Lai Chi Wo Hiking Tour
Plover Cove Country Park, North East New Territories, Hong Kong
The Plover Cove Country park in the northeast of the New Territories is one of the most pristine areas in all of Hong Kong. The many trails are rarely used during the week, with barking deer and wild boar roaming these secluded areas. We’ll be more likely to see butterflies and birds along the way however, as there are plenty.
Your hike starts in the tiny hamlet of Wu Kau Tang. The walk proceeds through lush vegetation. Along the way we walk past abandoned rice fields and terraces once cultivated by the inhabitants of the Hakka villages dotted in this area. Today these villages are deserted and rapidly reclaimed by nature. We follow the stream through the valley to the inlet of the Yan Chau Tong (Double Haven) Marine Park.
Following the coastline, we can admire some of the oldest geological formations in the area, dating back 400 million years. Note the reddish color of the rocks. Geologists say this color stems from minerals turning into red iron oxide, due to exposure to air at the time when these rocks were formed. Next to the villages of Sam A Tsuen and Siu Tan we find neatly arranged fishponds. The villagers made clever use of the shallow and sheltered coves by building walls along the shores to separate seawater and freshwater. The resulting dammed lagoons were divided to form fishponds in which different kinds of fish were bred, The ponds are not in use any more. After a lunch break next to a former fishpond we continue our walk to the Hakka Village of Lai Chi Wo.
Lai Chi Wo, dates back to the 1670’s, and was once one of the most affluent villages in the Northeastern New Territories, where a population of mainly Hakka origin lived. This area was once known for its lychee trees and has a long history of farming. Most residents have left in the last decades, with only a few returning on weekends, or over festival times. The houses remain well preserved and the feng shui wood behind the village flourishes, home to camphor, autumn maple, incense tree and other specimens – it is said to be one of the oldest surviving feng shui woodlands in Hong Kong.
Lai Chi Wo is beautifully set into the landscape with a green coastal belt of mangroves blending into the largest area of Costal Heritiera (Heritiera Littoralis) in Hong Kong. The Heritiera impresses with its buttress roots while it intertwines with the White-Flower Derris, a plant creating wild wood slings throughout these woods.
The surrounding waterways were famous around 10th to 14th century as these provided the pearls for the imperial court in its time. So abundant and reliable was the harvest that the area became known as “the Pearl Pool”. Since 1996 these waters are protected under the name of Yan Chau Tong Marine Park. We marvel at its beauty and enjoy the sea breeze on our boat ride back into civilization.
Highlights: Visit buildings at the oldest villages in Hong Kong, established in the 12th century.