27 October 2016
A large mangrove forest occupies much of the wetland in So Lo Pun. Photo: HKEJ
A large mangrove forest occupies much of the wetland in So Lo Pun. Photo: HKEJ

Weekend travel: A derelict village that fuels urban myths

Lai Chi Wo (荔枝窩) and So Lo Pun (鎖羅盆) are two ancient villages that share common ancestors in Hong Kong’s northeastern New Territories.

The former has become relatively revitalized now due to holidaymakers, who love to rest their feet here and get some Hakkanese refreshments after long hikes, but the latter is still pretty much abandoned even though it has gained a bit of popularity due to folklore that is “haunted”.

Let’s focus now on So Lo Pun and how it got that name.

Founded as early as in Qing Dynasty, the valley village was initially called “So Nou Pun (鎖腦盆)”. However, it was frequently rumored that compasses would stop working in the area, prompting people to dub it “So Lo Pun”, which literally translates to ‘the compass is locked’ in Cantonese.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, So Lo Pun village was still housing over 200 families. Like many other local Hakka villages, the inhabitants started to move to the urban areas or migrate abroad from the 1980s, leaving it almost uninhabited.

Since then many stories have been floated about the reason for the abandonment of the village. One said villagers collectively went missing in one single night. Some argued it was an epidemic outbreak that claimed lives of many.

Some put the blame on the Japanese, suggesting that the invaders conducted a massacre during their occupation of the city.

All these are unverifiable hypotheses.

The government has now recovered much of the paths to the village, making it much more accessible to weekend hikers.

The natural landscape of So Lo Pun is stunning. An abundant mangrove forest occupies much of the wetland, while wild flowers welcome you along the way to the village.

Ramshackle houses are no surprise, but visitors will find it intriguing as they will discover some newly-written couplets adorning the sides of doors.

This suggests that the houses are being visited by the owners at least once in a while.

The easiest way to So Lo Pun is to start from Luk Keng (鹿頸), passing Fung Hang (鳳坑), Kuk Po (谷埔) and Yung Shue Au (榕樹坳). As for exit, there are several options.

If you’re a weekend visitor, you can walk to Lai Chi Wo for limited ferry service to Ma Liu Shui (馬料水). For weekday hikers, go to Wu Kau Tang (烏蛟騰), bypassing Sam A (三椏), Sheung Miu Tin (上苗田), Ha Miu Tin (下苗田) and Kau Tam Tso (九担租).

Getting there:

To go to Luk Keng: Take minibus 56K from Fanling MTR station.

To return from Lai Chi Wo: Take the only ferry departing at 3:30 pm on Sundays and public holidays to Ma Liu Shui Landing No. 3. (Contact number of ferry operator — Best Sonic Industrial Ltd: 2555 9269)

To return from Wu Kau Tang: Take minibus 20R to Tai Po Market MTR station.

Time: About 4.5 hours (leaving from Lai Chi Wo) or 7 hours (leaving from Wu Kau Tang)

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 26.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version中文版]

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Visitors will find it intriguing as they discover newly-written couplets adorning the sides of doors of ramshackle and abandoned houses. Photo: HKEJ

HKEJ contributor

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