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North District

North District

It’s a farmer’s life

“Here everything was built by their ancestors’ own hands—it’s an influential family community—and so they have decided to retain their simple life,” says Zoey Wong from Mapopo Community Farm.

Just like its name implies, the North District is Hong Kong’s most northerly territory, situated on the border with mainland China in the New Territories. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll find that a lot of the residents here can trace their origins back to China, when families moved south to escape numerous wars and battles. These clans set up villages—some surrounded by walls—and lived off the land. The area is still mostly rural, populated by farmers who have survived up here for generations, pursuing their ancient traditions and following a more modest way of life.

Ms Wong

The village of Ma Shi Po in Fanling is one such example, with families who migrated from China’s southerly Guangdong region at the start of the 20th century and began tilling the land here. The Mapopo Community Farm is a grassroots organization that promotes sustainable living in the village. The farm’s Zoey Wong explains: “There are around 100 families here—most of them are immigrants from Guangdong; old farmers who have been living here for decades. They turn food leftovers into fertilizer to plant organic vegetables for the city and support the development of this city.” Villagers here manage to maintain a simpler way of life, despite the encroaching urbanization. “Living in a village might sound rural and tough for urban people,” Ms. Wong adds. “But now it’s the fourth generation and the villagers haven’t changed their way of living. Here everything was built by their ancestors’ own hands—it’s an influential family community—and so they have decided to retain their simple life.”

Tsung Pak wai

To learn more about ancient village life in Hong Kong, make a point of visiting Fanling Wai, one of the area’s best preserved walled villages. It was thought to have been built by the Pang clan between the 12th and 13th centuries, with much of this heritage intact today: inside you’ll see fine examples of Ming and Tsing dynasty architecture through its temples, ancestral halls, school, watchtowers and cannons. Also of note is the fishpond outside the entrance to the wai—which makes for good photos. Also worth a stop is the Tsung Pak Long, a Hakka walled village that was established in the 19th century by five different clans, who each built themselves an ancestral hall. Inside, Bok Man School was actually the first registered school in the New Territories, having been built by the villagers in 1920. It finally closed down in 2000 and is now a Grade III historic building. The village of Ma Shi Po in Fanling is a prime example of urban encroachment onto farmland.

Much of the North District is still made up of farmland and beautiful natural resources. The eight majestic peaks of Pat Sin Leng Country Park, known as the “eight fairies”, dominate the territory’s skyline and are surrounded by emerald lakes. Many of the walking trails through the park start and end at the Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, a body of clear water that’s sheltered in a valley and fringed with woodland. “Lau Shui Heung” in Chinese translates as “the sound of running water,” but the reservoir is often referred to locally as Hong Kong’s “Little Guilin” due to its beauty. There are pavilions, a camp site and barbeque and picnic spots for you to while away an afternoon here. For bird watchers, Long Valley is a northerly retreat worth seeking out. It’s the largest piece of agricultural freshwater wetland in Hong Kong and is originally formed of the rice paddies between the Shek Sheung and Sheung Yue Rivers. Primarily a farming area, the protected wetland is also a birdwatchers’ paradise, being home to more than 200 different species of birds, many of which are rare.

Wun Chuen Vegetarian Centre

To sample some locally farmed food, make a stop at the Wun Chuen Vegetarian Centre. It’s located at the entrance to the Taoist Wun Chuen Sin Koon temple, a 70-year-old establishment that’s surrounded by beautiful gardens, lotus ponds and bridges. The restaurant offers healthy and delicious dishes that are mocked up to resemble their meaty counterparts: think king trumpet mushrooms as abalone or the snail-like konjac. For a little bit of heritage with your dinner, pull up a pew at Kwan Kee Beef Balls & Pork Knuckles—a Guangdong establishment that’s one of Fanling’s oldest and most popular food joints. A vintage Hong Kong interior (green-and-white-checked floor, wooden furniture) complements a very basic menu: pork knuckle, beef balls and fried spring rolls. The offerings may be simple, but they’re famous and the restaurant often sells out before dinnertime, so line up for this one early!

Hong Kong’s most northerly district boasts a life of simplicity that is to be envied, with family-style living that makes the most of the city’s most precious resource: its land.

A picturesque area described as ‘the land between’, the New Territories offers a vibrant blend of the old and new. Take the tour here The Land Between Tour.

Alternatively, for a tour of the New Territories ancient villages, temples and pristine countryside, offering a glimpse of early, rural Hong Kong, check out the New Territories Cultural Tour.

 

Do-it-Yourself

Morning
  • Tsung Pak Long
    Explore a village
    Tsung Pak Long
    Tsung Pak Long is a Hakka walled village that was established in the 19th century by five different clans, who each built themselves an ancestral hall. Inside, Bok Man School was actually the first registered school in the New Territories, being built by the villagers in 1920. It finally closed down in 2000 and is now a Grade III historic building. The village of Ma Shi Po in Fanling is a prime example of urban encroachment onto farmland.
    Address:
    Tsung Pak Long, Castle Peak Road, Sheung Shui, New Territories
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Shui Station, Exit A4. Follow the signs to the minibus terminus and take bus 50A to Tsung Pak Long stop. It’s about a 20-minute journey.
  • Long Valley
    Do some birdwatching
    Long Valley
    Long Valley is the largest piece of agricultural freshwater wetland in Hong Kong, originally formed of the rice paddies, farmland and lotus ponds between the Shek Sheung and Sheung Yue Rivers. Primarily a farming area, the protected wetland is also a birdwatchers’ paradise, being home to more than 200 different species of birds, many of which are rare.
    Address:
    Yin Kong Tsuen, Sheung Shui, New Territories
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Shui Station, Exit A4. Follow the signs to the minibus terminus and take minibus 50K to Yin Kong Tsuen stop. Continue along the village road to Long Valley. It is a 25-minute walk a 35-minute journey in total.
  • Fanling Wai
    Walk into a wai
    Fanling Wai
    Fanling Wai, one of the area’s best preserved walled villages. It was thought to have been built by the Pang clan between the 12th and 13th centuries, with much of this heritage intact today: inside you’ll see fine examples of Ming and Tsing dynasty architecture through its temples, ancestral halls, school, watchtowers and cannons. Also of note is the fishpond outside the entrance to the wai—which makes for good photos.
    Address:
    San Wan Road, Fanling, New Territories
    How to Get There:
    MTR Fanling Station, Exit C. Continue along San Wan Road to Fanling Wai, which is opposite to North District Park. It’s about a 10-minute journey.
Afternoon
  • Kwan Kee Beef Balls & Pork Knuckles
    Queue for beef balls
    Kwan Kee Beef Balls & Pork Knuckles
    For a little bit of heritage with your dinner, pull up a pew at Kwan Kee Beef Balls & Pork Knuckles—a Guangdong establishment that’s one of Fanling’s oldest and most popular food joints. A vintage Hong Kong interior (green-and-white-checked floor, wooden furniture) complements a very basic menu: pork knuckle, beef balls and fried spring rolls. The offerings may be simple, but they’re famous and the restaurant often sells out before dinnertime, so line up for this one early!
    Address:
    5 Luen Cheong Street, Luen Wo Hui, Fanling, New Territories
    Tel:
    +852 2675 6382
    How to Get There:
    MTR Fanling Station, Exit A2. Take minibus 56A or 52A from San Wan Road to Wo Mun Street terminus. Walk back to Luen On Street and to Luen Shing Street, turn left to Woo Fung Street and take the footpath through to Luen Cheong Street. Turn left. It’s about a 20-minute journey.
  • Mapopo Community Farm
    Farm for veg
    Mapopo Community Farm
    The Mapopo Community Farm is a grassroots organization that promotes sustainable living in Ma Shi Po village. It’s open twice a month selling the farmers’ agriculture products. It also offers tours of the farm village or workshops that teach you how to make yoghurt bread or soap. To book a half-day tour visit mapopo.wordpress.com/groupbooking.
    Address:
    Ma Sik Road, Fanling, New Territories
    Tel:
    +852 6121 8961
    How to Get There:
    MTR Fanling Station, Exit A2. Take minibus 56A or 52A from San Wan Road to Wo Mun Street terminus. Continue along Wo Mun Street and turn right on Wo Tai Street. Cross Ma Sik Road. It’s about a 30-minute journey.
Others
  • Wun Chuen Vegetarian Centre
    Taste Taoist veg
    Wun Chuen Vegetarian Centre
    To sample some locally farmed food, make a stop at the Wun Chuen Vegetarian Centre. It’s located at the entrance to the Taoist Wun Chuen Sin Koon temple, a 70-year-old establishment that’s surrounded by beautiful gardens, lotus ponds and bridges. The restaurant offers healthy and delicious dishes that are mocked up to resemble their meaty counterparts: think king trumpet mushrooms as abalone or the snail-like konjac.
    Address:
    Lot. 1561, Ping Che Road, Fanling, New Territories
    Tel:
    +852 2674 2194
    How to Get There:
    MTR Fanling Station, Exit A2. Take minibus 52K and alight at Ping Yuen Road. It takes around 30 minutes.
  • Lau Shui Heung Reservoir
    Get into the country
    Lau Shui Heung Reservoir
    The eight majestic peaks of Pat Sing Leng Country Park, known as the “eight fairies” dominate the territory’s skyline and are surrounded by emerald lakes. Many of the walking trails take you past Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, a body of clear water that’s sheltered in a valley and fringed with woodland. “Lau Shui Heung” in Chinese translates as “the sound of running water,” but the reservoir is often referred to locally as Hong Kong’s “Little Guilin” due to its beauty.
    Address:
    Lau Shui Heung Country Trail, Pat Sin Leng Country Park, Fanling, New Territories
    Tel:
    +852 2669 0737
    How to Get There:
    MTR Fanling Station, Exit A2. Take minibus 52B from Fanling MTR Station to and alight at Lau Shui Heung Reservoir. It’s about a 40-minute journey.

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This guide was produced by HK Magazine Media Group from 2014-2015.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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