Alissa Greenberg June 29, 2017
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Hong Kong has earned a reputation for urban grit, but there’s another side to the city-state that gets less attention. Residential land makes up only 7 percent of Hong Kong’s territories, with expansive “country park” preserves comprising an additional 40 percent. This is a wild, tropical, lush world of snaking vines, shady trees, and thickly carpeted forest floors. One of the world’s most densely populated cities has an underappreciated jungle neighbor.
Take Chi Fu Valley, in Hong Kong island’s southern reaches. There, impossibly tall elephant grass grows over hikers’ heads, poking through the remains of old silos. Lightly trod paths meander under enormous banyan trees that shade crumbling farm buildings — the ruins of one of the world’s first industrial dairy farms. Trickling streams crisscross the ground, providing a home to endangered animals with names like the “short-legged horned toad.” At least 48 tree species grow on their banks.
“What I love most about this place is that a five minute walk up the hill will take you into the wild,” says Steve Sau. “It’s a completely different world.” Sau lives nearby in a dense residential area. The valley sits in a strip of the city’s so-called “green belt,” which provides a buffer zone between places like Sau’s neighborhood and the city’s country parks — and is, in times of real estate crunch, at risk of development.