All the streets and roads, all the houses and all the buildings, in more than 100 villages in Hong Kong’s Ghost Town, were once a living, breathing, happy community. Now, it is virtually abandoned. Abandoned by its owners, its people, and abandoned by time.
The Hakka populated these islands for hundreds of years, they settled here during the Qing Dynasty in the 1600s. They tilled the earth, nurtured and cared for livestock and fished the waters. Then, in the late 1950s, Hong Kong started booming industrially and most of the residents migrated to the mainland with the hopes of catching a break and permanently ride the industrialization train and leave their farming in the past. Most other residents traveled far west to become British citizens. These changes were of great effect to a community that was once largely populated and now left to care for itself. The people who stayed, fought for a time but had no choice but to leave the islands, as well and go someplace else where life would be easier for them.
Now these islands and interconnected villages are popular tourist spots, hiking trails, and historic places of interest for visiting foreigners who want to experience some of China’s history firsthand. Here are some uncanny images of Hong Kong’s abandoned villages.
Also called Robinson Island, Ap Chau translated to English means Duck Island. The island was named after the 5th Governor of Hong Kong, Hercules Robinson 1st Baron Rosmead. It is a 4-hectare island once developed for fishermen and their families who were converted to Christianity by American preachers in the 1960s.
The island used to have a healthy population of 700, mostly fishermen, but almost all of them emigrated to the United Kingdom. Today, it is one of the more popularly visited abandoned villages in Hong Kong since it’s very near the mainland. People who come, visit the Ap Chau Story Room, the church, which is still open, and the surrounding islets.
Chuk Yuen is a village located at the crossroads of Shatin Pass Road and Lung Cheung Road in New Kowloon, Hong Kong. The name’s literal Chinese translation is a bamboo garden, so fitting because the village is actually surrounded by a forest of bamboo.
The village became too populated and that prompted the government to build high-rise housing buildings to accommodate all residents. They were called, and at present are known as, Chuk Yuen North and Chuk Yuen South Estates. There is a temple built by Taoists in 1921 called the Wong Tai Sin Temple located on the west side of the village.
From a population upwards of 200, the small village of Fan Lau was home to local fishermen. But now there are only a few residents left in the village. Fan Lau is surrounded by a government protected forest park, making it inaccessible.
It’s a three-hour hike from the Shek Pik reservoir and is in the southwest of Lantau. There is a historic monument in Fan Lau, a beautiful fort that stands since 1729 called Fan Lau Fort. Enjoy a hike along Lantau island and see the village and witness the historical fort, which was believed to have been built as a defense against pirates.
The hike to Fung Hang is in itself a spectacle worth the trip. The starting point is Luk Keng. The path will go through Bride’s Pool Road first, then a recreational fishing pond, and then onto the surprisingly clear waters of Starling Inlet, along Tiu Tang Lung Path. In more or less 15 minutes, you will start to see the abandoned buildings of Fung Hang village.
The destination is marked with a welcome sign that says you are trespassing on private property, a nice touch for a ghost town. Do not freak out if you see an old woman in the village, she’s the sole resident of Fung Hang. A grandmother in her eighties named Wong, she still takes care of her house while her son comes every week to supply her with groceries.
Kat O has now transformed to a very nice tourist spot that offers a wonderful visual experience to one of Hong Kong’s ghost villages. A member of the North District of Hong Kong, Kat O is also known as Crooked Island. It is the largest island in the North District with a 2.35-kilometer land area and has neighboring islands all around, like Ap Chau.
Previously a very big fishing market in Hong Kong, Kat O is now a legitimate tourist site, with a number of historical sites and natural view. Tin Hau Temple is open to the public, a Grade III historic building and a true wonder to behold. Another must-see is the Kat O Geoheritage Centre, then follow it up with a hike in the Kat O Nature Trail.
Kau Tam Tso is a village in North District, in the New Territories of Hong Kong. The first settlers of the village were farmers who roamed from island to island and finally settled in this village. They planted rice and crops.
Before settling in Kau Tam Tso, these villagers lived in the Bao’an County. They joined the resistance in the war with Japan, and it’s believed that there was a network of tunnels right below the village used by soldiers. They may still be there now, but any evidence was wiped out by frequent typhoons and storms. Because of the village’s support, the government erected a monument, it can still be seen in the village today.
The Kowloon Walled City is one of many abandoned villages in the New Territory of Hong Kong, but it is one with the richest and most interesting in history. It was one of the most populated and most commercialized cities, having had casinos, food courts, factories, and every known legal and not so legal activity, it was like a Red Light District.
It was originally a watchpost built to warn the city of pirates, then after Japan’s rule, became kind of a sovereign city, since neither China nor Britain relinquished any kind of responsibility. The growing population and lawlessness of the village left the two countries with no other option but to tear down the place, this happened just about 15 years ago.
From a village of over a hundred residents, the population is now just one. The sole resident in the Kuk Po village is a man named Sung. Just like the rest of the people, he went to Hong Kong to live the advanced life, but found that he missed the simpler life and chose to go back home.
Kuk Po’s most prominent building is the Kai Choi School, built in 1931 with village funds. It’s a testament to how close and how dedicated the residents were to making their village better. The school was used as a multi-purpose hall for town meetings and some village activities or gatherings. There is also a temple inside the school.
Unlike most of the abandoned villages in this article, Lai Chi Wo is getting its second wind. Reaching almost 200 in residents, the population gradually decreased from the 1950s and was totally abandoned by the mid-1990s. But having been part of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, a project was launched, funded by HSBC, that aims to make the village sustainable again.
Also, a university in Hong Kong started a revitalization project and are having students periodically volunteer in agricultural programs. Some of the villagers even went back to live there and start over again. They’ve started small businesses and more families are going back to their homes.
Although Lin Ma Hang is a village that’s closed to the public due to its location. The roads and pathways leading there are included in the Frontier Closed Area, but the actual village is not. One can visit the place as long as they do not access the roads that are open only to those with permits.
Mining was the main source of income in the village, as there was a lead mine developed in the area and was operational from 1915 to 1962. It produced silver, lead metal, and Pb-Zn ore. Today, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSI, as the tunnels are now home to bat colonies. It also has half of Hong Kong’s freshwater fish species and hanging bell flowers.
A quiet village situated between two country parks, Luk Keng Chan Uk is in the middle of Pat Sin Leng country park and Plover Cove country park. Once a community of more than 100 people, the population is now down to about ten; mostly elderly residents whose families now live in the United Kingdom or in the mainland.
Hiking tours are pretty normal here and hikers are present almost every day of the week. There is a cha chaan teng, a Hong Kong style restaurant, just outside the village where people can have a meal before going on the long hike through Luk Keng Chan Uk.
Park Island is a monstrosity of a real estate development built on a small island known as Ma Wan Island. The stretch of high-rise residential buildings tower over a small village, also called Ma Wan village. The village was a happy little town with fishing, shrimp pasting, and some agriculture as their main labors.
The villagers were relocated to give way to the extension and further development of Park Island that never came to fruition. So lies the abandoned village, with only a few residents remaining, still fishing and making shrimp paste. Most visitors use the island as a venue for amazing pictures, with the contrasting background of shrubbery, the ocean, an abandoned village, and tall buildings.
The village of Muk Wu, like most of the other abandoned villages on this list, come alive during Chinese holidays and festivals like Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Families who are former residents go back to their homes, burn incense in the village’s temple, and generally have a holiday, sometimes celebrating with visiting hikers and tourists.
Muk Wu is a village with quite a lot of buildings, but the wells and pumping station are the amazing sites. One can also see a Tin Hau Temple, some ancestral rooms, and the welcoming gate tower and village court. Muk Wu is another fine village that’s now a hiker’s paradise.
There is a footpath that winds and climbs for 78 kilometers across more than a handful of Hong Kong’s country parks. This means protected forests, nature reserves, and ghost villages. The footpath is called Wilson Trail and it has 10 stages. At the end lies the Nam Chung village.
Constructed and opened in 1996, the Wilson Trail is now a very popular tourist and scenic spot for tourists who have a passion for hiking, outdoor adventures, and the love of nature, not to mention an affinity towards creepy ghost towns. In the Nam Chung village, you will cap your long trek through Wilson Trail with a nice view of old, decrepit houses, farmlands, and fish ponds, all forgotten by the people and by time.
In the Sai Kung Peninsula, still within the New Territories of Hong Kong, is a village located in the Sai Kung East Country Park called Pak Tam Au. An old village with a history as old as the 17th century. Ancestral lineage probably started with the Ho and Chan families that came from the Liaoning province.
They mainly have livestock (pig and poultry) and farm (rice and vegetables) for their source of living. Today, Pak Tam Au is known as the starting point for tourists and hikers in between stages of the MacLehose Trail. Before, residents used to hike to find firewood to sell as an alternative source of living. Now, hiking is a recreational activity in the area.
Sha Lo Tung is one of the most popular and most visited abandoned villages in Hong Kong’s islands. There are still residents there who stayed and opened small restaurants to cater to the occasional hikers and travelers on weekdays.
But during the weekends, their customers come in groups and it’s always a busy time in the kitchen as they cater to their hungry customers wanting breakfast, lunch, and afternoon meals. Aside from being a popular village for hikers, it is also a protected ecological area teeming with plant and animal life. Many families go back to Pak Tam Au village and celebrate the long Chinese festivals in their ancestral homes.
Sham Chung was one of the most populated villages during the height of the area’s popularity, from a high of 500 in the 1950s, the people slowly traveled out of the place and settled in other places for work. The town only offered farming and fishing as sources of income. There are about seventy houses feeling the warm embrace of weeds, vines, and dust.
Sham Chung is now a place of residence for various flora and fauna, from the smallest and most colorful flowers to butterflies, small fish in some ponds, to herons flying and resting beside the pond, the abandoned village is like a secret garden.
Sheung Wo Hang is an abandoned village located in the North District of Hong Kong. The name literally translates upper (Sheung) valley of rice (Wo Hang). From the village’s name, inhabitants make their living by farming rice and various vegetables. Originally named just Wo Hang, it is one of the Hakka villages in Sha Tau Kok.
Sheung Wo Hang is home to the Hakka clans the Lis, the Hos, the Tsangs, and the Tangs. When the Lis lived there and built an ancestral home that the other clans believed was bad feng shui for them, they relocated. The Tangs, Tsangs, and Hos left the village and in the 1750s, this village came to be known as Sheung Wo Hang. Among the abandoned houses, one will also see a school and some ancestral homes.
If you enjoy waterfalls, then the hike going to the abandoned village of So Lo Pun is just the right trail for you. So Lo Pun in English means “the compass is locked.” This is because when people get around the area or in the village, their compasses go crazy or stop working.
You can freely go inside the village to take a closer look at the abandoned houses, most of them still even have furniture and kitchen utensils inside. Like other villages, owners visit their houses here at least once a year to celebrate holidays like Chinese New Year and National Day.
Tung Ping Chau is a small island with five villages on it. Two of them are Nai Tau village and Chau Tau village, and there are still people living in each and every village in the island. These remaining people mostly were born here and never left the island, so the only residents are the elderly folk of Tung Ping Chau island.
However, there is one resident, his name is Yuen Siu-ying, and he is only in his fifties. Having five villages there, Yuen claims there were thousands of residents up until the 1980s when people started moving out due to the weakened state of the farm and seafood industry.
Historical events changes a lot of things about a country and it’s small towns and villages. Take Wang Shan Keuk for example. In 1959 the village of Wang Shan Keuk was completely abandoned. Located inside the Pat Sin Leng Country Park, Wang Shan Keuk housed at least 20 families (from the Chan clan) and a dam was constructed near the area.
It’s called the Plover Cove reservoir. Hikers travel on the road crossing the lower and upper Wang Shan Keuk villages then down to Bride’s Pool, a 40-minute walk with beautiful views of the forgotten buildings and nature-swallowed houses, the giant dam is also a must-see.
Another village on the Sai Kung Peninsula of Hong Kong, inside the Tai Po District, is Wong Chuk Yeung. It is a remote village located within the Ma On Shan Country Park, just down and to the right of Ma On Shan Peak. There were people in the hundreds who were either rice farmers, beancurd, or sugar farmers.
Their harvest was sold in the nearby Sai Kung Market. Farming was destroyed by the emergence of iron mines in the area, making the land unsuitable for cultivation. These developments forced many of the landowners to pack up and go find work elsewhere, leaving the village deserted, but not forgotten. Many of the people who lived here come and visit to pay their respects during festivals like the Qingming Festival.
Another popular hiking trail for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, the Wu Kau Tang area is a stretch of land that has several villages on it: Sam Ka Tsuen, Tin Sum, San Uk Ha, Leng Pui, and Lo Wai. It’s a beautiful sight because the villages do not look like apartment buildings but rural and traditional Chinese houses.
Since it’s a rural heritage area, enjoy basking in the culture inside this abandoned village. Aside from the rich history and culture, you get to see amazing scenery and nature at its best. There’s even a cha chaan teng (tea restaurant) at the starting point of the trail.
A rare building in these islands can be seen in Yim Tin Tsai. The building is a small church, called St. Joseph’s Chapel. There were missionary Catholic priests who visited the island in 1864 and started evangelizing and before long, everyone in the village was baptized. Still, just like the other villages, Yim Tin Tsai was abandoned in the 1950s.
But the Catholic Church is a powerful force and it conducted renovations on the chapel and the villagers got their inspiration from the ever-improving and rebuilding of their own chapel. Some of them started going back to live in the village, picking up the pieces and trying to revive the life they had before. The village school is now turned to a heritage center, ecotourism tours are booked, boat operators signed up, roads were re-made, and life in this village is starting to grow again.
There is still some semblance of life in most of the abandoned villages, there are even residents in some of them, and then some, like Yim Tin Tsai, are starting to re-colonize. But there is a village that was maybe simply forgotten by its former residents, this is the Yung Shue Au village. One of the abandoned villages that hikers will come across on the pathway from Kuk Po village, Yung Shue Au has around sixteen houses, all completely abandoned and are being swallowed by the forest, slowly but surely.
Now, the buildings can still be seen, but they will be part of the forest soon. A real ghost village, you start to see signs of a village when you walk through Chinese graves, these are like opening gates to the village. Some houses look okay, but inside it are plants, shrubs, and all manner of green leaves, roots, and vines. A sad truth and an example that some villages, no matter who or how may lived there, still gets forgotten and abandoned.