Tap Mun – island hopping in the New Territories

One of the things that I miss here in Hong Kong is large expanses of grass to sit on. The parks here are lovely, but they are all landscaped with plants and benches and paths. But last year, Tom and I took a trip out to Grass Island (also known as Tap Mun in Cantonese) in the New Territories where, as the name suggests, we found some grass!

Tap Mun Hong Kong

Tap Mun lies just north of the Sai Kung country park. To get to it, we took a ferry from Ma Liu Shui which goes past Plover Cove and through the Tolo Channel to get to the island. It’s a really beautiful boat trip.

Firstly, the practicalities. To get to the Ma Liu Shui ferry pier, leave University MTR station by Exit B and head along Chak Cheung Street, following the path over the main road and through a subway until you come out by the cycle track by the waterfront. Turn left and walk along by the cycle track until you reach the ferry pier. The ferry leaves at 8.30am, 12.30pm and 3pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays (the 12.30pm ferry does not go on weekdays) so we took the 12.30pm ferry. All the ferry times I mention in this post are available on the Android HKFerry HD app (on the Kaito page in the app), which I talked about here. We arrived quite early for the ferry (you really don’t want to miss it!) and the ferry pier got pretty busy by the time the ferry arrived.

The ferry itself is nothing to write home about. The top deck is open on all sides although they had tarpaulins down on most of the sides when we were on it – so pick your spot whether you want to be able to the see the view or be a little protected from the wind!

Ferry from Ma Liu Shui to Tap Mun

We started off sitting in the middle of the boat but went out to the front to see the view, which was lovely – even on a hazy day like ours.

Tolo Harbour Hong Kong

Sai Kung Country Park Hong Kong

The ferry stops at Sham Chung and Lai Chi Chong before reaching Tap Mun and takes about 75 minutes in total.

Upon arrival, we turned left out of the ferry pier and followed the path up. Firstly we passed a nice temple and then we just kept going and after a very short walk (I can’t remember but something like 10-15 minutes) we came out onto a viewpoint with the grass! Maybe the quality of the grass isn’t what you get in the UK, but to be fair it was spring when we went so the earth was a bit dry (summer is the wet season here).

As you can see there were plenty of people around but it never felt too busy, there was space for everyone.

Grass Island Hong Kong

If you wanted to explore the island thoroughly, you could start by turning left here and going up the hill (but I don’t think there’s much grass on that side).

Camping on Tap Mun

We didn’t do that, so after consuming our picnic lunch we turned right and followed the path along the coastline.

As you came to the south side of the island you could see the north side of the Sai Kung Country Park across the water. This village is Ko Lau Wan Tsui.

Ko Lau Wan Tsui Hong Kong

There is a famous(?) rock formation here as well called Balanced Rock, which is on the left side of this photo.

Balanced rock Tap Mun

Keep following the path round the coast and you end up back at the main village with the ferry pier. I don’t remember the walk being particularly long, maybe an hour in total. We took a few snaps while we waited for the next ferry.

Fishing boats at Tap Mun

View from Tap Mun

View from Grass Island

We then took the 4.20pm Wong Shek ferry from Tap Mun and got off at Chek Keng (there are quite a few ferries to Wong Shek from Tap Mun, but only the 10.00am, 2.00pm and 4.20pm ferries stop at Chek Keng). We went there before (see this post) and really liked it, it’s very peaceful and serene. This time there were people picking things out of the water. If this was the UK I would guess that they were cockle pickers or winkle pickers, but I don’t know if you get those in Hong Kong!

Seafood pickers at Chek Keng

Chek Keng Hong Kong

Unfortunately, we didn’t have long in Chek Keng because the last ferry left at 5.20pm for Wong Shek (ferries go every hour from 10.20am to 5.20pm) so we had to head back to the ferry pier. At Wong Shek we took the bus back to Sai Kung and had dinner there.

N.B. On Sundays the 698R bus goes all the way from Wong Shek to Siu Sai Wan, via North Point. A very easy way to get home if you live in or are staying on Hong Kong Island!

Alternatively, if you want to go back to Ma Liu Shui instead of going to Chek Keng or Wong Shek, you can take the same ferry back as the one you took out. It leaves Tap Mun at 11.10am, 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays (or 11am and 5.30pm on weekdays).

This was a really lovely way to see some of the further reaches of Hong Kong without hiking for miles and miles. I was pregnant at the time and didn’t want to do too much so it was great for me to be able to get out this far. I’d really recommend it if you are looking for something a bit different to do in Hong Kong!

Thanks for reading!


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Maclehose trail stage 2: hills, beaches and lots of rain!

One weekend in December last year, Tom and I decided to venture out to do some hiking in the Sai Kung area, an area which we had never been to before. It’s a small(ish) town on the Eastern side of the New Territories, but is known as a great area for watersports, seafood and hiking. Many people live there and commute into Hong Kong as prices are cheaper out there and you can maybe get a whole house (unheard of!).

We decided to walk Stage 2 of the Maclehose Trail, a trail which winds its way from East to West across the New Territories (the New Territories is the name for the area of Hong Kong SAR on the mainland outside of the built up area directly opposite Hong Kong Island). Stage 2 sounded like it would be one of the more interesting stages of the trail to walk, so we plumped for that and set off to Sai Kung.

Sai Kung isn’t the easiest place to get to, although it’s not as bad as we initially thought. The best ways are to go to Diamond Hill MTR and take the 92 bus, or go to Hang Hau MTR and take the 101 minibus. It still takes over an hour to get there from Hong Kong Island though!

Unfortunately, once you’ve made your way to Sai Kung, you’re still nowhere near the start of the trail! The most straightforward way to get there is to take the 29R minibus, which starts from outside MacDonalds on Chan Man Street (timetable). We caught the 11.30am bus on a Saturday, although it didn’t actually leave till close to midday! The minibus takes you to Sai Wan Pavillion. From there, take the path down until you join the trail (which is well signposted). You get some lovely views of High Island reservoir on your way down.

High Island reservoir

When you reach the trail, turn left and keep following it! (I realise now that Stage 2 of the trail actually started a little way south of where we joined the trail but there seems little point walking back to the start just to retrace your steps again) First of all you go down to the two beaches at Sai Wan Village and then up over a headland. If the tide is out you can walk up the side of the headland, but if not then you have to use the bridge at the back of the beach. By this point in our walk it had started raining.

Sai Wan beaches

As you go over the top of the headland, you are greeted with the sight of two beaches in front of you. These are Ham Tim Wan (the closest) and Tai Long Wan (further away). Luckily the rain stopped for long enough to take a photograph!

Ham Tin Wan and Tai Long Wan

The path descends to Ham Tin Wan and goes inland but we walked across the beach and over this plank bridge to the restaurants where you can stop for some refreshments.

Plank bridge at Ham Tin

We walked straight through the restaurants and through Ham Tin village behind. At the back of Ham Tin village, before the path takes you through fields, there is a turning on the right. Follow this path round the back of the headland to reach Tai Long Wan. This beach is supposed to be the most pristine and idyllic in Hong Kong but unfortunately it was still raining and so it just looked a bit grey and wet to us!

Tai Long Wan

Tai Long Wan 2

Retrace your steps back to the path through Ham Tin village and continue through the fields and into the jungle. The path (which is very well concreted and has a lot of steps) then takes you over a very large hill and was quite hard work in the rain! You couldn’t see a lot either due to the density of trees, which was a bit disappointing.

Luckily, you are rewarded with a descent after the hard work of the climb, and this descent finishes at the deserted village of Chek Keng where the path takes you along the edge of the harbour. This is a very idyllic place, and happily for us it had stopped raining so we paused here for a while. It’s very quiet and the water was so still!

Chek Keng 1

Chek Keng 2Chek Keng 3

If you don’t want to carry on you may be able to flag down a small boat here to take you to Wong Shek, or if you head east around the harbour you get to the ferry pier where you can catch a ferry there instead (check ferry timetables first, as they’re not very frequent!).

However, after a little while it started raining again so we carried on, to finish the last part of the trail. Unfortunately, this was uphill again as the path climbs to meet the road between Wong Shek and Sai Kung. This was not fun, we were both pretty tired by this point and the rain was relentless! But we made it, and waited at the bus stop there to catch a 94 bus back to Sai Kung. We had walked about 12km, which I think was the longest I’d ever walked in a day! We caught the 101 minibus straight home as we were soaked, but a much nicer way to finish the day would be dinner at one of Sai Kung’s many restaurants.

If you fancy a long hike in a more remote part of Hong Kong, then I’d recommend this walk highly. It was pretty interesting. But check the weather forecast first – it’s not much fun in the rain!

Thanks for reading!