Monday, October 14th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Our time here in Hong Kong is quickly coming to an end. Hard to believe we have been here a week already though we have done so much and it already feels so comfortable.

It was going to be a bit of a long day today. It is really our last full day in Hong Kong so wanted to go to Cheung Chau for, perhaps, a bit of a relaxing visit. We have to be back in the evening to get to Sam’s to pick up our remaining items.

The alarm rudely woke us at 7:30. Breakfast was oranges and a banana. A 6X bus took us quickly to Central where we walked down to catch the ferry to Cheung Chau - Pier 5. We were lucky to catch the “fast ferry” which makes the trip in about 35 minutes whereas the slower ferry takes about an hour. Ok, it is a bit more expensive but it is much more modern. The trip was a bit choppy causing some of the passengers to gasp - A bit like an amusement park ride. It was pretty much a full boat. I had found out that today is actually a holiday in Hong Kong so not an ideal time to visit an island that many see as a bit like a holiday resort…It is a bit overcast so perhaps it will not be so busy. It does look like it will try to rain at any point though…

We slowed right down as we passed around the island and entered the harbour which has a large concrete breakwater. A number of small fishing boats are moored up in the harbour as that is the main source of income in Cheung Chau (other than tourism). Stretched along the shoreline are a number of restaurants with their different coloured awnings with tables set up underneath. This is not fancy dining, but the food is very good. We slowly eased our way up to the berth and disembarked en masse.

Cheung Chau Ferry

I was worried about our Octopus cards as the trip was quite expensive and we did not have enough cash on the cards to get back. Yesterday Raymond reminded me that every 7-11 allows you to top up your Octopus so that is exactly what we did - Handing over the money ($100 each) to the cashier in the 7-11 we spotted as we arrived I then touched our cards to the reader and was done - All set to go! Hey, who knew they had more than just slurpees, I never noticed the stuff I passed on my way to the machines…?

Mel was busy taking pictures so I had a sit down to watch a bit of the activity in the harbour. There are no docs, per se, but rather the boats are tied up together and anchored. For the boats close to the shore I saw them use make-shift rafts of plastic bottles and styrofoam to pull themselves from the shore.

The Harbour

We walked a short distance from the share to the Pak Tai Taoist temple that is located behind a a paved sports ground. The temple is very ornately decorated with two dragons along the peak of the roof as well as carved dragons on either sides of the door. It is a small temple with a large altar in the middle with two small altars in side rooms on either side. I am told that the yearly Cheung Chau bun festival that is held in front of this temple (where the big event is a race to climb to the top of a large bun mountain).

Mel in front of Pak Tai Temple

When we visited the temple there were two attendants talking to each other at the door but we peacefully wandered around to have a look. The mosaics were particularly nice.

Temple Detail

While Mel was taking pictures I sat down on the steps leading to the entrance and watched a couple of children take turns driving each other around in a pedi-cab-type contraption that seem to be everywhere here. Where there are no cars, this makes a lot of sense. During our visit we saw a lot of bicycles in use.

Returning back towards where we had left the ferry we passed down a quiet side street. Here there were a number of small shops selling everything you can think of as well as a few community groups and organisations. We were early so most were just starting to set up for the day.

Side Street

In the central square we turned towards the beach on the shore opposite the ferry - Cheung Chau is an island shaped like an hourglass with the fishing/ferry port on one side of the narrow part of the hourglass and the beach on the other side. I stopped briefly to have a try of some BBQ that was being cooked - The vendor lived in Cheung Chau but spoke very good English so we had a bit of a chat while he cooked my skewer order - BBQ squid served simply with black pepper and fish balls with a satay sauce (both delicious though the squid was, as you might expect, a bit bland).

Snack Time!

The beach is not very large and was already quite busy with a number of families here to enjoy the short holiday. It was fairly cold and the ocean was quite rough today as well so we debated whether or not to go swimming deciding to go for it (how often are we here, after all?). We got changed in the changing facilities which are, of course, quite clean and these ones have separate changing booths. We laid our (hotel) towels out mid way down the beach and had a look at the water. I was the first to give it a go, so, plucking up my courage I braved the attempt. It was cold but after a while it was not so bad. As with Repulse Bay the bottom drops very quickly so only a short distance out and you already cannot touch the bottom. I did my normal pottering around and noticed some rubbish in the water flowing by that must have been stirred up by the waves…The rain started sprinkling down as I left the water and laid down on my towel. Eventually Mel gave it a bit of a try but was not terribly keen on the rubbish…I had a last swim and we were pretty much done. It was getting noisier as more people started arriving. The beach is only about 10m wide and about 200m long so it is not huge. As with Repulse Bay this also has two rings of shark nets and a diving platform but unlike Repulse Bay I was not going to swim out to it…

Cheung Chau Beach

We both had showers and I tried to get rid as much of the sand in my sandals as I could as the blister on my heel is quite uncomfortable. As I waited for Mel I watched a number of people walking straight over from the ferry and posing for pictures on the beach in their clothes. Some of the more adventurous were rolling up their trousers and standing in the water…

We decided to go for a bit of a walk. In the past I have walked around the southern end of the island with my mother and Mel knows this. In a way I think it is with this past experience that we, at least slightly, competed with today but, having said that, I also know that this end of the island is quite interesting to visit and it is a good walk. A bit hilly, but a good walk.

We headed down the beach stopping to admire some old carvings protected in a small display (ancient writing but no one knows how old it is).

Rock Carvings Near Tung Wan Beach

We passed by a few resorts and a smaller beach. We agreed that next time we visited we would go to this beach - Much smaller, less busier, and much nicer. After this final beach a sign post pointed us up a rather steep concrete path to the “Wall of China”. So, up we went. At the first branch in the path there was a small temple built into the side of the hill that we paid a quick visit to (Kwun Yam Wan) - Not much more than a single covered room with a small altar with a number of people sitting around outside of it chatting.

Continuing on we quickly were blessed with the presence of red-painted railings and as we got to the top overlooking the beach we had just left there was a small pavilion that was already occupied. No chance to get out of the rain that was still sprinkling down on us.

The "Wall of China" Walk

The “Wall of China” is a series of rocks that have different meanings or are shaped like particular things. We followed the path to have a look at all of them.

Mel on the "Wall of China" Walk

It was a bit tricky to sometimes make out the shapes but we would stop and ponder for a few minutes to see if we could figure it out. The path here follows all around the rather rugged coastline with a number of impressive rocks below - No doubt the people would see these images and attach the meaning they do to these rocks.

Tortoise Rock

Not many people were out but we did pass a few on the path.

Coast of the "Wall of China" Walk

As we left the “Wall of China” and continued following the path along the coast and around the southern end of the island the rain started coming down harder so we had to stop for a few minutes under the shelter offered by a fitness park while we waited it out. We had brought our umbrellas with us but we could not be bothered to use them.

The rain eased off for a few minutes so we continued our walk. The concrete path, by and large, passes through a lot of greenery with only as you proceed along the southernmost tip and start heading west that you start encountering more and more buildings. Even in the buildings it is quite peaceful, except, it seems when visitors from England are in town…We were approaching the Tin Hau temple on the southern coast of the island and I took a short cut along the beach to it but saw it was a bit tricky so indicated Mel should not come. She took it to mean not to come down at all - Not even the easy part so I stood for about 10 minutes wondering where she had gone. Eventually we got ourselves sorted (and apologised) and had a brief look at the temple. It is located on the rocky coast line and had a few older gentleman sitting outside.

Tin Hau Temple

Buildings are on the top of the hills behind but these are largely hidden by the trees and bushes all around. Access to the temple is only via long sets of staircases. We watched the rather stormy looking waves crash against the rocks for a few minutes before steeling ourselves for the climb out.

At this point, tired, wet and a bit hungry, we were basically heading back to the ferry. We had been walking up and down the hills for more than an hour and there is not really a lot to see here either. So, we headed along the “Peak Road West” passing by a few rather large “shanties” one of which I had photographed on a previous visit that Mel recognised. It was quite amazingly complex but also obviously lived in with a tray set down outside the door containing cat food. Speaking of cats we saw a large number of cats a few minutes later all around the public garbage depot. They all looked pretty skinny and several were missing their tails but they did seem to be cared for.


As we continued we could see glimpses through the buildings lining the road of the rest of the island stretching out below us from our vantage point on the ridge our path followed. We could see the harbour on the left, the north part of the island which appears to be largely uninhabited and the beach on the right. It is quite amazing that you can see all of it at once. We were quite high up.

Island Views

Eventually we passed through the rather large cemetery. As it was the day after the Chung Yeung Festival we were not surprised to see a fair number of people about and a good size group at the main entrance. The white gravestone markers are spread out over the hilltops under the trees. It is quite serene.

The road eventually led us down through the “Cheung Chau Self Help Care Village” which we saw on a poster was built by the Care organization from Canada. We stopped in front of what looked like someones front yard but set up as a small restaurant and picked up a few drinks. The road here was steep as it made it’s way back down to the sea.

Cheung Chau Self Help Care Village

We were here to catch the small “junk” that takes people from where we now were back to the main ferry terminal.

To catch the junk we had to walk along a concrete pier and wait on the end for the junk to arrive. There was what looked like a scout troupe there getting ready for a hike around the island. We watched a boy fishing with a simple line and bait off the end of the pier near where the junk would eventually come in. He caught a small brown eel in the minutes before the junk arrived after only having just thrown his line in! It wriggled around on the ground but he was obviously pleased with himself and he had a number of comments from the people around as well. Looking into the water I could see that there was quite a lot of life here with a great many small fish visible.

The Junk Arrives

The boat really was quite basic with a floor made of scraps of wood and plastic with crude seats around the outside and in the middle. The captain was in a small hut in the middle directing proceedings. He bunted the boat up against the pier, the passengers got off, and the new passengers got on - Jumping onto the boat as they could. He never did tie the boat up just kept the engine going so the boat pushed itself against the concrete - He even left this state of affairs as it was and came to the bow to help people in. Health and safety obviously not much of a concern here. The boat seated between 12 and 14 of us though it was quite tight we all managed to get on board and headed off to the ferry.

The junk made it’s way slowly through the harbour passing by other boats of various sizes - Fishing boats, barges, tourist boats, pleasure boats…all sorts. I took video of pretty much the whole trip - All 5 minutes of it. Eventually we made it and I was asked for the fare - Something like $5 each. He hurried to get us off the boat though stopped when he saw I was trying to get Mel’s picture as she left (“good picture that” he muttered).

"Good Picture"

The ferry was due in a few minutes so thought we would grab something quickly to eat on the trip back but after walking through the rather busy road we gave up on this and simply got onto the ferry rather than risk missing it. It was very busy but we were able to sit at the front downstairs. This was the slow ferry (quite a lot cheaper than the fast one this morning) so it gave us some time to catch up on email and facebook! Amazing to consider we were on a ferry in the middle of the harbour…It was quite clear so we were also able to enjoy the view a certain amount as we came back into Central. It was a lot calmer on the way back than it was on the way in…

We had another visit to Sam’s today so we quickly walked to the Star Ferry and crossed over into Kowloon. We picked up some chicken pies ($12 each, from the same place we visited the other night when waiting for the Star Ferry cruise people) and quickly walked to Sam’s. The day’s totals, by the way - Hawkers of fake watches: 20, tailors: 12.

Slightly early for the 6 pm with Sam. I was able to try on the suit (in the office again) and it fit very nicely though the trousers will likely need a belt. Mel tried on her trousers and they did not fit quite right so she was having a chat with the tailor. I noticed that Sam had raised his voice and was talking quite animatedly in Cantonese - I realised he was chastising them for getting the sizing wrong for Mel. Though a bit uncomfortable, I was glad to see he cared. It was actually interesting waiting for Mel, just sitting and watching as the dramas around unfolded around me: There Mel chatting to the tailors, over there someone placing an order for suits, on the other side of the room a rather nicely dressed gentleman picking up the three suits he had ordered, on a display cabinet a salesman copying out an order, on a mobile phone another salesman having an animated conversation with someone, another taking some fabric down from the wall…The head of the kingdom Sam seeing it all with an experienced and critical eye. Everything happening in a space smaller than our living room.

After Mel’s tailor marked up her trousers we were told to come back at 7:30 despite the fact they close at 7. They knew we are leaving tomorrow so knew they would have to get this right today.

Of course, leaving Sam’s, we had no idea where we would eat. Not a big fan of this area anyway. We ended up walking into a shopping centre and following some signs up to the 7th floor (a lot of escalators) only to find that the restaurant was a lot more expensive than we were interested in so after wandering a bit more we found a small Singaporean restaurant (apt since we will be there, what, tomorrow…!). “Kitchen 65” (Miramar Shopping Centre, if you are interested). I had the Laksa Special ($80 and had a good amount of prawns) and Mel had the Chicken Laksa Special ($80). The soups were quite good though Mel did not like the sauces as she found them a bit fishy. The prawn cracker starter was a bit of a surprise: Large, uneven crackers with a lot of flavour ($28). We had the pear and apple tea (hot, $27 each) which we enjoyed as well. The restaurant lacked a bit of character though was clean and modern. The meal was not bad but I was annoyed when I realised I had added a tip onto a total that already included a service charge which I have seen happen a few times here - In London they no longer do this as it is considered a no-no.

Heading back to Sam’s I was handed my suit in a fantastic Sam’s suit bag (did not deter from being asked if I wanted a tailor as I walked down Nathan Road later, I noticed) as Mel tried on her trousers to see that they fit better (yes, they did). Sam had left for the evening, perhaps tired from telling off his staff earlier, so we were unable to thank him ourselves so we made our way out onto Nathan Road and back to the ferry.

Never Tire of the View

From the Wan Chai Star Ferry terminal Mel made up for the other night and was able to successfully talk us back to the hotel! Well, not before a stop at 7-11 (of course). Fanta all around.


Stopping briefly at the front desk to check times for breakfast and check-out we headed up to our room for, I believe, the last time.

Watched television, drank slurpees, packed bags, copied photos to laptop, charge the phones/cameras (in the somewhat oversubscribed power outlet on the wall), changed the thermostat, had a bit of a snack of the remaining food, and drank some water.

⇒ Continue to Tuesday, October 15th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong