Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Family Walk from Pak Fa Lam to Ho Chung

On the first day of the new year, it seemed like a good idea to go for a wander and take advantage of the relatively nice weather. Also, it felt like it was time to start with some new stuff rather than just spend the next two years porting over all my old (and, with hindsight, often very crappy) blog posts.

Tackling a stage of one of the larger hiking trails seemed to be a bit too much, especially for the kids, so instead a quick look on the LCSD website revealed a so-called "family hike" that looked like it might be interesting. The walk (seen here) official walk starts at a small cemetery in Pak Fa Lam and finishes in Ho Chung village, but because we caught the bus our walk started proper when we alighted next to the petrol station opposite Anderson Road.

The thing that grabbed my attention for this little excursion is the fact that it goes past the resting place of Dr Sun Yat Sen's mother: Lady Yang (楊氏).

Sun Yat Sen's association with Hong Kong is fairly well-established with his own museum (Kom Tong Hall), Central Heritage Trail and ex-gaff - The Red House - in Tuen Mun. However, there seems to be a dearth of information about his mother and why she was buried here in HK. Perhaps someone can comment if they have any more information?

Anyway, to get to the start point, the easiest way to get there is to catch a bus from Diamond Hill Station and then alight on Clearwater Bay Road next to the junction with Anderson Road. This drops you off right next to the petrol station and you just need to go through the adjacent archway that leads to an uphill path...at least that was the theory and here is a Streetview grab of the entry point.

The problem was that when we arrived, the path was blocked due to some huge underground pipes being dug up. We had a choice to take the long way around or hop over the barriers and try to skirt the hole - so we did the latter.

Grassy Uphill Path

The grassy path leads uphill towards towards Fei Ha Road (which abruptly joins the left hand side of the path), but before it does it passes this rather impressive grave on the right hand side. Actually, this grave (whose importance escapes me) is the one for which the archway is for. Perhaps it's the grave of a significant local village elder.

Anyway, moving on and then turning left onto Fai Ha Road we join Fei Ngo Shan Road at the end and turn right to walk uphill. Fei Ngo Shan (aka Kowloon Peak) makes an impressive sight from this vantage point but it's not the objective of this particular walk - although you can join on to the Wilson Trail at a later point which will take you up to the top.

Fei Ngo Shan peak poking through the trees

Following the road you will soon also get a vista across the other side of the territory towards Sai Kung and, in fact, you can also see the ultimate end point of this walk in the far distance. If you look on the photo below you can see Ho Chung village (although judging by its size it's more like a small town these days) and the derelict multi-coloured building in the distance that is the old ATV studios - the end point of the walk is the main road just past the old studios. We'll see them up close later but it's nice to see the place on a relatively clear and sunny day.

Anyway, once you've done gazing into the east you'll find the run off to the cemetery a little further up the road. It's not hard to find because it's a small set of steps marked by the following signs.

The smaller sign simply says Pak Fa Lam (actually pronounced Baak Fa Lam - meaning "a hundred flowers wood"), whereas the sign on the right tells us that Sun Yat Sen's mum is buried here. Educational note: the top two characters 國父 (gwok fu) are Sun Yat Sen's nickname and mean "father of the nation". Anyway, off we go and it doesn't take long to get to the grave, there is a stone tablet at the entrance which you can see below. Sadly, my Chinese doesn't extend to providing a translation, but perhaps it explains more about how she came to be buried here...?

The grave itself is massive, these pictures don't really do it justice because the overgrown foliage behind it also hides the upper perimeter wall that separates it from the grave behind, you can just see its green tiles sneaking up at the back. Compared to another large grave I talked about a couple of posts ago (the Tang Martyr's Grave in Kam Tin) which is 15 metres in diameter and purportedly hold 100+ bodies, Lady Yang's grave is around 10+ metres and only holds one body (as far as I know). The view to the front is also impressive and her Ladyness can bask in her posthumous comfort with a nice unfettered view out over Sai Kung and the South China Sea.

That's a lot of space for one person, don't you think?

We get a slightly different angle out over Ho Chung towards Hebe Haven and beyond and we also get a slightly clearer view of the old stripey ATV building down there. Of course, Lady Yang's grave is not the only one here and there are several very large examples a bit further down the hill.

The view from the grave

Another impressive plot just below Lady Yang's is this grave, occupied by someone with the surname 'Lui' (呂). I believe the character in red at the top just means 'ancestors', but I could be wrong. So were the Lui's a wealthy family from nearby Ho Chung?

Leaving the cemetery by the marked path, you quickly come out onto Pak Fa Lam Road and turn left, and quite quickly you come to a small path leading off on the right hand-side. It's marked on maps as a 'traditional path' so it is quite possible it is one of the ancient boulder trackways being documented by Guy Shirra. One of the other interesting bits along this particular trail is the existence of what appears to be a piece of wartime fortification. Gwulo's David Bellis - who was with us on the walk with his family - has subsequently identified it as PB 120 - originally documented by Rob Weir back in the 90's. David has a page for it over at Gwulo.com, but here are a couple of extra snaps (including a very small looking David - but trust me, in reality he's taller than me :-)). The place is in a bit of a mess because it looks like some opportunists have come along and chipped out all of the rebar - even excavating the rear and piling all the backfill into the middle just to get to the iron bars reinforcing the back - hence why it is filled with mud in the top shot.

A bit further along this trail and we merge with part of the Wilson Trail Stage 4, but not before having to skirt around this rather attractive plant that seems to have settled on the trail courtesy of a landslip.

It's a steady walk downhill from here to Tai Lam Wu Road at the very uppermost part of Ho Chung village. The Wilson Trail also comes this way but turns off a little past the row of village houses (see below) before making its way up to the top of Fei Ngo Shan. If this little walk wasn't enough for you, feel free to turn uphill here and the trail will take you all the way up and over to Shatin Pass Road. However, we (having already done stage 4 with the kids) walked downhill and on towards Hirams Highway and a bus back into Kowloon.

Tai Lam Wu Road

There are still a few interesting sites in Ho Chung including the aforementioned old ATV studios which now seem to be a magnet for self-proclaimed urban explorers. Why that place hasn't been demolished and redeveloped in a territory that seems to love demolishing old heritage buildings is beyond me because the place is a bit of an eyesore. I can only suppose that there are financial motives for it to still be around given that the similar colour-schemed building over on Broadcast Drive, which was vacated much later, has already been demolished and redeveloped into luxury flats.

Another sight to see down here is Ho Chungs 'fung shui fish'. The river that runs through the village is blocked off from the sea at the lower end so that the freshwater nature is maintained in the village - someone has put a load of koi in the fresh water part and the seem to be thriving because they have grown pretty big - one of the ones we saw was perhaps 3 ft long!

fung shui carp
No fishing! Don't let your dogs go swimming!
The freshwater stops here.

A little further along is the Che Kung Temple - one of two temples I know of dedicated to Che Kung in the New Territories. Although not as big as the Tai Wai version (which, in fact sits in front of the much smaller older temple) this one in Ho Chung is much older and is believed to date back to the late 19th Century.

Finally, you know when you have reached the end of the walk when you see Spiderman. He looks as though he's a leftover gimmick from some long, forgotten establishment. Anyway, my spidey-sense is tingling and I can feel the bus home approaching, so we cross the road and head right and catch a bus back into Kowloon.


  1. Hi Phil,

    The words on the arch reads 樂善堂義塚 . 樂善堂 (Lok Sin Tong) is the charity organization in Kowloon City. 義塚 is usually a mass grave of charity for an unknown number of people of unknown origin.


    1. Many thanks for the explanation, Thomas. Is it like a pauper's grave I wonder - for those who couldn't afford their own burial?

    2. See what Lok Sin Tong itself said about the mass grave. Only a line though.


  2. Hi Phil,

    Yes, something similar. However 義塚 could sometimes be a grave for tragic events. If it is so there should be engravings telling the story. One of the more well known ones is the one next to the Hong Kong Stadium for the Happy Valley Race Course Fire victims.

    There seemed to be quite a few of these 義塚 in different locations by different organizations.. I have seen one on the slope of Mount Davis, and another in Tsuen Kam Pass just a few steps aways from the Mac's Trail.

    I have read very briefly about a 義塚 for casualties of disputes between villages in the Tsuen Wan area. I couldn't even remember which book it is now.


    1. I didn't realise they were such a common thing, Thomas. I wonder if the Tsuen Wan one was the clan fight over at Shing Mun - the pineapple war (or somesuch).

  3. Hi Phil,

    I have a faint impression that the conflicts occurred sometime after the 50 miles of sea front ban had been lifted by the then Emperor when local Hakka settlement started.

    The conflicts were likely between different clans when they try to take over plots of lands for their expansions.


  4. Hi Phil,

    Got a big one. It would seem the biggest 義塚 is in Tai Po. It is call 萬安墳, located at the neighbourhood of Ying Pun Ha Tsuen. The Chinese description was that it is on the slope on the right hand side of Ying Pun Ha Tsuen. However I was unable to make it out from Google Map as I do not know its orientation. Saying something on your right hand side is pretty vague......


    1. Thomas - I know where that one is - it's at the back end of the Tai Po Sports ground. I'll wander over tomorrow and take some pictures if I get the time. Cheers, Phil

  5. That river used to change color on a daily basis, back when what became the ATV Studios was a clothing factory. Whatever color they were dyeing that day, that's what color the river was. I'm amazed anything can live in it even this long later...

    1. well I didn't know it was a clothing factory! I'm assuming this was in the...80's?
      To be fair, the freshwater part of the river looks very clean, and is very distinct from the saltwater side that is...well, fairly disgusting.

    2. Yes, this was in the 80s. I believe I was told the government eventually shut the factory down due to their pollution, and that's when ATV bought it.

      Ho Chung stream is actually mentioned as having been called "seven color river" at one time in this government article:


      While this SCMP reader says it was called the Black River:


      It used to flood Hebe Haven with heavy metals, as mentioned here:


      I found mention elsewhere in old books of there having been several bleaching and dyeing works there at one point, as well as a Lee Kum Kee sauce factory (which I remember, we'd pass it on the way to our marina and used to see various things drying traditionally on bamboo pads outdoors all the time.)

    3. thankyou Mr T for those links. Ho Chung itself is almost like a whole other town within Sai Kung - it must be one of the largest 'villages' in the territory. Actually, I know a few people who live there, it's also popular with foreigners.