Some fun facts about Hong Kong for you guys--around 40% of HK is govt. protected land. Even plucking a leaf on that land is a violation of the law, but people go ahead and plant stuff anyway since there is a very small team responsible for enforcement in the country parks. There are even dead spots that are outside the reach of our cell phone towers, which is pretty crazy since we have pretty much perfect coverage everywhere in urban HK. My cell phone even works in the elevator!
The biodiversity in HK's forests would absolutely blow you away, even the forests that were heavily bombed by the Japanese in WWII.
We're at the same latitude as Jamaica, so the jungle here is absolutely thriving with life. We had tigers here up until the 1940s, when the last one was shot dead. We still have native civets, barking deer, king cobras, Chinese cobras, kraits and probably over a thousand species that are as of yet unknown and unclassified.
This species, thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in the 2000s. The frogs are as small as your thumbnail when fully grown!http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romer's_tree_frog
The cultivated (and wild, native) tea plants found in HK are often in areas that aren't really legal to plant on. Our indigenous sinensis varietal that is only found here and in Guangxi.http://www.hkherbarium.net/Herbarium/PD ... 204_LR.pdf
I believe Marshal's tried the wild stuff and said it wasn't much to write home about, but I have to give it a try myself.
I may have to take a cutting too...
As for villages, you'd be amazed. There are quite a few villages in HK, some of which are entirely closed off to outsiders with fences and guard dogs. Even some of the larger villages have no vehicular access whatsoever--you have to walk in. Many are controlled by the local villagers who set up a gang of sorts, and if you're foreign and want to park your car you need to pay protection money or you'll find some (not-so) mysterious damage to your vehicle. Even the police don't go in and bother people in certain villages unless there's a murder or something (it's like being on a native American reservation). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_vi ... _Hong_Kong
There are abandoned villages in a few places too...people have simply boarded up their homes and moved on.http://hongwrong.com/kuk-po-abandoned-village/
Certain indigenous families of HK and their descendants have land rights--they are given plots of land with which they can build on (although due to laws they can only build a maximum of a three-story, 2100 sq ft home). Many of the descendants now build homes to rent to gweilo
(foreign devils, aka white people) and the descendants then pocket the rent to fund their cushy lives, often overseas!
Between Christmas and New Year's I'm going to go on a tea hunt out in the mountains of Lantau with my mountain bike.