Living in Peng Chau Island
Hong Kong is fortunate to be surrounded by a number of both habited and inhabited islands each with it’s own special attractions, be it as a place to live, a place to sight see, attend events, a place to eat fantastic seafood, somewhere to find peace and tranquillity, hike in a nature environment or a destination just to spend a day at the beach.
One hidden gem that is smaller in size to it’s neighbours, that offers all of the above and yet has been quietly off the tourist radar, is the unspoilt habited island of Peng Chau.
Peng Chau is located adjacent to Discovery Bay and is only a short 30 minute ferry ride from Central. With boat only access the whole island measures less than a square kilometre and with no cars on the island, getting about is either on foot or by bicycle. There is a resident population of 6000 people who live between the port side and the beach, attracted by the quiet and laid back lifestyle.
The island wasn’t always such a peaceful haven, once operating during the Qing dynasty as a major port for shipping and trade, and later containing the largest match making factory in Asia, supplying matches to the entire Asian region and beyond and employing more than 1000 workers. There were leather tannerys and many other manufacturing operations up until the 1970’s however with the invent of cigarette lighters, the match factory closed and other manufacturing lost out to other larger operations on other locations..
After this economic change, the island has since transitioned into a peaceful residential haven still having kept most of it’s charm, where the residents choose to live a less hectic lifestyle within a localised village atmosphere. The old factories have gone with only a couple remaining like the Lime Factory and the Match Factory which have now become attractions for the few tourists who find their way here. There are 3 temples that can be reached from the main road through town, the oldest being Ting Hau Temple is said to be over 400 years old.
There have been in recent times a few low key residential developments that have sprung up on the island such as Sea Crest Villas, offering modern town house layouts. These fit comfortably in with the local housing and streets, with smart landscaping and a sensitivity towards design. The prices of these are generally quite a bit lower than those of neighbouring Discovery Bay and other more developed islands. Such residences have and are attracting professionals wanting to escape the hectic pace of life and quite suitable for families too being predominantly 3 and 4 bedrooms, although families with school age children may find some restrictive issues with only a small local school on the island and limited medical facilities. However the short and regular 10 minute ferry ride to Discovery Bay and it’s international schools is quicker than it can take to get children to school on Hong Kong Island in traffic. Peng Chau has shopping, super markets, banks, a library and other local amenities and a medical centre.
The entire Hong Kong islands are well known for their famously fresh and succulent seafood restaurants, and Peng Chau is no different. Although there are less fishermen hauling large catches these days, you can still order freshly caught amazing and tasty seafood delicacies. The prices are cheaper here than the larger developed islands and expect plastic chairs and tables with very basic service but you will be well cared for by the owners. These restaurants are mostly scattered along the main street through the township named Wing On Street and quite a few reviews recommend Hoi King Seafood being consistent with positive reviews. The local Peng Chau speciality is Shrimp Paste which the locals say is well worth trying.
The island has one main high point named Finger Hill and this is a short hike of around 45 minutes to the top where you will be rewarded with 360 degree views of the island and across to Discovery Bay. The hiking is not extreme and visitors can explore the entire Island easily in a day. Peng Yu Path is a recently opened hiking trail which takes you through the natural parkland and ecosystem from Tai Lei Bridge to the ocean front Old Fisherman’s Rock with it’s remote often deserted beach.
To get to and from Peng Chau there is a ferry service that leaves from Central Pier 6 on Hong Kong Island. The journey takes only 30 minutes with the ferries running at 40 - 45 minute intervals. During the peak morning hours these are more frequent at 20 - 25 minute intervals. The last ferry back is usually after 11pm and there also ferry connections with Mui Wo and Chi Ma Wan on Lantau and also from Cheung Chau and Discovery Bay.