(Some photos are taken by Patrick Lam):

A distant view of Pak A

An abandoned village house in Pak A is now occupied by the fig tree!

Participants of the trip

The Hakka house in Pak Lap is renovated to the holiday houses

The Hakka house in Pak Lap is renovated to the holiday houses

A distant view of Chek Keng

Vacant houses in Chek Keng

Vacant houses in Chek Keng

Visiting Sai Kung's abandoned villages, 13 November 2006

Led by the director of the Centre, Dr. Sidney Cheung, seven people, including Dr. Karen Thompson from University of Strathclyde and Mr. Patrick Lam, representative of Genlin World Heritage Foundation, joined this interesting trip. Our first destination was Pak A, a Hakka village, which is almost vacant now. After an hour's walking, we reached the second destination íV Pak Lap with a beautiful beach. Pak Lap is a single (Lau) surname Hakka village in which 17 houses built in two rows. In the past, Pak Lap's villagers depended on both farming and fishing; however, beginning in the early 1980s, farmland was taken out of agricultural production and most villagers moved away either working overseas or in the city. In 1993, a total amount of 300,000 square feet farm land belonged to Pak Lap villagers was all sold to a local developer; however, house land was still kept by the villagers. After having lunch at a characteristic "store" on the beach, we went to Wong Shek Pier in which we got a short ride of a speed boat to the last destination--Chek Keng. Unlike Pak lap, most buildings in Chek Keng can still be seen as they used to be, even though some of the houses had collapsed. Chek Keng is a traditional settlement consisting of five different lineage groups living together, and it was probably founded more than 200 years ago. Regarding the history of lineages in this Hakka village, there were five different lineages with surnames Fan, Chiu, Lee, Wong and Cheng living in the village; however, most of the descendants of these lineages are living in UK, Holland and Hong Kong city now. Besides abandoned houses, we also saw a grey kiln, which was used to make bricks in the past, still exists but continuously deteriorates. A chapel can be found on a hill and shows that Catholics had been spread to this area. After the trip and the guidance of Dr. Cheung, all of us certainly know more the histories and some interesting stories behind these villages. Below are some feedbacks by the participants:

Comments from Mr. Patrick Lam, Genlin World Heritage Foundation:
It was an honour for me to be part of this trip and to experience rich history of this site. Although some of the village houses have already collapsed, there are still many valuable structures which reveal how the Hakka community lived in the past years.  Moreover, the chance to breathe some fresh air and hike through the rural areas is such a privilege for busy urban people like us. Thank you again for organizing such a wonderful trip and I look forward to more in the near future.

Comments from Dr. Karen Thompson, Lecturer in Tourism, University of Strathclyde:
I enjoyed very much the trip to Sai Kung.  It was rather amazing for me to find such areas of rural isolation within the city/region of Hong Kong, which I always thought of as a concrete jungle. The territory where the abandoned villages are located is very beautiful and I suppose that part of its appeal is due to its inaccessibility, although this is also one of the reasons for the villages being abandoned.  It was fascinating to see these traditional dwellings, some of them still with farming equipment and everyday objects remaining in the houses. It reminded me somewhat of my home country of Ireland. There, in the countryside, it was traditional to build new houses close to the old ones, so that the old ones would be abandoned and often many of the old fashioned household goods would also be left behind. 

Since our visit, I have learned that there are museums in Hong Kong, such as the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum, where these traditional dwellings are protected as monuments.  I feel very privileged to have been able to visit these unique villages with someone as knowledgeable as Professor Cheung, and with our local guide from the restaurant. 

Best wishes to you and your colleagues.

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