Mar 26, 2018

Ghost Villages of the New Territories

 

The New Territories were once a primarily agricultural oasis. For hundreds of years, the area surrounding Hong Kong island and Kowloon was settled largely by Hakka clans. These villages were scattered all over the countryside and on most of the outlying islands.

 

These villagers made a living from farming and fishing, with some villages having more specialized industries like salt making, lime burning, or even the production of high quality pottery (Wun Yiu, Tai Po).

 

These small scale industries ended with the industrialization of Hong Kong in the 1950s to 1970s, which also meant that the cost of sustaining farms here rapidly became untenable. Many farming villages were abandoned by the 1970s. Farms could not compete with cheaper imports form the mainland and the better paying jobs in the city, with many leaving their ancestral lands in search of new opportunities.

 

Fishing remains a source of income for these villagers, some of whom still reside in their villages; however, it remains to be seen for how long this will be the case.

 

 

Plover Cove Country Park

 

In 1970, the villagers who lived in the area now known as Plover Cove Country Park saw booming business. They were mostly farmers, and with the growth of Hong Kong's population, produce prices and demand were skyrocketing. The villages were prosperous and growing. A few short years later, however, the prices collapsed, probably due to cheaper imports from the mainland. Slowly, the villagers began to leave and look for new opportunities... though not always slowly. Ghost stories scared away the residents of some villages literally overnight!

 

Those once-bustling villages today still see pallets full of bricks and tiles, waiting forlornly to construct new homes.

 

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Yung Shue Au

 

This village was once a border patrol hub for British soldiers, giving it a cosmopolitan feel for many years. It even had a bar to cater to the troops! Its heyday was in the 1960s, when the patrol was stationed here. The patrol was in charge of protecting Hong Kong's sea border. Today, the bar is long closed. A few years after the soldiers left, the bar was shut down, and the entire village was abandoned soon after. It is said that one can hear ghosts whisper through the empty village square.

 

 

So Lo Pun

 

Half an hour from Yung Shue Au on foot is another abandoned village with a happier ending. So Lo Pun is full of villagers planning to repopulate their ancestral lands! Permits for over 100 village houses have been issued. While currently there is no water or electric connection, and no road access, there is still hope that this ghost town will come back to life. The village headman has already restarted a mandarin orange orchard here!

 

 

Lai Chi Wo

 

Around a hundred years ago, Lai Chi Wo was a poor village. A feng shui master suggested building three feng shui walls for the village to get rid of evil spirits and keep property safe inside the village. After setting up the three walls, the village returned to prosperity once again.

 

Lai Chi Wo was once a key village of this area, with a population of over 3,000, and was a major Hakka village. Today there are only a few dozen families here, and largely only the elderly. These individuals have lived here all their lives and do not see themselves moving now. The fung shui woods, spanning 5-7 acres, planted in part to bring good luck and prosperity to Lai Chi Wo, are of ecological and scientific interest, being home to over 100 species of trees and animals.

 

During the second World War, the Japanese occupied Lai Chi Wo. They feared the locals would rise up against the occupiers, and hence tried to cut down the fung shui woods. The villagers resisted fiercely, defending their five-fingered camphor tree with their lives. The tree lost only one finger, and still stands witness to the villagers' protection of their beloved woods.

 

The original residents of Lai Chi Wo, especially the older ones, return to the village for the Tai Ping Qing Zhao (the Bun Festival) once every ten years. In 2010, Lai Chi Wo came back to life for the latest Bun Festival. The next is expected to be around 2020.

 

 

These villages, and many others, remain today, frozen in time, a memory of decades past. Many homes remain as they were, with even furniture remaining in the same condition.

 

Adventure Tours Hong Kong, run by Wouter van Marle (a passionate explorer and Dutch national living in Hong Kong, featured earlier on this blog) in partnership with Mozaic Club, is happy to bring to you on a special tour of the Ghost Villages of the New Territories.

 

The entire tour is, primarily, a hike of moderate intensity of about 9 km, mostly using well maintained dirt footpaths. There are no restaurants available in the ghost villages (for obvious reasons), therefore, it is recommended that you bring snacks and water along for the hike.

 

These villages are truly "ghost towns". Most are entirely abandoned while a few villagers remain in some others. They draw visitors to an offbeat, old-world trek - a reminder of what the Hong Kong was like, before the expansion of industry in this corner of the South China Sea.

 

 

For more information about the event or join our event, please click below button: 

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