via Lo Fu Tau, A Po Long and Pak Mong
Once you summit Discovery Bay’s Lo Fu Tau (“Tiger’s Head”), the hike to Tung Chung via Pak Mong village is pretty easy, as it’s all downhill from then on – and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but quite literally, lol. The descent is gentle, and from A Po Long intersection onwards, fully paved (unfortunately). At over 10km and easily 3-4 hours, however, the hike is a long one, and that’s not counting the somewhat challenging ascent to Lo Fu Tau (add another couple of kilometres and up to an hour for that!).
It’s thus an excellent hike for your step count and stamina, but don’t set out too late in the day, as you will need around 4-5 hours, depending on how many rest stops, photos and mini detours you take. There are certainly great views to snap and enjoy along the way, as well as some interesting sights to check out, which all add up. Of particular note are several large family gravesites, Pak Mong village et al., and a neat but slightly spooky derelict schoolhouse for fans of abandoned buildings, amongst other things.
Specifically, you can expect great panoramic views from Lo Fu Tau peak (on a clear day, that is), and not too long after starting your descent via Lo Fu Tau Country Trail, keep your eyes peeled for three rock formations of potential interest: a ‘sitting duck’ stone up on your left (it looks a lot more like a duck as you walk around and behind it!), a ‘sword-testing’ stone on your immediate right (vertically split boulder, opposite the duck), and a giant ‘peach’ stone planted firmly in the middle of the path (a little further down the trail). All three are grouped fairly close together.
At certain sections of the trail on the way to A Po Long intersection, good views will open up of the boundary crossing facilities and airport at Chek Lap Kok, plus you can even see the highrise residential buildings that mark the beginning of Tung Chung. These will come into view on your right, while on the left you will again spot DB reservoir, the island of Peng Chau, and pass around the furthest most point of the DB golf course, from where you can see all the way out to Mui Wo, visibility permitting.
A Po Long to Pak Mong
At A Po Long intersection, take a rest stop in the pavilion, then head right on the Hong Kong Olympic Trail to Pak Mong. From this point on, the trail is fully paved with partial shade. Look out for little offshoots on either side of the trail. Nearly all connect to family gravesites just off the path. You can check out these gravesites, some of which are fairly large by local standards (public cemeteries aside), but just remember to be respectful. Recent offerings can usually be seen, so they are obviously still cared for by descendants from the nearby villages.
What is interesting about these family plots is how they differ to western ones. Instead of headstones and below-the-ground coffins, the bones of the deceased are laid to rest above ground in large brown glazed earthenware urns, often with paper blessings attached to the covers. These are typically arranged in tiered concrete alcoves facing out to sea, with the family surname displayed at the top of the site. There is usually also a small shrine and at least one brick pit for burning offerings (the cause of many a past hillside fire…).
Hillsides are lucky, as is facing the sea, so it is not uncommon to find such sea-facing hillside gravesites in Hong Kong, although most of the ones I have seen on other hikes and walks are typically smaller – sometimes just the glazed earthenware urns discreetly placed amongst the trees. Horseshoe-shaped concrete graves are also common, and there are some like that on this trail as well. So, whilst the hills may be alive with music in other places, in Hong Kong they are very much ‘alive’ with the dead. 😮 You have been warned! Lol
After passing offshoots to a pagoda rest stop and three of these ‘large’ gravesites (two on your left, then one on your right, the latter being my favourite and the largest of them all – see the main photo at top for a partial view), you will arrive at an intersection for the first village: Tai Ho San Tsuen, often referred to as just Tai Ho, which is home to several quaint little buildings, some of them old. To check out Tai Ho, turn left at the intersection and proceed up the hill, otherwise note the protest banners at the intersection (the villages in the area are at odds with the government over land use) and turn right to continue on towards Pak Mong.
Within minutes of leaving Tai Ho, you will pass through what I believe is Tin Liu (note the old abandoned village houses by the path, plus more protest banners), before coming to Ngau Kwu Long, which lies behind a private gate with warnings not to trespass, so you can’t really check it out. There is a decent public restroom just outside Ngau Kwu Long, however, so if you need to go, now’s the time, as the one at Pak Mong isn’t very nice – at least not the time I used it!
Check out the old disused rubbish incinerator (looks like a brick chimney stack) and shrine behind the public restroom at Ngau Kwu Long, then follow the road on the left, where there are a lot more protest banners still, sometimes even on the farmed land below. Keep an eye out for the occasional vehicle as well as the derelict schoolhouse, which is a standalone building set back from the road on the right, partially obscured by some tall conifers and other trees.
People who love abandoned buildings will probably get a kick out of the schoolhouse, even though it’s small (only two rooms), as it’s very much abandoned and completely derelict, as noted. Overgrown grounds, creepers, broken windows, an oddly peeling blackboard, and piled up wooden desks in the second room characterise Pak Mong School, which used to serve Pak Mong to Tai Ho until it closed down in 1985 due to insufficient students caused by families moving away to urban areas. A fascinating but sad reflection of village life in modern times.
Almost immediately after the schoolhouse is Pak Mong village. Note the old entrance, which features two colourful door gods (if the doors are open, as is likely the case, you will need to step inside to view these). At the other entrance a little further along the wall, there is a small guard tower and another ‘sword-testing’ stone. The guard tower was built in 1939 to help the village resist bandits, pirates and later the Japanese, before being used as a school. I have only ever poked around the two entrances and never wandered through the village, as I’m not sure if that would be welcome, but you can see some old Chinese buildings inside.
For a bit of background about Pak Mong and the three other villages, check out the link at the very end. Apparently all of these villages (as they largely exist today) were founded by Hakka families who came to the area from various parts of China in the late 18th century. The village names are also interesting. For example, Pak Mong means “white ears” (possibly for the native white-eared grass prevalent in the vicinity at the time) or alternatively “look north” (as homage to the founding members’ northern origins), while Ngau Kwu Long and Tai Ho mean “cattle pasture valley” and “big oyster”, respectively.
As you leave Pak Mong, you will pass another disused brick rubbish incinerator from the 1950s/60s on your left (larger than the other one, with an info board), then Tai Ho Wan on your right (the bay into which Tai Ho Stream/River flows). Note the amazing engineering feat – but hideous eyesore – that is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), which is still under construction across the bay.
Upon approaching the North Lantau Highway, just before the covered rest stop on the left, are two sets of stairs that merge and go up to more gravesites and apparently a trail back to Tung Chung, which I have yet to properly try out. Next time! Straight ahead you will see an underpass for pedestrians and cyclists. Take this to pop out on the other side, then follow the waterfront promenade to the highrise residential buildings of Tung Chung. This final stretch to Citygate Outlets and the MTR station admittedly takes a lot longer than it looks, but that’s it – you’re done!
- From Lo Fu Tau peak, follow the signposted dirt path of Lo Fu Tau Country Trail, which will take you down and around the furthest most point of the DB golf course (with views out to Mui Wo) to the A Po Long intersection and pavilion rest stop (60 minutes). Not long after starting your descent, keep an eye out for the ‘sitting duck’ stone on your left, the ‘sword-testing’ stone on your right (opposite), and the giant ‘peach’ stone a little further down.
- At the A Po Long intersection/pavilion, head right on the paved Hong Kong Olympic Trail to Pak Mong (about one hour). Note the various side paths along the way. Nearly all connect to family gravesites just off the main trail, which you can visit. Remember to be respectful.
- At the Tai Ho village intersection (30 minutes), turn right to continue on to Pak Mong, or turn left to check out Tai Ho first.
- After leaving the intersection and passing through what I believe is Tin Liu village, you will come to the gated village community of Ngau Kwu Long (10 minutes). Follow the road to the left of the public restroom. Keep your eyes peeled for the derelict schoolhouse (15 minutes), which is a standalone building on the right, set back amongst the trees.
- At Pak Mong village (<5 minutes), check out the door gods at the first entrance (step inside to view these if the doors are open, as is likely the case), plus the small guard tower and ‘sword-testing’ stone at the other entrance, then pass the disused brick rubbish incinerator on the left before emerging by the bay of Tai Ho Wan on your right (<10 minutes).
- Continue past the bay and cross the North Lantau Highway via the pedestrian/cyclist underpass, so that you’re on the Tung Chung waterfront promenade (<10 minutes).
Alternatively, if you skip the underpass and turn left, you can access the highway and walk right towards the DB tunnel, where you can catch any DB-bound bus at the stop to the left of the toll booth. Obviously, this will take you to DB, not Tung Chung! I forgot to time this segment, but it feels similar to going to Tung Chung, so it really depends on which destination you prefer and whether you’re okay with walking along a highway and/or through prohibited construction zones, lol. At least the highway isn’t too busy and there are sections where you can walk on the grass at right, but I digress, so back to the original route!
- Turn left on the Tung Chung waterfront promenade, which also runs alongside the MTR and Airport Express lines, and keep walking until you arrive at the Sinopec gas station and The Visionary residential complex (25 minutes). Take the very narrow dirt path to the left of the gas station to emerge by the road. Bit easy to miss the path, but it’s there and never blocked (unlike the main paved path that runs behind and to the right of the gas station, and which is sometimes fenced off).
- Take either Man Tung Road or Ying Hei Road past the never-ending Caribbean Coast residential complex (it’s huge!) until Citygate Outlets and Tung Chung MTR station (15 minutes). If on Ying Hei Road, it will change to Tung Chung Waterfront Road; simply continue, then turn left down Wai Tung Road to Citygate (follow the MTR sign).
Start Point: Lo Fu Tau peak, Discovery Bay
End Point: Citygate Outlets/MTR station, Tung Chung
Via: A Po Long intersection, Tai Ho, Tin Liu, Ngau Kwu Long, Pak Mong, Tung Chung waterfront promenade, Caribbean Coast residential complex
Distance, Duration & Difficulty: Around 10km in about 3 hours at a moderate pace, even longer if you stop for lots of rest stops, photos and/or exploration; gentle descent the whole way, not difficult, but long; getting up to Lo Fu Tau is another matter, however (fairly steep, may be difficult for some, peak stands at 465m, so factor in another couple of kilometres and up to an hour for this alone, depending on where you start your ascent; see here for one option, albeit not the shortest, quickest or easiest route!)
Trail Surface: All dirt from Lo Fu Tau to A Po Long, with some roughly carved stone steps in parts; entirely paved from A Po Long to Pak Mong and Tung Chung
Environment: From Lo Fu Tau to A Po Long, typical grassy hillside, cut back from the trail, no undergrowth or trees, so also no shade; from A Po Long onwards, some shade is provided by the trees and jungly undergrowth next to the trail; one Red-necked Keelback (venomous) and a dead baby Greater Green Snake (non-venomous) sighted just before A Po Long as of the last update!
Challenges: Besides the ascent to Lo Fu Tau, none, except possibly the distance
Don’t Miss: Great views at Lo Fu Tau peak, ‘sitting duck’ stone, ‘sword-testing’ stone, giant ‘peach’ stone, several family gravesites along the way, Tai Ho, Tin Liu, Ngau Kwu Long, derelict schoolhouse, Pak Mong (door gods entrance, small guard tower, ‘sword-testing’ stone), disused brick rubbish incinerator, Citygate Outlets (for rest – and discount shopping, if you still have the energy!)
For further info, see also:
- The Accidental Hiker: Lo Fu Tau, Discovery Bay
- Chinese Burial Customs in Hong Kong (see pp. 120-121 for rural burial customs)
- HK Outdoors: History of Pak Mong on Lantau
- Wikipedia: Tung Chung
- Citygate Outlets