Yan Chau Tong (Double Haven)

Double Haven doesn’t feel like Hong Kong. Dozens of deserted, curiously shaped islands lie peacefully on the tranquil sea like green jewels on a clean blue cloth. But this is not Thailand or Malaysia. This is the Yan Chau Tong (Double Haven), a Marine Park on the northeast shore of the Plover Cove Country Park.

And if you’ve never been to Double Haven, you owe it to yourself to beg, borrow or hire a boat and sail up there for a weekend – preferably a long one.

Not the boating type? Then there’s an excellent hike that allows you to explore Double Haven, a pristine, unpopulated corner of the territory. Step back in time to appreciate one of Hong Kong’s most attractive old villages, enjoy the natural splendours of the Marine Park and – in a startling contrast so typical of Hong Kong – catch glimpses of Shenzhen’s growing Yantian Port.

Getting to Double Haven

Follow the liberating Ting Kok Road from Tai Po, which gets fresher and more remote with each passing kilometre. Keep going past Tai Mei Tuk, where it changes its name to Bride’s Pool Road, and park at the village of Wu Kau Tang. From here, there’s a circuit that takes in all the highlights of the area and gets you back to your vehicle.

Take the trail to Sam A Tsuen. Along the way you will pass abandoned fields and terraces once cultivated by the villagers. The abandoned rice paddies are home to the Chinese pond heron, little egrets, great egrets, night herons and the rare Swinhoe’s egret.

There are also abandoned fishponds, that previously bred both freshwater and saltwater fish; look for the walls along the shore to separate the stream from the sea.In 900-1300 AD, the surrounding waterways were famous for supplying pearls to the Imperial Court. So abundant and reliable was the harvest that theDouble Haven area, that it became known as the Pearl Pool. Walk through an area of intertidal mudflats formed by sedimentation. Where it meets the land you find the largest mangrove beds in Hong Kong.

Double Haven’s rare trees

Now mostly deserted, 400-year-old Lai Chi Wo village was a Hakka community and one of the most affluent villages in the northeast New Territories. A few villagers return at weekends and festivals to the well-preserved houses. The area was once known for its lychee trees and the fung shui wood behind the village flourishes. It is home to the famous “five finger” camphor tree, saved by defiant villagers during the wartime occupation, and a huge hollow tree – an autumn maple. There are incense trees and a host of other species as well.

Climb along the ridge line behind the village for views of urban China which are a startling contrast to the sleepy and deserted valleys of the lovely Plover Cove Country Park and neighbouring marine park, and return to your starting point after a day well spent in a delightful area. Double Haven beats the office any day.