Thursday, 13 November 2014

Walking from Shek Mun Kap to Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island

There's no originality at all on my part for this post because I have more or less lifted it from one of my favourite books (still a favourite, even after living in HK for nearly 9 years) from Pete Spurrier’s The Leisurely Hiker's Guide to Hong Kongnow in its 5th printing I hasten to add. Additionally, since re-reading Martin Booth's Gwei Lo not so long ago, I suspect this walk is highly likely to be the same one done by his family back in 1953 - the difference for us is that I am sure the path wasn't quite so well-trodden and they got to spend a night at the monastery before the return journey.


The difference between the Booth and Spurrier versions is that Booth started his walk from Tung Chung via Ma Wan Chung. Spurrier starts his walk by catching the bus from Tung Chung. Mind you, in 1953 Tung Chung was but a small peaceful fishing village surrounded by green mountains and blue sea, these days its a new town monstrosity with about as much appeal as carbuncle so you can understand why the Spurrier version is in such a rush to leave it behind. I concur, so when we did the walk we also hopped on the #34 minibus and rode it all the way up to Shek Mun Kap. It's not a hard stop to miss because it also happens to be the route terminus.



Shek Mun Kap is a small village about a third of the way up the slopes of what becomes Lantau Peak, so the bus journey means that this walk can easily be done in just a couple of hours. One word of warning for arachnophobes though - you see some pretty large orb spiders on this trail and they often hang around at face level. You have been warned!



Ngong Ping 360 just visible at the back

Spurrier recommends popping into the village shop for drink supplies and mentions the old fellow inside trying to sell you beer depending on your age. Sure enough, as soon as I show an interest in the bottled water in the drinks fridge, the old fellow is over asking me if I want beer as well! It was tempting, but probably better for after a walk rather than right at the beginning. So anyway, we set off up the hill and it wasn’t long before you come across the first point of interest is the Lo Hon Monastery. The Hiker's guide says take the path marked by a blue character ‘faat’ (佛)which means 'Buddha'. Unfortunately it must be a while since the book was written because the character has faded and is hard to see. Thankfully the path is fairly obvious and it follows a wall around to the right hand side.


Chek Lap Kok and the airport in the distance

From here on it is just wilderness interspersed with some impressive views over Tung Chung bay to the airport. The trail leads uphill all the way so don’t think that it is easy. Along the way it comes close to a stream which has various collection points where you can cool down your feet, but it is hot and sweaty work.



Tung Chung - these days best seen from a distance...

The next grouping of buildings is around Tei Tong Tsai which has several old monasteries and private buildings around which the jungle has provided some natural camouflage. One of the best places to stop is in front of a Buddhist compound with a nice tree in front of the pai-lau. The place is called “Sup Fong Do Yik” which roughly translates as “Ten Square Ways”. I am not a Buddhist so have no idea of the significance of the name but it is an active temple and whilst we were there we could hear the afternoon prayers going on in the main temple building. Unfortunately there is a no photo sign up, so I had to settle for just a picture of the gate and the view. When you start off on the walk again you walk through the well-tended gardens of the compound and get a feel for how big the place is. Strange to think it is hidden away half way up Lantau Peak. Very peaceful.

Various monastery entrances a scattered along the trail

It’s not long after this that you come to a pavilion for a quick rest and further up the hill is a stone pai-lau, which I am quite certain is the same one encountered by Martin Booth when he did this walk. But who knows? It certainly looks old enough. By the time you are here you are almost finished the slope has flattened out because you are now walking alongside the western flank of Lantau peak (this is the second highest peak in Hong Kong after Tai Mo Shan) towards the plateau that houses Po Lin and the great Buddha.

Almost finished!

For the purposes of getting back down and away home you have the usual choices available to you including retracing your steps. But if you are feeling a bit lazy after all that uphill walking (I should let you know that when I did this walk back in 2008 my two children were 3 and 6 and had no problems with it) then you can either catch the bus back down to Mui Wo or Tung Chung, or you can hop on the cable car.



6 comments:

  1. Hi Phil,

    What you went through was just part of the Booth family's original walk. I remember they started from the old Tung Chung Pier. I think I have walked their route quite a few times when I was young, or in the past few years.

    Oh, the 十方道場 Gate you photoed is the entrance of Po Lam Monastery. Quite a few TV celebrities went there and become monks or nuns there in the past few decades.

    Thanks & Best Regards,
    T

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    1. yes, we definitely did the abbreviated version by catching the bus up to Shek Mun Kap. A nice walk though, it's been a few years and we did it before my youngest was born - he's 5 so I reckon this would be easy for him - we did a 10 miler earlier in the year and he did it without complaints...

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  2. Would love to try this whenever I can next get out to HK. :-)

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    1. it's a fairly easy walk with some great views over to the airport (on a increasingly rare non-smoggy day).

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  3. Hi there,

    Four or five years go there was a hive of wasp located just about 20 metres before reaching Po Lam Monastery with sentries hovering around. It was in the news that some nuns there was stung by those wasps while they were sweeping the foot path.

    When I passed through the location around four years ago the wasps were still there. I have to go slow motion between the sentries. They might have been migrated to somewhere else by now but do keep your eyes and ears opened.

    Thanks & Best Regards,
    T

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up Thomas. I must admit that the only critters we came across were the orb spiders - some of them fairly big.

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