I feel like a broken record when I say one of the things I adore about Hong Kong is the ease at which you can escape the skyscrapers and blaring car horns and end up surrounded by utter tranquility. When the weekend came about in all its sunny glory, I decided to soldier on through the hangover and check out one of the most northern scenic spots in Hong Kong.
It’s perhaps ironic and slightly shameful that the North West of Hong Kong is, for me, the least explored area of the region. Being a North West kid myself, I should probably be drawn to it. North West Hong Kong, however, couldn’t be more different to the industrial landscape of its regional namesake in England. In place of shipyards and factories, there is vast countryside and marshland to be found up here. Most of it is is just an MTR ride away, albeit a slightly longer one than usual on the purple West Rail Line.
My destination on this particular day was recommended to me by a friend – Nam Sang Wai in Yuen Long is a popular cycling route on a sunny day. Whilst I opted to hike it (more of a leisurely walk really) rather than cycle it, it was no less charming and scenic and cured my hangover much better than an aspirin and a duvet day ever could.
To reach the Nam Sang Wai marhes from Yuen Long MTR, I took Exit G2, went over the overpass and then turned onto Yuen Long Kau Hui Road. I basically followed that all the way up and turned right onto Shan Pui Road. The gravel road to Nam Sang Wai is off here, though it’s only signposted in Chinese and is quite easy to miss. I only spotted it due to people walking down the road in the opposite direction.
Maybe the most striking and enjoyable element of this walk was the means of getting there, since it involves taking a HK$6 row boat from one side of the Shan Pui River to the other. The boat ride takes less than a minute and the boats seem to take passengers across all day long. In some senses, it wasn’t as striking a travelling experience as other boat crossings in Asia but because this was Hong Kong, it was such a brilliant surprise. In Hong Kong, I’m used to big ferries and timetables and Octopus cards. Here, you could cross the river in a rickety old row boat at the whim of the captain. It felt so South East Asia and I unashamedly loved every second.
The feeling that I wasn’t in Hong Kong anymore did not subside there either. After the boat crossing, the easy-to-follow trail began and the path snaked past grassy marshlands and big open, tree-lined spaces. This wasn’t Hong Kong as I knew it. In fact, most of the time it barely felt like Asia. I could have been the French countryside had it not been for the flock of selfie-obsessed locals all around me. Never before had I felt so far away from Hong Kong whilst still being within its borders.
The first section of the walk is definitely the most scenic so I savoured that whilst I could, nestling down amongst the long grass and enjoying a picnic in the warm sunlight. The towering landscape of the Lam Tsuen Country Park (which has been added to my list) made for a gorgeous backdrop, whilst the distant sight of Shenzhen’s skyscrapers reminded me of just how far away I was from quintessential Hong Kong.
After the initial walk through the grasslands, the path merges with Nam Sang Wai Road which, whilst still scenic, doesn’t get the escapism pumping just as much as the first section. It’s still nice though, with opportunities for little side jaunts into wooded areas and secluded marshes. I’d definitely recommend getting off the road whenever and wherever you can because the marshy vistas are what make this walk extra special.
The road eventually returns to civilisation and loops back towards Yuen Long MTR. By this point, you’ll be back on the correct side of the river so there’s no need to get a boat back to the city. In no time at all, I was back to ‘normal’ Hong Kong and it was as if this tranquil country escape on its doorstep never existed.
Nam Sang Wai is definitely a trip for a sunny day – if you’re willing to stay for longer I’ve also heard the sunset reflecting off the marshes is supposed to be pretty impressive too. Venturing all the way up to the northern echelons of Hong Kong is a long way to go for a bit of peace and quiet but, after a week of teaching, this was both a journey and a destination that were very much appreciated.