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!

Rachel

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Useful Android apps for visiting or living in Hong Kong

Today I thought I’d share with you the apps that I have found most useful since living in Hong Kong. I have an Android phone so these are all Android apps, but most of them are available on Apple. I’ve provided links to download the apps from Google Play. These apps are mostly local to Hong Kong, and mostly free (with one exception). I’d recommend them to anyone who lives in Hong Kong or comes to visit!

I’ll start with the travel apps.

Google Maps

Google Maps

This is a bit of an obvious one, but I find Google Maps so useful! Not only is it great for figuring out where things are, but a recent upgrade included a journey planner which covers a great range of Hong Kong public transport information, including green minibuses! (I don’t think it has the red minibuses in but I’ve not checked). I use it all the time for finding the best way to get from A to B. However, be careful as occasionally it shows the closest bus stop as the crow flies and doesn’t take into account some of the sharp cliffs in Hong Kong – one of the first times I used it, it wanted me to scale a small mountain on foot!

CitybusNWFB

CitybusNWFB app

Not a very sophisticated app but very useful for finding out where buses go and where bus stops are. You can search by location or route number. If you have GPS it can tell you when you are approaching the bus stop you want to get off at. Some bus routes have live bus information on the app, telling you when the next bus will arrive at your stop (but I think this is currently limited to Express and Airport buses). This app covers Citybus and First buses (mainly Hong Kong island).

KMB & LW

KMB bus app

Very similar to the Citybus app but covers the KMB buses, which mainly go on the Kowloon side.

MTR Mobile

MTR Mobile app

I don’t use this app very often but if you’re not familiar with the Hong Kong MTR system this simple-to-use app would be useful for finding your way around. You can use it to find the best route between MTR stations and it will tell you the cost and roughly how long it will take. It also provides alerts when there is a major problem on the MTR system (although this is pretty rare).

HKFerry HD

Hong Kong Ferry app

This is quite a basic app but it does all it needs to, which is to give you the timetables for pretty much all the ferries in Hong Kong. It’ll also tell you when the next one is leaving so you can see if you’re going to make it in time!

Taxi Translator (Paid app)

Hong Kong Taxi Translator app

This is the only non-free app on my list, but in my opinion it’s totally worth the money (which is only HK$7.70, approx. £0.60). It has a Cantonese translation of every street, large residential estate, major buildings and landmarks in Hong Kong, which is so useful when you come across a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English! It will give you both the address in characters and a phonetic version (if you’re brave enough to try and pronounce it – although when I’ve tried it seems to work well). It will also give you a ‘taxi card’ which has the address in large characters, filling the screen, so you can just show your phone to the taxi driver!

Ok, onto the non-travel apps…

MyObservatory

HK Observatory app

This app from the Hong Kong Observatory is pretty much a staple. It’ll tell you weather predictions and much more, including a rain radar (so you can see if rain is coming) and storm track (so you can see if a typhoon is heading your way). One of its most useful features is that it tells you all the warnings issued by the Hong Kong Observatory so you can easily find out if a T8 signal has been hoisted and you get to stay home from work! Being Brits, we’re quite amused by the cold weather warning which pops up when the temperature is expected to go below 14degC – no unnecessary journeys, look after the elderly etc! (if that was the case in the UK, nothing would ever happen!)

Open Rice

Open Rice Hong Kong

This app provides information and reviews of a huge number of Hong Kong restaurants. Very useful for planning a meal out! The only downside is that most of the reviews are in Chinese, but there’s usually one or two in English to give you an idea of what other diners think.

Hong Kong Movie

Hong Kong Movie app

Another straightforward app which tells you what’s on where in Hong Kong cinemas. A nice feature is that most of the cinemas have availability information on the app so you can see what seats are free on a particular showing. You can also book tickets to some of the cinemas through the app as well.

Enjoy Hiking

Enjoy Hiking

This app has information on all the official hiking paths in Hong Kong, divided into Family Walks, Nature Trails, Country Trails and Long Trails. You can also search for walks roughly by region. Whilst it’s a really useful app for finding out what walks are where (and also how to get to and from them), the information on each walk is pretty limited and the accompanying maps can be a little hard to read. Another minor annoyance (although not the app’s fault) is that some of the walks start in quite random places so you have to hike for a while just to get to the start of the walk!

Whatsapp

whatsapp

This isn’t technically a Hong Kong app but I hadn’t come across this app until I came to Hong Kong. Everyone uses it here! It’s basically an internet based messaging system, so as long as you have wifi or mobile data you can send text messages for free. The app allows you to send a message to anyone in your contacts who also has Whatsapp on their phone. It’s really useful here because inter-network texts aren’t free (unlike in the UK) and you often don’t know which of your friends are on the same network as you! Being an expat abroad, it’s also useful for sending free messages to friends back home.

Pleco

Pleco app

This Chinese dictionary app is more useful for people with a basic understanding of Chinese characters (i.e. not me, but my husband finds it really useful). You can type in English, pinyin or draw characters and the app will give you possible meanings. It’s mainly for Mandarin speakers but also has Cantonese pronunciations as well as both simplified and traditional characters, making it useful in Hong Kong or mainland China. It also has a flashcard feature to help you to learn Chinese characters if you wish.

So those are my favourite apps to use in Hong Kong. Do you agree? Do you have any other recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel