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Located on the eastern coast of the New Territories, Sai Kung is the second largest yet least populated of Hong Kong's 18 districts and boasts Hong Kong's longest coastline and its most numerous outlying islands. It's popular for its stunning scenery, country parks, rock formations, nature trails, deserted beaches, remote islands, Hong Kong Geopark with its unique geological features, and Sai Kung Town with its harbor-front seafood restaurants.

To reach Sai Kung Town, the main transportation hub of the area, take the MTR to Diamond Hill Station and then board bus no. 92 to Sai Kung Town. The bus will deposit you at the bus terminal near the waterfront, where you can turn right and walk along the harbor to the local fish market. Around 5pm each evening, sampans docked at the public pier sell live fish to tourists and residents alike. Here, too, are many seafood restaurants with outside tanks holding live prawns, crabs, lobster, abalone, garoupa, and other creatures of the sea. Behind the waterfront restaurants, on Sai Kung Tai Kai Street, is Sai Kung Old Town with its narrow, twisting lanes lined with shops selling incense, dried seafood, herbs, and provisions.

Hong Kong Geopark

Covering 50 sq. km (19 sq. miles) of mostly coastline and islands in Sai Kung Peninsula and the northeast New Territories, Geopark preserves a variety of significant geological features, accessible from hiking trails and boat tours. Most famous, and most rare, are the hexagonal volcanic rock columns, exposed after construction of a reservoir and the East Dam in the 1970s. Measuring 30m (98 ft.) in height and an average 1.2m (3.9 ft.) in diameter, the formations cover more than 100 sq. km (39 sq. miles) on land and underwater. They're the highlight of the High Island Geo Trail, which you can reach by taking bus no. 94 for 25 minutes from Sai Kung Town (or no. 96R from Diamond Hill Station on weekends and holidays) to Pak Tam Chung and then walking 9km (5 1/2 miles) to the 1-km (.6 mile) High Island Trail. Better yet, take a taxi from Sai Kung Town directly to the east dam (Ton Pa) which takes about 30 minutes and costs HK$100. If you pack a lunch, you might wish to hike farther along the connecting Macleose Trail to Long Ke Wan, a beautiful bay with a beach and calm water.

Another interesting destination is Sharp Island (Kiu Tsui Chau), 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) long but only a half km (1/3 mile) wide. It's part of Hong Kong's smallest island country park and is popular for its 1-km (.6 mile) Sharp Island Geo Trail with its volcanic rocks from various periods (agglomerate, eutaxite, and rhyolite, in case you're interested) and a 250m (820-ft.) natural sand levee (called a tombolo) connecting Sharp Island with neighboring Kiu Tau, visible only in low tide. Most people come, however, for its beaches, of which Kiu Tsui Beach and Hap Mun Bay Beach, both with full facilities, are the best. To reach Kiu Tsui Chau, hire a kaido (private boat for hire) from Sai Kung Town public pier for about HK$35 round-trip.

For more information on Geopark, including seven other hiking trails and recommended boat tours, stop by an HKTB Visitor Centre or the Geopark Visitor Centre near the Sai Kung Town bus terminal (Sat-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm), or check www.geopark.gov.hk.

Hiking

For more hiking, board bus no. 94 (going in the direction of Wong Shek Pier) from Sai Kung Town's bus terminal and ride 25 minutes to Pak Tam Chung. Here you'll find the Sai Kung Country Park Visitor Center (tel. 852/2792 7365), open Wednesday to Monday from 9am to 4:30pm, where you can pick up a hiking map. Beside the visitor center is a barrier gate, restricting vehicular access to Tai Mong Tsai Road. If you follow this road to its junction with Pak Tam Road, you'll find the starting point of the 100km-long (62-mile) MacLehose Trail, which winds through eight country parks and ends at Tuen Mun in the western part of the New Territories. It's divided into 10 stages of varying difficulty; the beginning stage, which runs along the High Island Reservoir, is one of the easiest. For a shorter hike, I recommend the Sheung Yui Family Walk, just a 5-minute walk from the visitor center (or get off bus no. 94 at the Sheung Yui Family Walk). This 1km (.6 mile) walk takes you past mangroves, signboards identifying trees (such as the incense tree that gave Hong Kong its name), an abandoned kiln used in the 1800s to extract lime from coral and shells, and -- the highlight -- the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum (tel. 852/2792 6365), a former Hakka enclave settled in the late 1800s and abandoned in the 1960s. An English pamphlet highlights its history; its handful of rooms are filled with furnishings and implements (I like the double-sided jar with water to discourage ants and the hole in the wall created so dogs and cats could pass through). It's open Wednesday to Monday from 9am to 4pm; admission is free.

Where to Dine

No trip to Sai Kung Town would be complete without dining on fresh seafood at one of the town's waterfront seafood restaurants. I suggest simply wandering from tank to tank of live fish, shellfish, and other delectables until something catches your fancy, but for specific recommendations, try Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant, 51 Hoi Pong St. (tel. 852/2791 1195), or Hung Kee Seafood Restaurant, 4-8 Hoi Pong St. (tel. 852/2792 1348), both on the Sai Kung Town waterfront and open daily. After selecting your lobster, prawns, or fish from their live tanks and having it weighed by the catty (one catty is about 1 1/2 lb.), your selections will be sent directly to the kitchen, along with your directions for cooking. My favorite: crab sauteed with ginger and shallots, though most seafood is steamed. Prices depend on market price, with most meals costing about HK$350 per person (MasterCard and Visa accepted).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.