The trail from Fan Lau to Yi O was less well maintained than the path we walked in the morning. It took us about 40 minutes to walk from Fan Lau Sai Wan (分流西灣) to the farming village of Yi O (二澳). This was our second visit of Yi O. A little over two years ago, we came to Yi O and found a beautiful valley where a few farmers trying hard to reintroduce rice farming back to Lantau Island. Yi O, a farming village with over two hundred years of history and over a thousand villagers in its heyday, became an abandoned village in the 1970s when the last of its inhabitants moved out to the city. In 2013, a farming cooperative secured a 30-year lease after negotiations with the original four clans of villagers to re-cultivate the land of Yi-O for organic rice paddies. Since then more lands were cultivated and more helpers were hired each year. Over 10% of Yi-O’s land had been worked on to develop the farm-to-table business. In the past, growing rice in a constantly lightly flooded plot in front of village homes was a self-sustainable way of living for Yi-O inhabitants. Nowadays, the cooperative tried to revive this method, but were still experimenting with more efficient ways to yield more crops. Under the late afternoon sun, the golden rice paddies revealed a lovely rural dream. In the era of enormous concerns regarding food safety, the farming experiment of Yi-O might prove crucial for Hong Kong to reduce some degree of reliance on food imports.
Yi O lies in the embrace of lush-green mountains from both sides.
The golden rice paddies looked promising. Perhaps it was almost harvest time for these fields. Because of its small output, it isn’t easy to buy a bag of rice from Yi O. The farming cooperative has a small shop in Tai O to promote their products.
We found our way to the main path in the middle of Yi O, and continued to walk north towards Yi O Bay.
Winding through the village of Yi O, we could still encounter a number of abandoned homes and construction equipment.
The sun was low and so as the tide when we reached Yi O Bay. The tidal flat is the ideal place for mangrove trees to thrive.
As we left Yi O Bay and headed towards Tai O, a few dogs came the opposite direction towards Yi O. One by one the dogs walked across the mudflat and disappear into the village of Yi O.
The mudflat of Yi O Bay faces north towards Pearl River Estuary.
Reflection of the western sun and distant mountains and the incoming tidal water on the mudflat of Yi O Bay was quite picturesque.
The sun was fading fast behind the silhouette of mountains adjacent to Yi O.
The flag of Yi O flew high at a nearby concrete pier.
Despite the hazy weather, the sunset over Pearl River Estuary was quite spectacular.
About an hour after we left Yi O, we arrived at the small village of Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘), across the bay from Tai O.
We walked across the Tai O Promenade from Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘) to Tai O (大澳). The tide was coming in as the last twilight faded.
In early evening, the popular Tai O wasn’t as busy as we thought. Without the tourist groups, it was our first time to experience the charm of Tai O as a tranquil fishing village but not a busy tourist trap with vendors trying to sell you all kinds of souvenirs and snacks.
Without the tourists, we could leisurely admire the beauty of the fishing community. After a long day of hike, we decided to have dinner in Tai O before returning to the city centre.
As we entered Tai O, vendors selling dried seafood to tourists were about to close their stalls.
We soon reached the iconic suspended bridge of Tai O. The festive lights from the Chinese New Year were still up.
We crossed the suspended bridge to enter the main part of the fishing village.
Without the noise from tourists, Tai O was quite peaceful. Many inhabitants were preparing dinner in their stilt houses.
We passed by an interesting shrine dedicated to the deity of the local land.
Tai O Community Centre is the main venue for cultural activities at the fishing village.
We passed by a number of shrimp paste shops and manufacturers, an industry that Tai O has been famous for many generations. Many of the shops were already closed for the day.
After wandering through Tai O, we ended up at Tai O Heritage Hotel. The hotel was established in 2009, after extensive renovations were carried out for the historical police station built in 1902. We dined at the glass roofed restaurant Tai O Lookout in the hotel. The food was nothing spectacular but the historical setting of the complex and the airy atmosphere of the glassy building offered us a pleasant experience to finish the day.
After dinner, we strolled through the village once again heading for the bus station at the village entrance.
The tide was much higher than an hour or two ago, and so as the moon.
All the stores near the bus station were closed. We waited for about ten minutes before boarding a Lantau bus for Tung Chung at North Lantau, where we would switch to the MTR, Hong Kong’s super efficient metro system, to return home.
At the southwest tip of Lantau Island, the Fan Lau Peninsula (分流) extends out into the Pearl River Estuary, with its northwest facing the slightly brown water of Pearl River and its southeast to South China Sea’s pristine blue. Only accessible on foot, at this westernmost corner of Hong Kong, deserted beaches and abandoned village homes of Fan Lau reminisce some of the city’s long lost memories. The pleasant and relatively flat 6-hour hike to Fan Lau has been on our wish list for quite some time. Known as the Lantau Trail Section 8, the first part of the trail brought us onto a coastal trail, where open views of the South China Sea dominated the horizon, with the hazy silhouette of Lantau Peak or Fung Wong Shan (鳳凰山) behind us in a distance. In the trail’s second part we made a detour onto the Fan Lau Peninsula to visit its various attractions. Then we followed the Lantau Trail Section 7 north to Yi O and then Tai O, our final destination of the day.
In a sunny but hazy winter Saturday morning, we took the ferry from Central to Pui Wo of Lantau Island. On our way to the Central Pier, we passed by Lung Wo Road where the annual Hong Kong Marathon was taking place. After arriving at Mui Wo of Lantau Island, we boarded a local bus for Shek Pik (石壁) Reservoir to reach the trailhead.
The first half hour or so we walked along a storm-water channel right by the mountain foot.
With the day’s heavy hazy, we could only barely see the silhouette of Lantau Peak or Fung Wong Shan (鳳凰山) behind us.
In less than an hour from trailhead, we made a short detour out to a peninsula near Kau Ling Chung (狗嶺涌) to check out the South Obelisk (嶼南界碑). The small obelisk was erected by the British in 1902 to mark the southern boundary of Lantau Island.
The hilltop of the South Obelisk offered us a good view of the beaches of Kau Ling Chung (狗嶺涌) and Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣) further afield. We followed a path down to the campsite and beach of Kau Ling Chung, and walked further southwest towards the tip of Fan Lau Peninsula.
The coastal path up and down the peninsula took us closer to Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣).
We finally reached the main beach of Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣), and were delighted to find the colourful rocks on the sand.
Unfortunately, other than rocks we could also find a never-ending blanket of rubbish on the beach.
From the main beach, there was a small path that led to Chan’s Store, one of few houses in Fan Lau Village that were still occupied. In fact, according to South China Morning Post, the owner of the store could well be the only resident left in the village.
Many houses in the area were already overtaken by vegetation.
The village was mostly desert, except for Chan’s Store. We picked up a can of soft drink and rested for a few minutes.
From Chan’s Store, we returned to the beach of Fan Lau Tung Wan (分流東灣). At the end of the beach we exited the beach into a narrow uphill path. A peculiar rock (石筍) stood atop the hill overlooking the beach, just a few minutes before we reached the remnant of the old Fan Lau Fort (分流炮台).
Built in 1729 by the Qing government, the fort was abandoned in 1898 when the British were granted the lease of the New Territories. It was originally built to defend the coastal area from pirates.
Also on the Fan Lau Peninsula was a mysterious stone circle. Archaeologists believe that the circle was arranged for ceremonial purposes during the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
Leaving Peninsula behind, we stumbled upon a small beach called Fan Lau Miu Wan (分流廟灣), where a Tin Hau Temple was built. The temple was probably erected in 1820.
There wasn’t anyone in the temple when we entered. The neat altar and fresh offerings on the counter suggested the temple, though remote, was under well maintenance.
In the temple’s anteroom there was a traditional bed with slippers and shoes on display. Maybe that chamber was some sort of representation of the home of the deity?
In another small chamber there were old stone plagues dated from late Qing Dynasty, Nationalist era, to just a few years ago. Each plague recorded a major renovation of the temple and the names of donors (mainly from individuals and business around West Lantau. There were also two wooden boat models on display.
After checking out the temple, we stepped back onto the Fan Lau Country Trail. Some parts of the trail was dominated by taller-than-human silver grass.
As we left the tip of Fan Lau Peninsula behind, Fan Lau Country Trail led us back to the main path of Lantau Trail Section 7, where we once again encountered the former settlement of Fan Lau Village (分流村).
At this westernmost area of Hong Kong, Fan Lau Village once housed 200 people, but now there could be only one inhabitant left (owner of Chan’s Store). We passed by plenty of abandoned houses in various state of crumbling.
One of the highlight in the village was the former Fan Lau School.
There was only one room in the building. The blackboard was still on the wall. There was a photography show by artist Lily Leung on display in the building. Her works depicted a strong sense of nostalgia of the nearly abandoned Fan Lau.
Many old utensils were left behind in the village, including a stone grinder below a banyan tree.
In most of the abandoned houses, there was a mezzanine floor. Large ceramic containers were also common.
The wooden roofs of many village homes crumbled, while walls were taken over by vegetation.
One of the most impressive building in Fan Lau Village was undoubtedly the ancestral hall. Some travelers set up a tent right in front of the former ancestral hall.
Some village houses revealed unique preferences of the former residences.
Glass details of the old windows revealed the age. These glass windows were popular decades ago, but is now a rarity.
Before leaving Fan Lau Village, we passed by another iconic structure from the village’s heyday, a chimney structure right by the Fan Lau Sai Wan (分流西灣). After the village, we continued on our hike on Lantau Trail Section 7 northwards to Yi O.
March 18, 2017 | Categories: Hong Kong, Outlying Islands | Tags: abandoned, 狗嶺涌, Fan Lau, Fan Lau Miu Wan, Fan Lau Sai Wan, Fan Lau Tung Wan, fort, ghost village, Hong Kong, island, Kau Ling Chung, Lantau, Lantau South Country Park, marathon, ruins, Shek Pik, South Obelisk, stone circle, Tin Hau, 分流, 分流西灣, 分流廟灣, 分流村, 分流東灣 | Leave a comment