Header image courtesy of @alexanderlism (via Instagram)
Formerly (and still commonly) known in Cantonese as 大尾篤 (“The Very End”) before it was changed to the homonymous 大美督 (“Great Beauty”), the tranquil coastal village of Tai Mei Tuk is a popular weekend destination for cyclists, barbecue enthusiasts, and young families to enjoy the great outdoors. Follow our neighbourhood guide and escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a trip out to this rural settlement, which offers stunning vistas, undulating ridges, active adventures, and a surprising plethora of international dining options in the crook of Tai Po District.
Most day-trippers will be familiar with Tai Mei Tuk for its cycling attractions, and it’s an activity that’s not to be missed when in the neighbourhood. Rent a bike from one of many bike shops along Sam Wo Road and journey down the main dam of Plover Cove Reservoir, hugged on both sides by seemingly endless bodies of water, where a flat trail of two kilometres meanders across the water. We would recommend to double up on sunscreen during sunny days—there is no shade at all along Plover Cove Reservoir and you will remain exposed to the sun.
Runners, dog-owners, and families with children are usually strolling along the stretch, as well as amateur cyclists looking for a place to practice, but there’s more than enough space to cycle around them and enjoy the ride across the reservoir. You can even take your rental bike and pedal all the way to Tai Po and back along Ting Kok Road.
Tai Mei Tuk has no shortage of hiking routes for you to clamber upon on all fours or leisurely stroll along. Among them are the majestic ridges of Pat Sin Leng in the vast Pat Sin Leng Country Park, a shaded dirt trail that spits you out at the Bride’s Pool Nature Trail further up north, which then leads you to the Bride’s Pool Waterfall for a well-deserved dip. Hikers looking for a tougher challenge can make the trek across the eight peaks of Pat Sin Leng as well.
For something short and cheerful, the Plover Cove Family Walk is perfect for the little ones and four-legged friends—it only takes an hour to do and the rewards are plentiful. Start off from Bradbury Jockey Club Youth Hostel and make your way around the family-friendly loop, passing through four scenic points that boast views across the Plover Cove Reservoir and dam towards Ma On Shan as well as the imposing Pat Sing Leng mountains and their commanding peaks.
A little further out from Tai Mei Tuk proper is the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail, a geologically significant site in the Plover Cove Bay that is home to some of the oldest rocks in Hong Kong. Boasting sedimentary rock layers and an enchanting tombolo that visitors can cross, the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail reveals topographical faults and folds that date back to the Permian period. Just be aware of tidal levels and plan ahead to make sure you’re visiting at low tide for your own safety.
Finally, for one of Hong Kong’s most difficult hikes, the Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail clocks in at 18 kilometres, starting on the far end of the main dam and looping all around the Plover Cove Reservoir before ending near Bride’s Pool (or vice versa, depending on where you would like to start). For advanced hikers, this trek should take an average of seven to eight hours to complete, taking you up on pristine ranges with expansive views that span the Tolo Channel, Pat Sin Leng, Hung Shek Mun, Double Island, Ma On Shan, and Sai Kung.
One of Hong Kong’s most beloved day-trip destinations, Bride’s Pool near Tai Mei Tuk is a breeze to get to and suitable for families with children as well. It’s one of the many scenic places in Hong Kong that doesn’t look like Hong Kong at all, and you can spend the better part of a day exploring the cascading pools and surrounding wildlife.
You would never guess that this majestic waterfall received its name from a folk tale: Legend has it that a bride was being carried in a sedan chair by four porters on her way to meet her groom in stormy weather. As they passed the pool, one of the porters slipped and the bride fell into the pool and drowned, and the pool was named in memory of her tragic fate. Fortunately, there’s nothing gruesome about it on the surface—in fact, its glistening waters tell quite the opposite story.
You can take a taxi from Tai Mei Tuk up to Bride’s Pool, or challenge yourself to a one-hour hike from the village. From Bride’s Pool Road, it’s only a few minutes to Bride’s Pool Nature Trail before you hit the waterfall. If you haven’t already returned your rental bike at a shop in Tai Mei Tuk, you could cycle up there as well, but do note that you’ll need to bring your own bike lock to chain up your bike so it’s safe while you’re off exploring the rock pools.
On your way to Tai Mei Tuk, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot an emerging figure in the distance, seemingly rising up from out of the mountains. That’s the bronze Guanyin statue of Tsz Shan Monastery, a large Buddhist temple located in Tung Tsz. A behemoth boasting 76 meters in height, the Guanyin is the second-highest in the world. Coupled with the monastery’s serene greenery, low buildings, and wide pathways, it appears to loom even taller.
As a Chinese Buddhist monastery established for the teaching of the Buddha, Tsz Shan Monastery is a sanctuary for the purpose of spiritual purification. Public visitors are welcome, but they must register for a visit through Tsz Shan Monastery’s online registration system at least two weeks in advance, so some planning ahead is required. The number of visitors is also restricted, so tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll be grateful for their strict policies regarding visitations; there’s nothing quite like taking a stroll through the grounds and feeling the tranquillity and rejuvenating atmosphere that only a quiet place by the hillside can bring.
Tsz Shan Monastery, 88 Universal Gate Road, Tai Po
Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve might be a little further out from Tai Mei Tuk proper (actually, it neighbours on the industrial neighbourhood of Tai Po), but while venturing out to the coastal village, we would pencil this in as a stop along the way. Trawl through the 300-year-old Hakka village of Fung Yuen to find the eponymous Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, which houses over 200 butterflies species for you to marvel at. In fact, the collection here constitutes about 90 percent of the 245 breeds that can be found in Hong Kong, with about 130 species classified as uncommon, rare, and very rare in Hong Kong.
Aside from its flittering wonders that will entice you to slow down and smell the flowers, the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve is also notable for its feng shui woodlands and agricultural yields, including crops like lychees, Chinese cabbages, and bananas, which double as food for caterpillars and butterflies.
Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, 150 Fung Yuen Road, Tai Po | (+852) 3111 7344
You have reached the outer fringes of Tai Mei Tuk and now you’re hankering for a bite. Luckily, there are options abound, some accessible to you whilst you’re on your way into the village as well. Mr Cardigan is one of our favourite countryside cafés in Hong Kong, an oasis of cacti and succulents just off to the side of the main cycling trail along Ting Kok Road. Located at the mouth of Ting Kok village, it’s a mere 10-minute bike ride from Tai Mei Tuk and you’ll definitely spot it as you’re cycling by—the lush foliage is hard to miss. Note: Mr Cardigan is only open on weekends.
Mr Cardigan, Shan Liu Road, Ting Kok, Tai Po
For another coffee option, there’s Kaffee House in Lo Tsz Tin village, just a two-minute ride away from Tai Mei Tuk, but you’ll have to venture deep into the maze of residential houses to find it. Cakes, pastries, and herbal teas are on the menu as well for an afternoon pick-me-up after your cycling adventure, and their most popular sweet treat is the baked Japan apple cake ($70). We’re also quite partial to the Italian lemon cheesecake ($70)—a tart slice of heaven.
Kaffee House, 24 Lo Tsz Tin Tsuen, Tai Po | (+852) 2330 0233
Like a side of window shopping with your coffee? Pimary & Co. is right next door to Kaffee House, hawking eco-conscious lifestyle products and household goods as well as decent brews and small bites—just in case you wanted more coffee options. Menus and daily specials are hand-scribbled on a flat stone—how novel—and paper notecards, doing away with plastic menus and the like. The minimalist aesthetic is right up our alley, and you’ll find yourself snapping away to document their clean lines and earthy colour palette for a bit of #homeinspo for your own abode.
Pimary & Co., 25 Lo Tsz Tin Tsuen, Tai Po
This plant-based bakery may be off the beaten path for most, but the delicious bread and pizzas they make are 100 percent worth the trek. Run by a native Latvian father-daughter duo, the goods at Mayse are a welcome departure from the French and Italian carbs that we’re used to, made following traditional recipes and slow-fermented for upwards to 40 hours to ensure that the resulting loaves are exactly like how they are baked and eaten back home in Latvia.
Mayse offers an outstanding selection of homemade rye sourdough, with the likes of cranberry & walnut wheat sourdough ($50), raisin & cinnamon wheat sourdough ($50), challah wheat sourdough ($50), and truffle & garlic ciabatta ($50). All offer a depth of flavour unparalleled by most bakeries, even with all plant-based ingredients.
Mayse Artisan Bakery, G/F, 64 Tai Mei Tuk, Tai Po
One of the more popular Thai restaurants in Tai Mei Tuk (and there are quite a few to speak of), Chung Shing Thai Restaurant has been feeding hungry villagers and day-trippers alike since 1994, whipping up everything from meat skewers and stir-fried noodles to fragrant soups and rich curries in a no-frills dining environment. Kick back and be prepared to order a large spread to share, as you’ll want to sample a fair bit from their extensive menu.
Fan-favourite dishes include the crispy pancake tower, where triangular puff pastries are skewered, stacked, and ready for dipping in hot broths, and the yellow curry. While the cuisine is not totally authentic, it does offer warm and comforting flavours.
Chung Shing Thai Restaurant, G/F, 69 Tai Mei Tuk Tsuen, Tai Po | (+852) 2664 5218
Cycle to the far end of Hong Kong and you will encounter... a ramen shop. Matcheshouse is a delightful little eatery set within a traditional Hong Kong village house, serving up piping hot bowls of the famous Japanese soup noodles. From their whimsical, hand-illustrated menu, you can customise your ramen order, starting from the soup base all the way to your choice of toppings. You can also indulge in rice bowls, such as the decadent unagi don ($88) that is as mouth-watering as it is photogenic, and light bites like fried gyozas ($28).
Matcheshouse, G/F, 47F Tai Mei Tuk Tsuen, Tai Po | (+852) 5712 1992