Ghost villages of the New Territories
This tour is suitable for children of age 8 and up.
Visit the ghost villages of the New Territories.
For hundreds of years, the area what is now Hong Kong was occupied by mostly Hakka
clans, living in villages scattered all over the countryside and on most of the outlying
islands. These people lived off farming and fishing, while some villages were also
into salt making (e.g. Tai O, Lantau; Yim Tin Tsai, Sai Kung and another in Tai Po),
lime burning (Peng Chau; Hoi Ha, Sai Kung) or even the production of high quality pottery
(Wun Yiu, Tai Po).
All of these industries have come to an end with the industrialisation of Hong Kong,
most notably from the 1950s to the 1970s. Farming lasted until early 1970s, when cheap
imports from the mainland and the prospect of better jobs in the factories in the city
made farmers leave their ancestral lands. Fishing is the one industry of yonder that is
still surviving, albeit by a thread.
The villagers in what is now Plover Cove Country Park were mostly farmers. Around
1970 business was booming: the population of Hong Kong growing and all these people had
to eat. However just a few short years later the produce prices collapsed, and by the mid
1970s most villages were empty. Some abandoned quite literally overnight amidst ghost
stories. To this day, pallets full of brand new bricks and roofing tiles are sitting in
those villages, still waiting for the construction of new homes.
This tour of the villages starts at Luk Keng. From there we walk by Kuk Po, a mostly
abandoned village, home to just a handful of people now.
We follow the shoreline to the
far end, where we find Yung Shue Au. One of many previously thriving villages, it is now
completely abandoned. Its heydays were in the 1960s when British border patrol soldiers
were housed there, tasked with protecting Hong Kong's sea border. When the soldiers left,
the only bar of the village closed soon after due to lack of business. A few years
later the village was completely abandoned. We will take a rest at the main village
square. Maybe the echoes of the voices of the people can still be heard here...
or are that just ghosts whispering?
Half an hour further is So Lo Pun, also abandoned, however not forgotten. The
villagers are talking about repopulating their old home. Permits for over 100 village
houses have been issued. Now if these houses will ever be built, or who would want to
live there, is not known. There is no running water, no electricity, and no road
access. The only thing this village still has is an active village head, who returns
to the village frequently and has even started a mandarin orchard on his ancestral
Another half an hour of walking through the forests and we arrive at Lai Chi Wo, the end
of the hike. In it's heyday home to at least 3,000 people, and the most important village
of the area. Now it is home to no more than a couple dozen, mostly elderly people, who
have lived their whole lives there. A very well preserved Hakka village, a great example
of how many such villages would have looked like. The fung shui woods are home to at least
100 species of trees and many different animals, and are considered to be of special
ecological and scientific interest.
The villagers have always fiercely protected their woods. When the Japanese occupiers
came to chop down trees in the area, they also tried to take the trees from the fung
shui woods, only to be kicked out by the local villagers. The five-fingered camphor
stands witness to this, it's missing finger having been lost to the Japanese.
About every ten years a major festival is held here, and all the indigenous villagers
and their ancestors - most of whom do not live in Hong Kong any more - will return and
gather at Lai Chi Wo. The latest festval was in 2010, the next will be around 2020.
A geoheritage centre has been set up in Lai Chi Wo to showcase the rocks of the
sedimentary rock region of the geopark, and on weekends some villagers run a small
farmer's market selling local produce and traditional snacks such as biscuits and
sticky rice dumplings.
Time permitting we will explore the village and the agricultural land
around it, before catching the boat at 15:30 to take us back to Ma Liu Shui (near
University MTR station). This 1 1/2 hour boat ride passes by special rock formations
such as the "emperor's seal" and the "devil's fist".
- 9:00 meet at Fanling MTR station, take taxi to Luk Keng where we start
- Yung Shue Au, all but forgotten about.
- So Lo Pun, where compasses are said to go haywire.
- Lai Chi Wo - traditional Hakka village.
- Visit the Fung Shui woods and the Geoheritage Centre (time permitting).
- 15:30 on the boat to Ma Liu Shui (arrive there about 17:00), walk
(15 mins) to University MTR station.
This is a moderate intensity hike of about 9 km, mostly using well
maintained dirt footpaths. Bring sufficient water, there is nothing available
until we reach Lai Chi Wo (about four hours in). Food in Lai Chi Wo is limited to
basic snacks (biscuits and sticky rice dumplings), bring your own.
Fee for this tour: HKD 270 per person, HKD 230 children 3-12, including taxi from
Fanling MTR to Luk Keng and boat from Lai Chi Wo to Ma Liu Shui.