Header image courtesy of David Yeung
Did you know Hong Kong has not one, not two, but a whole 15 UNESCO Global Geoparks commissioned by the United Nations? Formerly known as the Hong Kong National Geopark, it was later renamed to the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark in 2009 and covers parts of eastern and northeastern New Territories, most notably Sai Kung. One part of the UNESCO Global Geopark is home to intricate swathes of volcanic rock formations, known as Lai Chi Chong (荔枝莊). Luckily, the trip out to Lai Chi Chong does not require a lot of physical exertion, making it the perfect weekend getaway and a leisurely trail to take if you are in the Sai Kung and looking for a lesser-known adventure.
Lai Chi Chong is located on the northern shore of the Sai Kung peninsula. It faces the Tolo Channel and overlooks the undulating mountains of Plover Cove Country Park. Unlike the other more well-known parks in eastern Sai Kung, Lai Chi Chong is situated on the western side. In fact, it is close to Hoi Ha Wan, which is famed for its tranquil and protected marine park and beaches. While there is a village located within Lai Chi Chong, the main attraction is definitely the natural volcanic rock formations by the shoreline. These were formed over 140 million years ago and have now turned into a rugged beach, where you can find an expanse of vibrantly coloured minerals and sediments.
While the walk to the shoreline requires minimal effort, the trip there is quite difficult, as Lai Chi Chong is located deep within Sai Kung Country Park and the only way of getting there is by taxi or minibus. However, the remarkable and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong is worth the effort as Lai Chi Chong transports you to the shorelines of California, Thailand, or even Australia. Plus, the trail is family- and beginner-friendly and the path is mostly shaded in the thick and dense forest of Sai Kung.
Distance: 3.5 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 125 metres approx.
Total time: 1 hour approx.
There are different ways in reaching the Lai Chi Chong UNESCO Global Geopark, whether it is by road, by sea, or even by foot. However, we recommend taking a taxi or minibus then hike, as it is the most convenient and easiest way.
Starting from Pak Sha O Youth Hostel, walk down Hoi Ha Road until you reach a sign that says “Lai Chi Chong.” Follow the signposted trail down a shaded and paved path, which essentially is the start of the hike. At first, the walk is quite shaded and you will encounter a stream snaking alongside the trail and also a lot of trees and vines which surround the path. Soon after the shaded path, you will encounter Pak Sha O village, where you will be treated to beautiful and old village homes and also a small plot of land used for farming.
Once you’re done admiring the rustic charms of Pak Sha O village, continue on the shaded trail. You will quickly find yourself on a path flanked by lush trees on both sides, with the calming sounds of a babbling stream accompanying you on your walk. Around 30 minutes into your hike, you will encounter a fork in the road, which will direct you to another trail. Stay on the same trail you are on and walk straight without turning, as the other trail will take you to Sham Chung, an ancient village and historic area of Neolithic settlements. Once you reach the fork, it is good to note that you are about halfway done with the hike and will be at Lai Chi Chong around in around 15 to 20 minutes.
While the hike to Lai Chi Chong village is short, it is nevertheless full of splendour and your surroundings are some of the wildest and most untamed areas of Hong Kong. Untouched by civilisation, your hike is serenaded by various birds singing, the branches of trees bristling, and bees buzzing pass you as they do their daily tasks. In the final segment of the trail, the path will open up to a patch of grass, where you can observe cows and a stunning mountain behind them. As you walk further out, you will begin to see a wetland of mangroves.
Keep following the path until you reach Tai Pak Kok Pier and from there, soak in the views of the Tolo Channel. On the left, you will see a sign that tells you that you have arrived at the Lai Chi Chong UNESCO Global Geopark—congratulations! Now that you have landed in this lesser-known region, take your time to explore the beautiful and natural volcanic rock formations. As an unblemished part of Sai Kung, the shallows at Lai Chi Chong are also quite clear, should you want to wade out into the waters.
Once you have had your fill from wandering around Lai Chi Chong, it’s time to head back to Sai Kung. From Lai Chi Chong, you could either hike back the way you came and take minibus 7 back to Sai Kung Town. Alternatively, you could continue the adventure and check out other mountains and trails such as Kai Ma Tung (雞麻峒), Nam Shan Tung (南山洞), and She Shek (蛇石).