It’s all too easy to think of Hong Kong as simply a densely packed, 21st century, high rise city. However, look beyond the concrete at its cultural and natural origins, and there are fascinating tales to be told and amazing landscapes to enjoy. Recently, Chinachem Group has been working closely with the SAR’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Lions Nature Education Foundation, and Lai Chi Wo Pui Shing Tong to bring some of these stories to life and make them more accessible to the population of the nearby city.
Covering 150sqkm of the New Territories, the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark is a vivid gateway to the region’s past. Wind the clock back 400 million years, and this is where Hong Kong originally took shape in the form of a series of volcanoes. But unlike most other Geoparks globally, the team behind the management of this remarkable natural asset have also focused their efforts on surfacing the human and cultural significance of this sparsely populated landscape.
Seven Hakka villages are dotted through the northern part of the Geopark. With origins dating back to the 17th century, these individual communities saw the benefit of partnership early, forming the Hing Chun Alliance hundreds of years ago, an association that endures to this day. In the village of Lai Chi Wo, Chinachem has in association with the Alliance created a destination for visitors to learn about and experience the culture and history of the village, its people, and the surrounding countryside.
Named the Chinachem Lai Chi Wo Story Room, this new visitor centre in the heart of the village was developed from extensive oral histories recounted by residents of the seven allied communities. Focusing on four areas of interest, lifestyle culture, traditional medicine and herbs, Hakka folk songs, and the ceremony of traditional weddings, the multimedia displays and installations provide an intimate view into the colourful lives of this farming and fishing society. Lai Chi Wo’s long tradition of paddy farming dwindled as its indigenous residents left for the city in the 1950s, and this ultimately led to the desolation of the village in the 90s when its last resident departed. But with the support of the Hong Kong University and various NGOs, 2013 saw the implementation of sustainable farming projects designed to revitalise the land and attract residents back to the community. Today, the farmland around the village produces high quality organic produce such as turmeric, ginger, winter melons and even coffee, creating further opportunities for collaboration. In fact, Chinachem’s Story Room partnership has now led to the chefs and buyers from the Group’s Nina Hospitality turning their attention to Lai Chi Wo for their produce sourcing needs, further cementing this important alliance.
Supporting this celebration of heritage and its influence, parallels the approach Chinachem takes to its place making activities in Hong Kong. Being independent from public or family ownership, the Group places social and environmental values on an equal footing to profit, and Lai Chi Wo is a perfect example of the company’s inclusive approach to the creation of communities.
Getting to Lai Chi Wo
Visitors can travel direct to Lai Chi Wo by ferry from Ma Liu Shui in about one and a half hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays. Alternatively, you can hike there anytime from Wu Kau Tang. The walk takes about two and a half hours, and you’ll find simple cafes, basic stores, and public restrooms when you arrive at the village.