New Territories Attractions
The predominantly hilly New Territories, covering an area of 924sq.km/357sq.miles, form by far the largest part of Hong Kong. In the north they stretch from Kowloon to the Chinese border, and also extend far to the east and west.
In addition the numerous outlying islands - apart from the main island of Hong Kong and Stonecutters Island - come under the administrative jurisdiction of the New Territories. Actually the 99-year lease between China and Britain which expired in 1997 embraced only the New Territories, but since without them Hong Kong could not survive (because much of its food and drinking water comes from there) the British government decided in 1984 to hand back the colony in toto.About 10km/6 mi north of Victoria Harbour is the new satellite town of Sha Tin, which already has a population of over 600,000.The most impressive sight in the New Territories is the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. Other attractions include the Art Gallery of the Chinese University, the racecourse of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and, in the south, the remarkable Amah Rock (see Sha Tin). The New Territories also boast a large number of country parks and nature reserves, a welcome change from the urban bustle and noise of Kowloon and Victoria, although unfortunately new industrial zones and housing estates continue to invade the unspoiled countryside. There is a popular walking area round the Tai Lam Chung reservoir in the southwest.To the west are the Castle Peak area, whose beaches attract many visitors, the Buddhist monastery of Po Toi and the Taoist Ching Chun Temple. The landscape is studded with villas surrounded by lawns as well as with large housing complexes. Of the many industrial establishments here particular mention should be made of the Lok On Pai desalination plant.In the northwest it is worth making an excursion to the picturesque little town of Yuen Long.While special permission is needed to enter the border zone with China, it is possible to see quite a way into that country from a number of viewing points, such as Lok Ma Chau in the west.
Temple of 10,000 Buddhas
The Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, situated at an altitude of some 320m/1050ft, can be reached by a steep flight of over 400 steps (a strenuous climb which should be attempted in summer only by those who are fully fit) or an escalator (to the right of the richly decorated entrance to the cemetery).The temple complex is on two levels - the principal temple on the lower level and the second temple, consisting of four separate structures, on the upper level. The principal temple, built in 1957, is dedicated to Kuan Yin, and has in the forecourt a nine-story pagoda with some 13,500 figures of the Buddha in different postures. In one of the temple buildings is the body of the founder, a monk named Yuet Kai, who came to Hong Kong after the Second World War and built the temple complex with contributions from local Buddhists. He died in 1965 at the age of 87 and was buried in the posture of meditation. Before his death he told his followers to exhume his body after eight months. Finding the body still in good condition - which they interpreted as a victory of the soul over the flesh - the monks resolved to cover it in lacquer and gilding, and on May 26th (Buddha's birthday) they set it up in the Buddha posture in a glass case, where it can be seen by visitors and worshippers.The temple complex is best reached by taxi or by train to Sha Tin station.
Lau Fau Shan, Hong Kong
Lau Fau Shan, a small fishing village on Deep Bay (Western New Territories), was once famous for its oysters, which were cultivated here for several hundred years. About 100 tons were harvested every year, some for consumption in Hong Kong restaurants and some for export to neighboring countries. Little remains of this today. As the storage and repair of containers for the nearby container port of Kwai Chung is more lucrative and less time-consuming than cultivating oysters, most of the inhabitants of Lau Fau Shan have given up oyster culture. Increasing contamination of the water was an additional factor in the decline of the village's traditional activity. However the actual fishing village with its excellent fish restaurants is still well worth a visit. In the narrow main street a variety of fish and seafood, vegetables and meat are offered for sale, and there are small restaurants which serve fresh fish bought to order from the neighboring stalls. Here, too, stands a 1500-year-old temple founded by the legendary monk Pui To, who is said to have landed on this coast in a wooden tub.
Ping Shan Village, Hong Kong
The ancient little village of Ping Shan near Tsui Shing Lau, (New Territories), has a 500-year-old pagoda built by the Tang clan. It is surrounded by farms, including many duck farms. They are the last remnants of an agricultural structure which has changed greatly in recent years, with a move away from small family holdings towards large agricultural concerns. However it is uncertain whether even the latter will remain in business much longer, since nowadays some 90% of all Hong Kong's food is imported from China. It is likely that, in a few years, more satellite towns like Sha Ti, for example, will be created to meet the housing needs of Hong Kong's constantly increasing population.
The district of Castle Peak, now known as Tuen Mun, takes its name from the hill of that name (583m/1913ft), which is said to have been the scene of a number of battles, including one in 1521 when, after a two month struggle, the Chinese defeated a Portuguese force which had landed with ten ships.The most recent of the industrial establishments in this area is the seawater desalination plant at Lo On Pai.In this part of the conurbation residential quarters of villas adjoin the expanding "New Town", where more than 500,000 people now live.
Ching Chun Koon Temple
In this Taoist "Temple of the Green Pirates" there are lamps dating back over 200 years, a jade seal more than 1000 years old and several altar-guards carved 300 years ago in Peking. The principal temple, built in 1959, is dedicated to Lui Tung Piu (or Loi Choi), one of the Eight Immortals of Taoism, usually depicted with a magical sword which enables him to make himself invisible and conceal himself in the sky. The other immortals are Han Hsiang Tzu, Lau Tsai-Ho, Chung-Li Chuan, Chang Kuo, Ho Hsien Ku, Li Tieh-Kwai and Tsao Kuo-Chin.Two of the buildings in the complex contain thousands of tablets commemorating ancestors, some of them reserved for people who are still alive. Taoist texts are inscribed on the temple walls.
Po Toe Monastery
On the slopes of Castle Peak is the Buddhist monastery of Po Toi, with a small temple. The "Dragon Gardens", with reproductions of old Chinese buildings, ponds, etc. are privately owned but can be viewed by special arrangement.
Lok Ma Chau
Near Lok Ma Chau police station there is an observation terrace which affords an extensive view of Chinese territory. In the plain below can be seen an expanse of rice-fields and farmhouses, traversed by the frontier river Sham Chun some distance away. In front of the next range of hills lies the first place of any size in the People's Republic of China.The people of Lok Ma Chau display the usual Chinese business enterprise - hiring out binoculars and selling souvenirs, while the older inhabitants in particular will - for a fee - pose for amateur photographers.
Sha Tin (Shatin)
Sha Tin is one of the new satellite towns round Hong Kong, with a population today of some 600,000. The Chinese University, the Art Gallery of the Institute of Chinese Studies, and the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas are all here, together with a second racecourse (opened 1978) where races are held every weekend. In the town center is Penfold Park. To the south of Sha Tin is the Amah Rock, which resembles a woman with a child on her back.
Art Gallery of the Institute of Chinese Studies
This impressive art gallery is on the campus of the Chinese University in Sha Tin. In four sections of varying heights, the rooms open on to an inner courtyard laid out in modern materials in the form of a traditional Chinese garden.The gallery contains the Jen Yu Wen Collection (1300 items, including paintings and calligraphy by Cantonese artists from the Ming dynasty to the present day), together with 300 bronze seals of the Han dynasty, a collection of stone inscriptions, mostly of the Han dynasty and the Six Dynasties, and a collection of more than 400 flowers carved in jade.
Tai Lam Chung Reservoir
The Tai Lam Chung Reservoir, lying between Tsuen Wan, an industrial city with some 1,000,000 inhabitants and a new city hall, and Tuen Mun, with huge new housing developments, is Hong Kong's largest reservoir. Here the water which flows down from the mountains is collected, purified and distributed to consumers in the surrounding area. The reservoir is beautifully situated and surrounded by attractive footpaths.
Tai Po, Hong Kong
This little town, once a pirates' lair and now an important market center, lies in Tolo Harbour. 2km/1.25mi to the south is the landing-stage from which there are ferry services to the island of Tap Mun, with a choice between a direct crossing and a longer trip calling in at a number of places on the coast.Tap Mun has a fishing harbor, a temple and a typical street of shops offering a variety of wares. There are fine views of the South China Sea and the Chinese coast across Mirs Bay.
Railway Museum of Hong Kong
Railway enthusiasts, as well as families with children, will enjoy a visit to the Railway Museum of Hong Kong. It is housed in the lovingly and faithfully restored old railroad station of Tai Po, and portrays the history of the Hong Kong-Canton railroad line which was opened in 1910. Today this is still the only rail link between the colony and the mainland of China; in addition to providing passenger services it also supplies the population of Hong Kong with foodstuffs from the province of Kwangtung (Guangdong). Numerous original documents, pictures and captions and historical photographs guide the visitor through the exhibition, part of which is housed in the restored waiting-room. A number of old coaches are on display as well as railroad equipment.
Sai Kung, Hong Kong
Sai Kung is a market village and fishing port in a beautiful setting in northeastern Kowloon. Sai Kung Country Park is a popular place for excursions, with lawns, lakes, hills with fine views and attractive footpaths. To reach the beaches on the offshore islands visitors should get off the bus about 2km/1mi before Sai Kung and take the little ferry across to the islands.
Tai Mo Shan
At 958m/3140ft, the hill of Tai Mo Shan is the highest point in Hong Kong. It is best reached by taxi. On the summit stands a weather station, which can be visited by prior appointment through the Hong Kong Tourist Association. In clear weather there is a good view of the Chinese mainland from here.