Carolynne Dear speaks to local resident Sara Hopkirk about Tai Lam Wu, a village that is full of surprises.
Nestled roughly beneath Razor Hill and Fei Ngo Shan is the tiny village of Tai Lam Wu, or Big Blue Lake. Boasting just 18 village houses, six of which are still inhabited by the indigenous Wan family, the village boasts movie stardom and has appeared in its very own Cantonese indie movie, Big Blue Lake, which came out in 2011. Part autobiographical, it traces the story of former resident Lai-yee as she returns to the village of her childhood in the Ho Chung Valley after a failed stint as an actor in Beijing.
These days there is no trace of a lake, big, blue or otherwise. The land around Tai Lam Wu was originally used for sugarcane crops and typical of many New Territories villages, the housing lots are strange shapes, which reflects their original use as agricultural lots. The village has had a tragic past, and played a significant role during World War II as it is situated in the hills separating Kowloon from the New Territories. This was the main line of defence during the Japanese invasion in 1941. In fact, at the end of Ho Chung Road as you approach the village you can still see a pillbox, a concrete dug-in guard post.
Tragically, during the Japanese occupation, a member of the indigenous Wan Family was shot by the occupying army and other village members were bayoneted and raped. On the mountain that lies behind the village there are huge boulders lying near the source of the mountain water – during the war, the villagers taught their children to run up here and hide in the holes under the boulders. It is often said that at dusk you can feel the lingering spirits of the deceased villagers.
These days it’s a very peaceful village, popular for its accessibility to wonderful trails. Frequented by hikers passing through to access stage four of the Wilson Trail, Tai Lam Wu Road is a dead-end, with stairs reaching up to the hiking track.
It is also host to a wide variety of tropical flora fauna as well as wild animals and its very own troll (a 12ft long python) living under the blue bridge. There’s also a resident owl, a Mouse deer, lots of bullfrogs, monkeys, wild pigs, king cobras, Asian porcupines and Civic cats. Ornithologists flock to the village for its wide range of butterflies and birds.
Tucked well away from the hurly burly of Sai Kung, and with no public transport reaching Tai Lam Wu, the only traffic tends to be residential. However, on the weekends there have been issues with hikers’ cars blocking the road. Parking is very limited; many of the houses do not have adjacent parking and rely on parking along the fence and as such there is a certain village etiquette.
Issues sometimes arise when visitors or weekend hikers arrive without realising this, and park in passing places causing road blocks. One solution to improve access would be to extend the road to meet Fei Ngo Shan Road and make it one-way, something some villagers are keen to see happen.
The only other disturbance to the tranquility is the wild pigs snuffling in the bins for food.
• No buses run along Tai Lam Wu Road so a certain amount of effort is involved.
• Take a No. 2 mini bus from outside Steamers in Sai Kung to Kai Ham Village (just before the blue bridge – look out for the python) and walk up to the village.
• From Choi Hung, take the No. 1A green minibus which will drop you at the bottom of Ho Chung Road. Again, you will need to walk up and along Tai Lam Wu Road.
• Alternatively there is a back “jungle path” that takes you from Ho Chung up through the nurseries and into the bottom of the village.