Known as the “backyard” of Hong Kong, Nam Sang Wai (南生圍) is an area of tranquil wetlands north of Yuen Long (元朗). The “Wai” in “Nam Sang Wai” refers to “gei wai” (基圍), an old method mainly for shrimp culture introduced to Hong Kong in the 1940’s. Bounded by man made embankments, gei wai is a shallow pool in a mangrove wetland with 10 to 30 cm of water collected from the Deep Bay (后海灣). The shrimp farmer would use a water gate to control the amount of incoming water from Deep Bay. The sea water would also bring in juvenile fish and shrimps. The shrimps would then feed on the organic matters from the mangroves. Gei wai shrimps (基圍蝦), usually steamed, has became a local delicacy throughout the years. The gei wai method has been mostly phased out nowadays. The former gei wai pools and fish ponds of Nam Sang Wai have became a semi-manmade wetland where visitors enjoy the serene waterways, reed clusters and pockets of grasslands, and learn more the wetland ecosystem. It also offers a network of pleasant footpaths winding through waterways and pools, providing the perfect venue for an afternoon stroll, wedding photos, and even filming set for movies, TV shows and music videos.
The passenger boat at Shan Pui River (山貝河) is the last public passenger boat service in Hong Kong operated entirely by hand.
The first impression of Nam Sang Wai for most visitors is its overwhelming serenity of water networks.
The footpaths at Nam Sang Wai are lined with beautiful Red Gum Trees (赤桉樹).
Some old houses in Nam Sang Wai are abandoned, and are sometimes used for filming local movies.
The boardwalk by the old fish ponds are popular spots for photos.
The large lawn at Nam Sang Wai is equally popular for couples, families and pets to hang out.
Nam Sang Wai is a hotspot for both migrating birds and local waterfowls.
Beyond Shan Pui River (山貝河), the urban and industrial developments of Yuan Long seem like they may one day encroach into the wetland territories.
The peaceful water of Nam Sang Wai remains like a flawless mirror.
As a natural system to purify the surface runoff of the city, wetlands are essential in the entire water cycle of the city.
As villagers move out of the rural areas, some old stores and houses in Nam Sang Wai are gradually crumbling into ruins.
A handful of occupied houses remain in Nam Sang Wai.
Though most of them are in need of restoration.
Like pets in other rural areas of Hong Kong, the cats and dogs in Nam Sang Wai also lead peaceful lives.
A number of village homes built on stilts can be founded along Shan Pui River (山貝河).
Such serene and picturesque setting are great for photography and sketches.
After a long and relaxing stroll in Nam Sang Wai, the small man-powered boat at Nam Sang Wai Pier is always around to bring visitors back to the city’s side.
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.