Distance: 2.2 km (around 5km in total)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: 3 out of 5.
Why Castle Peak?
Castle Peak is one of the tallest mountain in Western New Territories, with the altitude of 583m . The hike is reasonably easy but adventurous (i am going to talk about this below), It gives you plenty of surprises in terms of scenery and the things you will discover along the journey. Being in Tuen Mun gives this peak an advantage of a 360 view point of Lantau, Shenzhen and even Central. Hence why the name Tuen Mun stands for “Garrison Gate” which originated from Tang dynasty.
How to get there?
I would recommend to find a transport (Bus/Train) to Tuen Mun City Centre and take a taxi to a light rail train stop – Tsing Wun which will cost you around $20-25 HKD. Okay! enough boring facts! lets hike!
Where is the entrance?!
I was pumped and ready to hike, but where is the start of the trail?? I walked up from the bridge next to a school and ended up at this crossing which i had no idea which way to go so i turned left and kept walking down until i started to see signs that mentioned the words “Tsing Shan”. Till then, just bear right and you will be on the trail! Lucky that i can read Chinese but dont worry! Here’s the directions in photos! 🙂
Up we go!
As i walked up slowly, i took out a couple things which i needed which are my camera, mosquito spray and headphones to prep myself so i didn’t need to stop every now and then to open my bag. I kept looking around, driven by my excitement and curiosity as there were so many things that’s unique and represented local cultures which you don’t often see in the busy side of Hong Kong (Kowloon & HK Island). There was an abandoned Buddhist school on my left, with a few broken windows and cats sunbathing in the court yard free of worries. Some old and broken table tennis tables sat in the back of the building which decayed over time with termites excavation.
“This place must be creepy at night” i thought to myself as i carried on walking up which i discovered some old and grungy Chinese post boxes, these are my favorite post boxes in the world because maybe i am Chinese and its a part of my culture but also the simplicity design of these rectangle metal boxes with two currency symbols printed on them. You don`t see them stand alone, always hanged in groups which collectively created a really unique picture.
I was walking with a smile on my face singing Inaudible Melodies by Jack Johnson, so chilled and anticipating the walk ahead wondering how hard it actually will be. I knew the walk would be easy in the beginning from my research and it mentioned the difficulty will gradually increase after the mid point of Tsing Shan monastery. Whatever i thought, the weather was perfect, gentle wind sweeping from the back with the sunshine, cannot be in a better mood right now, feeling free![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q7evCPbTLc?list=PL35344EA7D2F8E296&w=560&h=315]
I saw a classic Chinese pavilion, a hexagon shaped with 6 red pillars as support at each point, decorated with patterned wood brackets at the corners. The iconic green double-eve roofs stood out with its pointy, upturned eaves and tiled corners. I didn’t want to rest however, but what stopped me for a few minutes was a little “temple” built by the villagers to worship different gods and goddesses.
From my experience and knowledge i knew these are for keeping bad spirits away, the god Tou-Dei who is a protector of the ground and believed to keep the ghosts and bad spirits out of the area. Chinese people are very superstitious, there’s a old saying which basically means “it is better to believe there is than there isn’t”. As a 23 years old atheist and realist in the 21st century, there is still a part of me that is superstitious and i can’t explain why.
Tsing Shan Monastery
Standing in front of the peaceful yet solemn entrance of the monastery which a pair of Guardian Lions stood firmed to keep evils away. It gave me an instinct feeling of peace but also a feeling of respect as it reminded me of my childhood experience visiting temples and monastery. Behaving appropriately and watch out for the things i say as taught by my parents, as you don’t want to show bad faith or offend someone or “something” in the premises.
It’s beautiful, ancient and majestic. It does not compare to other grand temples you have seen around the world like the Big Buddha in Lantau or the Temples in Forbidden Palace in Beijing. But the modest setting and surrounding nature mixed well together and i can see how and why this location was chosen for this monastery. I felt an indescribable feeling, a mixture of peace and spirituality. The air was clean with a scent of rich vegetation and sweetness to it, i took a deep breathe and the air filled my lungs, right to the bottom. Almost like you breath in pure oxygen from an oxygen tank and it awoke me instantly. I stepped across the entrance and began exploring.
Lost in curiosity & beauty
I spent a good hour in this small monastery, you will understand why by looking at my photos below. Everything was captivating my eyes and soul, the old wooden, colorful and detailed wooden door panels which squeaked when the wind swept in and out the room. Many old, beautiful bronze and gold censers stood around with incense burning graciously, creating the potent but pleasant scent that i will always remember as i grew up with these incense sticks. They always make my eyes water-up when the whole room is filled with the smoke, almost choked from it. Hardly anyone was around, i took my time taking nice photos, lying on my back to get a different angle on the objects as well as wandering around looking at the details of the sculptures and reading old scripts on the wall.
Worshiping Dragon`s bone?
Then i started to move toward the main hall which worships the reverend Pui To who was an Indian monk who used to travel around in a wooden cup, sounds pretty cool right? i want to do that! Would save alot on my travels. Along the way, after some stairs i saw this stone which named “Dragon-bone” on it and its placed as its an object to worship. Game of Thrones came up in my mind instantly, but what it actually is fascinated me even more. I read that there is an actual bone inside the stone, and it was a beached whale’s backbone. What? But it didn’t explain why it is being worshiped. Interesting.