Tuesday, 10 March 2015

south side story

The area of the New Territories known as Lung Yeuk Tau, named after the local name for a nearby mountain, extends on both sides of Sha Tau Kok Road, and it offers many unusual sights. This is a post about some of those sights on the south side of the main road.

Despite living here for seven years, I’ve started to explore the neighbourhood only in the last few months. I’ve now managed to string together an interesting cycling route along the paths and through the alleyways in the area, although unlike the route that I’ve concocted on the north side of the main road, there is very little that is technically difficult. The following photo shows one of the few tricky sections and is the first narrow path on the route. The path is as narrow as it looks, and because it isn’t straight, getting the speed right is crucial if you want to avoid going over the edge.


If you’ve read the account of my cycle route on the north side of the main road, you will know that in trying to put together a contiguous route I try not to backtrack on sections that I have already traversed, but there is one section where this is justified. Along the northern edge of Lung Yeuk Tau, there is an extensive flat area that may once have been farmed, although nowadays it looks quite boggy:


As can be seen from the photo, the path across the bog is a substantial one. The route snakes away to the left and, a steep hill later, comes back down the path that leads up into the trees on the right. On one occasion, I was at the top of this path, taking photos, when a local cyclist passed me with the soles of his feet scraping along the ground. Clearly, he didn’t trust his brakes, but it left me wondering why he’d come this way if he thought the hill was too steep, because there is a road that he could have taken instead. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, based on my assessment of cycling skills to be seen around Fanling, this man would not be of below average competence.

Organizing the route in this way means that the path followed to reach the bog is traversed in both directions, and as the following photo shows, it is another path where wobbling is not an option, although it is wider than the path shown above.


Unfortunately, this route is too short to justify getting the bike out—I live on the top floor of a three-storey village house—except as an add-on to one of my other routes, so I’ve been nosing around on foot, which has at least allowed me to visit and document a few things that I wouldn’t have noticed had I been riding a bike. The remainder of this post is about a few of those things.

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The next photo was taken from the forested hillside overlooking the area and provides an overview. The high-rise blocks in the distance mark the eastern edge of Fanling, while the large building in the middle distance is Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, the largest example of an ancestral hall in Hong Kong. To the right is part of what I’ve taken to calling ‘rural sprawl’, the massive proliferation of so-called village houses, which no longer seem to be tied to the original villages in the area but instead are almost everywhere.


Directly behind the ancestral hall, less than 100 metres away alongside a concrete path more than 1.5 metres wide that feels as if it ought to lead somewhere more exciting than a small cluster of squatter houses, is a tree that has a fair claim (unverifiable, obviously) to be the oldest in Hong Kong:


It is impossible to photograph more than a small part of the tree, because it is huge—the trunk has a diameter of about 3 metres—and I do not believe that it is here by chance. It is likely to have been planted to improve the fung shui of the ancestral hall—there is a second tree, only slightly smaller, close by—and the hall dates back to 1525. Deliberately planted fung shui woods were once a common sight around New Territories villages, until the need for land to build more houses took precedence, although a few other big trees do still survive around the area. Almost next door to the ancestral hall (but not visible in the above photo) is the village of Lo Wai. This photo shows the single entrance to the village:


It is not obvious in the above photo, but there is a square projection from the middle of each wall. The next photo, which was taken from the back of the village, shows this more clearly. My conjecture is that they would have been used by defenders to shoot along the walls. It makes an interesting contrast with Kun Lung Wai, which has guard towers at each corner and embrasures at regular intervals along all four walls. Lo Wai has no embrasures, although it does have gun platforms above the entrance.


On the hillside behind Lo Wai, hidden in the trees, is a large complex of graves, many of which are guarded by mythical creatures. I’m unfamiliar with any Chinese bestiaries, although I’ve seen some strange animals on the roofs of temples and other old public buildings, but this one looks vaguely Assyrian to me:


Very few traditional Chinese houses survive in this area, and those that have are usually rundown and dilapidated. The house in the following photo appears to be abandoned, but there is a secure fence around its grounds, so closer inspection is not possible. Like many similar houses, it has painted friezes underneath the eaves and plaster mouldings on the gable end under the roof, but also like many other such houses, these have not been maintained and have faded badly.


Finally, I include a photograph that was taken in this area but could have been taken almost anywhere in Hong Kong. What it shows, for me, is the sheer inventiveness of Hong Kong’s Chinese population.

Industrial catering, village style

13 comments:

  1. I want to see that tree before or after Easter

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    1. I’m sure we can arrange that Peter.

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  2. Hello,
    I want to see that three too. I've been in the area before,but i didnt observe it.

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    1. Hi Vlad. The next time you’re in the area, go into the large car park behind the ancestral hall and walk up to the left-hand corner. You should be able to locate the wide concrete path that leads past the tree.

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  3. Thank you for the infos, hope to get there soon,your post made me come back to this trail,looks like it has more to offer, I live in Sheung Shui,so it would be a shame to not see all that this area can offer.

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    1. There’s a lot more to see in this area. Have you checked out the Hau Ku Shek Ancestral Hall, which is easily reached by minibus from Sheung Shui? There is also a newly renovated temple nearby.

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  4. Yes, i did visit That Ancestral Hall but not the Temple.

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  5. Great photos. Hong Kong looks like such a cool place to explore.

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    1. The funny thing is that it has taken me seven years to start exploring my own neighbourhood. With a bike, I’ve tended to explore further afield.

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  6. Ever been to Lai Chi Wo "ghost village" ? Is not to far from Fanling

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    1. No I haven’t Vlad, although I have heard of it (vaguely). Is it merely an abandoned village, or is there some kind of supernatural connection, as the name implies? I’ll check it out.

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  7. I really dont know why is called ghost village,but for sure want to find out.If tomorrow morning will not rain will go there to see the place with my own eyes :)

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    1. Let me know how you get on. I won’t be able to check it out until next week.

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