At the beginning of October, when the weather begins to cool down, Hong Kong celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) with a long weekend break, which this year I used as an opportunity to pay an extended visit to Sai Kung (西貢區) where I hiked part of the MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑).
Arriving in Sai Kung Town (西貢市) late morning on the 101M minibus from Hang Hau MTR station (exit B1) my first port of call was to grab a simple lunch and pay my respects to the goddess of the sea while passing by the local Tin Hau Temple. The town alone isn’t much to see but does have an abundance of seafood restaurants if that’s your sort of thing.
From the town center I then took the 94 bus to Pak Tam Au (be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the right stop) and joined Section 2 of the MacLehose Trail which quickly heads downhill to the water’s edge at Chek Keng (赤徑).
The path takes you through Chek Keng village which was mostly abandoned in the 1970′s but whose deteriorating houses still contain eerie vestiges of their former occupants through the remaining items of furniture and other possessions.
A few houses appear to be partially maintained, probably by ancestral descendants of the original owners, but it’s still sad to see these traditional dwellings in such a sorry state. They would make for great holiday cottages if fully renovated.
There was evidence of attempts at restoration and one particularly rusty wheelbarrow but not much else.
Wandering around the village I came across a wild cow leisurely strolling around. He seemed pretty used to doing his own thing and paid me no attention.
Above the village lies an old Catholic church which now looks like it would make the perfect setting for a horror movie!
Many of the houses roofs have collapsed and the walls are now crumbling away.
While it’s possible to get inside some of the houses it wouldn’t be advisable given how precarious a condition they are in.
Founded more than 200 years ago there were apparently five different family lineages living in the village with surnames Fan, Chiu, Lee, Wong and Cheng, however most of the descendants emigrated to the UK, Holland on central Hong Kong.
Slowly but surely mother nature is reclaiming the land.
I came across an old village shop which looked as though the owner had just closed up one day and never came back. I liked the vintage coca-cola bottles on the old fridge and family portraits in the back room (not visible here).
There did appear to be small shop still open, selling drinks to hikers, but only barely.
After the gentle hike along the well-marked trail for around two hours I arrived at my destination for day 1 – Ham Tin beach (鹹田灣) at Tai Long Wan (大浪灣 – “Big Wave Bay”) which is accessible via a rickety wooden bridge across a shallow river.
After pitching my small tent (brought the previous day for just HKD $99 at RC Outfitters in Causeway Bay) it was time to enjoy the waves as the sun began to set. I was surprised at how clean both the beach and the sea was compared to others I’ve visited in Hong Kong.
At the entrance to the beach Hoi Fung Store serves up basic food and drink to set you up for the evening as well as providing toilets and showers. Given it was a national holiday the beach and restaurant were pretty busy but not so bad that you couldn’t still enjoy it.
A short walk from Ham Tim is Tai Wan beach which seemed a little quieter. Many people had collected wood to make fires and BBQ’s on the beach which I would love to try next time.
While trying to sleep in a tent might not be the most comfortable thing to do, the sound of the waves hitting the shore all night made up for it and I was up for a swim at 8am the next morning.
After packing up it was time to set off on the second leg of the hike which begins from the far end of Ham Tin beach and snakes around the mountainous coastline to Sai Wan (西灣 – “West Bay”) and then across to the High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) in the far south-eastern part of the Sai Kung Peninsula.
It takes approximately 2 hours to reach the Sai Wan Pavilion where you can take the 29R mini bus back to Sai Kung Town. In total the walk is 11km and can be done in either direction on a single day if desired. Full directions can be found on Discover Hong with further suggestions from Time Out. If you want to track your hike by smartphone you can try using the Every Trail app where others have already recorded the route to follow.
I’d highly recommend both the hike and camping to anyone looking to escape from Hong Kong’s usual confines.