It can be easy to lose one's footing when taking in the sights of undulating hills that fade out to the horizon. Along the way, Ms Choi rubs her palms against the dwarf mountain pine shrubs and inhales the invigorating balsamic-nutty scent of the pine needles. I follow her example - the fragrance of the pine is a refreshing remedy for fatigue.
My five-hour hike ends at Sai Wan Pavilion, the nearest pick-up point for taxis and buses - a good 10km away from where we began. Once on the trail, there is no turning back. I begin to feel a sense of achievement for soldiering on.
A less strenuous hike, another day, is at Hong Kong's tallest mountain, Tai Mo Shan, which means "big hat mountain" in Cantonese. Standing at 957m, the volcanic rock is almost twice as tall as Hong Kong's tallest building, the 108-storey International Commerce Centre, which I will glimpse a couple of times along the way.
I join the Tai Mo Shan Sunrise Hike Tour by travel company Tour 3.0 (www.tour3g.com), which ferries hikers three-quarters up the mountain to catch the sunrise at its peak. Walking past party revellers in my hotel lobby at 3.30am, I zip up my windbreaker in anticipation.
At the park, chilly winds buffet my face and I am shrouded in darkness save for a mini torchlight, a dazzling constellation of stars and two twinkling red lights from the Hong Kong Observatory that sits on the peak. Looking up, my guide Ming Ko says: "This is the closest spot you can get to the stars in Hong Kong."
Just before day breaks, the hue of the sky changes dramatically from black-navy darkness to orange-pink within 15 minutes. I am mesmerised by the wisps of clouds drifting past the dreamy mountains.
A popular post-hike refuel stop is Duen Kee Chinese Restaurant in Chuen Lung Village, a 10-minute drive away. The 70-year-old restaurant is abuzz with the chatter of the breakfast crowd and the chirping of birds as many older customers show off their caged pets while digging into dim sum.
I help myself to baskets of siew mai, glutinous rice and bao that are piled on steamers. The wait staff speedily compute the bill based on the colour of the plates at the end of my yum cha breakfast.
After breakfast, I head to the Ng Tung Chai Waterfall, also part of Tai Mo Shan Country Park, where I viewed the sunrise. The waterfall, at about 70m, is one of the tallest in Hong Kong. The cascade, which is nestled in a thick jungle, is divided into four sections that present progressively dramatic falls.
The uphill hike gets rockier and steeper, so sure-footedness and a hiking stick are required. At one point, I have to bend and cling onto larger rocks to hoist myself up.
Much of the first level at the bottom, literally named the Bottom fall, is obscured by lush foliage, so spend more time at the second or Middle fall. This 20m waterfall gushes down ferociously and sprays a cool shower over me when I step closer.
The upper two sections - named the Main and Scattered falls - can be dangerous as some of the rocks are unstable and the paths are obstructed by thick vegetation. After consulting my guide, I turn back after trekking one-third of the way to the Main fall.
After days of solitude in nature, it is surreal to return to the city centre. I bump into frenzied people in Causeway Bay every five steps.
A shopping mall launches one of Asia Pacific's largest outdoor screens - the size of five tennis courts - on my last day. Above the screen's luminous glow, I spot a full moon in the sky and imagine how beautiful it would look in the wild.
•Kenneth Goh, a freelance food and lifestyle writer, was hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Sleep in a tepee and windsurf on Cheung Chau
Lying inside a transparent geodesic dome-shaped tent, I am intently counting the 30-odd stars that hang above. Giddy from gazing, I close my eyes while listening to the crashing waves and chirping of cicadas and drift to sleep.
I am on Cheung Chau, a dumbbellshaped island south-west of Hong Kong Island and one of the quietest inhabited places in the territory.
Time and tradition have stood still in Cheung Chau. Every April or May, during the fourth lunar month, thousands throng the island for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which features "bun snatching" - climbers scale towers clad with 6,000 imitation buns and grab as many ping an (peace) buns as possible as symbols of blessing.
A dose of vibrancy has been injected into this sleepy island. Last July, Sai Yuen Farm (www.saiyuen farm.com), a 400,000 sq ft recreational facility, was converted from an abandoned garden of a shipping magnate's family.
The farm houses an eclectic range of lodgings such as tepees, African safari tents, Mongolian yurts and the geodesic domes.
The farm also stages more than 20 activities, including a thrilling six-station treetop canopy walk obstacle course that involves balancing on wooden blocks and ropes suspended in the air, Segway rides, archery and a waffle-making workshop.
A 10-minute stroll from the farm is the Cheung Po Tsai cave, named after a notorious pirate who commandeered a flotilla of 600 junks in the South China Sea during the 18th century.
The cave is accessed by a hole wide enough for only one person to squeeze through at a time. With the light from my cellphone, I hunch and crawl my way out of the snug hideout.
Near the historic Warwick Hotel is the starting point for the Mini Great Wall, a marble-like stone footpath that looks nothing like the real deal. The 15-minute trail ends at a pavilion that looks out to Lamma Island, Hong Kong Island and Zhuhai, China.
Besides exploring the island on foot, water is also a vital part of Cheung Chau's identity. It produced Hong Kong's first and only Olympic Gold medallist, Lee Lai-Shan, who won the windsurfing medal in 1996. The achievement is proudly marked in a mural at the entrance of the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre (www.ccwindc.com. hk) in Kwun Yam Beach, where she had trained.
Water babies can windsurf, kayak and paddleboard. I kayak around the western part of the island, which is sprinkled with strangely shaped granite boulders that resemble bread loaves, a goat and an elephant.
Cheung Chau is a 40-minute ferry ride from Pier 5 at Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island.
Forget the usual foodie hangouts in Hong Kong. Here are five more unusual spots to check out