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Along the Emerald Coast

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Take a picturesque walk from Ham Tin, along the Chi Ma Wan Valley and Emerald Coast, to Mui Wo, writes Martin Lerigo.

The 9-kilometre trail from Ham Tin to Mui Wo is largely flat, and it’s suitable for walkers of all ages and abilities. It’s easy enough to complete in two-and-a-half to three hours, at a modest pace.

Ham Tin is your starting point, reached easily from Pui O, on the main bus route from Mui Wo or Tung Chung. Alight by Tap Tap restaurant and take the path signposted for Ham Tin, crossing abandoned paddy fields, now home to majestic yet docile water buffaloes. You’ll likely see these graceful beasts grazing, and wallowing in mud pools as you traverse the path. They are used to seeing humans and will not bother you if you don’t bother them.

Ham Tin to Shap Long

From Ham Tin, follow the main road along the river, towards Shap Long; there are several Lantau Trail markers along the way. After a couple of twists and turns, you’ll emerge from shrouded woodland to an open vista, one of the finest in Hong Kong. Savour the breath-taking view, with glorious sandy beach nestled below jungle-coated slopes, leading up to the Leviathan summits of Sunset and Lantau Peaks.

On a clear day you’ll see multiple islands, many uninhabited bar the odd turtle. The scene of much smuggling and brigandry in days gone by, this stretch of sea is still a centre of skulduggery. Just three years ago, one of Hong Kong’s largest drug-smuggling seizures occurred just eight-hundred yards from this very spot.

To your left you’ll see a Tin Hau temple. Dating from the 1700s, it’s been repaired and renovated many times since then. Take the time to look inside this quaint little oasis of calm and tranquillity.

As you continue, the road ascends 100 metres or so, along the Chi Ma Wan Valley. Towards the top, on your right-hand side, you’ll see a wooden arch, marking the boundary of Chi Ma Wan Country Park. Keep straight along the road, which now descends into the hamlet of Shap Long.

For many years a largely forgotten backwater, Shap Long is now in vogue, with new village houses being built on the open paddy fields.

Wang Tong to Mui Wo

Continue along the road which skirts the open paddy grassland before taking a sharp left turn, marked for Shap Long San Tsuen and Mui Wo. Within a few hundred yards, you’ll come across the village of Wang Tong. Once a thriving agricultural concession, replete with farming cottages, it’s now home to just a handful of souls.

Here you can soak up the atmosphere of yesteryear; many tales are no doubt imbued in the houses’ decaying paintwork and rusty wrought-iron gates.

The path at Wang Tong has been diverted away from the village, presumably to protect privacy, but you’ll see that it soon re-joins the main path. Follow it to continue your journey along the Emerald Coast.

The views to your right take in the fish farms of Cheung Sha Wan and the now abandoned correctional centre at Chi Ma Wan. In the distance you can see Cheung Chau and Lamma. The waters here shine deep emerald at certain times of year, causing pirates and smugglers of the Qing dynasty to coin the phrase, Emerald Coast.

The path continues to meander for another mile or so until you come to a junction, to the right of which is Ngau Kwu Wan. A solitary and isolated spot, it’s the perfect place to rest for a while, before returning to the main path and continuing straight along the coast. Incredible views continue to unfold on your south-easterly flank, with the island of Hei Ling Chau now clearly visible in front of you.

Just beyond the abandoned village of Shui Tseng Wan, you’ll see recently re-invigorated banana plantations, as well as grapefruit and kumquat trees. These were presumably cultivated at some point in the past.

A small elevation brings you to the point where the coastal path joins Section 12 of the Lantau Trail. From here it’s a 30-minute saunter back into Mui Wo, with Hong Kong’s amazing skyline on your right.

Journey’s end brings an assortment of cafés and bars where you can partake of a well-earned reward. Enjoy this trail and take your kids, it’s suitable for all the family.

This information is provided for reference only. Hiking trails vary in levels of difficulty. It is essential to bring suitable equipment, food and water, and ensure you are in adequate physical condition to undertake any hike.

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