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Tai Mo Shan Kiosk: a home away from home for Lin Jei and her loyal customers

South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)
  • Written by South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)
Lin Jei in front of her refreshment kiosk

It’s often said that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Kong For-lin, who has run a refreshment kiosk in Tai Mo Shan Country Park for 28 years, is a case in point.

Kong, or Lin Jei (meaning ‘Sister Lin’), as she’s affectionately known by her loyal customers, gets up at 5am to take the bus and arrive at her kiosk by 7am every morning — just in time to get everything ready for the day.

“It’s always cooler up in the country park, and the air is always fresh here,” she says. Her kiosk, with its relaxing outdoor seating area, forms part of the official country park visitor centre’s grey-stone-walled, Chinese-tiled building. “It also seems as if the area’s greenery has grown lusher over the years,” she adds.

The Weather Radar Station at the peak of Tai Mo Shan

A haven on Tai Mo Shan

Kong recalls that there used to be fewer visitors in her first few years of operating the kiosk on Tai Mo Shan. “Not as many people were interested in hiking then,” she says.

This has changed over the years, though, thanks partly to some highly unusual occasions. The cold snap in January 2015, for example, attracted many visitors to see the frost on the mountain’s peak when the temperature fell to a historic low. Many were however stranded in the cold when the road down became too slippery.

“I stayed overnight at my kiosk for a couple of days to help those in need,” Kong says. “A simple smile of appreciation in return was enough to make me happy.”

Lin Jei enjoys the breathtaking panoramas of the city at the Tai Mo Shan Lookout

A star — and a regular

These days, more and more hikers are setting their eyes on Tai Mo Shan — at 957 m, it’s Hong Kong’s tallest peak — and many of them have become friends with Kong.

“My kiosk is always open for my regular customers,” she says. “I provide them with supplies for the hike up, and I always have popular snacks such as siu mai, fish balls and tofu custard [bean curd pudding] ready.”

Among Kong’s regulars is Hong Kong film star Chow Yun-fat, best known internationally for his 2000 martial arts action blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

“I first met him more than a decade ago, when he came here to take photos of the country park’s cherry blossoms,” she shares. “He was always so down-to-earth and friendly; I remember a group of visitors invited him for a hike, and he went for it. I think that was when he became interested in hiking.”

Tai Mo Shan’s sunlit hiking trail

A personal touch

You don’t have to be a celebrity to receive special treatment from Kong, though. Over the years, she’s taken on countless unusual requests from visitors, whether they were hikers or trail runners competing in events like the Oxfam Trailwalker and HK100.

Once, she got a phone call from a group of regular customers who said they were on their way down the mountain and asked if she could prepare some plain congee for them. Another time, a trail runner visited her kiosk and asked if he could have a spoonful of soy sauce to boost his sodium levels after sweating excessively.

“These are simple requests, and I am happy to help,” she says.

Lin Jei refilling shuttlecocks, one of many goods for sale at Tai Mo Shan Refreshment Kiosk

A guardian of nature

Tai Mo Shan is home to a wide variety of wild creatures, and Kong has encountered many of them, such as cows, boars, porcupines and even a giant turtle. “I spotted the turtle by the creek near the barbecue area,” she says. “I thought to myself, what a majestic creature!”

It is this love for the nature here that prompts her to take a step further than being just a welcoming host, but also an educator to inspire people to protect the unspoilt environment.

She always encourages visitors to bring reusable drinking bottles and never leave any trash behind. “Keep the rubbish with you until you are back here, and then I will show you how to sort it into different bins for recycling,” she says.

Lin Jei provides ‘Bring Your Own Bottle’ (BYOB) water refill service

Kong has no plans to retire as her dedication to running the kiosk is a big part of her life; and some of her regular customers have even become her ‘assistants’, who would stand in for her when she has to take a break or run errands.

“The people that I meet from running the kiosk have kept me going. I feel truly blessed with what I have,” she says.

Lin Jei hiking on Tai Mo Shan

Kong’s pick of must-visit spots in Tai Mo Shan Country Park

  1. About half an hour up the hill from the kiosk, you will come to a guard station and barrier gate that only authorised vehicles are allowed to pass. Not far from here you may see a herd of cows grazing and relaxing.
  2. If you start your hike at dawn, you may see families of porcupines near the bushes beside the parking area.
  3. When standing beside the sphere-shaped Weather Radar Station, you can look out towards the stunning giant white statue of the Goddess of Mercy at Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po, and the three chimneys of Lamma Power Station.
  4. The hilltop lookout offers a clear view of the spectacular Tsing Ma Bridge — joining the islands of Tsing Yi and Ma Wan in the New Territories — which was the world’s second longest suspension bridge at the time of completion.

Information in this article is subject to change without advance notice. Please contact the relevant product or service providers for enquiries.

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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