Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sheung Wo Hang to Sha Tau Kok

When most people think of Hong Kong, they think of this:

Not this:

But since we've been here a while now, it's nice to find ways to get away from the city every so often.  We did the Ping Shan heritage trail at Chinese New Year and then more recently the Lung Yeuk Tau heritage trail.  I want to revisit that one, since I got very distracted by the millions of blackflies trying to get a taste of my blood.  Anyway, on Sunday we wanted to go exploring again, so we set off into the far North-East of Hong Kong, very close to the Chinese border.  A lot of this area used to be part of the Frontier Closed Area, but that was scaled back in February this year, so there's a whole lot of new places to visit.  We chose to start our trip at Sheung Wo Hang village, and then walk along to the border and Sha Tau Kok, and visit villages and whatever took our fancy along the way.

Sheung Wo Hang is tucked away in a beautiful valley.  We picked up the 55K minibus from Sheung Shui, and got off where the driver told us to.  Then we walked down this windy little road, where every step took us into this peaceful little green place, where the only sounds were crickets and running water.

The view from the road promised an interesting place. 

 These altars are everywhere in Hong Kong villages.  They all seem to be dedicated to different gods.  Many of the villages in this area were founded by Hakka or Hoklo people, so there may be a cultural aspect which I don't quite understand.

 It was a very pretty little village.  There were more old houses than new, which is always nice, and most of the houses had traditional decorations and chunlian (matching couplets) pasted around the door. 

I don't know how old this tree is, but given the age of the village, I'd say around 130 years. 

 Old and New in Sheung Wo Hang.

 Sheung Wo Hang has one declared monument.  It started life as a clan study hall for members of the Li family in the area that wanted to study for the Imperial entrance exam for civil servants.  After the Imperial system was abolished, the building was converted into a primary school, and operated that way until the 1980s.  In the last ten or so years, the building has been properly restored and declared a monument.  Above, you can see the desks, and the cock loft above that, where boarding students slept.

 The front entrance to the school.

  I don't know what this building was, but it is certainly no more.  It has been completely taken over by plants, and the roof had caved completely.  Sadly, it wasn't somewhere I was too happy about going into, as I didn't know how solid the floor (or what was left of it) was.

 One thing that I really loved about this area was the wildlife.  In the river there were turtles, frogs and a number of different types of fish.  All sorts of birds were flying about, and I have never seen such a variety of butterflies and dragonflies in bright colours.  Annoying to photograph, and the photo above is the best I got, but it was really quite wonderful to watch butterflies the size of birds flitting about.

 Rather than returning to the main road after Sheung Wo Hang, we chose to wander along the river until we came to something else.  Unfortunately this village had a sign outside saying private, and since we didn't run into any friendly villagers to tell us to come in, we didn't.

 So, sadly, this is the closest I got to this wonderful old building.  All I can tell you about it is that it was built in 1933 and it's been home to a single branch of a family since then.  The village is connected to Sheung Wo Hang by some sort of family connection, but otherwise, information on this place is really hard to come by.  Actually, information on many of the villages is hard to come by.  I'm not sure whether this is deliberate on the part of the current villagers to avoid attracting people, or if some of the history and stories have just been lost.

Bus stop, village style.  BYO Chair.  I commented to Craig that if people had done this where we lived in Calgary, the chairs would have lasted about 5 minutes.
The old checkpoint.  These days not an issue, so we could walk right on through.
While I don't love the heat and humidity this time of year, I do love the huge array of tropical flowers there are around.  I can't name many (that's a frangipani though), but the array of shapes, colours and sizes adds nice variety to a walk.  It's certainly a very different palette than the Australian temperate native one that I grew up with (which I still love, it's just different).
Traditional graves in the hillside.

The start of the controlled area.  I would like to find out what we need to visit  the area, and check it out.  There is a famous street that is half China and half Hong Kong.  Being from an island nation, the concept of land borders still amuses me.
The village is pressed right up against the barbed wire fence, and right on the other side is Shenzhen.  If it weren't for the men with the big guns, it probably wouldn't be all that hard to sneak across.
A wall fish in Shan Tsui village.  Parts of the village are extremely run down, and even in ruins, but people are still living there.  I didn't notice many younger people though, so I think some of these villages will eventually die out.

Foliage taking over an old village house.

Village style lock?  Not that it really mattered I suppose...the front wall was really the only bit that was whole.
I wonder if this orchid started life here or if it was "set free" by its owner.  Either way, it does seem to be doing quite well.
Kwan Ah School, clearly no longer in operation.  I didn't see any operational schools during our walk, so I guess that kids have to go into Fanling or Sheung Shui for school.
This was one of the more ostentatious buildings in Sheung Tam Shui Hang.  A local woman told us that the building was about 100 years old, though not the oldest in the village. 
These little cottages might have been a little closer to the oldest though.
Obviously, there was a house here at some point, but the combination of the plants, mosses and weather have crumbled it into ruins.  The plants are slowly winning in a number of buildings in this village.

We weren't sure what this place was.  To us, it looked like a sort of barracks or something, perhaps a leftover from WWII or the civil war.  There was a lot of fighting in the New Territories. 

All in all, I'd say this area is well worth a visit, or even a revisit.  It's nice to remember that Hong Kong isn't all hustle and bustle all the time. 


  1. Hi Rhonwyn,

    Sheung Wo Hang is my mother's village. We have not been back for over a decade -- we live in the UK -- so we really enjoyed reading your blog post and looking at your photographs.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you for your kind comments! Sheung Wo Hang is one of my favourite places I've been in HK so far. It is so beautiful and peaceful there.

  3. My family and relatives are from Ha Wo Hang! It's great to be able to read about the Upper Wo Hang that I know little about.