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  Channel NewsAsia 27 Aug 06
Hong Kong to promote eco-tours to rural islands

By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Bureau Chief Roland Lim

HONG KONG : The Hong Kong government is set to launch a six-month trial campaign to promote island-hopping tour of the north-eastern area of the New Territories.

Set to be launched in September, the tour will take visitors to the seldom-visited area, which is only accessible by ferry.

Channel NewsAsia checks out the outlying islands and visits a traditional Hakka village.

Madam Wong, 70, was born and bred on Kat O Island, aptly named because the island is crooked. The Hakka fishing community once boasted more than 4,000 islanders.

Today, it is mostly the older generation who have remained, as the younger ones have left to find work or live ashore. Madam Wong said: "It is pleasurable living here. The air is fresh, there are no strangers, no cars." The island offers one of the most spectacular scenery in Hong Kong, and the islanders lead an idyllic life. Madam Wong said: "Now there's water and electricity as power is supplied by a generator. It there is rain or a typhoon, there is a back-up generator if the power fails."

Locals, like Madam Wong, are eager to welcome potential tourists. Madam Wong said: "We need to prepare, we cannot do nothing, it is a good village. The island is nice and big, the air is fresh and we have many nice beaches."

It is a little known fact that Hong Kong is one of the greenest cities in the world, with three-quarters of the land covered in trees and shrubs.

Eco-tours like these are expected to be a hit among locals and tourists alike. The island of Tap Mun or 'Grass Island' is another untouched spot with cattle grazing freely. Attractions include a temple dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea or 'Tin Hau', and the 'Balance Rock' - which sits atop another by the sea.

Among others, there is also the Coastal Heritieras where uncommon species of coastal flora and fauna can be found. These trees are some of the oldest examples in the Hong Kong, able to survive in dry and wet soil submerged in salt water during high tide, due to its proximity to the sea.

A nearby abandoned Hakka Village is being spruced up to attract visitors.

Miranda Chan, Project Officer of HKTraveler.com, said: "It is quite a unique village. As Chinese, we are quite interested in seeking our roots, to find out how our ancestors used to live in such villages." - CNA/de

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