Man Tak Yuen (萬德苑), Ng Tung Chai
One of the great walks I’ve done in Hong Kong is the trail from Ng Tung Chai to the famous (locally at least) waterfalls in the foothills of Tai Mo Shan. It’s great for several reasons: 1). the waterfalls are some of Hong Kong’s more impressive natural phenomena, 2). it’s one of those trails that hasn’t been defiled by the Govt’s over-enthusiasm with concrete and 3). it passes one of the coolest temples I’ve encountered in Hong Kong so far: Man Tak Yuen.
Man Tak Yuen (萬德苑) which roughly translates as “inumerable virtues garden” doesn’t take long to get to, and in fact this part of the walk is mainly accomplished by simply following the road that leads from Lam Kam Road (the main road through the Lam Tsuen valley). In other words it’s easy-peasy to get find. You’ll know when you’re there because the inevitable ornamental pai-lau makes an appearance, although there are a couple of stone markers along the way to begin with.
I don’t know much about the place other than it is off the beaten path and was constructed in 1975. Okay, so no great age to it but the design is attractive, utilising several tiers on the side of a steep valley slope.
I first heard about this place when I originally stumbled upon the great Thaiworldview.com written by someone who has an even greater in-depth knowledge of the obscure and hidden in Hong Kong: Regis Madec (he is also a fantastic photographer – click the link to see his snaps). However, life being the way it is, I (I should say ‘we’) have only just found the energy and time to visit the place.
On this particular trip the ‘we’ included the wife, our 3 kids and my poor put-upon-but-game Mother-in-law. Anyone who has ever walked along the Ng Tung Chai trail to any of the waterfalls will know it is not the easiest place to walk – but she performed like a trooper without complaint and as such we felt a bit guilty force marching her any further. Anyway, good job for Man Tak Yuen because it pops up just before the hard bit starts and is great place to fill up on some cold drinks before hiking off.
Just inside the main gate is a small hut where a friendly old chap will sell you various beverages for a small fee. I’m a bit of a Coke Zero fiend at the moment (in Canto it’s known as 黑色可樂 “Black Coke”) and you can pick up a can of this and the like for $5 water also available.
Anyway, once fully lubricated you can wander up and down the various garden terraces and take in some of the attractive scenery.
There is a nice pond and water feature with its weird-shaped rocks, some small pavilions, temple buildings and even a small two-tier pagoda (see the shot immediately above) which is very similar in design to a much larger one found at the Yuen Yuen Institute in Tsuen Wan.
I made it all the way to the top, despite the intensifying heat, and had to beat a quick retreat because the uppermost terrace holds a building (pictured below) that has a big bees nest in the woodwork above the door – they were everywhere.
Anyway, one level down is a large terrace where you can buy incense to burn or just look out down this small hidden part of HK and catch some breeze (see below).
Actually, I could have stayed here all day and got a bit of a tan but we had a date with a waterfall. Of course, being on the path that leads in and out of the waterfalls means you pass this place on the way back to the main road as well.
Actually, despite hearing about this place via Regis’s website, I subsequently found out during the creation of this post that the Man Tak Yuen private temple also has a branch office in Tai Po Market. It’s based opposite the ‘urban’ Li Ancestral Hall in the Plover Cove Resettlement estate. Man Tak Yuen seems to be the rural setting for the temple’s operations and this place (seen below) is the urban centre – probably for administration, but I’m guessing.