07 October 2016

Trekking in the New Territories of Hong Kong

Meeting Stanley at my hotel in Mong Kok. He is a late-twenty-someting Hongkonger who freelances as a tourist guide.

We hop on the ever trustworthy MTR and are whisked to a station in the New Territories called Tai Po Market. From there it's a short taxi ride to the start of the trek. We walk through thick forests, and come within sight of the mainland: Shenzhen in just across the narrow bay.

At our destination we meet with David, a local local Hakka guide. He speaks German as he lived and worked in Germany for 20 years came back to revive village. With not a little pride he shows us around the Hakka village. Simple dwellings, a school, a temple. Hi brother cooks a delicious lunch for us: duck, pork and tuna. I am not sure which I liked the most, I ate too much of all of three. Yet I don' feel guilty, we are going to walk a lot today, some 20km all in all perhaps, so I need the calories.

The village is "protected" by a Feng Shui wall, which serves the dual purpose of keeping the evil spirits out and good fortune in (good fortune gets into the village through the gate, which somehow the evil spirits can't muster). The gate is impressive, very pretty and solid. Next to the door, on two golden panels, one can read the names of the people who live in the village, a kind of census. Next to each name a number: the amount of money each donated toward the restoration of the village.

It is called the Lai Chiwo (lychee) Village because in the early days people found the fruits in the surrounding area.

On the main square I am impressed by an austere building, the old school, now shut.

The temple is, as always, a deep experience. David insists, and I oblige, that I don't take pictures directly to the face of the deities who are watching us from the top of the altars.

Villagers mostly live off sustainable agriculture. They grow many different vegetables, notably rice and sunflower.

Toward the end of the tour we meet two ladies working in the fields, they speak good English, too good to be farmers of an isolated village. After talking to them I discover they are actually academics, have MAs and PhDs but do this farm work for free when they have time to keep their old village alive.

It's almost sunset, we are going back. Stanley takes me to another route, so I have a chance to see a different area. Lush valleys and rolling hills, I would never have expected Hong Kong to have this hidden face to show a curious traveler who digs deeper than shopping and dim sum. At one point Stanely tells me we are almost home, ie to the bus terminus: then I see a sign that says we have 5km to go! Distances are relative. It's a bit exhausting for me but I enjoy it. Stan walks ahead of me but never forgets to look back and check on me. there are no other trekkers around. I enjoy the solitude of the moment though I can also anticipate with enthsiasm the moment I will lower myself into a hot bath back at the hotel.

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