What It’s Like to Bike Through Hong Kong’s New Territories
Leave the skyscrapers for mangroves, rivers, a walled village and a slower pace
Hong Kong is famous for skyscrapers and banks, but in reality has a lot of open space to explore that is often overlooked by visitors. Every time we visit, I try to show my daughter (who was born in Hong Kong) that things can move at a slower pace outside of the Central and Kowloon hubs. This is why, on our most recent trip, I booked a half-day private Hong Kong biking tour in the New Territories with Mountain Biking Asia which is something we hadn’t done yet.
I never, ever run out of new things to do in Hong Kong, my favorite city in the world.
In addition to seeing nature, you get a real sense of Hong Kong’s colorful history on this bike tour unlike you would if your holiday was centered in Kowloon and on the island. I’m not going to tell you everything I learned or relearned, having lived in Hong Kong, because you really should experience it for yourself. This is just a snippet.
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Why the New Territories?
To give you an idea, the New Territories makes up about 86% of Hong Kong. As you probably know already, Hong Kong was ceded to Britain as settlement after the Opium Wars. Long story short, in 1898, Britain negotiated for an extension of Kowloon to defend against other European forces in China that might be a threat to Hong Kong. Britain leased the New Territories from China for 99 years. In 2007, when the lease was up, Margaret Thatcher returned the New Territories to China and, in a gesture of goodwill, also included the return of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
But, if someone tells you they’re visiting Hong Kong, its likely that they mean either Hong Kong Island (home to the famous skyline) or the Kowloon peninsula. A few exceptions include the airport, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, the Big Buddha or perhaps an outer island like Lamma which are all technically in the New Territories.
Not many tourists visit other quieter, green spots in the New Territories. This is where a Hong Kong bike tour comes in as your chance to get some exercise and do something a little outside-the-box.
Arrival to Kam Sheung MTR Station
The recent addition of the West Rail MTR (train) has made the New Territories much more accessible than this area was when we lived in Hong Kong. We arrived to our meeting place from our room at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (who recommended I do this tour) in less than 30 minutes, most of which was spent sitting on the train. It’s very, very easy to do.
Kam Sheung is quite a calm station, relatively speaking, with clean bathrooms (you might want to make a pit stop before hopping on the bike) and a really small convenience store. It was easy to spot our guide, who was prepared with water, first aid and other bike supplies we might need, outside exit A2.
It took a few minutes to fit the bikes and helmets. Mine had a small pack on the back to store my handbag. Then, we were off.
First Stop: Kat Hing Wai
Kat Hing Wai is one of Hong Kong’s remaining walled villages and is inhabited by only the Tang Clan. The Tang’s are one of the Great Five Clans of Hong Kong as they were the first immigrants from mainland China to settle in what is now Hong Kong. Kat Hing Wai is about 500 years old and was built by the family as protection against the British. So, it naturally makes sense that there is only one way in and one way out of Kat Hing Wai, pictured here.
We were able to walk inside. Residences have been a bit modernized but are that interesting mix of old and new that I love so much about Hong Kong. A temple lies at the end of this pathway.
Exploring Kam Tin
We headed off from Kat Hing Wai into a more residential section of Kam Tin, where many Tang Clan members also live, and old houses are sprinkled in with new structures. Plenty more were under construction (I always marvel at Hong Kong’s bamboo scaffolding).
You see, the Tang Clan is rich because they’re descendants of Emperor Gaozong from the Song Dynasty. Part of why this bike tour is so cool is because you can see Ferraris parked in front of older, not-too-fancy-from-the-outside residences. And, we definitely learned about and saw first-hand how the Clan sticks with old traditions. Our guide once lived in Kam Tin so was able to provide a ton of detail.
Though I’ve heard of this banyan tree, I’d never seen it in person. It’s called the Kam Tin Tree House because the tree became so big that it actually engulfed an old house that was abandoned during the early Ching period.
It’s believed to be well over 300 years old. The house inside has mostly disintegrated (some bricks are visible) but the tree retains the house’s original shape.
From there, we explored more of this Tang Village’s buildings including a temple and an old school house.
Nam Sang Wai
Our cycling really picked up after leaving the Tang Village as we headed over to Nam Sang Wai. Up to this point, the streets and villages felt a little suburb-like (still radically different than Central Hong Kong), but Nam Sang Wai is an area that is crossed by two rivers. “River” and “Hong Kong” are not normally words that are paired together.
The well-paved Nam Sang Wai bike path runs along the rivers and from here it’s possible to see the mudskippers, crabs and more that live in the mudflats and mangroves. We saw a number of photographers and wildlife enthusiasts set up with long lenses (and patience) to photograph various birds. There are also crocodile warning signs because of a 2003 incident when a 1.5-meter-long croc was caught here (and then transported to Hong Kong Wetland Park).
It’s really quiet and beautiful in this part of Hong Kong. It’s so close to the mainland China border that you can see the skyscrapers of Shenzhen in the background behind these fishermen.
We detoured off of the paved trail through trees and to a fishing village with houses on stilts (very rare now in Hong Kong). It’s here that Hong Kong’s only remaining river taxi takes people back and forth across the river.
And, then we cycled all the way back around Nam Sang Wai to the dim sum restaurant.
Dim Sum Lunch
After all of that exercise, it’s nice to indulge in dim sum without any guilt. Inside the Yuen Long MTR station is a very popular Cantonese restaurant called V Cuisine. We didn’t have a wait for lunch, luckily, but it gets really busy. Food is served quickly and I thought it was very good. Since you’re already in the MTR station, it’s easy to hop on the train and head home.
All-in-all, a biking tour is a great way to spend a half-day in Hong Kong outdoors. We could have headed to the Wetlands Park after this but my daughter was tired.
Good to Know
I wish I would have brought a better GoPro mount so that my camera could sit up properly on the handlebars. Though the bike’s handbrakes prevent you from doing a ton of manual photo snapping. Sadly, my microSD card unexpectedly ran out of room and I didn’t have an ability to scroll photos and hit the delete button while riding.
Wear sunscreen and bring small binoculars if you have them. This one of the great things to do in Hong Kong with kids (who can handle long bike rides) and they’ll want to see the critters and birds around Nam Sang Wai.
Our ride was mostly flat. There were a few small, really short hills but nothing my 10-year-old couldn’t handle.
Mountain Biking Asia offers private and group tours. The latter operates on select days. Since the number of participants is limited, you should book sooner rather than later.
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Have you explored the New Territories?