Day Trip: Cheung Chau Island

by - September 16, 2013

Departing Victoria Harbour
My new 6-day timetable out here doesn’t give me much time to explore further afield than Hong Kong at the moment, but in some ways this might prove to be a blessing in disguise.  I’m hoping, for the time being, to make the most of my Sundays by getting out to explore the parts of the country that most visitors don’t have time to see.  The first of these places was the island of Cheung Chau, which is south-west of Hong Kong island and a 30 minute/1 hour journey boat journey away from the Central Piers (depending on which class of boat you choose to take).  As with so many things here, you can even pay for the journey on the ubiquitous octopus card (the Hong Kong equivalent of the London oyster card).  The boat journey itself is pleasant as you leave Victoria Harbour and pass the much larger Lantau Island (home of Disneyland and the Airport) before arriving at the small port on Cheung Chau.

View over the town

Blue Girl beer in the harbour
The island itself is tiny and is nicknamed the dumbbell because of its shape - it consists of two peaks connected by a spit of land where the main town is located.  Arriving at lunchtime I made my way to one of the numerous fish restaurants on the front for an extremely reasonable lunch of scallops with a cold local ‘Blue Girl’ beer.  The town was busy, though had an overwhelmingly relaxed atmosphere, with fishermen selling their wares alongside little gift shops - a Chinese Padstow if you like.  Having said that, its not THAT quaint - somehow McDonalds have managed to establish themselves here as the first thing you see when you get off the ferry.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the first life they find on Mars is a drive-thru.  From what I gather, the town becomes exceptionally busy in May when the 'bun festival’ takes place - a festival that seems to be based around building 60-feet high towers of what used to be bread rolls but, after a series of baked catastrophes, have been replaced with more structurally sound bamboo and plastic.  The reason for this tradition I do not understand - though I will endeavour to come back in May to find out.

From the restaurant I headed along the coast past the edge of the town on a well marked path up to the northern peak.  On my way up (a very hot and sweaty journey despite the marked path), I passed lots of pretty little beaches and coves.  The journey took about half an hour from the town and the view from the top was great - looking back over the island itself as well as some of the major shipping lanes and on to the skyscrapers of Victoria Harbour in the far distance.

Quiet beach looking over to Lantau Island
A secluded beach at the north of the island
The town of 20,000 people is a remarkable testament to humanity’s ability to settle anywhere - it can only be a maximum of about a hundred metres wide, flanked on one side by the beach and on the other by the port, and you get the feeling that in an intense storm the waves would just pass from one side to the other.  There are no cars allowed so people get around by bicycle (or boat where applicable), meaning that it is a great place to walk around and is popular with daytripping locals keen to get out of the mad rush of the city.  The beaches are pleasant and I probably would have stayed for a swim had the weather been a bit better - though the water can’t be TOO good for you considering the island’s proximity to the shipping lanes and the ominous sight of distant power stations on Hong Kong island on the horizon.  What doesn’t kill you, eh?

After a few hours of walking around the north of the island I descended back into the town, via a few local temples, for a drink before heading on the fast ferry back to Central.  From what I gather, there is more to see on the south of the island including some stone age rock carvings and an old pirate’s cave - not to mention the Bun Festival, so I will hopefully come back.  In conclusion, well worth a day trip, even for people only coming to Hong Kong for a handful of days.

A local temple in the town

You May Also Like