Tara Smyth treks through abandoned Hakka villages
Not a hike to squeeze in before lunchtime, one needs to put aside a full day for this epic adventure. Located within the Plover Cove Country Park, you will have a journey to get there in the first instance. This hike is of a very different nature to most of Hong Kong’s hill hikes but is spectacular for a whole host of diverse reasons.
This 17 kilometre hike presents a way of Hong Kong life, not witnessed by most. You will pass through a plethora of old Hakka villages, some of which are still inhabited today.
For those villages whose residents left long ago, nature has taken over and flora can be seen growing in and around windows and doorframes. Roofs have caved in offering views through the broken tiles and beams to the forests above, which surround these villages lost in time. Pieces of furniture and humble household items have been left where they were last used and vines now crawl around chair legs and bedposts, and ferns cling onto cracks in the walls amidst the peeling paint.
The walk starts in Wu Kau Tang – there is a car park at the end of Wu Kau Tang Road, off Bride’s Pool Road. Alternatively, catch minibus 20R.
To begin the hike, you need to take the concrete path to the left of the pavilion where you will see a signboard and map. Across the bridge take the left hand path, signposted Sam A Tseun and Sam A Chung. You are in fact headed for Sam A Tseun, via Lai Tau Shek. You will first walk alongside a sizeable stream and pass fantastic bamboo grasses, rising up and over the path. When you reach some stone steps going up towards the left, take these and continue along for some time. After a small hill and some woodland paths, you will descend to sea level and find yourself amongst some very interesting flora growing in the swampy flatlands to your right.
It is amongst these flatlands that you will eventually come to a few deserted houses and a small restaurant at the end – Yama Diner. The mama running the diner is extremely friendly and offers excellent, clean, fully-flushing ‘convenience’ facilities.
Once you leave here, head to the crossroad junction on the path and take a left turn to Lai Chi Wo. You will pass through San Ah, another semi-deserted village, with an interesting temple and some public toilets. Follow the signs to Lai Chi Wo and you can’t go wrong.
Once you reach the coastline, Shenzhen Port will present itself in the distance. Continue skirting this Jurassic coastline, notable for its rich red-coloured sedimentary rock, for a few minutes more and you will reach Lai Chi Wo – literally meaning Lychee Nest – once famous for its lychee trees it grew for income.
Lai Chi Wo is an excellent place to stop for a packed lunch as there is plenty of space to sit down and there is much to explore. Home to an interesting ‘walled’ village, you will find residents living out their years in a tranquil, chilled-out manner. Residents are friendly and one man offered us some homemade hibiscus, coconut and chia seed ice-lollies with edible chrysanthemum flowers embedded in them. Absolutely delicious!
After a proper nose around Lai Chi Wo, it’s time to continue on with the hike. From here, you need to head to the water, pass through the ornate arch and continue left along the waterfront. Now you should be following signs to So Lo Pun.
Head uphill through the woods and here the path gets quite steep. The descent is equally steep with crooked, slightly precarious, wooden steps taking you back down to sea-level. You will arrive in a valley with Shenzhen Port on your right and mangroves on your left. Continue along and take the left hand path at the end, again signposted to So Lo Pun.
So Lo Pun is the piece de resistance of this hike. A derelict Hakka village, it is believed to be haunted and hikers have reported that compasses stop working when they enter the village. Here you can walk amongst the old houses and see entire trees winding their way up deserted buildings. Reminiscent of the Angkor region in Cambodia, one can really lose oneself in the ethereal surroundings and imagine what life was once like here, amongst this oasis of calm in the jungle.
Continue along the path and you will come to some steps on your right, signposted Luk Keng. Go up this hill, back down over the other side and you will now have resplendent views of Shenzhen right in front of you.
The walk continues along a concrete path, all the way to Luk Keng, passing more villages and interesting sights on the way. With the modernity of towering Shenzhen on your right and the dilapidation and decay of a bygone era on your left, the end of this walk offers striking contrasts that cannot be imagined.
Once at Luk Keng, reward yourself with a cold drink at the dai pai dong and allow the kind proprietor to order you a taxi home.
Tara Smyth runs photography company Nitty Gritty Image. For details, visit facebook.com/NittyGrittyImages