Remote, picturesque and obscure. Sham Chung possesses a little bit of something for everyone.
With its traditional hamlets and old woodlands, set in a basin ringed by rolling hills, the Sham Chung region is one of the jewels in the crown of rural Hong Kong. From family-friendly outings and historical rekeys, to day hikes and mountain biking, this idyllic enclave has plenty of enticing options to keep you more than entertained for the day.
Easily reached, it makes for a convenient full or half day trip away from the city. Nestled within the northern coastline of Sai Kung West Country Park, Sham Chung was once synonymous with being one of Hong Kong’s largest wetland areas. Despite these not existing anymore, it is still a lovely place to visit full of ponds and open grassland, a very rare sight in Hong Kong.
By far the simplest way to reach the area is through Yung Shue O. Getting there can be done from either the Sai Kung or Sha Tin side of the surrounding mountain ranges. The 99 and 299x KMB bus routes run between Sai Kung and Heng On MTR and Sha Tin MTR respectively and will deposit you at the head of the access road to Yung Shue O.
From this junction it is a 45-minute walk down the single-track road to reach Yung Shue O, so if you’re short on time, it is advisable to take a taxi instead (costs $60 from Sai Kung Town). Once you have reached the village of Yung Shue O, the road stops and the hiking trail begins. Make sure to follow the painted banners in Yung Shue O that indicate the way to Sham Chung and not the wooden signposts. The concrete footpath then winds its way through the village and onto a stunning coastline with views across Tolo Harbour and Ma On Shan. From there, it is a 45-minute stroll along the coastline to Sham Chung Ferry Pier and then inland to the village grasslands.
If you had been tackling this route back at the turn of the 20th century, the footpath would have swept into a shallow lagoon, but then in the 1920s it was drained to create a sizable area of arable land. The fertility of this land subsequently led to the founding of Sham Chung village and the remains of this are still there to see today, however it is now occupied by a dai pai dong. Along with many similar villages across Hong Kong, Sham Chung village met its demise as the territory became more developed and many folks left these small communities in the New Territories for the opportunity to make more money elsewhere. Since then, controversy has surrounded plans by Sun Hung Kai Properties for a golf course and recreation centre in Sham Chung. It appears that the developers went ahead and begun the initial construction of a course without planning consent. Then never followed through after they were unable to rubber stamp the project.
Despite its chequered history, the region is still teaming with some very unique wildlife for hikers to keep an eye out for. Extremely rare elsewhere in Hong Kong, the colourful Paradise Fish and relatively large Brown Fish Owl have found a home in leafy areas of Sham Chung. There is then the abundance of other birds, reptiles, insects and wild cattle that one would expect to find across the Sai Kung Peninsula.
For most folks, it is advisable to simply return from Sham Chung the same way you entered. Taxis can often be hard to come by at Yung Shue O, so make sure to factor in extra time on the return leg in order to walk back to Sai Sha Road.
Once back on the main road, there are plenty of taxis and different buses to take back to Sai Kung or Sha Tin. For those who fancy doing that little bit more, follow the trail inland to reach the far northern extremities of the country park at Pak Sha O and Hoi Ha. This route is suitable for hikers and cyclists alike. All in all, Sham Chung is packed to the brim to see and explore, and fun for all involved.