Mar 22, 2007|
Get the hell out of town for once. Hong Kong consists of 263 islands – 263! – many of them abandoned and, despite a relatively short journey, far, far away from your troubles. So the next time you want a break from the city, forget about Lamma and head out to these hidden gems instead.
Located northwest of Mirs Bay, Tap Mun Chau has about 100 residents (mostly fishermen), a smattering of teahouses and a few ancient, historical sites. There’s a Tin Hau Temple built between 1662 and 1721, which houses several antique art pieces, including a bronze bell made in 1737, and a massive piece of swordfish bone.
Bonus: The “Sun Wei Wo” teahouse is famous for its iced milk tea and boiled squid with noodles. Their homemade chili oil (available for purchase) is massively popular with mothers-in-law territory-wide.
Getting there: Tap Mun Chau can be reached by ferry or kai-to from Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung. For enquiries, call Tsui Wah Travel Service at 2527-2513 or log onto www.twtraway.com. You can also get to Tap Mun by ferry from Ma Liu Shui Pier near Chinese University, Tai Po. The trip takes approximately 90 minutes. The ferries arrive at 8:30am and 3pm from Mon-Fri. An extra ferry service is available at 12:30pm.
Lying 3km off the southeastern tip of Hong Kong Island, Po Toi is a rugged place circled by sea eagles, and famed for beautiful sights. An ideal place for hikers, the trails are well signposted, with the most scenic walk leading up the hill to the top of the island, from which one can enjoy the fantastic views over the sea and across Hong Kong. Another trail heads around the ancestral graves scattered across hilltops on the southern end of the island. There you can find the Tortoise Rock, Buddha’s Palm Cliff and Monk Rock.
Bonus: Before you reach the turn of either path, descend the concrete steps on the cliff face, where you will find a cluster of prehistoric carvings.
Getting there: The public ferry – a Spartan craft – departs from Aberdeen and arrives at the pier by St. Stephen’s Beach near Stanley, then heads straight for Poi Toi. It docks in Po Toi’s main cove, on the western shore. On weekends and public holidays, a small ferry, operated by Chuen Kee Ferry, runs to Po Toi from St. Stephen’s Beach. Ferries also run between Aberdeen and Po Toi, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, weekends, and public holidays.
Shaped like a chestnut at the east of Lantau, Peng Chau is a small, populated island great for a quick escape from the city. There are eight temples, with the better-known ones being Tin Hau Temple and Lung Mo Temple. Built in 1792, Tin Hau Temple preserves a whale’s rib bone over 10 meters long, believed to be a gift from Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea, who scooped the bone out of the water a hundred years ago. Outside the temple lies a stone monument established in 1835, engraved with words of warnings about nearby pirates and prohibitions from activities at sea, including trading. Lung Mo Temple, a tribute to the dragon’s mother, is the largest temple on Peng Chau. Located inside the temple is a dragon bed – it’s said to be magical, as it can "predict" the future.
Bonus: For scenic spots, check out Finger Hill, the highest mountain on the island. From there, you can get a good view of Tsing Ma Bridge, Disneyland, and groups of smaller islands dotted on the sea. If you are getting hungry, go to the Finger Hill Portuguese Restaurant (G/F, 40 Wing On St., 2983-9991) and order their signature dish, African chicken.
Getting there: To get there, take a ferry from the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier 6 (Central MTR exit A, pedestrian bridge walk along Man Yiu Street) in Central, which goes to Peng Chau.
Located off the Clear Water Bay peninsula in the New Territories, Tung Lung Chau is largely uninhabited with over a hundred caves formed around its shore. The island’s most notable characteristic is its prehistoric stone carvings and its fort, both of which have been declared monuments of Hong Kong. The stone carving was created 700 years ago during the Song Dynasty and depicts a dragon with a horned head and hook-like tail. The carvings were probably originally made to scare away some imagined sea monster; being primitive, the peoples of the time believed dragons had the ability to frighten away evil spirits.
Abolished in 1810, Tung Lung Fort was excavated and all that is left of it now are the foundations. Also notable are the numerous sea caves at the shore of the island. There is a long, deep and narrow cave called the “echo cave” where strong and rather strange echoes are reflected if one speaks inside it.
Bonus: Hang out where famous pirates are rumored to have attacked. The renowned Cheung Po-tsai is just one of the many pirates rumored to have attacked Tung Lung Fort, built between 1719 and 1724 as part of a maritime defense system to protect trade and, ironically, fend off pirates.
Getting there: Ferries leave from Lei Yue Mun ferry pier in Kowloon. There are also ferries from Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island. For details and schedule, call 2560-9929. A sampan for up to four people can usually be rented from the boat operators at Sai Wan Ho typhoon shelter. A faster jet (with capacity for eight people) can be arranged by calling Mr. Cheng at 9080-3754.
Situated in the southwest of Hong Kong, the Soko Islands have recently come into the limelight following the controversy surrounding CLP Power’s plans to build an $8 billion natural gas terminal there. Green groups have protested against the development, arguing that there is not sufficient proof for the need to build such a terminal.
Soko is made up of dozens of smaller islands, most of them deserted. The biggest island is Tai A Chau, the main island with an area of 1.2 square kilometers. Another distinctive character of Soko is the rock forest that surrounds the coasts. Check it out cruising the surrounding sea in a boat. Tai A Chau used to be the rescue camp for Vietnamese boat people, but today, the island is eerily empty.
Another island, Siu A Chau, is smaller with its highest point at 74 meters. A beach lies to its south, and another to its north. On the south side of the island, there is a temple, which houses a 37-year-old antique clock.
Bonus: The main island, Tai A Chau, is known for its strange, naturally occurring rocks, like the “Dog Head Rock.”
Getting there: The only way of getting here is to hire a sampan at Cheung Chau Pier, which would set you back $1,300-1,400.
The island of Tung Ping Chau (not to be confused with Peng Chau) lies in Hong Kong’s most northeast corner in Da Peng Wan, and is populated by few people. During the Japanese-Sino war, the island was at its most prosperous, with 10 villages and a population of 2,000. Today, Tung Ping Chau is sparse; left with mostly ruins and rocks. But this island has a few specialties that are worth visiting – a rock 7-8 meters east of the island which provides a good view of the surrounding islands, a 250-year-old temple, and its many layered, colorful rocks eroded by water.
Bonus: The water surrounding Tung Ping Chau is thriving with coral communities, seaweed beds, and ecological habitats. You will find over 130 types of fish and over 100 types of invertebrates. Though there’s a serious lack of electricity and water supply, each household is equipped with its own electric generator. Buildings are made from rock materials and mud from the island, creating a curious layered effect. Also visit A Ma Wan, where you can see layers and layers of rock tilting towards the sea.
Getting there: A ferry runs from Ma Liu Shui pier, near the Kowloon East Rail, to Tung Ping Chau. There is no service on weekends and holidays. The trip takes about 1.5 hours.
Waglan is one of the islands of Po Toi, and houses one of the five surviving pre-war lighthouses, the Waglan Lighthouse. Declared a monument in 2000, it was built in 1893 by China during the Qing Dynasty. The British took over the management of the lighthouse soon afterwards.
Bonus: Visiting the lighthouse is like taking a trip back in time as old furniture and equipment are still there, almost frozen in time. Even the old doorframes are rusted over. It’s a great place for photo shoots.
Getting there: Right now the lighthouse is unmanned but if anyone wants to visit it, they could submit an application to the Marine Department. Call the Antiquities and Monuments Office at 2208-4400 for more details.