Ng Tung Chai has a series of waterfalls plunging down the north slopes of Tai Mo Shan.
I’d been in Hong Kong a few years before I “discovered” one of the best wild places here, Ng Tung Chai (梧桐寨). A friend had told me of a great valley with waterfalls on the north slopes of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山); I’d read an account of hikers who, early last century, visited surely the same valley, using a rope to negotiate a particularly steep section.
Searching the Countryside Series map, Central New Territories, I figured the place marked as Ng Tung Chai Waterfall was maybe the same location; the map showed there were trails here, so one day, I set off to explore.
That first visit, I hiked up and past the summit of Tai Mo Shan, then down to the east, and north – into the ravine. But I’ve since visited by the rather simpler route, from Ng Tung Chai (village), near the head of the Lam Tsuen Valley, and just east of Kadoorie Farm. To me, it’s like a secret place, with steep ridges and dense forest keeping most of the falls hidden from the outside world.
The route to the waterfalls starts at the hamlet of Ng Tung Chai, and initially follows a concrete path that curves round a hillside, and heads towards the ravine. The concrete ends at Mak Tak Yuen temple; from here, the trail is a combination of dirt track and rough stone steps. Especially on hot summer days, it feels almost as if you have left Hong Kong for a session of steamy jungle trekking.
The Bottom Fall
A few minutes beyond the temple, there’s a junction with a trail towards the summit of Tai Mo Shan. The waterfall path is straight on, and here seems an easy option as it’s relatively level. Soon, there are steps uphill, including a short but narrow stairway that arrives by a side trail, with a sign pointing down towards the Bottom Fall.
The trail drops to the stream, just below where the Bottom Fall emerges from a narrow gorge and pours down a rockface. Beyond, there’s a second part of the fall – a column of white water dropping into a pool within the gorge.
The Middle Fall
The next of the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls is close by, albeit up some steep flights of steps. This is the Middle Fall, and is a pleasant enough waterfall – maybe good for taking a few selfies on boulders near its base, but in itself not meriting the effort of getting here.
So, perhaps just a brief stop here. Then onwards and upwards, to the Main Fall. The trail to it is mostly flights of steps that zigzag their way up a precipitous slope – which might be a scary place if not for the trees that restrict views, and in places can help you steady yourself. From one corner, you can just see the Main Fall – a ribbon of white amidst the greenery.
The trail eases, runs alongside a stretch of stream with cascades tumbling between huge boulders. There are ruined stone walls by the path, and several banana trees – indicating at least one farmstead was established here in the past.
Then, there’s more climbing, as the path again zigs and zags up the slope.
Hong Kong’s Tallest Waterfall
At last, the path turns a corner, and drops down, to arrive at the Main Fall of Ng Tung Chai. Here, the stream drops around 30 metres down a cliff face, forming the tallest waterfall in Hong Kong. But it’s not only the size that matters, as there is a wonderful setting, with the fall at the back of a basin carved into the ravine; it’s like a natural amphitheatre.
With trees around, and the rest of the world hidden from view, this is a marvellous place to rest, and perhaps enjoy a well-earned picnic, as well as posing for umpteen photos – for it seems this has lately become an Instagrammers’ hotspot.
From here, you might clamber up another rocky stretch of path, to find the Scattered Fall, which is a modest veil of water fanning out across a slope. Upstream scrambling from here should take you to the Maiden Falls, though I haven’t visited.
It’s also possible to carry on – along a path from the Scattered Fall – and hike past the summit of Tai Mo Shan before walking down to Route Twisk. But the shortest way to leave is by retracing your steps.
Minibus 25K from Tai Po Market East Rail station serves Ng Tung Chai village, but stops at a junction on Lam Kam Road rather than continue up the narrow, winding road to the village proper – so you might be tempted to take a taxi from this or Tai Po Market or Wo stations.
[Adapted from article(s) written for the South China Morning Post]