Touring the Outlying Islands of Hong Kong

Visitors to Hong Kong tend to think that Hong Kong consists of just three main territories namely Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. For those of us who live in Hong Kong, we know that the boundaries of the SAR don’t just end here but also encompass 263 outlying islands.

Many of Hong Kong’s outlying islands are uninhabited though some of the bigger ones like Lantau, Lamma, Cheng Chau and PengChau do host vibrant communities in their villages and towns. Ferries plying on Hong Kong’s waterways provide the bulk of the transport connections to the SAR’s outlying islands.

Apart from hosting their resident island communities, these outlying islands also are popular with day-trippers.  Especially during the sultry, summer months when most Hong Kongers have an urgent need to get away from the SAR’s all-pervasive pressure-cooker atmosphere.

IMG_52051Cheng Chau

Cheng Chua is a small dumbbell-shaped island located 10 km to the southwest of Hong Kong Island. The island is home to a traditional, tranquil fishing village community. Cheng Chau typically receives hordes of visitors every May as they descend on the island for the celebration of the Cheng Chau Bun Festival. The festival dates back to Qing dynasty and features various Taoist ceremonies, along with a lion dance, parade, music and a thrilling Bun Scrambling Competition.

Cheng Chau is navigable on foot or by bike (bikes are available for hire near the ferry pier). The island offers several points of interest like the Cheung Po Tsai Cave, the supposed lair of a legendary pirate, various ancient Chinese temples including the 200-year-old Pak Tai temple and even a mini Great Wall.  Visitors can also indulge in a range of watersports like windsurfing, kayaking and swimming on the island’s beautiful beaches like Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Wan.

Cheng Chau like most island getaways also hosts several seafood restaurants along its Praya road where you can enjoy various dishes prepared with the fresh catch of the day.The wide array of choice on offer can be a bit confusing for a newcomer, but it’s wise to look out for a restaurant that seems to cater to the local populace. Some of the most highly recommended spots for a delicious, Cantonese-style seafood meal on Cheng Chau Island include established names like New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant, Cheung Chau Cheung Kee, and So BorKee.  If you rather have western food you could head to the Seaside Café located atop the Cheng Chau Windsurfing Center. Also worth a mention is the Hometown Members Club a small, rustic restaurant on Cheng Chau Church Street, which serves Japanese fare like sushi and red bean pancakes

Getting to Cheng Chau- a 40-minute ferry ride from Central Pier 5 transports you to the island of Cheng Chau from Hong Kong Island.

lamma-island-hong-kong-12791 (1)Lamma Island

Lamma Island also known as Pok Liu is the third largest island in Hong Kong after Hong Kong Island and Lantau. Famous as the abode for hippies and flower children of Hong Kong and the island continues to exude its laid-back vibe until today. However, nowadays the island’s 19 villages are home to local as well as expatriate residents.

Regular ferry services from Central and Aberdeen connect Lamma with Hong Kong Island. Yung Shue Wan, where the ferry that plies from Central drops anchor is the main town on Lamma.  Cafes, restaurants, and quirky stores selling souvenirs and such litter Yung ShueWan’s main street and offer many opportunities for browsing. Located here are popular eateries like the Bookworm Café, a casual dining restaurant, the BB Seaview Restaurant and Green Cottage, all of which serve western cuisine.

The Tin Hau Temple at Yung Shue Wan is the focal point of the island’s Tin Hau Festival celebrations. The revelries of the event usually feature dragon boat races, a sampan boat race, and Chinese opera performances.

A well-paved path known as the Family Trail connects Yung Shue Wan with the village of SokKwu Wan. Day-trippers and hikers follow this path for an hour-long trek, which takes them past sights like the lovely Hung ShingYeh Beach and the Lamma Power Station until they arrive at SokKwu Wan.

They then usually reward themselves with a hearty seafood meal at one of the area’s many first-rate restaurants before they catch the ferry back home. Popular choices include the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant and the ingeniously named Lamma Hilton Shum Kee Sea Food.

Getting to Lamma- Ferries for Yung Shue Wan and SokKwu Wan regularly depart from Central Pier 4 or the Aberdeen promenade on the Southside of Hong Kong Island. A ferry ride to Lamma from Hong Kong Island spans approximately thirty minutes.

PengChau

PengChau, is a tiny island that lies 8 km to the west of Hong Kong Island. PengChau is not as well known as its bigger siblings Cheng Chau and Lantau, but it still warrants a visit.

PengChau was once a bustling industrial hub and evidence of this is still visible at various sights that dot its heritage trail. These sights include an abandoned matchstick factory (once the largest in South East Asia) and an old lime kiln, one of the eleven, which operated during the island’s industrial heyday.

It is easy to explore all of PengChau, for the island is very small and measures a mere one square km.   No cars ply on PengChau, and visitors enjoy strolling along its café and restaurant lined main drag, Wing On Street. Lush, PengChau is rather unspoiled and offers various hiking trails. Well-traveled routes lead hikers up Finger Hill, the island’s highest point and along the PengChau Heritage Trail. Other landmarks on the island include an ancient Tin Hau Temple that dates back to 1792 and features centuries-old whalebone décor and the Dragon Mother Temple.

Also recommended is a stop for a biteat the charming ‘Les CopainsD’Abord’, a French-owned bar and café located at the island’s main square. This delightful restaurant has a large terrace and offers al fresco dining. It is especially renowned for its French culinary delights.

Getting to PengChau- Ferries for PengChau depart every 45 minutes from Central Ferry Pier 6.

DSCF3748Tai O – Lantau Island

The quaint fishing village of Tai O occupies a small island of the same name on the western coast of Lantau Island. The village ‘s traditional stilt homes reminiscent of the fishing villages of Southern China are its star attraction. Once you arrive in Tai O, you can hire a boat near the village’s rope-drawn Ferry Bridge and take a tour to see the stilt villages up close. This boat tour usually continues out to sea where if you are lucky, you can spot the famed, endangered and elusive pink dolphins of Hong Kong.

Other attractions in Tai O include its bustling Market Street, which plays host to several stores and restaurants offering much seafood fare including the village’s best-known products such as shrimp paste and salted fish.

Restaurants like Tai O Crossing Boat Restaurant and Solo in Tai O are highly recommended.  You can also fill your stomach by sampling the various delicious wares of the street vendors of Tai O, who serve interesting and tasty eats  such as Chinese-style Pizza and BBQ octopus and shrimp and more.

A must-do is a sampling   of the famed gay daantsai(egg waffle) served by a vendor  who sets up his stall at Tai O’s Shek Tsai Po Street on most afternoons. This famous fellow uses charcoal to bake his waffles giving them a delicious smoky taste.

Other attractions in this scenic fishing village include having a drink or a meal at the Tai O Lookout restaurant housed in the luxury Tai O Heritage Hotel, a former colonial-era Police Station and the Hung Shing Temple, a Chinese temple believed to be more than two hundred years old.

Getting to Tai O- the easiest way to get to Tai O is to hop on the MTR from Central and get off at Tung Chung station. From here you need to get bus 11 to travel to the Tai O bus terminus.

MuiWo- Lantau Island

MuiWo or Silvermine Bay lies on the Eastern Side of Lantau Island and is renowned for its long, pristine crescent-shaped beach.  A hiking trail from the beach leads up to the tranquil village of Pak Ngan Heung. Located nearby are the area’s famous sights like the Man Mo Temple, the Silvermine Cave, and the Silvermine Bay Waterfall Garden.  Enthusiastic hikers go on to traverse the two-hour hike that leads on from MuiWo to the residential enclave of Discovery Bay by way of NimShue Wan and the Trappist Monastery.

Getting to MuiWo- Ferries from Central Pier 6 get you to MuiWo by way of a 40-minute journey.  You can also get to MuiWo by bus from the Tung Chung MTR station.

Po Toi Island

Po Toi Island is the biggest island of the Po Toi Island group, and this picturesque isle lies to the southeast of Hong Kong island.  The island is truly rustic for even though it is within easy reach of the modernity of Hong Kong Island it still does not have facilities for electric power and running water. As a result, the island sparsely populated and hosts approximately 200 full-time residents. Po Toi Island is a popular haunt for walkers and hikers for it hosts the Po Toi Country trail. This coastal route encircles the south of the island and leads hikers past the island’s many prominent landmarks like its lighthouse, unusual rock formations, Bronze Age carvings and a pavilion at Ngau Wu Teng.  A hike on Po Toi Island customarily ends with a seafood meal at one of island’s excellent sea-facing seafood restaurants like Ming Kee and the aptly named Seafood Island Seafood Restaurant.

Getting to Po Toi Island- You can get to Po Toi Island via ferry from Stanley or Aberdeen on the weekends. Po Toi Island also is an immensely a popular destination for private junk trips during the sultry Hong Kong summers 


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