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Social distancing defied as huge crowds visit Tai Tong’s red leaves

25 December 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The sweet gumtrees leaves are more colorful this year

The famous red leaves along the narrow Sweet Gumtree Lane in Tai Tong are again drawing hundreds of people daily to the Yuen Long country park, defying Hong Kong’s stringent social distancing protocol.

Cold weather over the past two weeks has turned dozens of sweet gumtrees that line both sides of the road ablaze with orange and red leaves. The colors are deeper this year than in 2019 because the cold spell came in early.

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On a visit to Tai Tong on Christmas Day last year, only a few of the Oriental maple or Liquidambar styraciflua trees were reluctantly turning orange and red. So, despite Hong Kong still being Covid-19-free at the time, there were fewer visitors than these days.

This year, news about the redder leaves and pictures posted on social media are driving a deluge of crowds onto the Tai Tong hills.

Hundreds of people have descended on Tai Tong to see this year's redder leaves

The overflow crowd this year has prompted the MTR Corp to operate a new bus service, K66A, in addition to the existing K66 line to Tai Tong.

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The K66A service fields extra buses to the tourist attraction, taking visitors uphill near the Tai Tong Country Park and barbecue area. That drop-off point is half a kilometer closer to the Sweet Gumtree Lane.

Police patrols equipped with loudhailers were busy warning people about anti-Covid-19 restrictions when we visited the site last Sunday.

Officers stationed outside the gate of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department field office about 1 km near the sweet gumtree stretch broadcast reminders on social distancing and mask-wearing every minute as processions of people arrived.

Their efforts, were, however, put to naught by visitors who posed for a photo before each tree that was flashing colorful leaves.

FREE REGISTATRATION

The authorities had anticipated more arrivals this season, so they installed four portable toilets near the junction of Sweet Gumtree Lane and Tai Lam Reservoir Trail.

The red leaves are the main attraction

When visiting the site, avoid climbing, clinging or touching the trees, as guards from the AFCD strictly prohibit those acts.

Picking up a dried sweet gum leaf for a souvenir is not allowed as well, even if it’s already pressed under people’s feet on the ground. 

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Visitors should bring water and food, as there are no food shops nearby. But they should collect their rubbish and dump them in trash bins at the country park on the way back.

For those who want to turn their stroll into a hike, they turn left on Tai Lam Trail, a part of the MacLehose Trail, after returning from the Sweet Gum Tree Lane excursion.

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The trail is easy with some stretches going uphill. The reward is a majestic view of the Thousand Islands, which is actually Tai Lam Dam Reservoir where the tops of several submerged hills stick out of the emerald water like islets.

From the hillside viewpoint along the trail, follow the trail 4km down to So Kwun Wat Village. Take the green bus or walk 1.5km to the Gold Coast shopping center and fill up at eateries and coffee shops.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Buses to Central and other parts of Kowloon and Hong Kong, as well as shuttle bus services to the Tuen Mun MTR station, pick up passengers on both sides of the road.

How to get there:

The leaves are still changing colors

From Central, take the MTR Tung Chung line and get off at Nam Cheong Station to change to the purple line train to Tuen Mun. Get off at Long Ping station and take Exit B. The K66A bus stop, near Long Ping Estate Yuet Ping House, is about 20 meters away from the footbridge stairs across the road from Long Ping station. 

The K66A line, which takes the main road going to Tai Tong, supplements the old K66 route that passes through Yuen Long’s crowded streets. The fare is $4.9 per single journey for adult and $2.2 per single journey for child.

  

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