A Travellerspoint blog

It's A Jungle Out There.

Spending a day in Tai Po Kau.

sunny

The Way through the forest.

The Way through the forest.

I'm beginning to think I should just move to Tai Po. It would save time as I always seem to be there. Today I went there yet again. This time I wanted to visit Tai Po Kau.

Tai Po Kau is an area to the south of Tai Po. At one time Tai Po Kau had its own railway station and a pier from which it was possible to take a variety of boat trips around the Sai Kung area. I did not know this till I started writing this blog. When the KCR electrified their lines in 1983, the station here was demolished. Nowadays trains simply hurtle through this area without stopping. On route they pass an extremely striking building, but I'll get to that later. The pier that was here long ago still stands, though it is shorter than before due to land reclamation. No boat trips leave from this pier any more, but it is still popular with fishermen.

Nowadays this area is not as bustling as it once was, but there are still reasons to come for a visit. My reason was to visit the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve.To get there I travelled to Tai Wo Station, then took the number 72 bus to Chung Tsai Yuen. This name is sometimes written Tsung Tsai Yuen and means Pine Tree Garden. After alighting from the bus, I crossed the road and headed right towards the nature reserve.

In front of the nature reserve there is a small park where a terrible tragedy occurred. On the 28th of August 1955, a group of teachers and pupils from St. James Settlement were having a picnic on the final day of their week long camping trip in this area. It suddenly started to rain. Now when it rains here in the summer time, it is normally torrential and you can go from dry to totally soaking in seconds. There was no place to shelter, so they stood under a little bridge next to the park, as it was the only covered spot. However, tragically for them, the downpour caused a landslide and many of the group were swept away. Twenty-eight people were killed in this incident, most of them children.

The bridge the school party sheltered under used to be called Hung Shiu Kiu which means Bridge of Flooding because in rainy season it could be covered with water. Following this terrible event, the bridge is now known as Mang Gui Kiu or Ghost Bridge. People in Hong Kong are very superstitious and any place where a tragedy has occurred is going to be filled with ghosts. Drivers in this area at night claim to have seen mysterious ashen faced children waving at their cars and to have been startled by eerie white lights appearing and disappearing on the road in front of them. Similar reports have been made by hikers who have stayed in the area after dark. Many people do stay here late, because the nature reserve is known for fire flies. Locals claim to have seen their own children talking to imaginary friends and holding hands with people who are not there.

There's also a story about a bus driver on his final trip of the night, who was driving his empty bus through this area when he saw a woman with an ashen face and long dark hair waiting by the bus stop. He stopped and she boarded the bus, but when he looked in the money box, there was only joss paper. (This is money people buy and burn so that it will travel up to their ancestors giving them money to spend in the afterlife.) The driver called out to the passenger to pay the correct fare, but when he looked round, saw that his bus was empty. Nervously he continued to drive. Suddenly he saw that someone had pressed the bell to alight, so he stopped and opened the door. He saw noone leave, but heard a ghostly voice call back a loud thank you to him.

Of course I don't really believe in ghosts, but you wouldn't find me hiking here at night. I took a look at Ghost Bridge. It's a replacement one as I believe the original one was damaged in other floods. The government carried out work on damming the stream higher up to prevent anything like this ever happening again. The park next to the bridge now has several shelters where you can escape the sun or the rain and there is a plaque to those who were killed in this disaster. It was hoped that by placing the plaque here, the spirits of the dead might be placated. It may not have worked, as the road here is apparently notorious for car crashes.

Ghost Bridge.

Ghost Bridge.

Memorial Plaque.

Memorial Plaque.

Shelter in the park next to the nature reserve.

Shelter in the park next to the nature reserve.

After a quick look around this area, I headed into the nature reserve. Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve occupies around 460 hectares on the eastern slopes of Grassy Hill, stretching from the top of this hill all the way down to Tai Po Road. The reserve's height above sea level ranges from 50 metres to 647 metres. At one time, the slopes of this hill were bare, as all the trees had been chopped down. However, in 1926 the government began an afforestation campaign in the New Territories. The main tree planted here was the Chinese Red Pine, which is why the area is known as Pine Tree Garden. Other trees here include the Camphor Tree, China Fir, Taiwan Acacia, Giant Bean, Sweet Gum and the Paper-bark Tree.

The Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve is home to many animals including: cattle, wild boars, monkeys, porcupines, barking deer, the leopard cat, a hundred and sixty different species of birds, a hundred and two types of butterflies and fifty kinds of dragonflies.

From the entrance you can either choose to walk up the road or divert onto the nature trail. At the end of these there are four colour coded walks to choose from. The longest at ten kilometres is the yellow walk which takes about three and a half hours, then the brown walk which is about seven kilometres and takes two and a half hours. The blue walk is four kilometres and takes one and a half hours and the red walk is three kilometres and takes one hour.

Signs for the four colour coded walks and the forest trail.

Signs for the four colour coded walks and the forest trail.

I decided to walk up the forest nature trail rather than the path. Before I reached it, I saw my first animal of the day, a rather large cow with dangerous looking horns that strolled right past me. Fortunately, it seemed very docile. The nature trail is about a kilometre long and involves climbing lots of steep stairs. There are information boards at intervals, giving details of the animals and plants on the reserve. I found quite a few trees or logs with fungi growing on them both here and later on the colour coded walk. I thought these were quite beautiful.

Sign for Tai Po Nature Reserve.

Sign for Tai Po Nature Reserve.

Passing Cattle.

Passing Cattle.

Entry to Tai Po Nature Trail.

Entry to Tai Po Nature Trail.



Stairs on the nature trail.

Stairs on the nature trail.

Fern lined path.

Fern lined path.

The Way through the forest.

The Way through the forest.

Fungus on a tree stump.

Fungus on a tree stump.

Fungus on a fallen tree.

Fungus on a fallen tree.

Fungus on chopped down trees.

Fungus on chopped down trees.

Fungus on a tree stump.

Fungus on a tree stump.

Fungus on a chopped down log.

Fungus on a chopped down log.

More fungi.

More fungi.

More fungi.

More fungi.

On the forest nature trail I felt like I was in the heart of a jungle. The light all around me was filtering in through the green leaves and the trees were shading me from the sun. It didn't feel particularly humid like it did on the four waterfalls hike. It was very peaceful with only the sounds of insects and birds around me.

Shady forest path.

Shady forest path.

In the heart of the forest.

In the heart of the forest.

At the end of the forest trail I had the choice of four walks. The yellow and brown are the longer ones. They are supposed to be beautiful with occasional viewpoints, but they have the least wildlife. The blue and red trails are shorter and easier with more chance of seeing wildlife as they are near the water. I decided to give myself a break and do the shortest and easiest hike, i.e. the red trail. There were several reasons for this and they weren't all that I was being lazy. My reasons were: it's getting pretty hot nowadays, I was hoping to see some wildlife and finally there were two other things in Tai Po Kau I wanted to see apart from the nature reserve and if I did the long walk I wouldn't have time.

The red path is mainly on the flat with just a few stairs here and there. It is not completely flat though and would not be suitable for a wheelchair user or a pushchair. It is a lovely shaded walk. It passes by streams, so there's quite a bit of water around. There are some picnic sites on this trail.

Map of the red and blue routes.

Map of the red and blue routes.

Bridge over the stream.

Bridge over the stream.

Ponds and streams on the red walk.

Ponds and streams on the red walk.

Picnic Site.

Picnic Site.

While I was walking, it was mainly very peaceful and I was really enjoying looking at all the plants and trees. Occasionally I could hear animals moving around in the trees. At one point I heard what sounded very much like barking. It actually sounded quite ferocious. I think it must have been a warning cry. It was very loud and very near. I wondered if it was a barking deer, but then I saw something climbing up the branches, so it was more likely to have been a monkey.

Looking at the trees.

Looking at the trees.

Looking up at the sky through a gap in the trees.

Looking up at the sky through a gap in the trees.

Flower strewn path.

Flower strewn path.

Fronds mark the start of the path.

Fronds mark the start of the path.

Rocks line the path.

Rocks line the path.

It's nice and cool on the forest paths.

It's nice and cool on the forest paths.

Selfie in the forest.

Selfie in the forest.

There were lots of ferns lining the path. Some of these were really big. I always like to see ferns. They add a sort of primeval atmosphere to a walk. When you see lots of huge ones, you can imagine that you have been transported back in time to the origins of the Earth.

Ferns.

Ferns.

Ferns.

Ferns.

Ferns and other leaves.

Ferns and other leaves.

Selfie with ferns.

Selfie with ferns.

I saw several spiders, which for some reason I could not photograph. They were always in the wrong position for the light. I also saw a cute little brightly coloured beetle. He at least was willing to pose for me.

Beetle on a fern.

Beetle on a fern.

I began to think it wasn't really possible to find animal life. They had so many places to hide, so I decided to concentrate on the flora and let the fauna go about its own business. There was certainly a wide variety of different plant life to see and enjoy. I don't know why but I tend to like plants that use other plants to stay alive, such as creepers and epiphytes. I think I like these because to me they are so tropical looking. They are my idea of what any self-respecting jungle must have. I also came across some trees with huge seed pods.

Creepers and moss on a rock.

Creepers and moss on a rock.

Creeper climbing up a tree.

Creeper climbing up a tree.

Mini-habitat on a tree stump.

Mini-habitat on a tree stump.

Epiphytes.

Epiphytes.

Plants growing on other plants.

Plants growing on other plants.

Looks like this leaf has had a hard life.

Looks like this leaf has had a hard life.

Pretty tree.

Pretty tree.

Tree with large seed pods.

Tree with large seed pods.

Tree with large seed pods.

Tree with large seed pods.

Suddenly I saw a monkey sitting in the tree right in front of me. I lined him up to get a shot and just at that exact time a large group of very, very noisy hikers came up behind me. When the monkey heard them, he panicked and leapt from his tree right across the path just above my head into the trees on the other side. Although it happened right in front of them, the talkative group didn't even seen to notice. I was left stunned that a monkey had leapt pretty much right over me.

Monkey in a tree. This little chap jumped right over my head.

Monkey in a tree. This little chap jumped right over my head.

I was nearly at the end of the red trail and when I reached the roadway, I decided I would walk down it rather than go back through the forest trail. I noticed there were quite a few houses around, either on or next to the reserve. I think some of them may still be lived in, but others were abandoned, falling down and gradually being overtaken by nature.

Houses on the nature reserve.

Houses on the nature reserve.

Houses next to the nature reserve.

Houses next to the nature reserve.

Overgrown buildings in the nature reserve.

Overgrown buildings in the nature reserve.

House next to the nature reserve.

House next to the nature reserve.

House next to the nature reserve.

House next to the nature reserve.

House near the nature reserve.

House near the nature reserve.

At several times on this walk I suddenly saw larger groups of people standing around holding huge cameras. I assume they were bird watchers.

Bird watchers.

Bird watchers.

On the walk back to the main road I saw so many monkeys. They were all over the place, swinging madly through the trees and making lots of noise. I spent ages trying to photograph them, but every time I lined up a shot, it was as if they just went nah, nah,nah,nah,nah and disappeared. I gave up in the end.

There is a nature centre on this reserve and I'm sure it would be worth a look, but I did not visit this time. When I arrived back at the entrance to the reserve, I was both surprised and delighted to see a monkey sitting happily among the cars. Now he really did not mind posing for a few shots.

Monkey in the carpark.

Monkey in the carpark.

Monkey in the carpark.

Monkey in the carpark.

Monkey in the carpark.

Monkey in the carpark.

There were two nearby places I had read about and wanted to see, but they were in opposite directions. I decided I would try and do them both. The first involved crossing Tai Po Road and heading right. I very quickly came across the cow I had met earlier. It was happily munching grass by the roadside. I stopped to photograph it and it looked at me and then crossed the road towards me. I quickly made my excuses and left, though as I said before, it wasn't in any way aggressive, just curious.

Happily munching grass.

Happily munching grass.

Where's it going?

Where's it going?

Seems to be crossing towards me.

Seems to be crossing towards me.

I'm off.

I'm off.

I came across a little park I didn't know existed. It was simply called Tai Po Kau Park and it was very pleasant with flowers, shelters and a fountain. I came across someone else's photos taken here and they had fantastic shots of colourful birds in the flowering trees. This is a lovely place to sit and relax. This park has clean toilets, too.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Tai Po Kau Park.

Fountain in Tai Po Kau Park..

Fountain in Tai Po Kau Park..

The bus stop after Chung Tsai Yuen is called Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout as there are good views from here over Tolo Harbour. It's also possible to see the giant Kuan Yin Statue near Tai Mei Tuk.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

View from Chung Tsai Yuen Lookout.

Zooming in on Kuan Yin.

Zooming in on Kuan Yin.

I was heading for a house known as Tai Po Lookout. It is located at number 11 Lookout Link. It was built by British engineer Lawrence Gibbs at the beginning of the twentieth century and has a lookout tower on its roof. The lookout tower provides fantastic views over Tolo Harbour and towards Pat Sin Leng. The tower also functioned as a water storage tower. Gibbs diverted water from a nearby stream and even used this to fill the swimming pool in his garden. Over the years Tai Po Lookout has had many owners. In 1933 it was sold to John Alexander Fraser, a British judge. During the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong, Fraser was interned as a prisoner of war in Stanley Prison where he died. His house was requisitioned by the Japanese, who used it as a torture chamber. After the war this building was used as a residence by Hong Kong government officials, such as the head of the secret service of the police. In 1996 the Lookout was converted into a hospice for AIDS patients. The hospice closed in 2000 and the Lookout became a private residence once again. It still is. The Lookout was declared a grade II historical building in 1985. Nowadays there is a proposal to raise it to grade I status. As the building is a private residence, I could only peer at it over its fence and hope I wasn't arrested as a potential burglar.

Lookout Link Sign.

Lookout Link Sign.

Lookout House.

Lookout House.

Lookout House.

Lookout House.

After looking at the Tai Po Lookout, I headed in the opposite direction, past Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, then downhill to see the Little Egret Nature Centre, which seems nowadays to also be called Kerry Lake Egret Centre and Lake House. On the way I passed a rather attractive residential complex called Constellation Cove. The Little Egret Nature Centre is a very striking building. I had noticed it many times from the KCR before I ever knew what it was. In the first few years that I worked in my school, we used to take the children on school trips to the Little Egret Nature Centre. They would learn about nature, do team building games, feed the pet goats and look at the ethnology museum here. One of the teachers always insisted we ate in the restaurant here, as it had very nice food. Nowadays the centre has been spruced up, but it only seems to open at weekends and on public holidays, so it obviously no longer does school trips. The restaurant here has got posher, too. It's called Billow Restaurant. There are nature walks around this area and many beautiful white egrets can be found here. Apparently in early spring the gardens here are filled with tulips. I didn't know this or if definitely have visited. This area is also near to the location of the old Tai Po Kau Station.

I struggled to find any information about the history of Lake House. It turns out that it only dates back to the mid 1990's. Property developers, Kerry Properties, bought the land here to build Constellation Cove, but because the lake and nearby mangroves were a conservation area they were told they would have to preserve them. They built Lake House next to the lake as a nature centre, event venue and restaurant.

Constellation Cove.

Constellation Cove.

Constellation Cove.

Constellation Cove.

Constellation Cove.

Constellation Cove.

River next to Little Egret Nature Centre.

River next to Little Egret Nature Centre.

Billow Restaurant in the Little Egret Nature Centre.

Billow Restaurant in the Little Egret Nature Centre.

Billow Restaurant in the Little Egret Nature Centre.

Billow Restaurant in the Little Egret Nature Centre.

After a quick look around here. I was getting hot and tired so I returned to the main Tai Po Road and took a number 72 bus to Cheung Sha Wan and from there caught the MTR and a bus back home. This was a much faster and cheaper way than I had come to the area.

Posted by irenevt 14:21 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

The ghost stories are amazing and glad you kept out of the way of that bull! Beautiful flowers too. You are really spoiling us with all your amazing adventures.

by Catherine

I'm very glad you are enjoying them. That animal wasn't a bull and probably wasn't a cow either. It was probably a buffalo. In the New Territories there used to be lots of farms. People kept cattle for milk and meat and buffalo to help them plough or pull carts. Many people abandoned their farms to live in more urban areas or to go overseas. Some of them freed their cows and buffalo and they survived and bred, so we now have a population of these that are wild. They seldom do any harm or attack people. They are known to block traffic quite a lot.

by irenevt

I like ferns too, I even had some in a pot in my terrace couple of years ago but they didn't survive our summer holiday...maybe new try this summer :)

by hennaonthetrek

I love plants. I'm not good with flowering ones, but have lots of leafy green ones.

by irenevt

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