Guides by Lonely Planet
Lai Chi Wo
This 400-year-old village inside Plover Cove Country Park is arguably Hong Kong's best-preserved Hakka walled village and has an intact feng shui woodland. Featuring 200 houses, three ancestral halls, two temples, and a breezy square fringed by banyans and opening onto recently revived rice paddies, Lai Chi Wo is not only a sight to behold, but also one of Hong Kong's most biologically diverse freshwater wetlands.
Along a stream leading to the village is the looking-glass mangrove with buttress roots forming a lace-like pattern. Also here is the white-flower Derris, a climbing vine with long, supple branches like elongated arms that form a natural swing. The Derris plant is poisonous and can be used as a fish stunner or insecticide, but only the root is harmful and only when crushed – there are butterflies and dragonflies aplenty here, hovering over scuttling mangrove crabs.
A 5- to 7-hectare crescent-shaped wood embraces the village from behind – this is ideal for the feng shui of a Hakka village. Not only does having the backing of wood bring good luck, it fosters a good life. Thickly grown trees and shrubs serve as a natural barrier against enemies and the elements, and are a source of food, fuel and construction materials. Lai Chi Wo was once the most affluent Hakka walled village in the northeastern New Territories.
Though almost completely abandoned in the 1960s, Lai Chi Wo has been undergoing a revival thanks to the efforts of villagers, academics and conservationists. The growing of rice and vegetables has resumed on a cautious scale, pig and cow sheds have been restored, and shuttered village houses now function as education and research facilities.
The village runs 90-minute guided tours every Sunday and public holiday – the ecological tour at 11am, and the cultural tour at 11am and 1.30pm. There's also a fabulous Hakka sticky-rice dumpling making workshop from 1.30pm to 3pm. Register at the village square or inform them before you go to ensure a place.
Bespoke tours can be arranged on weekdays, but make contact at least two weeks in advance. Currently the 9am Sunday ferry from the Ma Liu Shui Pier is the only direct public transport to the village, but sailings are expected to increase in the near future. The return sailing is at 3.30pm. Lai Chi Wo is only a 10-minute boat ride from the frontier town of Sha Tau Kok, but you'll need the Lai Chi Wo volunteers to get you a permit as the pier is in a closed area.
Most Hong Kong Global Geopark Sedimentary Rock tours make a stop at Lai Chi Wo, or just hike there from Wu Kau Tang or Luk Keng, and lunch at Yau Kee.
All tour, workshop and sailing times given were valid at the time of research, but may be subject to change in the coming months.