Part of Hong Kong Global Geopark, 400-year-old Lai Chi Wo is Hong Kong's best-preserved Hakka walled village and has an intact woodland. With 200 houses, ancestral halls, temples, and a breezy square fringed by old banyans, it is a sight to behold. There are 90-minute guided tours every Sunday and public holiday (11am and 1.30pm). Register at the village square or email before you go to ensure a place. Bespoke tours can be arranged on weekdays; make contact two weeks in advance.
Lai Chi Wo is one of Hong Kong's most biologically diverse freshwater wetlands. If you follow the stream leading out of the village, you'll see looking-glass mangroves with buttress roots in a lace-like pattern. Also here is the white-flower Derris, a climbing vine with long, supple branches like elongated arms that form a natural swing. It is a poisonous plant and its root when crushed can be used as a fish stunner and insecticide. There are butterflies and dragonflies aplenty here, hovering over scuttling mangrove crabs.
Lai Chi Wo was once the most affluent Hakka walled village in the northeastern New Territories. A 5- to 7-hectare crescent-shaped wood embraces the village from behind – ideal for feng shui as the backing of a forest is believed to bring luck. Thickly grown trees are also a natural protective barrier.
The village has become a model for rural resurrection in Hong Kong. Though almost completely abandoned in the 1960s, it is quite lively now, thanks to the efforts of villagers and conservationists. The growing of rice and vegetables has resumed, pig and cow sheds have been restored, and shuttered village houses now function as education and research facilities, and eventually, holiday homes.
A ferry departs for Lai Chi Wo on Sunday and public holidays at 9am from the Ma Liu Shui Pier near the Chinese University and returns at 3.30pm. It's HK$80 return and takes 90 minutes. Most Hong Kong Global Geopark Sedimentary Rock tours make a stop at Lai Chi Wo, or just hike there from Wu Kau Tang or Luk Keng, and lunch at Foo's Cafe.
You can also hike to Lai Chi Wo. Green minibus 20C, operating between Tai Po Market MTR station and Tai Mei Tuk, goes beyond Tai Mei Tuk to Wu Kau Tang once every one to two hours between 5.45am to 7.45pm daily, with the last minibus returning from Wu Kau Tang at around 8.15pm. From Wu Kau Tang, it's 4.6km to Lai Chi Wo.
On Sundays and public holidays, bus route 275R goes from Tai Po Market MTR station to Bride’s Pool, which is only 750m from Wu Kau Tang.
Green minibus 56K leaves Fanling MTR station for Luk Keng at 30-minute intervals on weekdays, and 10-minute intervals on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. From Luk Keng, it's 9.6km to Lai Chi Wo.