What to Do in the New Territories: Yuen Long
Home to indigenous walled villages and countless nature reserves, Yuen Long sits cozily between the Mai Po marshes and the Hong Kong Wetland Park. It’s a regular stomping ground for eco warriors jonesing for a taste of handpicked organic produce, families after a great day out, and shutterbugs looking for sun-washed wildlife.
This August, Yuen Long plays host to OpenSesame!, a two-day music festival boasting a lineup of over 30 of Hong Kong’s best indie acts. Best part? You can set up camp and stay the night. Organizers stumbled on the space and begged villagers to let them host the shindig which will offer games, F&B and lots of greenery.
Aug 15, noon-11pm; Aug 16, 11am-10pm. 1 Chu Ma Leng, Pat Heung, Kam Tin Road, Yuen Long. $280-380; $150 extra for camping, from www.ticketflap.com.
There’s food ripe for the picking at the Tai Tong Ecopark, where about $120 buys you a full day of plucking strawberries, lychees and a variety of vegetables. You can plop down for a picnic on site, or pay by weight to take the produce home. December-April is organic strawberry season, while lychee season lasts from mid-June to mid-July. Other organic veggies are available all year round.
11 Tai Tong Shan Rd., Yuen Long, 2470-2201, ttlv.hk.
Say neigh to Tai Tong Ecopark
If your organic snacking needs a touch of cuteness, head to the Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm. The grounds are completely themed around the cartoon cat—and even feature a BBQ area and Hello Kitty gift shop—but the emphasis is on organic low-carbon farming. The 50,000-square-foot farm provides farming workshops, educational programs and ample homegrown produce to take home.
Sze Pai Shek Village, Kam Tin, Yuen Long, 5579-2178, www.gogreenlife.com.hk.
The Final Noodle
Translating to “Best Until the End,” Ho To Tai Noodle Shop is a Yuen Long noodle stalwart. It’s been open since 1949—and the old-timey décor hasn’t changed one bit. Treat yourself to a bowl of signature wonton noodles, or take home a box of the prized dried noodles.
67 Fau Tsoi St., Yuen Long, 2476-2495.
If you’re partial to long sunset walks, you’ll want to soak up the picturesque mangroves of northwestern Hong Kong at the coastal wetlands of Ha Pak Nai. Northeast, there’s an easy biking trail towards the salt marshes of Nam Sang Wai, which leads you to prime bird-watching territory all along the Kam Tin River. In the cooler months (Nov-Apr), take a biking tour with Mountain Biking Asia (from $500) around Nam Sang Wai to an old walled village and back to Yuen Long proper for a dim sum lunch.
Yuen Long isn’t all hikes and bikes: Its town center has recently become home to a top-grade omakase joint. Sushi Man is operated by Chef Cupid Leung, who’ll make you fall in love with marbly hunks of toro and expertly grilled eel. The resto offers four types of omakase menu from $600-1,300 per head.
G/F, 5 Yan Lok Square, Yuen Long, 2285-9477.
Chef Cupid, sushi-lover
Glamp It Up
A daytime trek in Yuen Long too much to handle? Go for a glamping staycation instead. Visit the family-friendly Mingle Farm camping ground, which has caravans and tents for rental. But the highlight are the bubble igloo tents that offer a little slice of sci-fi. Choose between varying degrees of transparent dwelling: from fully see-through to partially concealed rooms. From $1,200 for bubble tents.
30 Fung Ka Wai, Tin Chi Rd., Yuen Long, 2891-8263, www.minglefarm.com.
Mingle Farm’s bubble igloos: an exhibitionist’s dream
Walled villages, aka wai tsuen, started out as Hakka and Punti clan settlements from as early as the Song dynasty (1127-1279). Villages built walls around their homes for protection and to maintain territorial boundaries. Some of the earliest walled villages that still exist include Kat Hing Wai (Kam Tin, Yuen Long), one of the largest and best preserved of the Tang villages, with some 17th century Qing Dynasty structures still standing.
Keeping Up with the Clans
You’ll notice that everyone from the same walled village has the same last name. The Tang clan were some of the first Chinese settlers to the area of Kam Tin in Yuen Long in the early 14th century, and many of the walled villages you can see today are still inhabited by their descendants.
Hall and Moats
The ancestral hall is the core of any walled village. It’s not just about worshipping your forebears: It also acts as a study hall, village conference room and a venue for social gatherings. The more affluent the village, the more elaborate the hall. Liu Man Shek Tong Ancestral Hall up in Sheung Shui Wai is one of the best examples. Built by the rich Liu clan in 1751, it boasts detailed wood carvings and auspicious murals.
Walled Village Traditions
Many modern-day descendants still return to their villages during traditional festivities. Walled villages have their own traditions, such as the Lantern-Lighting Festival which celebrates newborn boys on the 15th of the first lunar month.