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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Places to visit – Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi was the last stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year (if you don’t count our stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the way home). Our primary reason for visiting was to do as little as possible on the beach!

We stayed at the Tropical Resort on Pantai Tengah. The hotel itself wasn’t on the beach but a very short (2 minute) walk down to the beach. It was a complex of 1 storey rooms and some communal areas, all very clean and well maintained. We thought it was very good value for money!

Pantai Tengah and the adjacent Pantai Cenang are the two main beaches on Langkawi and are fairly touristy, although the beach at Pantai Tengah is a lot quieter. It suited what we wanted well: there were lots of shops and restaurants near to the hotel, and Pantai Cenang had a large selection of bars and restaurants on the beach itself which was a lovely way to spend an evening. We took quite a few sunset photos!

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My only complaint about Pantai Tengah was the lack of shade. It was very exposed for most of the day, apart from very early in the morning and our hotel did not provide sun shades. This made it difficult to spend too much time in one go on the beach! We would go for a little while and spend some time in the sea, and then have to go back to the hotel to cool off!

We didn’t do that much while we were in Langkawi as we just wanted to relax, but here are some things we did do:

Cable car and waterfalls

The Langkawi cable car on the north-west side of the island will take you up to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where there are some great views over Langkawi.

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There is also a ‘sky bridge’ up there but it has been closed almost since it was open from what I can gather.

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We went by taxi from Pantai Cenang and it wasn’t that expensive. The cable car is situated in a very strange purpose-built touristy “village” which was pretty much deserted when we went. But the cable car was good fun and we got some fairly decent pictures from the top. Having read reviews online, the best advice is to pick a clear day to go as you’ll be in the clouds otherwise!

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Nearby are the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls, which are about a 15 minute walk from the cable car. Unfortunately, once you get to the bottom, there are a large number of steps up to the top! It’s quite a climb but doesn’t actually take too long. Also, you have two options: you can go all the way to the top, or stop halfway at the base of the waterfall which gives great views of the waterfall itself.

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However, if you continue up to the top, you get to the beautiful pools where you can slide from one pool to the next! The water was cool and this was lots of fun. I think we went at quite a dry time of year (January) but you could still slide between the pools.

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Boat trip

There are lots of reasonably priced boat trips which will take you round some of the outlying islands. Our hotel recommended one that was organised by a nearby agent so we went with that. For the price it was pretty good value! Plus, our boat was a lot less crowded than some of the others so I guess we picked a good company to go with (unfortunately I don’t know the name).

The first stop on the boat trip was to the Island of the Pregnant Maiden (Pulau Dayang Bunting). This island has a large freshwater lake in the middle where you can have a swim or go on a pedal boat. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the lake but it really was a beautiful spot. There were a lot of monkeys though, and they were trying to grab anything they thought might be food.

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Our next stop was at a bay where they fed sea eagles. It was certainly an impressive sight to see all the sea eagles flying around, although afterwards we heard that they attract the sea eagles by feeding them chicken skin which isn’t nourishing for them and means that they have problems forming eggshells for their offspring.

We finished at a tropical beach on a small island. Unfortunately, our boat was doing the same trip as a number of other boats so whilst we were the first to arrive and enjoy the soft sand and clear sea, it wasn’t long before it was overtaken by a number of other people! It was a nice stopover though, and the beach had lots of shade and some food and drinks vendors.

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Rampant Sailing day trip

This was our ‘splurge’ whilst we stayed in Langkawi as it was pretty expensive, but I have to admit that it was totally worth the money! This day trip aboard a beautiful catamaran promises that there will be no more than 10 of you on the boat (there were 8 the day that we went) and sails around some of the small islands around Langkawi.

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The couple that own the boat are lovely and treated us like royalty the whole day! We were supplied with cold drinks whenever we wanted, and they provided an amazing spread for lunch. The views from the boat were wonderful, and we were never bored as there were activities to do as well – from a jacuzzi-like experience in a net being towed behind the boat, to kayaking, relaxing in hammocks in the water and a stopoff for a jungle trek where Tom saw a monitor lizard!

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So, that finishes my little summary of our Malaysian holiday, which covered Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi. We had a great time and would recommend Malaysia to anyone.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel