Given my location in Hong Kong – I was staying in Shatin– it was more accessible for me to go to those small villages in the far north, near the border with China. Unfortunately I did not make any visas because it was not worth having one for staying there just one or two days, given the price of the visa xD so I quenched my desire for old buildings by visiting these so-called Heritage Trails set up by Hong Kong government to make both locals and tourists aware of the island’s history.
Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail
Lung Yeuk Tau in cantonese means “Mountain of the Leaping Dragon”. The name comes from the belief that once, in the past, the dragon could be seen here leaping around the mountain. I really wished I could be there to see it too!! So unfair, Dragon >< according to historical records, when in the 13th century the Southern Song Dynasty was losing to the Mongols, a princess was sent to take shelter in the territory of Tang clan, whose ancestral home was in Jiangxi. It is said she married one of the local Tang men and create another branch of the royal family.
Later on, the descedents moved to Lung Yeuk Tau where they built up 11 villages, among them, five were walled due to the presence of bandits and pirates in the area. My boyfriend added that this Tang clan still exists and owns many territories in this area given their presence here since long time. In Hong Kong when you own a house and some properties, you are rich by default and thus all of them are considered very wealthy ahah A curiosity I came across just in New Territories is that under some kind of trees (they call them Moustache Trees) you could find chinese deities statues, religious things and such. My boyfriend asked an old man and he explained that when Hong Kong government had the families leave their old houses and move to the newer ones, due to the lack of space or just because they did not want it anymore, they left everything under those kinds of trees
The area is very local, I saw no real tourists around, just us and many villagers. The trail is very nice and perfect for a nice hike in the nature nevertheless the government should improve the service because some walled villages are closed to the public and this kinda disappointed me as one of the main reasons I came here was to visit them.
I started from Fanling town and passed through the first real cultivated field I have seen in Hong Kong, where I found relics of temples and I discovered that in Hong Kong the government put fences around their land even though it is just a small piece because, there, free land is like gold. Proceeding always straight, we encountered two beautiful religious buildings: Tang Chung Ling ancestral hall and Tin Hau Temple. The first mentioned is the oldest ancestral hall in Hong Kong, being built in the 16th century, and the place where people come to pay respect to the ancestors of the Tang clan, including the Song princess. The hall is also where the clan meetings take place in order to solve quarrels among villagers or where they held important events.
The latter is a temple dedicated to the most popular deity in Hong Kong, known as Tin Hau (Tian Hou in Mandarin), who is the protector of fishermen. We can tell why it is so popular in Hong Kong as everyone here before was fishermen 😉 In the side hall you can find Kam Fa, the deity of childbirth. From this area you can catch a glimpse of the forbidden country China: you can, indeed, see the tall skyscrapers that characterizes Shenzhen, the closest chinese city to the border.
Ma Wat Wai – 麻笏圍
The first walled village you encounter throughout the trail and the most authentic one is Ma Wat Wai. It is like a small town, which managed to preserve the old walls, made up of crumbling houses and narrow alleyways. The entrance of every walled village is highlighted with some chinese red paper attached on the sides and above the gate.
The area used to be quite dangerous due to the incursions of bandits and pirates so the inhabitants provided their villages with thick walls and cannons. We entered but since it is a residential area, where people carry out their daily life, I did not want to disturb and went out right after taking some photos.
Lo Wai And Wing Ning Wai – 老圍同埋永寧圍
This is the second walled village you came across following the heritage trail. Also here the walls are very well preserved and the entrance gate, besides the red chinese paper attached on it, treasures a shrine to the Earth God, I guess it is a good omen for locals having a deity protecting the village. Lo Wai quite disappointed me because from outside it looked very cool with its thick walls but the entrance was prohibited 🙁 I guess they did it to preserve the tranquility for the residents and prevent noisy tourists from ruining their life xD
I also came across other walled villages like Wing Ning Tsuen that now is no longer one because the only feature it could preserve was the surrounding thick wall as the old village is no longer there. Just near Wing Ning Tsuen, we found another very picturesque village, much better than this one and more accessible than Lo Wai. I had a quick look inside and take some photos. After this village, we decided to stop because we were tired and not well equipped to continue the journey so we went back to have a look at Fanling Wai.
Fanling and its walls – 粉嶺圍
Fanling is the main inhabited centre in the northern part of New Territories, just two metro stops away from chinese border and it is not even considered a city by Hong Kongers. In my eyes it looked quite big with countless skyscrapers scattered around and with a metro station that itself is bigger than my hometown ahah the standard they use to classify cities and towns is different from ours.
In Fanling there is really not much to see as in the 60s, when the economical boom took place in Hong Kong, was a mere industrial town. Now all the factories are long gone and everything fell into decadency. The only interesting area of the city is the so-called Fanling Wai, that is to say the old town of Fanling surrounded by the old thick walls.
As I said for the other walled villages, the walls were used to defend the villages from outsiders and for this purpose they had cannons at the entrance. Luckily Fanling Wai still have the original ones that were taken away by the Japanese at the time of the invasion in the 2nd world war and well-hidden. Nowadays they retrieved it and placed it in front of the walled village’s entrance like in the bygone time. This part of Fanling, unlike the rest of the city, is very lively: there are many locals that came here to enjoy the hot sun of December and many children playing around. It really made me think how the life would be like if I was living here, in this picturesque walled village ?
- If you are venturing into New Territories, please be aware that here the number of english-speaking people decrease so write down some sentences in Cantonese or just try to speak by gesticulating ahah
- Wear an appropriate attire since you are going to walk for a while. Do not do like me – I was wearing a skirt
- Some attractions might be closed to the public
- Try to visit local markets, it is more than worth it especially for the cheap food and stuff they sell, much better prices than the ones you find in touristy markets