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Lest you think Hong Kong is all glinty skyscrapers and luxury malls, theshows an altogether different side to the territory. This trail, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, weaves about 1.6 kilometres through the low-rise residential neighbourhoods of Hang Mei Tsuen, Hang Tau Tsuen and Sheung Cheung Wai and highlights the importance of the district to the city’s history.
It’s a fascinating amble featuring a series of well-preserved ancestral halls, temples and courtyards built by the Tang clan, who were thought to have settled here in the 12th century. Long time Yuen Long resident, Ms Tang, says of the heritage attractions: “I think it helps people look back and understand the old-time village culture, the ancient architecture and traditions of worship in Hong Kong, and creates a sense of nostalgia.”
Most visitors to Ping Shan will arrive by MTR and hop off at MTR Tin Shui Wai Station. You will see the nearby Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, a simple, elegant structure built during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), and the only one of its kind in Hong Kong. From here, wend your way through the village for more historic, grey-brick buildings with distinctive sweeping tiled roofs and ceramic figurines.
You will also meander past Kun Ting and Yan Tun Kong Study Halls, the impressive 700-year-old Tang Ancestral Hall and 500-year-old Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall, temples, courtyards and the village well. In Ping Shan, modern, everyday life flourishes alongside the traditional; boxy apartment blocks are tightly packed in next to historical monuments, while children whizz past their grandparents’ well-tended gardens on bicycles.
Eventually you’ll wind up at the commanding historial white building perched on a hill above the village — this former police headquarters is now the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre. As well as providing a refreshing blast of aircon on a hot day, a small but insightful exhibition outlines the history of the clan (one of the original five in Hong Kong) and Ping Shan’s development. Outside, you can admire terrific panoramas of the surrounding hills, burial grounds, and — when it’s clear — even the gleaming towers of Central in the distance.
By now you’ll be peckish. Thankfully the popularis perfectly positioned for a pit stop. Replenished, it’s a short stroll back to the Tin Shui Wai station. On your way, pause at the (you can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building this side of the station) and gaze up at its serene, striking, modern-meets-feng shui design that reflects the neighbourhood’s heritage. From Tin Shui Wai, it’s two stops to your next destination, Yuen Long.
On the Hong Kong Monopoly board, Yuen Long was once one of the cheapest locations. While this may no longer be true, the area still offers more affordable, spacious housing than most other parts of the city. Unpolished and low-key, the district is defined by its light railway, dai pai dongs, laid-back atmosphere, and more homegrown stores than global retail chains.
Leaving MTR Yuen Long Station, it’s a five-minute shuffle to Yau San Street, a winding road lined with duck and wonton noodle restaurants, ramen stalls and traditional bakeries. Mr Wong, who works at popular Hang Heung Cake Shop, says: “I have lived here all my life, and travel to work by light railway from Tin Shui Wai. For me, the food in this area is delicious — there are many things to try on these two streets (Yau San Street and Yau Tsoi Street).
Follow the road round, past the ‘town square’ and you will come to, much of which is still on the street. If you love the jostle of a Hong Kong market, you’ll enjoy exploring these open-air stalls selling fresh meat, rice and seasonal fruit and vegetables, being scrupulously picked over by elderly ladies.