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.