Shenzhen Adventures: Hiking on Lantau Island and Chinese New Year
Happy Chinese New Year, and welcome to the latest post in our Shenzhen Adventures blog series! Things have been pretty quiet here in Shenzhen due to the New Year celebrations, as most people leave to see family in other cities so the majority of shops and stores are closed, along with manufacturers and factories. All of the HAX staff and almost all of the teams in the office took a break themselves to see their families as well. Dan and I stayed around to take advantage of the quiet and get some productive work done, but also took a day trip to Hong Kong for a super awesome island hike. This is the first time either of us have been in China for the Lunar New Year, so in this blog post I'll talk about our Chinese New Year experience and then get into some really great pictures from the hike!
New Year in China is celebrated very differently than the New Year in America. The Chinese New Year is based off the Lunar Calendar, whereas most New Years celebrations are based off of the Gregorian Calendar. Every year, one of the 12 zodiac animals is associated with the Lunar New Year as well - this year is the year of the rat. While a lot of American New Year culture involves crazy parties, huge fireworks displays, and a giant dropping ball, New Years celebrations in China are comparatively much more relaxed. People typically take off two to three weeks surrounding the formal New Year to spend time with family, and the actual New Years day is also spent with family. Most celebrations also involve a large amount of cooking and eating.
The streets are covered with red lanterns, red decorations, and hanging red packets. A big tradition here is to give family members or co-workers red packets made of paper that are filled with money. Just as most people in America watch the ball drop on TV, there is also a hugely popular TV show that runs nonstop on local TV channels all across China. We aren't too sure what the show is actually about because we still haven't learned much Mandarin, but it seems like watching the show is the main thing most people do with family.
Shenzhen is almost like a ghost town during the New Year celebration, because most people live here for work and have family members living in other cities they go visit. The quietness is completely opposite from the usual noisy, hectic energy in the city, but is actually a refreshing change in atmosphere. Since there aren't many people in the office or things to do around Shenzhen, I went to Hong Kong for a day to hike on Lantau island with Adam from Backbar Solutions and Rakshak, who is helping us with software. Adam and Rakshak both have really fancy DSLR cameras, so all of the following pictures can be credited to them!
This hike was on Lantau Island, which is the largest island in Hong Kong.. The island was historically a fishing island, but has began to become more developed recently. This results in an island with nice places to eat on the coasts, but a vast amount of natural landscape and scenery that remains almost untouched. The island also has a large number of hiking trails and camp spots. We specifically hiked on the Lantau Trail to reach a destination called "Sunset Peak". Sunset Peak is the third tallest peak in Hong Kong, and the total hike climbs 869 meters in elevation.
The complete hike took about 5 hours and was 9 kilometers total in distance. The sky was fairly cloudy and foggy when we went, so we unfortunately did not get to see a great sunset. However, the clouds were actually incredibly beautiful in their own way as you can see in the pictures above. We gained so much elevation that we actually hiked directly into clouds, which is something none of us had done before.
Almost the entire hike was "paved" with rock steps, which made the steep elevation gains not that bad. However, we were all definitely super tired at the end and felt pretty sore the next day. The Sunset Peak hike was a great way to get some exercise, take a break from work and get a literal breath of fresh air.
After hiking, we stopped in Hong Kong to grab some dinner before heading back to Shenzhen. We ate at a burger place that is on the Michelin guide, which was super delicious. Any burger would have been amazing because they definitely don't have too many good burger spots in Shenzhen, but these were especially good. Mine even had fresh kimchi on it!
One of the other best parts about visiting Hong Kong is that taking the ferry is really common and actually necessary to get to a lot of places. Surprisingly some ferries are substantially cheaper than taking the public metro, which is not what one would expect. Visiting Hong Kong is always really fun and relaxing, and the Chinese New Years break was definitely a good opportunity to take advantage of one of the great hikes and scenery the city has to offer.
Well that's all for this update from the UCHU team. Make sure to catch next week's blog post as we are traveling to Amsterdam and Leek, Netherlands for a business trip to meet with one of our R&D partners who is located in Leek. Stay tuned for more!