamed up for campaigns with environmental NGOs and outdoor clothing brands.
“Our message is about protecting nature and the environment,” says Renault, a freelance photographer.
He worries about the future of Hong Kong’s trails — the housing shortage has sparked government proposals to build on the outskirts of the country parks.
But with hiking becoming more popular, particularly among young people, he hopes those plans will fail.
“More and more people like hiking and go out and do it. Because of that there’s more resistance to development than in the past,” he said.
On a cool sunny morning, Stone Tsang skips sure-footed along a shady path beneath Hong Kong’s highest peak, Tai Mo Shan.
The city’s most famous trail runner, Tsang, 39, regularly wins long-distance competitions and recently completed a gruelling local hill race which saw him cover 298 kilometers (185 miles) in 54 hours, snatching naps when he could no longer keep his eyes open.
As a paramedic and father of two, he says getting out into these wide open spaces is a vital stress relief.
“When I come to the mountains it’s like therapy for me,” he told AFP. “It’s healing for my soul.”
Hitting a dirt trail, rough with gnarled tree roots and scattered boulders, is part of the Hong Kong hill experience.
But over the years, many paths have been covered with concrete in an attempt to make them safer, something which Tsang is leading a popular Facebook campaign to stop.
He says former government technicians who helped establish paths using natural materials have now retired and contractors have little knowledge of how to do so.
Not only is the concrete alien to the natural environment, it also becomes slippery and causes soil erosion, says Tsang.
“Most mountain rescues are because inexperienced people get lost or dehydrated, there are very few injuries because of the trail conditions,” he explained.
Tsang is lobbying the government to stop pouring any new concrete and has introduced them to international experts who are showing workers and members of the public how to refurbish paths naturally.
The agriculture, fisheries and conservation department told AFP it would use natural materials “as far as possible.”
Tsang now wants to bring hiking tours into the country parks to foster a love of the mountains in the face of the threat of development.
“The country parks are a very valuable asset to Hong Kong, not just for us, but for future generations,” says Tsang.
“This kind of thing you cannot just see — you have to go out and feel it.”


Chinese envoy sees KSA as a major tourist destination

Updated 11 July 2018
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Chinese envoy sees KSA as a major tourist destination

  • Saudi-Chinese relations have developed, especially in the area of culture, tourism and archaeological exploration
  • 140 million Chinese visited various tourist destinations during the past year

JEDDAH: China’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Li Huaxin underlined that the Kingdom is set to be a major world tourist destination given its cultural, heritage, humanitarian and civilizational potential.
He also affirmed that if tourist visas are introduced for foreign delegations in the Kingdom, the number of Chinese tourists will increase considerably. Huaxin noted that 140 million Chinese visited various tourist destinations during the past year.
He lauded the steps made by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), saying that they represented ambitious plans to develop the tourism sector.
“The foreign visitors, when they go to the tourist destinations in the Kingdom, will be amazed by the symbolism deeply enshrined in the human and cultural heritage,” he said.
Huaxin also stressed that Saudi-Chinese relations have developed, especially in the area of culture, tourism and archaeological exploration. This was reflected through the organization of the Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces Through the Ages exhibition, which is also known as “Roads of Arabia Expo” at the National Museum of Beijing from the end of 2016 to August 2017.