It seems like half of Hong Kong has been chasing Pokémon over the past few weeks. But how about a good dose of reality instead? Strap on those running shoes, take to the hills and chase real symbols that have been created on a special trail by a ‘hare’. Welcome to the wonderful world of hashing – a pastime that’s been growing in Hong Kong in recent years.
Hashing began more than 80 years ago in colonial Malaysia. The original Hash House Harriers club – named after a local annex of a social club in 1930s Selangor – was founded by a group of British officers and expats as a way of running off the previous week’s excesses. The idea soon spread throughout Asia following the Second World War. However, it was when jogging and running became trendy during the 1970s that hashing grew into an accessible, inclusive and globally popular pastime.
On paper, it sounds like an odd activity. A bunch of friends get together as part of a Hash House Harriers ‘club’, which is usually abbreviated to names like H4 and RS2H3, and then take to the streets, the hills or the forests, following a special trail that has been laid out earlier by the aforementioned ‘hare’. The trail is marked out with regular chalk-drawn symbols, some straightforward to track and others serving as clues for the running ‘hounds’ to solve. The runners leg it around the course in teams and, when they reach the end, there’s one more convention – beer. And, often, lots of it. Every hash ends with participants regrouping for pints, drinking forfeits and dinner.
As such, hash houses have been described as ‘drinking clubs with a running problem’. And there are 12 groups in Hong Kong to add to the thousands of others around the world, each with its own distinctive culture and traditions. Hong Kong even has a unique hash that meets only when a T8 Typhoon signal is hoisted, so they just got back together a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a while. Visitors,too, are always welcome to turn up unannounced and there’s no better way to explore Hong Kong than joining in, following the trail, getting lost together and then finding your way again. So, we join seven of our city’s hashes in seven days so we can find a run that suits all tastes…
The best hash clubs in Hong Kong
We start our week with SKH3. This group meets every week near Shek Kong Airfield in the New Territories. We’re promised an easy run but get thoroughly lost on the trail and have to put in a couple of extra kilometres. SKH3 is a welcoming and family friendly group, though. Don’t miss the guys’ post-run celebrations which are bawdy, to say the least. Visitors fee: $50 for men, $30 for women; skh3.com.
Next up, we join H4, which claims to be Hong Kong’s oldest hash, for a trip to Peng Chau. H4 times its summer runs so that everyone finishes just before dark. The route features multiple devious false trails and dead-ends, giving slower runners time to catch up while the quicker athletes hunt for the right way to go. The entry fee includes generous amounts of beer after the run. Visitors fee: $100; hkhash.com.
LH4 is one of the city’s two women-only hashes, however the women-only rule is loosely enforced. Choose between ‘wimps’ and ‘rambos’ routes, which cater for different levels of confidence, the latter going off the beaten track. We head up Braemar Hill, to the south of North Point, just after dark. It’s a time when the wildlife is at its most active, so we’re not only treated to top clues but also intriguing encounters with wild boar and porcupines. Visitors fee: $50; hkladiesh4.wix.com/hklh4.
We’re warned to expect a taxing run when we meet up with LSWH3 at Diamond Hill. As with the previous evening’s ladies’ hash, we encounter some pretty tricky terrain, setting off at dusk up a slippery but well-marked trail. Within an hour we reach the end-point and then we tuck into the best post-run dinner of the week. Visitors fee: $10; datadesignfactory.com/lsw.
On Thursday evening we join the macho RS2H3 for a run from Tin Hau, up the hill behind Hong Kong Stadium. A vital element of hash culture is the ‘circle’, which is where, after the run, hashers swap stories and dish out drinking forfeits. RS2H3 members take this extremely seriously. In return for the entry fee, witness some of the more baroque drinking rituals involved in hashing. Visitors fee: $60; rs2h3.com.
Being social groups, each hash organises weekends away, junks and parties. There is no formal hash for us to join on Friday – Hong Kong’s Friday hash only meets once a month – so members of Sunday’s Sek Kong Hash invite us to dash around Tai Po on a ‘pub hash’ instead. Find details of the next Friday hash at wanchaih3.com.
It’s a hot afternoon for the final run of our week with SKSH3. Regular hashers are given a ‘hash name’. Saturday’s run is set by Gunpowder Plod, who holds the record for running all 12 of Hong Kong’s regular hashes in as many days. It’s a tough run around the villages near Sai Kung town but great fun. To take on Plod’s 12-day challenge, Wanchai Hash House Harriers publishes a list of hashes at the wanchaih3.com/other-hashes website. Visitors fee: $10; sites.google.com/site/saikungsaturdayh3.