Linking the village of Yuen Long (元朗) and Tseun Wan (荃灣), the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail was once a major route for farmers from Yuen Long to bring out their produces to the market in Tseun Wan. Today, it is a pleasant hiking trail that leads visitors to enjoy the scenery of Tai Lam Country Park (大欖郊野公園), former villages such as Tsing Fai Tong (清快塘) and two of the city’s longest bridges: Ting Kau Bridge (汀九橋) and Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋).
Our hike began from Tsuen Wan West Station and passed by Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital to reach the trailhead.
Soon the trail led us up the hill of Ha Fa Shan (下花山). The path was well paved with stones.
The narrow Rambler Channel (藍巴勒海峽) between the island of Tsing Yi (青衣) and Tsuen Wan (荃灣)/ Kwai Chung (葵涌).
Known as one of the world’s busiest port, Hong Kong’s container port is located right at the channel.
Further down the road the trail led us further west where we were treated with great views of Ting Kau Bridge (汀九橋) and Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋), two of the city’s most important bridges connecting the metropolis with its international airport.
Another highlight of the trail came as we arrived at the former village of Tsing Fai Tong (清快塘). The village used to be a 200-year old Hakka village of the Fu clan. Today, most villagers had moved to the new village at Sham Tseng (深井), about 45 minutes form their former home.
In 2002, a family of former villagers returned and set up a farm called Parent Farm (喜香農莊) at Tsing Fai Tong. Many hikers stopped at the farm to enjoy their seasonal flowers and beautiful lily pond.
We came at the perfect moment of the year to enjoy the waterlilies.
While hikers enjoyed the waterlilies, their pets got a chance to have some fun at the farm.
From Tsing Fai Tong, we chose to end our hike at Sham Tseng (深井) right in front of Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋).
Under the shadow of the busy highway Tuen Mun Road, the village of Sham Tseng (深井) is a well known village in Hong Kong.
Other than its view of Tsing Ma Bridge, Sham Tseng (深井) has been famous for roast goose for decades.
We couldn’t resist but to end our day with the famous Sham Tseng roast goose for dinner.
The moat, blue brick defense wall and guard towers of the 500-year-old Kat Hing Wai Walled Village (吉慶圍) remind visitors that villagers in the New Territories were once living in the danger of rival clans, bandits and the most important of all, pirates. For self protection, many villages in the Ming and Qing Dynasties constructed defensive walls around their homes. Walled villages mushroomed in the New Territories, creating walled compounds for specific family clans. In the 20th century, many villages demolished their walls or had them partially removed, while most houses have been replaced with modern homes. With a relatively well preserved moat and wall, Kat Hing Wai is actually quite a rarity. Measured roughly 100m x 90m, Kat Hing Wai is one of the better preserved walled villages in Hong Kong. Built during the era of Ming Cheunghua Emperor (1464 – 1487) with the 5m defensive wall constructed in the 17th century, Kat Hing Wai was a close knitted community of the Tang clan.
Outside Kat Hing Wai Walled Village, a small part of the original moat has been preserved.
For security reason, only a small opening serves as the entrance for the walled village.
Most houses in the walled village have been replaced by modern houses.
The central lane leads to the temple hall.
There were a wooden desk and a religious altar in the temple hall.
The altar table contained a built-in incense container.
Antique ritual tools could be found on the altar table.
The temple hall opens directly towards the only entrance of the walled village.
We didn’t see anyone during our brief visit of the walled village.
Almost all buildings have been replaced by modern buildings. The original character of the walled village has been somewhat diminished in the modern era.
Some older houses still had traditional banners on their outer walls. These banners usually advocate good fortune for the entire family.
“Kar”, the Chinese character for family, illustrates the importance of family bonding in a traditional walled village.
When looked closely, traditional touches could still be seen at certain houses in Kat Hing Wai.
In the past, the four cannon towers were the tallest structures in the village.
Today, the defensive structures of the walled village have been undermined by modern buildings. Even the well known Kat Hing Wai Walled Village has no exception. This is the harsh reality of contemporary Hong Kong.
One thing truly amazing about Hong Kong is the proximity of untouched nature from its bustling commercial downtown and the ease of access by means of public transportation. At the northeast of Hong Kong, the lush green hills, turquoise water and sandy beaches of Sai Kung is popular for hikers, beachgoers, bikers, kayakers, and all kinds of nature lovers. The tallest of the three steepest peaks in Sai Kung, Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖, literally translates to Python Snake Peak in Chinese) is often considered the Holy Grail for hikers in Hong Kong. At 468m, Sharp Peak is not the highest peak in the city, but its steep slopes, prominent existence in the area, and the fantastic views of East Sai Kung’s subtropical coastline from the peak makes it a unique hiking destination. During weekends, the area can get a little crowded, including the trail that heads up the Sharp Peak. Though the scenic views from the peak and the reward of chilling out on the pristine beaches below make all the efforts of scrambling up the steep rocky slope of Sharp Peak among groups after groups of fellow hikers more than worthwhile.
Bus 94 from Sai Kung City to Wong Shek Pier dropped us off at the trailhead at Pak Tam Au (北潭凹).
After about an hour on the MacLehose Trail, we passed by the tranquil village of Chek Keng (赤徑) and deviated from the main trail at Tai Long Au (大浪坳), we reached the small trail heading towards Nam She Au (蚺蛇坳), where the ascend of the Sharp Peak officially began. A few signs were erected between Tai Long Au and Nam She Au to warn against anyone who wished to reach the summit of Sharp Peak due to the treacherous conditions of the mountain trail.
Along the way we could see traces of rain erosion due to recent downpours.
Soon we were on our way walking up the first steep section of the ascend.
The trail was exposed with hardly any shade. Despite its difficulty and relatively remoteness, the trail up the Sharp Peak was far from peaceful because of the crowds.
It was exciting to see that the summit was get closer.
Looking back down the route we came up, views of the beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) were quite amazing despite the haze.
There were several sections of the trail that we needed to scramble up the slope using our hands.
After about two and a half hours from the trailhead, we finally reached the summit of the Sharp Peak. The small summit area was filled with hikers of all sort.
From the summit of Sharp Peak, the view of Nam She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣) below, and the Peninsula of Ko Lau Wan Tsui (高流灣咀) and Grass Island (塔門) beyond was incredible despite the haze.
Looking east to the four beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) from left to right: Tung Wan (東灣), Tai Wan (大灣), Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), and Sai Wan (西灣).
Some hikers prefer to climb the north ridge of Sharp Peak from She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣). The north ridge is well known for its steepness, especially the last part of the trail where grabbing onto the metal ribbon was essential.
The descend down towards Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) is not a walk in the park either, especially when one is already tired from the ascend.
The route of Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) was slippery at parts due to loose gravel.
Tung Wan (東灣) appeared much closer when we reached Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂).
The summit of Sharp Peak already appeared like distant memory.
Ahead of us was Tung Wan Shan (東灣山), a saddle shape hill overlooking Tung Wan.
After about an hour of descend we were approaching the pristine beach of Tung Wan.
The four beaches of Tai Long Wan, literally means Big Wave Bay, are famous for their turquoise water and fine sand.
Due to its remoteness, there are no lifeguards and shower facilities at Tung Wan.
There were hardly anyone on the beach too except hikers.
Swimmers who make the effort to Tung Wan (by hiking or private yacht) may enjoy the beautiful water of South China Sea without the crowds commonly found in other beaches in Hong Kong.
The second beach Tai Wan (大灣) is the biggest of the four beaches.
Few more visitors showed up on Tai Wan (大灣).
At Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), we finally had a chance to sit down at a beach eatery and washed down a plate of fried rice with beer.
Lying lazily on the sand of Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) and looking back at the majestic Sharp Peak, it was hard to imagine that we were standing on the summit just a few hours prior.
Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) is the beach in Sai Kung that we visit the most. The beach is accessed via a narrow wooden bridge.
In the evening, we were too lazy to walk another hour over to Sai Wan for the village bus. We decided to jump onto a motor boat for an exciting but bumpy 45-minutes journey back to Sai Kung city.
South of Sai Kung and east of Tseung Kwan O, the lush green Clear Water Bay Peninsula (清水灣半島) separates Junk Bay (將軍澳) and Port Shelter (牛尾海). With its natural and relaxed setting, uncounted opportunities for outdoor activities, and a number of low dense residential neighborhoods, Clear Water Bay (清水灣) is popular among expats and anyone who loves nature. Clear Water Bay (清水灣)‘s two beaches, High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) country trail, the cove of Po Toi O, sleepy villages and the surrounding turquoise water make it a great alternative for outdoor adventures to the more popular Sai Kung. With just a bus ride away from Kowloon, Clear Water Bay offers the opportunity for a quick dose of nature for Hong Kong’s city dwellers. It was rather late by the time I get off the bus at the second beach of Clear Water Bay. I chose to enter the High Junk Peak country trail at Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) and do a short hike to the fishing village of Po Toi O (布袋澳).
I entered Clear Water Bay’s High Junk Peak Country Trail at the Tai O Mun Road (大坳門路) entrance. The Chinese name of High Junk Peak is 釣魚翁, which means “Fisherman” or a Common Kingfisher (釣魚翁鳥). In reference to the Kingfisher bird, a sculpture is erected at the trail entrance.
On the slope of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤), a visitor was having fun with his remote controlled mini-plane against the scenic backdrop of Clear Water Bay.
To the west of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) is South East New Territories Landfill (新界東南堆填區) and the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城) and Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳). Completed in 1993, the South East New Territories Landfill is pretty much filled up. Waste disposal and running out of landfills is one of the city’s toughest and most urgent issues needed to resolve.
Looking east, the view opened up to Clear Water Bay Club and Steep Island beyond.
Atop the hill above Po Toi O lies the golf course of Clear Water Bay Country Club.
Eastwards beyond Clear Water Bay stand a number of islands close to the shore. Beyond that is the vast open sea until Taiwan.
Because of There are many fish farms in the area.
In a distance, the mighty High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) stands proudly over Clear Water Bay. It is one of the three treacherous Peaks (the others are Sai Kung’s Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tuen Mun’s Castle Peak (青山). It is also considered to be one of the three sharp peaks of Sai Kung, with the other two being Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tai Yue Ngam Teng (睇魚岩頂).
From above, the tranquil Po Toi O (布袋澳) is a lovely fishing village. Referring to its physical appearance, Po Toi O’s name literally means a fabric sack.
The fish farms and the village of Po Toi O (布袋澳) look neat below the Clear Water Bay Country Club.
Founded in 1266 by Lam Tao Yi (林道義), the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay (佛堂門天后古廟) is Hong Kong’s oldest Tin Hau temple.
Fish farms are still in operations at Po Toi O, a popular village for seafood meals.
The village of Po Toi O is one of the places in Hong Kong where a laid back atmosphere dominates.
In Po Toi O, two heritage buildings stand out from the rest: the Hung Shing Temple (1663) and Kung So (公所) in 1740.
There are two seafood restaurants in Po Toi O.
The village homes at Po Toi O are simple houses made of bamboos, timber, and metal sheets.
At the village exit, a large neon sign of “Seafood Island Restaurant” is erected near the minibus station.
Thanks to various influxes of immigrants from Mainland China in the 20th century, North Point (北角) was listed on the Guinness Book of Records as the most densely populated place in the world at the end of the 1960’s . Today this may not be the case anymore, but this old neighborhood in northeast Hong Kong Island remains complex and bustling with life. While many urban spaces in the area have gone through dramatic transformations in recent years, a number of vintage buildings and old streets remain. From the foot of Braemar Hill (寶馬山) to the Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) along Victoria Harbour, and from the 100-feet-wide thoroughfare of King’s Road (英皇道) to the narrow market street of Chun Yeung Street (春秧街), North Point is always teeming with life. Take a stroll through its old neighborhoods is like meandering through traces of Hong Kong’s urban and social evolution from the early 20th century to the contemporary moment.
The Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) marks the northern boundary of North Point along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour. Opened in various phases during the 1980’s, the Island Eastern Corridor is a viaduct expressway built along the Victoria Harbour from Causeway Bay to Chai Wan.
Many dislike the idea of having an elevated expressway along the waterfront. Proposals are being made to enhance the pedestrian experience along the harbour by introducing a seaside promenade.
Many people walk out to the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor to take in the panoramic view of Victoria Harbour, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Kowloon Bay.
Quite often during the week, the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor serve as ideal platforms for leisure fishing.
Perched above the sloped street of Kai Yuen Street (繼園街) is a peaceful neighborhood of old tenement houses, or tong lau (唐樓).
Isolated from the bustling life of North Point below, the tranquility of the Kai Yuen Street neighborhood is a rarity in the area. Like most of Hong Kong, this hidden neighborhood is changing fast with several 30+ storey apartments are under construction at lower Kai Yuen Street.
Throughout the years, the peaceful ambience of Kai Yuen Street has attracted a number of celebrities, including author Eileen Chang (張愛玲) and painter Zhang Daqian (張大千).
Down at King’s Road (英皇道) in the heart of North Point, the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) has been around since 1972 as the primary venue for Cantonese opera. It was established by the Shanghainese emigrants who came to Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
The protruding signage of the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is an iconic feature on the King’s Road (英皇道), a 100 ft wide vehicular road built in honour of the Silver Jubilee of King George V of Britain in 1935. Another feature on the King’s Road is undoubtedly the Hong Kong tramway, one of the earliest public transportation in the city since 1904.
A few blocks away from Sunbeam stands another historical building, the State Theatre (皇都戲院). Its original functions are long gone. In recent months, the State Theater is caught between the controversy of demolition/ preservation.
Converted from a former Clubhouse of the Royal Yacht Club, the Oil Art Space (油街實現) is a community art centre.
Built in 1908, the building served as the Clubhouse of Royal Yacht Club until 1938, when the building lost its waterfront location after numerous land reclamation.
There are a number of street markets remain in Hong Kong. The one in North Point stretches along two narrow streets: stalls selling dry merchandises on Marble Road Market (馬寶道), and fresh produces, meat and seafood on Chun Yeung Street (春秧街).
Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街) is the most interesting street in North Point. Also known as Little Shanghai and Little Fujian, the street market has a high concentration of immigrants from the Mainland since the mid 20th century.
In late afternoon and early evening, Chun Yeung Street is full of life.
There is so much going on on Chun Yeung Street. While one side of the street is busy with grocery shoppers, the other side is packed with stalls selling clothing and toys.
The most iconic scenery of Chun Yeung Street Market is the moving tram along the street centre. Since 1953, trams have been running through the Chun Yeung Street Market. To remind pedestrians of the approaching tram, the tram drivers often make the iconic “ding ding” horn whiling driving through the market.
The tram terminus “North Point” is located at the end of the Chun Yeung Street Market. Despite slower than other means of transportation, taking the tram remains one of the best ways to explore North Point.
Hong Kong has over 200 outlying islands, and only a handful are inhabited. North of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢), at the intersection of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Long Harbour (大灘海), the small Grass Island or Tap Mun (塔門) lies across the South Channel from Ko Lau Wan (高流灣) Village in northeast Sai Kung. At its peak, about 2000 inhabitants lived on the Grass Island. They were mainly farmers or fishermen. Today, only about 100 residents stay on the Grass Island, mainly as shopper or restaurant keepers to serve the influx of tourists during weekends and holiday, when the island would turn into a large camp ground for leisure seekers from all around the city. Simple seafood eateries, a ferry pier, a Tin Hau Temple, an abandoned school, unique rock formations, old village homes, and a few stores catered for weekend tourists, Grass Island is a getaway destination for anyone who is willing to venture this far out from the city.
From Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, we took a local ferry out to the Long Harbour (赤徑海) heading towards Grass Island.
Other than a newer cluster of buildings built in 1964 with a charity aid from New Zealand, most village homes on the Grass Island are located near the pier.
Near the pier, we stopped by a simple eatery for lunch. The local squid is really fresh and delicious.
Sea urchin fried rice is a popular dish in many fishing villages in Hong Kong.
We also ordered the fresh catch-of-the-day: two small sea bream caught in the morning.
A few dragon boats were lying around a small waterfront area.
During Tuen Ng Festival, there would be a dragon boat race at the Grass Island.
A small trail off the main street of the Grass Island led us to a popular open area above the eastern shore of the island. The space is crowded with camping tents, kite-playing visitors and feral cattle.
The sloped open lawn seemed had endured heavy foot traffic throughout the years. The silhouette of the iconic Sharp Peak on the Sai Kung mainland provided the best backdrop for Grass Island. In a clear day, the water should have been blue and Sharp Peak lush green.
From the hilltop overlooking the open lawn, we followed a off the beaten trail that winded through dense woods for half an hour and eventually arrived at the rocky beach of Che Wan (車灣). This was probably the most difficult hike on the island. Our aim was to seek for a seaside rock called the Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋).
The Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋) is one of Grass Island most famous natural feature. It is frequented by hikers as well as visitors who come for fishing.
Back to the top of the lawn, we followed another footpath down the east coast of the island. Along the path, some visitors set up tents and picnic areas, some went for fishing at the rock beaches, some braved the cliffs for rock climbing, some continued to fly their kites on the windy slopes. The Grass Island is truly a small leisure paradise for all.
Another well known rock feature was the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石). Two similar stone cubes, one sitting on top of the other, resemble the Chinese character of the surname “Lui”.
Looking at the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石) from afar, it was hard to imagine how the stacking rocks were formed in the first place.
The entire day was cool and grey while we were on the Grass Island. The wind was a little strong, and so as the waves.
Ko Lau Wan(高流灣) at Sai Kung Peninsula seemed pretty close from the southern tip of the Grass Island. The sea was a little rough in between, in the 400m wide channel of Tap Mun Mouth (塔門口).
The utilitarian New Village of Tap Mun was erected in 1964 by a charity from New Zealand. The houses are still occupied today.
After the New Village, we were getting close to the pier again.
We could see the incoming ferry while on our way walking to the pier.
As we boarded the ferry, the sea and the fish farming areas seemed calm and relaxing.
After half a day on the small and remote Grass Island, it was time for us to return to Wong Shek Ferry Pier in Sai Kung.
When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳). The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach. No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.
The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.
Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.
Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.
Watching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.
Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.
A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.
It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.
Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.
On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail.
The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay. The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.
Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.
The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.
Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends. For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.
Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.
For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.
About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo. On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau. The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.
At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror. The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.
The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.
Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.
The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.
Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.
Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.
On the northern slope of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) at a place called Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) in the area of Lam Tsuen (林村), 148 hectare of organic farms, botanical gardens and mature forests terracing up to the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) reveal over half a century of efforts by the Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場). Established in 1956, Kadoorie Farm has always stood at the forefront of Hong Kong’s agriculture, experimenting on new techniques and providing agricultural aid to farmers in need of support. In 1951, the Kadoorie brothers (Horace and Lawrence) established the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) in an attempt to help the sudden influx of Mainland farmers into Hong Kong during the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940’s. They picked Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) near Lam Tsuen (林村) to establish an agricultural facility engaging in experiments on profitable and effecting farming and animal breeding, and training the new farmers with their developed techniques. Today, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (嘉道理農場暨植物園) diversifies their effort to promote organic farming, sustainable living, nature conservation and education. They also run extensive rehabilitation program for wild animals in Hong Kong.
Linked by 9 km of roads and 8 km of trails, various highlights of the Kadoorie Farm spread over the slope of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山).
One of the big highlights at the lower section of Kadoorie Farm is the “Eco Garden” (生機園), exhibiting different types of self sufficient and compact farming in a community scale.
The garden presents natural and organic ways to maintain soil’s nutrients and insect control, and the best combination of vegetables for each season.
Other than its freshness and taste, the organic vegetables such as the purple cabbages are also beautiful.
Spherical bird scarers are hung over a cluster of rainbow chards in the Eco Garden.
A wavy fence separates the Eco Garden with the other terraced farms and botanic gardens.
Other than organic farming, more innovative planting techniques are also examined at the Eco Garden. Some farming techniques that requires less space or soil may suit urban living well.
At the Piers Jacobs Wildlife Sanctuary, native mammals such as a Barking Deer or Muntjac (麂) have been rescued as an orphan and raised in the sanctuary.
The wild boar is also another rescued orphan at the sanctuary. Both wild boars and barking deer can be found in the forests in and around Kadoorie Farm.
In the old days, pig breeding was an important work at the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA). Today a few Da Hua Bai Pigs (大花白豬) are kept at the farm for educational purposes.
Amphibians and reptiles are both vulnerable groups of wildlife in Hong Kong due to habitat loss. Kadoorie Farm has a few of the native species at the Amphibian and Reptile House and Reptile Garden.
Interesting pavilions and artworks are all over the farm, including a dragon boat pigeon house.
And also the fish mosaic at the Cascade Garden near the Chicken House.
As the farm terraces up the hillside of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), the view to the surrounding landscape becomes more spectacular.
The Butterfly Path winds up the hill through dense forests and open terraces, following part of an old trail which led the locals up the hill of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) for a religious blessing.
In order to preserve the natural feel, there is minimal modern safety infrastructure provided at the Butterfly Path.
9 km of roads circulate up and down the Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), going through some densely forested areas, the habitat for some native species in Hong Kong, such as the barking deer.
… and the wild boar.
At 550m above sea level, the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is the highest point in Kadoorie Farm. For centuries, farmers came up to the summit to seek blessings from the goddess of Kwun Yum.
The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) allows visitors to have fine view of the New Territories and even Shenzhen on a fine and clear day.
The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is at 1812 ft, or 550 m.
Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is sandwiched between Tai To Yan (大刀屻) to the north and Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) to the south.
Heading downhill, visitors can either take a shuttle bus or walk down a winding road.
Along the downhill road, sounds of monkeys can often be heard. Occasionally visitors may spot monkeys jumping from one tree to another.
Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), which literally means “horse excrement island”, is a tidal island off a traditional fishing village Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) at the northeastern New Territories near Tai Po (大埔). Facing the Tolo Channel opposite from the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖), Ma Shi Chau belongs to the UNESCO Geopark network in Hong Kong. The remote tidal island is famous for its unique rock formation and outcropped strata dated back to the Permian Period (280 million years ago).
Ma Shi Chau is accessible via Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡). A short hike on known as Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail will bring visitors to walk along the southeast coast of the island. Along the coastal areas, unique and colourful rock formations are visible everywhere. Millions of years ago, Ma Shi Chau was a basin in which surrounding waters continuously to deposit sediments such as sand and gravel. Over the years as water level changed and so as the kinds of sediments accumulated. Sedimentary rocks were formed after the process of lithification. Vaults and folds are also visible on Ma Shi Chau as tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities transformed the rock surface. Like many parts of Hong Kong, granite is also present at Ma Shi Chau as a result of magma intrusion during the Jurassic Period. Other than rocks, views of the Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) to the north, and the new town of Ma On Shan to the southeast across the Tolo Harbour (吐露港) are equally impressive.
Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) is a small fishing village inhabited mainly by former boat people (fishermen families who lived on their boats in typhoon shelter).
From Sam Mun Tsai, a short walk brought me up to a hill dotted with graves. On the high point, fish farming nets in the waters of Plover Cove.
The trail continued to wind through the ridge of a hill dotted with graves.
The trail then went downhill to the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡), a natural sand bar that originally would be submerged in water during during high tide. Over the years, villagers put boulders and sediments on the sand bar, so that it would be exposed above water even during high tide.
Today, the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is a convenient venue for a leisure stroll and water activities such as sea kayaking.
The Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is also the gateway to the Ma Shi Chau Special Area, part of the Hong Kong Geopark.
On Ma Shi Chau Island, there is a short trail called Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) bringing visitors to a number of coastal woods and rock beaches. Giant Golden Orb Weaver, one of the largest kinds of spiders in the world, are quite common in the woods. Some of these are about the size of a human palm.
Visitors are usually fascinated by the rock formations when arriving at the first open coastal area.
Vaults and folds are visible at Ma Shi Chau due to prehistoric tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities.
Many of the outcropped strata and rock formations are colourful and eye catching.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
To the northeast of Ma Shi Chau across the Plover Cove (船灣海), the 2km dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) is only a few hundred metres away.
To the southeast across Tolo Harbour (吐露港), the new residential developments below Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) look like a bunch of toy blocks.
Construction of the new town of Ma On Shan began in 1980s, including private residential developments and public housing estates.
Fishermen may still test their luck in the Tolo Harbour.
In late afternoon, Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) north of Ma Shi Chau looks gorgeous.
Under the shadow of Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺), the tiny island of Yeung Chau and the fish farms in the Plover Cove (船灣海) look like a peaceful picture.
Just a stone throw away from Lau Fau Shan, to the north of Tin Shui Wai New Town (天水圍) stands the 61-hectare Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園). Created as an ecological mitigation area to compensate for the loss of wetland in the new town construction, the Wetland Park is doubled as a tourist attraction with facilities including recreated wetland reserve for waterbirds and other wildlife, boardwalk circuits over the mudflats to offer a close encounter with the wetland habitats, and a visitor centre hosting exhibitions on wetland’s biodiversity.
Known as the “Succession Walk”, an elevated winding boardwalk takes visitors out to the water pond to closely appreciate various types of aquatic plants.
Different types of waterlilies are some of the highlights of “Succession Walk”.
At “Wetland at Work”, visitors can learn more about the crops produced from wetlands, such as the rice from rice paddies.
Following the boardwalk deeper into the park, visitor arrives at the “Mangrove Boardwalk”.
At “Mangrove Boardwalk”, there is a good chance to have close encounter with some of the inhabitants of the wetland mudflats, such as the Bluespotted Mudskipper and Common Mudskipper.
Able to breathe through their skin, these amphibious fish are quite active on the mud, actively skipping around to defend their territories. Staying in mud burrows allow them to keep moist and maintain their body temperature.
Another type of common inhabitant at the mudflats is the Fiddler Crab. The male uses its small claw to feed and the big claw to defend.
Little Egret are common in Hong Kong, and can be seen in all seasons at the Wetland Park.
The boardwalk of Wildside Walk takes visitors to the far end of the park, where a few types of tranquil pools await both the visitors and dragonflies.
At some pools, algae completely covers the water like a soft green carpet.
The pattern on the algae looks like an abstract painting.
After a loop of the wetland reserve, one can return to the modernist Visitor Centre for further information. The building is one of the few in Hong Kong extensively using exposed architectural concrete.
The lobby where visitors arrive is always busy.
One of the exhibit highlights is Pui Pui, a Salt Water Crocodile caught at Shan Pui River in 2003 when it was a juvenile. It is believes that Pui Pui was an abandoned illegal pet from the area that had grown too big to handle. Hong Kong Wetland Park became Pui Pui’s permanent home in 2006.
Other wetland wildlife on display includes freshwater fish.
Looking out of the Visitor Centre, one can fully appreciate the extent of the wetland reserve, a common type of ecosystem that once dominated large areas of Northern New Territories.
The modernist concrete architecture matches well with the peaceful landscape of the wetlands.
It is pleasant to appreciate the serene wetlands from the upper level of the Visitor Centre before leaving.
For 700 years, oysters have been farmed in the water of Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay (后海灣) near the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan (流浮山). Situated in the Pearl River Estuary where fresh water constantly enters the bay, Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay is a perfect site for oyster farming. Today, Lau Fau Shan is the last remaining site in Hong Kong that oyster cultivation still exists. Generations of oysters and oyster sauce consumption have put these molluscs an important part of cultural heritage of, not just Lau Fau Shan villagers, but Hong Kong citizens in general. In fact, the oyster species cultivated in Lau Fau Shan is known as Crassostrea hongkongensis, which is named after the city itself. Oyster farming has gone through a gradual decline since 1980’s, partly due to climate change, ocean acidification and deterioration of local water quality, and partly due to stronger competition of foreign oysters in the local market in recent years. Apart from oysters, Lau Fau Shan is also best known for its seafood restaurants and the romantic sunset over the tidal flats. Standing by the waterfront, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge and the myriad of highrise constructions over at the Shenzhen side stretch along the horizon, while on the Deep Bay’s southern shore in the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan, time seems to have stood still in the past few decades.
Coming all the way to the northwest corner of Hong Kong, we entered the village of Lau Fau Shan and immediately stopped by a small eatery by the main street. Trying the fried or grilled oyster at one of the several simple eateries offers a pleasant alternative to the more upscale seafood restaurants along Lau Fau Shan Main Street.
The special attraction of Lau Fau Shan is indisputably the oysters.
Similar to Sai Kung and Lei Yue Mun, Lau Fau Shan is also well known of its seafood restaurants.
Some seafood restaurants look quite traditional and casual.
There are a few shops in Lau Fau Shan specialized in making oyster sauce. Inevitably oyster sauce has became one of the most popular souvenir of the village.
Along the main street, two workers were busy opening the harvested oysters for sale.
Along the main street, different types of dried seafood were sold.
Near the waterfront, containers and air tubes for live seafood lie all over a temporary covered area.
The waterfront of Lau Fau Shan was covered with oyster shells.
Many boats just lay on mud flats during low tide.
At the waterfront, the shallow water over the mud flats looked like a peaceful mirror. Beyond the Deep Bay stood the silhouette of another metropolis of Southern China, Shenzhen.
From a fishing village before 1980 to today’s metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants, the emergence of Shenzhen is a miracle to many.
While we took pictures of mud flats and Deep Bay, a cyclist emerged from nowhere and stopped for a moment at the waterfront. Beyond lay the 5.5km Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道), or the Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) linking the two cities at the Deep Bay since 2007.
The sun finally appeared behind the clouds, casting an orange tint to the drying seafood by the shore.
In late afternoon, more boats returned from Deep Bay. Some boats arrived at the pier and offloaded passengers who might have spent the entire day fishing in the bay.
The silhouette of Hong Kong Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) stood out along the western horizon under the late afternoon sun.
Soon enough, the sun made its daily routine down to the horizon beyond the bridge.
As the sun lowered to the horizon, the tide had also quietly returned to the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan.
The moon was already up above Lau Fau Shan. Most tourists had left except a few passionate photographers refusing to leave the waterfront despite the sun was fading fast.
As we left the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan, the lights from the opposite shore began to lit up one by one.
THE BEAUTY OF CHAOS, Street Markets, Old eateries, Heritage Buildings and Calligraphy Signage of Sham Shui Po (深水埗), Kowloon (九龍), Hong Kong
Hong Kong has its charm as a vibrant metropolis and financial hub in the Far East, but it also has its issues of insanely expensive housing and tremendous gap between the rich and poor. New immigrants, elderly and young people living in bunkers about the size of coffins (known as “coffin homes”) have made the headlines in recent years while at the same time government’s land sales and housing prices have skyrocketed to record levels. Because of its concentration of inexpensive tiny bunkers and decades-old apartments, Sham Shui Po (深水埗), an old neighborhood in West Kowloon, has often been associated with issues of poverty and urban decay.
With its vibrant street markets selling everything from cheap electronics, second hand appliances, clothing, toys, and a wide range of DIY parts, from buttons and fabrics, to cables and motors, Sham Shui Po seems like one huge flea market. Beyond the chaotic appearance, however, visitors may find a special nostalgic charm in this neighborhood, with traces of the beautiful old Hong Kong that have been mercilessly replaced by cold and glassy highrises, luxurious malls, and uninspiring chain-stores throughout the city. A walk in Sham Shui Po is a diverse journey full of chaotic street markets, affordable and unpretentious food, lovely heritage buildings and much more.
Compared with many upscale residential neighbourhoods and the city’s commercial heart, the streets of the relatively less affluent Sham Shui Po are much more human and pedestrian oriented.
Sham Shui Po still has a variety of traditional businesses from Old Hong Kong, such as a high concentration of pawnshops.
Some old apartment flats in the area have been converted to subdivided rental bunkers. The worst type is called “coffin homes” due to their tiny size similar to real coffins.
Every view in Sham Shui Po seems layered, chaotic and complicated.
Quite a number of streets in Sham Shui Po are famous for street markets. Catering for different clientele, each market zone is more or less designated for a distinct type of merchandises.
Looking from above, the streets of Sham Shui Po seem like an abstract painting composed of rows of colour swatches.
While the streets are vibrant and chaotic, the rooftop level seems like a totally different world.
Ki Lung Street (基隆街) is popular with customers looking for DIY supplies for clothing, including fabrics, buttons, ribbons, trims, zippers, you name it.
Nicknamed Street of Beads, Yu Chau Street (汝州街) is another street in the area famous for DIY clothing accessories.
Known as the miniature of Sham Shui Po, Pei Ho Street (北河街) is a market street famed for its fine clothing in really affordable prices.
Another well known market street is Apliu Street (鴨寮街), a large flea market specialized in electronic parts and second-hand electronics.
There are many stalls at Apliu Street (鴨寮街) specialized in electronic repair.
Other than shopping, food lovers also have their reasons to visit Sham Shui Po for some of its more small, traditional and down-to-earth eateries that are disappearing fast in other areas of the city. Sun Heung Yeung (新香園 (堅記)) on Kweilin Street (桂林街) is one of the most popular Hong Kong style cafe in Sham Shui Po, famous for its beef and egg sandwiches.
Established in 1957, another renounced eatery in Sham Shui Po is Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) on Fuk Wing Street (福榮街).
Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) is famous for their beef and pork liver noddles (豬潤牛肉麵) and Coconut Jam French Toast (咖央西多士).
Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) or Kung Wo Soybean Product Factory is another major attraction for food lovers.
With over a century of experience, Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) sell all kinds of bean curd or tofu products.
Even the interior of Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) is full of nostalgic ambience.
Apart from shopping and eating, Sham Shui Po is also a great place to admire Hong Kong’s old architecture. The government proposes a series of urban renewal.
Sham Shui Po still has a considerable amount of tong lau (唐樓) or old tenement buildings with a covered colonnade on street level. The ground floor was usually occupied by a small shop, such as a pawnshop or food vendor. This type of architecture once dominated much of Hong Kong before 1960’s.
The 5-storey Nam Cheong Pawn Shop at 117-125 Nam Cheong Street was built in the 1920’s. Even the iconic cantilevered pawnshop signage have becoming rarer nowadays.
58 Pei Ho Street is probably one of the most famous heritage buildings in the area. Built in 1920’s and served as a pawnshop until the 1970’s, it was then converted into a shop selling dried seafood until present days.
The curved balcony of 58 Pei Ho Street is quite unique. The amazing feature window a level above the street is such a lovely design gesture back in the old days when there was less vehicular traffic.
Old Chinese calligraphy signage can be seen all over the streets of Sham Shui Po. Before graphics design being computerized, most Chinese signage came from the hands of a professional calligrapher. Each neighborhood allowed a few calligraphers to earn a living, and each calligrapher had his/her own style. It’s the individual human touch that makes these calligraphy signage unique, especially in the age of computerization and standardization.
Built in the 1940s, Hang Jing Pawnshop is no longer in business. The colonnaded area is now used as an outdoor workshop of a nearby shop. On the columns, beautiful calligraphy of the former pawnshop is still visible.
On the concrete wall of Hang Jing Pawnshop, the old calligraphy set in the plaster represents a bygone era
Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume. Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches. Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong. 140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff. The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock. The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling. Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city. Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast. Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons. They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea. To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.
From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.
The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea. Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.
The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.
The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier. Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.
Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.
We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.
Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above. The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.
Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.
At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.
To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘). The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.
Our goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).
The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular. Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.
Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.
Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.
Finally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).
The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.
We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.
All cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.
After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.
Instead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus. The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.
Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.
Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.
The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.
We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩). Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands. The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).
As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking. Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy. By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.
At the northeast extent of the New Territories where Mainland China is just a stone throw away, vacant houses and abandoned farmlands reveal a forgotten past of the rural communities situate at what is now known as the Plover Cove Country Park (船灣郊野公園) and Yan Chau Tong Marine Park (印洲塘海岸公園). One of the largest villages in the area is Lai Chi Wo (荔枝窩), a famous Hakka village dated back to 400 years ago. At its peak, Lai Chi Wo had more than 200 houses and over a thousand inhabitants. As the city rapidly urbanized, most residents of Lai Chi Wo either moved to urban areas, or overseas. Today many houses in the village had been vacant for years. Behind the rusty gates, broken windows and crumbling walls, rotting furniture and old housewares lay on the dusty floor. Yet in recent year or two, some people from the city turned to farming. They move to Lai Chi Wo and re-cultivate some of the abandoned farmlands.
Despite situated far from the city at the northeast border of Hong Kong, we didn’t particularly start our hike early. By the time we reached Wu Kau Tang Village (烏蛟騰), it was already early afternoon. From Wu Kau Tang, there were a number of hiking trails heading into Plover Cove Country Park. We headed east to another village, Sam A Village (三椏村), right by the coast of Yan Chau Tong or Double Haven Marine Park. Like most villages in the area, Sam A has passed its prime long ago. Today, only a few villagers return to Sam A during weekends to run their restaurants and shops serving hikers and tourists. At Sam A, we stopped by Yuan Hing Restaurant (源興食店) for lunch. Only open in weekends, Yuan Hing serves good Hakka dishes and tofu dessert. The restaurant was fully packed, and a number of dishes were already sold out when we got there.
Along the way, we passed by stone beaches and mangrove groves of the Yan Chau Tong Marine Park. Famed for its tranquil scenery and interesting rock formations, the coastal landscape of Yan Chau Tong were created by a series of prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Protected from the open sea by several islands at the outer edge of the bay, the water of Yan Chau Tong is often calm. We reached the village of Lai Chi Woo at around 4pm. Old trees, dense mangroves and giant vines greeted our arrival. At the main plaza, a huge banyan tree stood like a large umbrella. A few elderly villagers were cleaning up a vending stall in front of a former primary school building. After most tourists left with the 3:30pm boat, Lai Chi Woo returned to its half-abandoned state of serenity. We wandered for a while, and asked around for the way going to Luk Keng (鹿頸), where we could take a minibus getting back to the city. It was getting dark and we still had another 2.5 hour of hiking ahead.
We quickly confirmed the route with a villager and headed out of Lai Chi Woo. Along the way to Luk Keng, we passed by a few more ghost villages until we reached a fork path where the water of Starling Inlet separated Hong Kong and Shenzhen of China. A dessert and snack vendor was about to close his stall Old San Tofu Dessert. We ordered a bowl of dessert tofu and sat by the waterfront to finish it. From then on, it was about 45 minute walk along the waterfront to the village of Luk Keng. As it grew darker, the buildings and port across the water in Shenzhen looked bright and busy. We finally reached Luk Keng before 7pm. In the dark, we were surprised seeing a very long queue at the micro-bus station. We ended up waiting for over an hour to board the last bus of the night heading to Fanling Station.
The village of Wu Kau Tang (烏蛟騰) served as a trail-head for a number of hiking routes.
Mangrove sprouted from cracks at the coast of Yan Chau Tong Marine Park (印洲塘海岸公園).
Interesting coastal rocks at Yan Chau Tong Marine Park (印洲塘海岸公園).
We reached Sam A Village (三椏村) where we sat down for lunch at Yuan Hing Restaurant (源興食店) .
Mangrove groves at Yan Chau Tong Marine Park (印洲塘海岸公園).
Ancient trees greeted our arrival at Lai Chi Woo (荔枝窩).
The old giant vines were fenced off from the main path.
The former primary school at Lai Chi Woo.
The prominent banyan tree at the main village plaza of Lai Chi Woo.
Traditional lanterns were hung on the branches of the old banyan tree.
Illustration of Lai Chi Woo with its rows of houses backed by a fungshui forest. A fengshui forest was believed to be a natural protection from outer harms.
Some of the abandoned houses are now occupied once again.
Farming returned to Lai Chi Woo once again.
We left Lai Chi Woo through the west gate.
Abandoned houses were common sights on our way to Luk Keng.
The delicious tofu dessert at Old San vendor.
Across Starling Inlet the skyline of East Shenzhen was clearly visible.
At last we arrived at Luk Keng at almost 7pm.
Chikan (赤坎) is a historical town in the County of Kaiping. It is also a convenient hub for visiting the villages of diaolou (碉樓) in the area. From Kaiping City, we took one of the many local buses to reach Chikan in about half an hour. Out of the bus window, the well preserved colonnaded buildings or qilou (騎樓) took us by surprise. The vintage atmosphere of the streets and lanes in Chikan made us imagine that we were going back in time, to the early 20th century. Streets after streets of qilou buildings, two to three storey high, lined along the main thoroughfare. Rusty metal doors, broken window panes, darken plaster walls, most of the qilou buildings looked well past their prime. From the occasional stained glass windows and ornate plaster motifs, Chikan must have seen its splendid moments in the first half of the 20th century. Despite some were fenced off, on the ground floor of qilou we could still find all sort of local shops serving the remaining population of this historical town.
During our day and a half in Kaiping, we often found ourselves returning to Chikan to switch transportation. Many local visitors came to Chikan to visit the small but famous movie studio where a number of TV shows and movies were filmed, including Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. We did, however, find the streets and lanes flanked by qilou buildings far more interesting and photogenic. During our first visit, after wandering through its streets and lanes, at the ticket office of Chikan Film Studio we bought a combined ticket that covered some of the most popular villages in the area. We then hopped on a tourist shuttle bus for Zili Village for our first taste of Kaiping diaolou.
Qilou (騎樓), also known as tong lau (唐樓), was greatly inspired by Western arcade design and traditional Chinese mixed use buildings, exemplifying a hybrid design culture once flourished in urban areas of the Guangdong area. During the 18th and 19th century, Guangzhou was the only port city in China designated for international trading. European architectural styles flourished in Guangzhou and spread around the province. Henceforth, qilou architecture emerged with shops on the ground floor and two to three levels of residences atop as the most common style of Lingnan (嶺南) architecture. Many qilou buildings in Guangzhou and nearby cities didn’t survive to this day, but Chikan still has some of the best preserved streets of continuous qilou buildings found nowhere else in the province. The Westernized qilou of Chikan reminded us its heyday when about 80% of the town inhabitants had connections with the Western world. They either studied or worked abroad during the turning of the 20th century when emigration was common in this part of China.
There are a number of local buses connecting Kaiping City with the Town of Chikan.
There are many villages with diaolou and rice paddy fields along the way between Kaiping and Chikan.
The first sight of the well preserved qilou of Chikan was really impressive. Like Hong Kong and Taiwan, many shop signage were written in traditional Chinese, suggesting their long history that predated the Communist takeover in 1949.
Many qilou arcades in Chikan are continuous and hardly changed a bit since early 20th century.
Apart from the ground floor arcade, continuous balconies were also common in Chikan.