On a prior day we had enjoyed our hike across Lamma Island, one of the outlying islands near Hong Kong, so much that we wanted to explore more of these less well-known islands. Cheung Chau once was a refuge island for pirates but has grown into a modest fishing port so this became our next target to visit. The island is slightly further from Hong Kong and the ferry also takes slightly longer to get there than Lamma. As the ferry entered the harbour of Cheng Chau it was immediately noticeable that the island was more densely populated then either of the villages of Lamma Island. Most of the buildings appeared to be built on the flat, narrow strip between the hills rising to either side. We were greeted by American convenience stores mixed with local souvenir shops and restaurants. The fisher boats were also much grander in size then the small ones we had seen at Sok Kwu Wan the day before. They also seemed to be much more prepared to go out for a big catch in the Chinese Sea.
After landing we wove ourselves through the crowd of locals who were going about their daily lives as usual, completely unaware of the few tourists that de-boarded with us. A fisherman sat on the harbour wall repairing one of his nets and Jerome curiously watched him. A shop sold live fish and other sea creatures in water tanks, ready to be fished out and cooked for lunch or dinner. While cycling is also great option for exploring the many temples and beaches we planned on walking some of the many trails that criss-cross the island.
The colourful Pak Tai temple was our first stop along the walk, set behind a football pitch it is the focus of the annual bun festival. Cheung Chau is well known for its steamed, savoury buns, and you will not fail to notice them when visiting the island. They can easily be recognised by their red stamp and you can even buy their form in all kinds of souvenirs, from pencils to pillows in the shops throughout the village.
Pak Tai temple is the oldest on the island, dating back to 1783, it was recently renovated and is back to is full splendour now. Two rainbow coloured dragons adorn the temple’s roof, however, do take a closer look, especially children might like to discover the little details underneath, where little wooden figures show scenes of the daily life. Inside the familiar scent of incense surrounded us and we could see a few courtyards leading off to either side. Stepping through a moon gate we reached a beautiful, mosaic picture of a tiger with its cub. Jerome really liked the mosaic and the bright colours of the tigers. We then ventured into the other courtyards looking at the details of some of the colourful wooden carvings before leaving the temple.
Our walk continued from the end of the football pitch, along the road next to the shoreline. We passed some residential apartment blocks and run down buildings, before reaching a small beach with the cemetery on the other side. Just past a public toilet and the entrance to a posh villa complex we turned right, walking on the tarmac road up the hill.
After a short incline we reached a viewpoint with a Chinese looking pavilion. We could just make out the skyline of Hong Kong in the mist and had wonderful views of the town of Cheung Chau below. We realised just how narrow the town was, built between the two hills, with the harbour to one side and a long sandy beach to the other.
The path led us back along the islands family trail towards the town. This time we passed the top of the cemetery and as I am always interested in visiting them we made a brief stop to look at the graves. Most of them had photos of the deceased, some were obviously urns buried behind plates of marble whereas the other graves were in the ground and had proper graves stones. Past a playground and down a few steps and we were back at the temple where we had started from less than an hour before having completed one loop of one side of the island.
To cross the town this time instead of walking on the harbour front we headed for Pak She Street, which goes through the centre of town, parallel to the harbour and the beach. There were lots of small shops, selling all kind of goods, including a small toyshop where we had to stop. Jerome was browsing through the array of toys, mostly cheap, plastic goods before continuing our stroll. Once we reached the end of the road we turned left and ignored the little shed, called Lock of Love, consisting of nothing else but a fence with thousands of lovelocks and heart shaped plates latched to it. The idea was probably taken from one of the many love locks bridges found all over the world these days, a concept I have never been able to fathom at all.
To be continued in my next post…