HONG KONG: EASTERN AND WESTERN NEW TERRITORIES
China leased the Eastern and Western New Territories to Britain in 1898 for a period of 99 years. In 1997, the New Territories were returned to China. The New Territories stretched from Kowloon to mainland China and covers an area in excess of one thousand kilometers. The area was mainly rural countryside when Britain took over but today the Eastern and Western New Territories has a combined population of over 3.5 million people.
Although the region is dominated by huge Government housing projects, the New Territories still has many attractions for the visitor including the ones listed below covering both the Eastern and Western New Territories.
Eastern New Territories
The Eastern New Territories can be reached by KCR or by MTR to Sai Kung station and then taking a bus. The New Territories can be a little difficult to navigate and it may be advisable to take one of the many tours which will allow you to see the main sights in the least amount of time. The Eastern New Territories has many sights including temples, museums, a botanic garden and a race course.
The Sha Tin Race Course provides a popular pastime for many Hong Kong residents who visit the racecourse once a week on racing days which is normally a Saturday. Gambling is the main lure for most visitors while many others also come to enjoy Penfold Park bird sanctuary which lies next to the racecourse. The Sha Tin Race Course can be reached by a special KCR train which only operates on racing days.
The Eastern New Territories has a number of museums. The Heritage Museum near Sha Tin KCR station has exhibits for children and fishing and rice farming exhibits are also common. The Heritage Museum is open 10am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesday to Saturdays and 10am to 7pm on Sundays. Entrance to the museum is free on Wednesdays. Another popular museum is the small Hong Kong Railway Museum which is located near the Man Mo Temple and is a short taxi ride from Tai Po Market KCR station. The Hong Kong Railway Museum is open 9am to 5pm daily but is closed on Tuesdays. The museum was originally the Tai Po Market Railway Station and all types of train related exhibits can be found including different carriages as well as a traditional booking office.
Temples in the Eastern New Territories include the Man Mo Temple which is dedicated to the god of literature and is a short taxi ride from Tai Po Market KCR station. One of the most popular temples is the very wealthy Wong Tai Sin Temple near Wong Tai Sin MTR station. Tourists as well as residents go to the temple to have their fortunes told the temple has a huge number of fortune tellers within its grounds. Finally the Man Fat Tze temple is a major tourist attraction and is often known as the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. The temple is near Sha Tin KCR station.
Finally for nature lovers there is the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden which is located near a short bus ride from Pak Ngau Shek KCR station. The place is a major conservation area and contains many rare plants and species as well as some wild animals in the mountains.
Western New Territories
There are a number of sights which are worth seeing in the Western New Territories. The dominant spectacle in this area is the Tsing Ma Bridge which connects the Tsing Yi Island in the east to the Ma Wan Island in the west over Ma Wan Channel and helps to link the New Territories to Lantau Island and Chek Lap Kok (Hong Kong International Airport). The Tsing Ma Bridge is a dramatic sight especially at night when the whole bridge is lit up. The Tsing Ma Bridge is the seventh longest suspension bridge in the world and its' two decks carry both rail and road traffic. Tsing Ma Bridge opened in April 1997.
Other sights worth visiting include the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb museum which was discovered by Government workers when they were levelling a hill slope in 1955 in the Lei Cheng Uk village. The tomb dates back from the Eastern Han dynasty around AD 25 to 220. The tomb itself is closed to the public for preservation reasons but can still be glimpsed from a glass panel near the entrance. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb museum is located at 41 Tonkin Street near Cheung Sha Wan MTR station (take A3 exit).
Another museum worth seeing is the Sam Tung Uk museum which is a two hundred year old walled village resembling a chess board and containing houses, an ancestral hall and exhibits by the Hakka people. The nearest MTR station is Tsuen Wan station. Admission is free and the Sam Tung Uk museum is open 9am to 5pm on Mondays and from Wednesday to Sunday. It is closed on Tuesdays.
The Western New Territories also contain the only remaining Mandarin house in Hong Kong called the Tai Fu Tai Mansion which can be found in San Tin near Lok Ma Chau. The Tai Fu Tai Mansion is one the most traditional and grandest of buildings to be found in Hong Kong and can be reached by taking the no. 76K bus from Sheung Shui KCR to San Tin.
The Ching Chung Koon Temple (Green Pine temple) is one of the more popular visitor attractions and is a Taoist temple located in the Tuen Mun district. The temple contains many treasures including some from the Beijing Imperial Palace. Many people visit the Ching Chung Koon Temple to pay respects to their departed friends and relatives during the Ching Ming festival and Chung Yeung festival. The Ching Chung Koon Temple is located near the Ching Chung LRT station near the town of Tuen Mun. Alternatively go to Tsuen Wan MTR station and then take bus 66P or 66M to Tuen Mun.
Finally, the Ping Shan Heritage Trail covering the Ping Shan area of the New Territories includes various historical sights such as the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, the Tang Ancestral Hall, the Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall and the Sau Choi mansion. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail was opened in 1993 and is around one kilometer in length. The nearest station is the Ping Shan LRT.