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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

Hong Kong

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

I fell in love with Hong Kong when I made my first trip there in November to train for the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (and get to know the trails a little) and also to celebrate Lam Family Hung Kuen Grand Master Lam Chun Fai's 80th birthday. Chris, who used to live in Hong Kong, arrived a few days after I got there--and left a couple of days before me--so I got to know Hong Kong a little on my own but also had the advantage of Chris showing me around while he was there. Chris was also the master of ceremonies for all the Hung Kuen events, including workshops, tournament and birthday banquet ceremonies.

Before Chris arrived, I got to know the neighborhood around North Point and surrounding areas, including Quarry Bay, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai--all on Hong Kong Island where we were staying. I ran a small portion of the Hong Kong and Wilson trails, and did a lot of stair work around Fortress Hill (and walked nearly everywhere else). I did not make it to Lantau island for the last of the four trails in the challenge. I also only used the stairs in my hotel where my room was on the eighth floor for added training.

I later met with the lovely and amazing Habiba Bee, survivor of the 2019 HK4TUC, who provided much appreciated advice prior to my later two attempts at completing the MacLehose trail. Habiba was kind enough to describe her extensive knowledge of every section of the Mac, as well as her knowledge of the other three trails, and her experiences in training for and completing the challenge. She also warned me of village dogs and told me what to do about the wild monkeys. Later, when I told her that the village dogs were not a problem, she replied, "Oh, those aren't the village dogs you have to worry about." Astonished, I asked, "What do you mean?" Habiba replied, "It's the ones on the Lantau trail you have to worry about!"

When Chris arrived, we visited a temple for the gods of martial arts and literature (yes, there really is a temple for that) and other places including a long march up to Victoria Peak (more elevation training on a day that was supposed to be a "rest" day for me). Chris has extensive knowledge of the history of Hong Kong and lived in mainland China and Taiwan for many years.

We met for lunch with the founder of the HK4TUC, Andre Blumberg, a few days later. As you can imagine, Andre knows a lot about the science of ultra-running and has keen insights about fitness training. He and the lovely Paper were very gracious, and, like Habiba, I hope that we will all remain friends for many years to come. I am very grateful to the many people I met and got to know a little while I was there. Later, when I told Andre about my experience with the monkeys around Shing Mun, Andre replied, "Oh, those aren't the monkeys you have to worry about." "What?!" I asked incredulously. "The real monkey danger is a little further along the trail . . . "

In addition to kung fu training, and sight-seeing, I had suits and shirts and an overcoat made at Sam's Tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. If you go there, ask for Roshan. The experience that I had at Sam's Tailor was truly one of the high points of my trip to Hong Kong. Roshan is a rock star.

Finally, Chris and I completed parts of the MacLahose trail where he and I both learned, on separate attempts, some important things about where to find water, what happens when it gets dark, and how to handle the monkeys on the Mac.

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