A Remote Adventure In Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a reputation of being a concrete jungle; a literal madhouse of people constantly jockeying for space. The truth, however, is that over 60% of Hong Kong is designated as country park and the territory has a number of open spaces and beautiful beaches.
One of the most spectacular parts of Hong Kong is the bay of Tai Long Wan in the Sai Kung East Country Park. Think sweeping vistas, turquoise water, mountainside trails along the ocean, abandoned villages, white sand beaches, and a waterfall for good measure.
The Logistics of it All
Located 20 kilometers from the nearest sizable town, and accessible only by sea or hiking, Tai Long Wan is as remote as it gets. Tai Long Wan’s name literally means big wave bay, and there are four beaches on this bay: Sai Wan, Ham Tin, Tai Wan and Tung Wan. All four of these beaches, besides being scenic, are great places for surfing and camping.
Getting to Tai Long Wan is no simple task. Travelers must first make their way to Sai Kung Town, which means an MTR ride to either Diamond Hill or Tseung Kwan O stations. From these stations it’s a 40 minute bus ride to Sai Kung. Sai Kung is a pleasant town with tons of restaurants and shops. It has a Wellcome Superstore and a Park’n'Shop, which are both excellent places to stock up on food and supplies for a hike or camping trip to Tai Long Wan.
At Sai Kung the paths to Tai Long Wan diverge. The easiest way to reach Tai Long Wan is to take minibus 29R to the village of Sai Wan. This bus departs four times a day on weekdays and more frequently on weekends. It costs $15 HK and the journey time is 25 minutes. The bus drops passengers off 2 km from Sai Wan (a 30-minute walk) and is the quickest way to reach Tai Long Wan.
Another way to get to Tai Long Wan is to take bus 94 from Sai Kung to Pak Tam Au or Wong Shek Pier. This bus departs every 30 minutes and has a journey time of 30 minutes.
If you don’t mind walking, it’s possible to get off the bus at Pak Tam Au and walk downhill on the MacLehose Trail to the Chek King Pier. The walk takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but is relaxing and scenic.
An alternative is to continue on bus 94 to the Wong Shek Pier and hire a speedboat to the Chek King Pier. The boat will take up to six people and costs $120 HK. On the weekend the Tsui Wah Ferry Service makes the run eight times per day for $15 HK per person. Taking the boat will save an hour’s walk, but is otherwise unnecessary.
From Chek King Pier, the Maclehose Trail continues onward to Ham Tin. This part of the trail takes one hour and is a relatively strenuous walk over the ridge. The total journey time when hiking from Pak Tam Au to Ham Tin is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The third way to reach Tai Long Wan overland is via Long Ke. Hop in a taxi in Sai Kung and ask to travel to Long Ke. It’s a relatively lengthy drive, as the road skirts the High Island Reservoir, but still affordable at around $100 HK. From the taxi drop-off point it’s a short walk to Long Ke, a beautiful beach one bay south of Tai Long Wan. The hike from Long Ke to Sai Wan takes 1.5 hours and is a strenuous hike over a mountain ridge.
For those who aren’t exactly hiking enthusiasts, Tai Long Wan can also be reached by speedboat from Sai Kung for the price of $900 HK. However it may be difficult to find a boat willing to travel this far on the weekdays. Ask around at the Sai Kung Pier if you really don’t feel like hiking.
At the Beaches
The southernmost beach on Tai Long Wan is Sai Wan. The village is small but there are a few restaurants, one of which has a spectacular sea view. Sai Wan also has the area’s only bus stop, located a 30 minute walk from the village. The thing that really makes Sai Wan so special, though, is its waterfall and rock pool.
To find the waterfall just go to the north end of the beach and look for a small stream. Follow this steam to the west, on the southern side of the stream, and after about ten minutes you will arrive at the waterfall and the natural rock pool. The pool is excellent for swimming and is also a popular place for cliff jumping.
From Sai Wan the trail continues to Ham Tin, the next beach to the north. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to reach Ham Tin and the trail consists of a mildly strenuous hike over the ridge separating the beaches. If you hiked the MacLehose Trail from Pak Tam Au or Chek King Pier, Ham Tin will be the first beach that you reach.
Ham Tin is the most popular of the Tai Long Wan beaches and has two restaurants which rent camping equipment and surfboards. Tents rent for as little as $100 HK per night and everything else is for rent as well, including sleeping bags and mats. If you are planning on renting camping equipment on the weekends or have any questions, you can contact the restaurants, Hoi Fung (23282315) or the On Kee Store (23282262). Bring plenty of insect repellant and mosquito coils because the mosquitoes are hungry at dusk and dawn. The restaurants can also arrange speedboats to Sai Kung.
Just inland from Ham Tin on the MacLehose Trail there is a small village called Tai Long. This village has a small shop selling snacks and used surfboards.
North of Ham Tin is Tai Long Wan’s most spectacular beach, Tai Wan. A long stretch of white sand, Tai Wan is free from even the smallest traces of civilization such as the restaurants and shops of its southern neighbors. If you’re looking for privacy, Tai Wan is a great place to set up your campsite (if you’re willing to forgo the public toilets of Ham Tin). Come on the weekdays for complete privacy, though there is still plenty of sand to go around on the weekends. The beach is also a good place to catch some waves and is relatively popular with surfers on the weekends.
There are two ways to reach Tai Wan from Ham Tin; the first way is a short 15-minute hike over a small ridge; otherwise walk inland from the Hoi Fung Restaurant and take the path to the right and it’s 15 minutes on flat ground to Tai Wan. One benefit to choosing the ridge is the excellent view of Tai Wan, so visitors should probably take the path over the ridge at least once.
North of Tai Wan is the beach of Tung Wan, a smaller and even more remote beach. The path from Tai Wan to Tung Wan is relatively straightforward and located at the northern end of Tai Wan. If you haven’t had your fill of heat and exercise thus far, before reaching Tung Wan serious hikers can diverge to the left and climb the 468-meter Sharps Peak. This hike can be done in as little as a few hours but should only be attempted by fit hikers. Be sure to take plenty of water as the Hong Kong heat should never be underestimated.
When all is said and done, the Tai Long Wan area is so beautiful and remote that even Hong Kongers will have a hard time believing they’re still in the territory. So rest assured that checking out this rugged slice of Hong Kong is well worth all of the time and effort.