Where to live in Hong Kong: Tai Wai insider’s guide to living in the New Territories
20 January 2015
Name: Amy Overy
Occupation: Owner & Tour Guide, Hong Kong Greeters
Where do you live?
Shatin Heights Road, Tai Wai, New Territories. A really quiet and narrow dead-end road overlooking Tai Wai Village.
How long have you lived here?
We were supposed to move into our new home in March this year, but we had to postpone when my daughter decided to arrive the day before (and three weeks early)! It meant we didn’t move until April.
It’s a really special place. We were very excited to move here having loved Tai Wai since relocating to Hong Kong from the UK five years ago. We had close friends in the area, and I often conduct bicycle tours along the Shing Mun river for visiting tourists, from Tai Wai to Tai Po or Tai Mei Tuk.
It seems Tai Wai hasn’t changed very much in the last 30 years (apart from the many road tunnels, perhaps) and it has a sense of being very genuine, while not getting caught up in the crazy hectic world of the Island. We all try and spread the word about its secret charm at every opportunity!
See what living in Tai Wai is all about through the eyes of neighbourhood insider Amy Overy
Describe your Tai Wai lifestyle?
It’s very friendly and relaxing, with beautiful scenery and cleaner air. It’s also so quiet, especially in the evenings – we really appreciate leaving the hustle and bustle behind when we get home. We love the family and community atmosphere; we often rally round for the organising of events and activities for adults and children. We recently had a potluck picnic in Shatin Park for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and we have regular meet-ups once a month (sometimes more) in Speakeasy, a great local bar.
When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is…
The Shing Mun Reservoir, and the odd monkey or two. We live on a hill behind Kam Shan Country Park and part of the Maclehose Trail, so we are used to seeing a lot of trees, birds and other wildlife.
The bike hire shop at the bottom of the hill opposite Tai Wai MTR station. It has every bike that you can imagine (including pedal cars and seats for small children) and the owners will even come and pick you up if you breakdown – I know this from personal experience! If you cross the road there is Tai Wai market, which also sells the best fresh noodles. Often the vendors will share a small tomato or physalis fruit with your kids, even if you don’t purchase anything.
Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of…
The Walking Dead (!). My husband and neighbours joke that we would survive a zombie apocalypse because we are right at the top of the hill and could barricade ourselves really well. There has been a good chunk of time spent discussing this possibility!
How are the neighbours?
Speaking of which, we love our neighbours! We live next door to super-mum Ifat Kafry Hindes (of Choice Co-operative) and we are ever ready to taste her new bakery recipes, as well as letting the kids run around outside together. We have a regular play-date with the other mummies who live in Tai Wai too, rotating on a Monday. We also have our own local celebrities: Jill and Janice Vidal, the Hong Kong canto-pop stars – they live in the same complex.
The unofficial uniform of your street is:
There isn’t one, really. There are lots of professionals who live along the street and so some very smart attire is visible. I come from the opposite end of the scale and have often done the school run and visited my neighbours in pyjamas.
A mandatory stop for guests is:
The Shatin Inn 沙田茵 House of Satay (Tai Po Road, 2691 1425 - no website). It does the best charcoal-grilled satay outside of Indonesia. The menu is very simple and delicious, and includes curries and rice dishes, and it’s a great help when we have nothing in the house to eat – most often on Sundays. It’s a very quaint place, with not much having changed since it started in the 70s; a bit off-the-beaten-track in the middle of woodland, but a really cool experience and worth the visit.
Date night – what and where?
A foot massage in one of the many excellent local Chinese reflexology places, a drink in Speakeasy, followed by dinner at Ryutei, the Japanese izakaya on 3rd Street, and then a walk along the river.
Best thing for kids in your area?
Apart from the amazing mummy play-dates, the Heritage Museum is very close by and has an excellent kids’ discovery room. Hin Tin Pool is next to the MTR and has a maze of outdoor slides, bridges and bubble pools; my kids love it. There is also a bike safety park for novice cyclers to practice on, complete with road markings, traffic lights and belisha beacons. Shatin Park is also excellent and has two playgrounds as well as a lot of outside space for running around.
You’d swap houses in a second with…
I have always loved Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” house with cantilevered terraces over a running stream. I like to think my balcony is similar in a thunderstorm!
Favourite places in your area?
Tsang Tai Uk, one of the best preserved Hakka walled villages, still with it’s own piece of farmland and corner guard towers that were once used to shoot at pirates and looters coming up the Shing Mun river. A favourite with kids is Café Ancient, which does a great brunch and is opposite a small park in Tai Wai Village.
Strangest thing you’ve seen in your area?
A family of wild boars walking across the road. This is also a usual spot for monkeys and snakes so we have tagged it on Googlemaps as “Jumanji Crossing”.
Guiltiest pleasure in your area?
The dessert shop, Gourmet Dessert Café. Their melting chocolate pudding cannot be shared!
What would you never change about your area?
Tai Wai is still a very traditional town and has some amazing local cuisine. There are few signs of commercialisation; instead, local business thrives. I truly hope we never get a Starbucks! I also love the Amah Rock hiking trail – the mother and child statue has looked over Tai Wai for centuries and we hope it continues to do so!
Best thing about living in your area?
Apart from the amazing people, brilliant food and wealth of activities? I think it’s the accessibility to all the other brilliant parts of the country, such as the Sai Kung waterfront, Kadoorie Farm in Tai Po, shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui, schools in Kowloon Tong, boating in Plover Cove, and hiking sections 5 and 6 of the Maclehose Trail – we can even jump on a train and be in Shenzhen in 30 minutes.
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