Day 27 - Cheung Chau Island

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

It is good to be back. I have been too long away from Hong Kong. I miss the place. It feels quite comfortable to me now. Perhaps a bit too comfortable. Today is one of the days I really looked forward to on our whole trip as it was the opportunity to do something I have never done in Hong Kong and that is to visit Cheung Chau island.

Cheung Chau is a small island south of Lantau island and 10 km south-west of Hong Kong island. It is a very small place that is shaped like an hour glass with one side being a fishing village and the other side (on the opposite side of the narrow middle part of the hourglass) is a beach. There are no cars or trucks on the island and I had always been told that is was a very pleasant place to visit. I had just never had the time to get there. After all of the big cities and places we have visited it was to be a nice break…and a bit of exercise.

I am not really all that familiar with the area of Hong Kong island where our hotel is located, Wan Chai. Any time I have visited the island in the past it has been to Central or Admiralty which are large areas west of Wan Chai or the other side of the island completely in Stanley or Aberdeen. So, breakfast was going to be difficult. We have not been having too much luck with breakfast on this trip. I really have to have something to eat in the morning or else I really lose my energy early into the day. I can't even make it to lunch. I suppose that along with my morning shower really sets me up for the day. So, breakfast was a must. In the foyer of the hotel we chatted to the concierge who directed us to a small restaurant around the corner. Not really what we had been looking for but we went in anyway (we both really like “congee” which is a sort of a rice soup). After a bowl of noodles and some tea we were set for the morning.

First order of the day was to visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board. They have been very helpful to me in all of my visits to Hong Kong. The first time I was planning on visiting they sent me a large package of brochures and they are generally very helpful. A small office is located in the Causeway Bay MTR (subway) station. Walking down Hennessey Road to the MTR station we were passed by trams running down the middle of the busy road. These are great things to use to get around and quite interesting. The sidewalk (pavement) is also crowded with people as we made our way along. Small shops line the street with the skyscrapers towering above. The tourist information office is quite small and actually within the MTR station, down a few staircases. We managed to get a map of Cheung Chau – our goal – though mother also picked up some (tacky) souvenirs.

As we were at the subway station we took the MTR to Central station. From there we walked along the elevated walkway several blocks back to the pier we visited last night. The pier area has been completely redeveloped in recent years. The famous Star Ferry leaves from a large new terminal building to the right (east) while the six other piers to the left (west) are for services to other areas of Hong Kong and mainland China (as well as Macau). All of the piers are quite new and very easy to get on/off of. For our ferry at pier 5 we used our newly purchased Octopus cards (having already used it on the subway) to simply swipe at the gate to enter into the waiting area for the next ferry. There are two sides to the pier with electronic signs above each set of gates clearly indicating which ferry is leaving next. For this service there is also the choice between the more expensive fast ferry and a slower ferry. We opted for the fast ferry since it was leaving first…We are not on this trip to save money anyway!

Waiting for the Ferry (SW)

We only had a few minutes to wait before our ferry arrived. It is very comfortable. More like an airplane interior than a boat seating probably about 150 people on several decks. We spent out time on the upper deck, outside, so we could enjoy the view of the island and harbour as we headed out to Cheung Chau.

Star Ferry (SW)

The view of Hong Kong from the harbour is, much like the view from the peak, really is quite amazing. Walking down the streets you cannot really get a grasp on the sheer scale of the place as you are crowded in on all sides and see it. On the water and from above you can see the spectacle that is all around. Heading west out of the harbour we passed by a number of large boats and Lamma Island (a large island just west of Hong Kong Island). I am still amazed that Hong Kong with all of it's people still has large areas of land that are uninhabited. We passed by several small islands with no habitation at all – Only vegetation. Even Hong Kong Island itself has large numbers of trees on the sides of the mountains that run along the length.

I love boats as well. A much shorter trip than the ferry from Japan! About a half hour later we swung around to the west side of Cheung Chau and pulled into the small harbour.

The Ferry

There are a number of fishing boats in various states of repair moored throughout the harbour and on the shoreline. They are, by and large, what you might think of when you picture a Chinese junk. A line of shops along the water's edge are quite small and very local. First impressions are that it is a very peaceful island. The ferry terminal is probably the busiest part of the island as we disembarked. The tourist map we had laid out a suggested path around the island so we had decided to give that a try. It would take us pretty much entirely around this small island.


Habour Boats (SW)

Walking along the harbour front several boats looked like they had been tied up for years but most seemed to be very much in use. The small shops here are mostly restaurants selling seafood. They look very good though it is a bit early in the day to be thinking about eating. Turning away from the seafront we headed along a small back alley up a small hill to visit the Pak Tei (Taoist) temple (dedicated to a god of the sea). It is on the edge of a large recreational area including a basketball court.

Pak Tei Temple

This temple is one of the oldest in Hong Kong (built in 1783 evidently) but has recently been repainted so it does not look that old at all. A friendly lady insisted we purchase some incense and showed us how to light it and bow respectively in front of the altar. We visited several small shrines around the outside of the temple as well. Quite basic, obviously very well used.

Temple Detail

Leaving the temple we walked along a side street with several shops and small stalls. We picked up a few pieces of fruit (from the US!) and some cakes from a bakery for snacking on later. Turning towards the beach on the main road connecting the beach to the harbour there are several places selling grilled foods so I had to stop and give it a try. Fish balls, fish dumplings and dried squid (barbecued) all on skewers. Mother refused to give the squid a try – It was very dry and chewy but tasty (none of it was expensive either).

Back Street

Climbing up over the top of the small hill we descended towards the crescent beach on the other side of the island. It was not that busy which I suppose is not surprising considering it is a Thursday. There are several places to rent lockers but they were all closed but the public change rooms and showers were open. We decided to have a swim. The last time mother had visited with the monsoon she had not had a chance to go swimming after my telling her (in all seriousness) that the swimming around Hong Kong is really very good with the water being very clean (the shark nets are a bit distressing but they are very well patrolled). This was her chance to see if I was lying.

The changing rooms are remarkable: Spotless and very nice indeed. Even hair dryers built into the wall and individual cubicles for changing complete with a place to sit in each. Good to see government money being spent well…The beach has quite a course sand as we took turns having a bit of a swim (we did not want to leave our things on the beach unguarded). The ground drops away rapidly as you get further from the shore so we only went about 20 feet out into the refreshing water. The temperature today is hot with a great deal of humidity so it was a bit of a relief to be having a swim. This is the only swim we have had on our trip so far which is funny considering we have probably stayed in several hotels with swimming pools never mind the public baths in Japan. It is pleasant just taking it easy for a bit.

The Beach (SW)

Of course, you knew that wouldn't last! After showering off we got changed and headed south along the beach's concrete walkway. The island is indeed very much shaped as a giant hourglass with both ends basically rather large hills (mountains?). We stopped by to have a look at some Bronze-Age rock carving behind protective glass before heading into the hills. The winding trail worked it's way up the hill where a side path led to a small temple. I found this quite interesting as this was a real temple very well used and quite plain. There was evidence all around that people regularly visited the place – it was not a tourist spot.

Looking Back at the Beach

Continuing along the concrete and stone path up the hill the trees and bushes crowded in from all sides. Higher up the greenery cleared and we could look back at the beach we had just come from. An amazing view. Stopping for a few minutes at a covered seating area to have something to eat. The walk up was quite some distance. A biker stopped for a few minutes to see whether he could continue the path then was gone. It is windy from up here and we could hear the waves crashing against the rocks far below. Looking out there was nothing to see but ocean.

Having rested, we continued on along the steep inclines and many steps of the well marked and maintained trail. I took a brief excursion out to “Human Head Rock” (imaginatively named) and climbed to the top so mother, walking further down the trail, could take my picture. She was not stupid enough to climb up there with me…The rock (or rocks) are very large and sitting out over top of the water – A long way to fall if I had slipped. Well, these things you do…

Standing on a Rock (SW)

The scenery is really quite impressive though most of the time we were walking on the concrete path through the trees.

Walking Along the Path (SW)

A small temple on the far side of the island at Nam Tam we paid only a brief visit to before heading up a flight of stairs to rejoin the trail.

Near Nam Tam

We were now following a road that passed through several small villages here. The villages have a large number of apartment complexes and not really a lot of houses.


We were surprised to even see the occasional shanty houses made up of corrugated iron and whatever other scraps the owners could find to cobble together their shelter. A bit of a shock to see shanties in Hong Kong – A modern and wealthy city.


Earlier in our walk we had seen some hotels but there were none of those over here. Walking up and down along the Peak Road we eventually passed by the cemeteries (there is a Catholic and a separate public one) which was quite peaceful. People were tending the graves and it was very quiet and calm.

We were getting quite a work out along the path. At Pak Tso Wan on pretty much the southernmost part of the island the trail went so close to the water that it actually disappears. You have to walk out onto some large rocks (albeit with railings) then eventually onto a bit of beach before climbing up again on the other side. A few boys (and their dogs) were fishing here as we passed by. There is a lot of flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline but that is to be expected with the amount of activity in the water here.

Walking on the Rocks at Pak Tso Wan

Large fishing boats would pass by quite regularly as we walked along. The debris on the shore included a lot of Styrofoam from fish boxes as well as nets and even, yes, bottles and cans. It is actually not as polluted as you might think with the water itself very clean (no tell-tale foam in the water or anything).

With all this walking don't think we were just doing that. We did stop several times to just enjoy the view and chat for a few minutes. This was not an endurance race though it did end up being quite a few miles…


Nearing the end of our walk we walked down to Cheung Po Tsai Cave which is supposed to be one of the things to see on the island. Walking down the steep, narrow, path around some rocks the path stopped at the cave entrance. An old man we had passed on the way down to try to sell us a flashlight (torch) and encouraged us to go in. Well, I was not all that keen to go into a big dark void and mother is not really comfortable in enclosed areas at the best of times so we gave it a miss and retraced our steps to continue our jaunt.

There are public toilet facilities all along trail and they are really very good – Clean and very modern. I was suffering a bit from dehydration so put my mouth under a faucet for a few minutes before we continued back down to the water again to catch a “kaido” – A small ferry boat (basically, a small sanpan or junk) – Back to the ferry terminal.


Reaching the small harbour at Sai Wan we walked out onto the concrete pier and we were in luck as there was a kaido waiting to depart with only two western ladies on board (along with the driver, of course). We clambered on board the pitching boat which was basic to say the least – The boat's deck is covered with some wooden planking and there is a plastic stretched over the deck to keep off the rain. We paid the captain the small amount of money required and eventually headed out. The trip was only about ½ mile and took us 10 minutes as we made our way along the harbour into the bigger harbour from which we had started earlier this morning. We were aware that time was getting on but we both also thought it would be fun to catch this unique form of transport…

Onboard the Kaido (SW)

The ferry was about to leave – It was just after 4 and it was to depart at 4:15. We quickly grabbed some drinks from a small convenience store then joined the large group of people waiting to get onto the ferry. This was the slow ferry but it really was not a lot slower than the one this morning. We chose the first class option which was an air-conditioned deck on the boat but found the air-conditioning a bit too much so spent much of our time outside on the deck at the back of the ship. This slower ferry is much larger and seats a lot more people. There are drink, snack and noodle vending machines in addition to tables around which you can play cards or talk as well.

The trip back to the pier on Hong Kong Island was a lot slower but we were not really in a great hurry. I had booked a table for dinner for this evening but we still had a bit more than an hour to get there. We passed by several large container ships heading out from Hong Kong Harbour into the ocean. They are huge. This ferry is not that small but really…

Just after 5 we arrived at Central and took a bus back to the hotel for a few minutes of relaxation before heading out for dinner. We wanted to catch a bus but there was a lot of confusion figuring out whether it went to exactly where we wanted to go so eventually, after walking around on the street for a few minutes looking for the bus we needed we gave up and took a taxi. We are on holiday after all…don't want to get too worked up about this sort of thing.

It turned out this was a very good choice as the taxi took us straight through to Aberdeen for our dinner at Jumbo Seafood restaurant. Otherwise known as the floating restaurant. I have been here before with Michael the first time I visited Hong Kong and all I remember is that it was quite expensive and how you got to it…

The taxi dropped us off next to the harbour where garish lights announced that we were indeed at the Jumbo Seafood restaurant.

Waiting for the Boat

We got aboard a small boat for the 100 m trip across to the restaurant moored in the middle of the harbour, also garishly lit up. The restaurant actually consists of a number of barges moored together. The main bulk of the restaurant is a single barge in the middle with about three stories. It is here where the boat dropped us out. Dragons on either side of the door welcomed us into the red and gold interior of the boat where we were directed to the first floor. There are now several different parts to the restaurant – When I had visited previously it was one restaurant with several levels but now they have different parts of the restaurant serving different menus – Sort of like a series of smaller restaurants. Asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside we opted to sit out on a balcony overlooking the part of the harbour where the small ferries were taking guests too and from the boat.

The menu is expensive. Or, at least, more expensive than we have been used to on this trip but I had (perhaps foolishly) agreed to pay for this night's meal (they take Visa so it is not as if it is REAL money, is it?). The menu is full of all sorts of elaborate dishes much more so than any other Chinese restaurant we have ever been to before (on this trip but also at any time in our lives). Of course, being a bit of a special visit, we went for broke and started with (real) Bird's Nest Soup (broth). This was quite delicate with the stringy birds nest (actually bird “spit” to put it bluntly – the bird makes it's nest by holding together the sticks using a mucus it generates in it's stomach) bits very bland but interesting. Our main course saw us with Fried Red Rice with Scallops (this is a typical Chinese restaurant thing, really – well, except for the red rice…and scallops, I suppose) along with Deep Fried Squid with Garlic.

It was quite tasty and our waiter was very helpful (and friendly). He persuaded us to have dessert. I had the “Double Boiled Harsma (evidently the “fallopian tubes of the Asiatic Grass Frog”) in Almond Cream” – Not too bad as it basically tasted mildly of almond. Mother had the “Chinese Herb Pudding with Bird's Nest”.

Hum. Not the typical Chinese meal then. But we enjoyed the pace of the evening and just relaxing. We had been walking an awful lot today so it was good to relax for a while.

A bit of a bonus: They paid for our taxi ride to the restaurant ($HK 59 is nothing to laugh at!).

After dinner we walked around and explored the boat a bit. We visited the large tanks of fish and other seafood on the kitchen barge attached to the back of the restaurant (away from the blinding lights). There were all sorts of things here: LARGE crab, LARGE lobsters, lots of prawns, fish, etc. All are cared for in special tanks that are kept very clean so that it can be delivered fresh whenever it is ordered. They will also sell the raw ingredients to you as well…

Fish Tanks

The other two large barges attached appear to be unused (except for the lights all over them) and are not in that good shape. I suppose they are for appearances though they do appear to have been used in the past. A bit sad really.

The Restaurant

We returned to the mainland by our small boat then caught a cab back to the hotel (no restaurant to pay for it this time!).

Leaving Jumbo

It was a good day. I think mother is happy. I feel a bit guilty for having spilled some tea on her at the restaurant just while we were getting the waiter to take our picture…but other than that I think the day went reasonably well. I do want her to be happy as if she is happy then, generally, I am happy and it makes my experience enjoyable as well. Generally we have not really got too much on each other's nerves on this trip though, of course, there have been moments. This is going to happen to anyone, I am sure, though.

View from Hotel Window

Day 28 - Hong Kong Day 1

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