Header image courtesy of @andrew818 (via Instagram)
We may still be a long way from global travel, but don’t let that gloomy thought stop you from seeing the world. When you are blessed with a verdant city like Hong Kong, you get to call the botanical wonders of bamboo forests and twisting tree vines part of your backyard. While such lush green landscapes may not be as popular as the iconic skyline or beach views that Hong Kong boasts, what better way is there to prove that you know the best hidden spots in the city? (Plus, it makes for an excellent Instagram photo-op, we hear.)
Bamboo groves can be found on the Mau Ping Ancient Trail, which is situated between Ma On Shan and Sai Kung. It is an easy-to-walk pathway paved in stone that connects the abandoned villages of Mui Tse Lam and Pak Kong. As a leisure hike, the Mau Ping Ancient Trail is home to historical viewpoints such as the “Vine King” and the aforementioned bamboo tunnels. While the hike is simple enough, getting to Mau Ping itself may be tricky. Read on to learn how to hike the Mau Ping Ancient Trail in Hong Kong.
Mau Ping Ancient Trail is perhaps best visited for its two main attractions: the impressive St. Thomas’ bean—affectionately nicknamed the “Vine King” (藤皇; tang4 wong4)—and its bamboo tunnels. However, the area also holds a rich cultural history on its own, as it is home to the ancient villages of Mau Ping and Mui Tsz Lam, one of many abandoned rural communities in Hong Kong.
Built over 300 years ago, settlers made use of this very trail for travel, as it made journeys between villages easier. Without the highways peppered between districts in Hong Kong now, it’s hard to believe trails like the Mau Ping Ancient Trail were once the primary routes villagers relied on.
Distance: 6.8 kilometres approx.
Time: 3 hours approx.
No longer solely connected through mountain trails, there are more than few ways to get to the start of the Mau Ping Ancient Trail. It is easiest to begin your journey in Tai Shui Hang.
Take the East Rail line to Tai Wai Station.
At the end of Mui Tsz Lam Road, you will find a long flight of stairs pointing to Mau Ping, which is under two kilometres away. Thankfully, this leg of the trail provides plenty of shade and offers a gentle incline throughout, with the last section posing a slightly more challenging climb. You will know that you are on the right path as soon as you pass by ramshackle buildings, architectural relics from when village settlers populated the area. Surrounding the old houses are the lush, natural sceneries of foliage.
To get to the famed “Vine King,” you’ll need to hike up to Mau Ping Au, which is part of Section 5 of the Maclehose Trail. Rising up from out of the ground, the gigantic St. Thomas’ bean leans on a portion of the abandoned village school. If that is not enough to give it an eerie, haunting impression, the vine tree towers over the clearing in a twisting pattern, expanding into all directions like cables or webs. From here, you can choose to end your walk by going down Buffalo Hills or continue onwards to see the bamboo tunnels.
As you head back to the crossroad, continue right to Pak Kong Trail, where another set of stairs brings you to the first bamboo tunnel on the trail. Walls of bamboos on both sides form a perfect arch and a whimsical walkway that is reminiscent of the landscape in Spirited Away, the famed Hayao Miyazaki animation.
Another stretch of the trail features a more concave and wave-like structure of the bamboo trees. There are only a few other spots in Hong Kong to see bamboo tunnels like this one, so be sure to get your Instagram shot here while there’s still daylight.
Another short few minutes of walking back towards the main road will sadly end your hike, taking you past Pak Kong village then back to Sai Kung. Here, buses will take you to either Sai Kung or Diamond Hill.