This weekend I went on a super-satisfying adventure. One evening, while idly googling, I had found a hand-drawn map on the internet, detailing the way to a Thai “forest temple” on a hillside in Tai Wo which I had never seen or heard about anywhere else. For some time I had been wanting to test out this “The Beach” style scenario, with my my cyber-secret map to the mysterious shrine, so undeterred by the rain I set out to relatively distant district, close to the border at Lo Wu.
I set out from Tai Wo station across a river, through a New Territories village and up a lushly forested slope where a fast-flowing mountain stream ran amid thickets of banana trees. A gargantuan freeway spanned the valley above. Thunder rumbled and birds and butterflies flitted through the undergrowth. A light rain was falling, but occasionally I would come across a sign in Chinese bearing a Thai flag, reassuring me that I was headed in the right direction.
Then, sooner than expected, I was there.
Greeted by barking (but it turns out, harmless) dogs, I came to a group of women around a table heaving with fruit, tofu, vegetables and spicy sauces. One of them, who spoke English, insisted I sit down and eat. She explained that the feast was held every Saturday and Sunday, free of charge, for visitors to the temple (breakfast around 7.30am and lunchtime at 11am, as the monks are forbidden from eating after noon.) I chatted to her for a while and wandered through the modest complex with its various Buddhas and burning Vassa candles before being led to an orange-robed monk who blessed me and offered my life advise – I should exercise in the mornings and not worry so much, apparently.
And with that, my heart singing and plans for returning already buzzing in my head, I set off again down the green, dripping valley, thankful for having stumbled on to such a beautiful secret.
Many thanks to Dr Anchalee Gibbons, whoever you are, for the wonderful map!