Tsuen Wan has been my home for the past three months, and during my entire time here I didn’t explore the various attractions this Cantonese district has to offer. Soon, it was my last weekend in the eastern district of New Territories. Armed with my faithful Lonely Planet, I set out for a day out around the area.
The day started off with some fuel for the stomach. With Joshua as my awesome companion for the morning (thanks dude), we set off to look for my favourite Hong Kong – the dim sum.
If you are like me, who is unsure of where the best food is, here’s a hint; those cafe located away from the main street and nestled in the second floor of low rise buildings would be your better bet. This traditional Chinese restaurant – complete with China teapot and bustling trolleys – offered dim sum that were so yummy, it was only at Joshua’s restraint that I stopped at my second round.
After breakfast, Joshua has convinced to embark on my excursion using a mode of transport in Hong Kong that I never tried before, the mini bus! The experience was much better and safer that I thought. In fact it was more comfortable the shuttle bus offered by the hotel I was staying at. For a mere HKD4 the bus took me up the hill to my first destination.
The Yuen Yuen Institute is located on hectares of land around Sam Dip Tam, Tsuen Wan District in the New Territories. The area is interspersed with temples pavilions, monasteries and halls for various purposes.
It is the only temple in Hong Kong dedicated to all three major Chinese religions: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The first three Chinese characters of the Institute’s name denote the essence of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism respectively, so as to advocate the integration and realization of the three religions’ teachings.
The main building at the Institute is a replica of the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) in Beijing. During my visit, the temple was quite packed with weekend worshipers, though I managed to brave the crowd and absurd humidity to spend close to an hour there, before making my way to the next spot.
A short distance down from the Yuen Yuen Institute, the Buddhist Western Monastery offers a sharp contrast to what’s going on up the hill. This is a tranquil complex in which to pass the time, observing points of interest both architectural and spiritual.
After being greeted by a Bodhisattva statue in the entrance, the main building lies behind, styled as a classical Chinese palace.
This comprises of the Hall of Maitreya and the Great Buddha’s Hall above it. Further behind is a another two storey building where, depending on what time of day you visit, you may witness scores of monks chanting mantras.
This building is topped by a spectacular nine-storey pagoda. You are not able to climb up the structure, but a visit inside the pagoda itself will leave you all perplexed about Buddhism and Hinduism. I didn’t realise how similar these two religions are. Perhaps I am wrong, and if so, I apologise to my Buddhist and Hindu readers.
After a meal at my favorite Japanese restaurant at Luk Yeung Galleria (coincidentally my last at that place), I walked a very short distance from the hub of town activities to Sam Tung Uk, which means “three pillar house” in Cantonese. The proximity of this heritage site to the MTR station caught me by surprise; I must have passed this place a hundred time during my stay there, but yet I didn’t think of it as a place of significance. How uninformed I was.
Sam Tung Uk was built by a Chan clan under the leadership of the clan patriarch, Chan Yam-shing, in 1786 (during the reign of Emperor Qianlong). The Chan clan was originally from Fujian; they had moved to Guangdong, and then to Hong Kong to engage in farming. The site has been carefully restored and opened to the public as a museum.
The entrance, assembly and ancestral halls, and twelve of the original houses are preserved. Other rooms have been modified to accommodate a reception area, an orientation room, an exhibition hall, a museum office, and a lecture theatre.
It was here that I fully grasped the heritage of my ancestors, who are from the Hakka clan in China.
From the museum, I decided to hike my way back to my hotel, going past the beautiful waterfront along Castle Peak Road and Approach Beach. Usually the journey takes about 10 mins by shuttle bus; and to my horror that afternoon, it took me a good two hours to walk back under the scorching sun.
Nevertheless, I am glad that I have made the journey, and these memories will remain with me.
So, will I be back to Tsuen Wan again? I would think I have a good reason too… but lately I start to feel that reason is drifting further and further away from me.
Click here for the full set of photos I took at Tsuen Wan on that day.