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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

North by Northwest: Hong Kong ’s ecological treasures

The northwestern New Territories reward the intrepid visitor with a slice of Hong Kong whose delights include wetlands, walled villages, and romantic sunset photo-spots.

Unlike the classic Hitchcock thriller, North By North West, there is no imposing Mount Rushmore in this part of the New Territories. Still, this expansive northwestern region – which includes the satellite towns of Yuen Long, Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun, along with numerous rural villages dotted throughout the landscape – offers plentiful delights for the intrepid visitor willing to invest a bit of time and effort to get there.

Formed by the alluvial plains of Shenzhen and Shan Pui Rivers and framed in the background by several mountains including Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s tallest peak, this area is home to ecologically sensitive wetlands, muddy flats and beaches, mangrove swamps, rice paddies, and old walled villages interspersed with burgeoning developments. In stark contrast, looming across the border are skyscrapers of the Shenzhen metropolis.

We offer a one-day itinerary that requires only public transport, which is eminently doable, with a bit of perseverance. Enjoy another fascinating aspect of Hong Kong.

 

Kat Hing Wai Walled Village

Centuries ago, most of the New Territories was settled by village clans who built walled villages to congregate and defend themselves. Kat Hing Wai, located in Kam Tin, is one of the best-known and bestpreserved. Built over 500 years ago by the Tang clan, one of five major clans in the New Territories, the village was protected on four sides by thick walls (almost 18 feet deep) and one open gate. The village measures roughly 100 by 90 metres. The ancient village houses inside are long gone, replaced by densely packed “ding houses” – the modern village house prevalent in the New Territories, set in a grid inside the village compound.

However, the moat outside and the guard houses have survived. About 400 people reside in the village, withmany homes now rented to outsiders, a sign of changing times. There is a nominal tribute to get into the gate ($3) and a clan temple lies at the other end, offering a tantalising glimpse into the past.

MTR Kam Sheung Road Station, Exit B. Walk to Kam Po Road through footbridge and then turn to Kam Sheung Road. It takes around 20 minutes from Kam Po Road to Kat Hing Wai.

 

Nam Sang Wai (near Yuen Long)

An important wetland reserve crisscrossed by two small rivers, Nam Sang Wai is far removed from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Popular with birdwatchers, hikers, cyclists, photographers and romantic couples, Nam San Wai offers unspoiled rustic scenery of mudflats, farms and fish ponds, languished rivers, tall reeds and mangroves and treelined paths.

Start your journey where Nam Sang Wai Road joins the main road, either by bicycle or on foot and follow the river northwards. Photogenic spots abound along the route. The road turns back southwards at the junction with another river. Keep walking or cycling either along the road or on the path until you reach the famous Wedding Bridge for your obligatory photoshoot. A short distance further and you’ll come to Hong Kong’s only river ferry, a little sampan that carries passengers across a narrow river (maybe 30 metres) for a fee. You may choose to do that and return to Yuen Long or you can retrace your steps. What amazes is that amidst the tranquillity and rustic beauty, a glance in the other direction reveals the high-rise buildings of Yuen Long and the looming skyline of Shenzhen beyond.

 

Ha Pak Nai

The coastline on the northwest boundary of Hong Kong along Shenzhen Bay (Deep Bay) is recognised as having the best sunset photo-spots. The best-known is in Ha Pak Nai, or more accurately in Ap Tsai Hang just before Ha Pak Nai. The shoreline, looking across to Shenzhen’s Shekou, is dotted with fish ponds. The shallow muddy beaches strewn with mangroves extend out during low tide, offering unparalleled sunset images combining the land, the shimmering sea, and the sky.

From Yuen Long MTR Station, walk to Tai Fung Street, take the green minibus No. 33 and get off at Ap Tsai Hang. Continue walking along the path next to the river to reach the mudflats.

 

The Hong Kong Wetland Park and Mai Po Nature Reserve

If ecology is your thing, you will want to visit the Hong Kong Wetland Park or the Mai Po Nature Reserve, both important wetland sanctuaries, as an alternative to Nam Sang Wai since it may be difficult to fit more than one of them in one day. As a permit is required to enter the Mai Po Nature Reserve, it is best to book an eco-tour through WWF who manages the reserve. The Wetland Park, which is located near the satellite town of Tin Shui Wai, is open daily but closes at 5pm for visitors. Both serve as important sanctuaries for a myriad of migratory birds as well as a haven for an abundant selection of butterflies, reptiles and other fauna.

 

Hong Kong Gold Coast and Sham Tseng

After a day of sightseeing and walking, you’ll likely want to treat yourself to a nice dinner and a wind-down. Choose either the Hong Kong Gold Coast, a complex comprising a resort hotel, a retail plaza and a yacht marina, where several large yachts are berthed. Pick any of the restaurants in the plaza and enjoy a relaxed meal and stroll along the waterfront promenade to check out the marina, the yachts and the hotel nearby. Or, further down, you could choose to stop at Sham Tseng village and enjoy a hearty meal at one of the several famous roast goose restaurants. It’s a winner either way.

From Yuen Long Station, take West Rail and get off at Tuen Mun Station. Take a taxi to Hong Kong Gold Coast or Sham Tseng or take KMB bus 52X from Kowloon.

 

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