Sometimes the crazy intense energy of the city of Hong Kong can get overwhelming. At times like that, it's actually quite refreshing to "get away from it all", to travel back in time a bit to see a bit of an older Hong Kong.
Cheung Chau island is one of several fishing village island surrounding Hong Kong. I love Cheung Chau island because cars are not allowed on the island. The island is home to 20,000 people (!) who get around on bicycles or motorized scooters. Fishing is the main industry, and the seafood is fantastic. The pace of life is much slower there. The views are beautiful, and there's still lots to see.
It's easy to get to Cheung Chau via ferry from Central Pier #5 [ferry schedule]. You can either take the fast ferry (about 40 minutes) or the slow ferry. We've done both. The fast ferry is a bit bumpier (since it moves so quickly) and is fully enclosed and air conditioned. Our friend actually got seasick on the fast ferry. The slow ferry is smoother and has both open areas (like a deck!) and closed areas. If it's a nice day out, it's kind of fun to enjoy the views of the harbour while standing outside.
I loved walking along the edge of the island while watching trays and trays of dried seafood being made right in front of my eyes.
The shrimp we saw was halfway dried while the larger fish was definitely very dry. Dried seafood is sold all over Hong Kong, but this was the first time I had seen people hand-processing each shrimp and laying them out neatly into rows to dry.
I mentioned earlier, but I LOVE how the whole island is car-free. Walking around the narrow rows reminded me a bit of certain walled European cities that also don't have cars (with a Chinese flavor, of course!). Cheung Chau Island is one of the bigger, slightly more developed islands, so there are actually quite a number of restaurants, stores, and coffee shops.
The most famous event that occurs on Cheung Chau Island every year is the the Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Traditionally these bun towers were presented as offerings by the fishermen to pray for safety from pirates. Now, it's more of just a ritual to celebrate Chinese culture.
Every year, three 60-feet tall towers of buns (包山, bao shan, bun mountain) are set up on the island. In the past, men would try to climb up the tower to snatch the highest bun. The higher the bun, the better the fortune. In 1978 an accident happened where one of the towers collapsed. Since then, the festival designates "professional" runners to run up and grab the baos.
Note: I didn't attend during the bun festival this year because I feared the massive crowds. The above photo is a fun "trick-eye" photo taken at Victoria's Peak.
As a result of this fame, the famous "Ping An" (peace) baos are a popular snack on the island.
It's also run to just roam around and try fun street snacks like this brown sugar red bean glutinous rice "pop", frozen watermelon on a stick, or stewed fish balls (on a stick, of course).
Seafood is delicious on Cheung Chau island. I haven't explored enough to tell you which restaurants I recommend, but I've enjoyed the meals I've had there. Pictured above: "on the half shell" scallops with vermicelli (one of my favorite things to eat!), oyster egg omelette, stir fried clams with chili, prawns with scallions and red hot chili peppers, and Chinese broccoli.
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I fell in love with this unique ice dripped coffee served in a young coconut from a coffee shop called Valor Coffee.
The hiking is fantastic on Cheung Chau island. There are numerous trails and the views are beautiful all around (tons of ocean views since you are on a small island!). If it weren't so hot, I would have really thought I was in the state of Maine in the US. I loved the ocean-worn rocks and the relaxing, stunning views of the water and the mountains in the distance.
One of the most famous tourist attractions on Cheung Chau is the Cheung Po Tsai Cave. Cheung Po Tsai was a famous pirate from Guangdong during the Qing Dynasty. Legend has it that he used this natural cave to store all his treasures. He also hid there to avoid capture.
This place is VERY popular. During busy times, there will definitely be a line. The cave is super, super narrow (like I could barely fit through it, and I'm not that big of a person) and completely pitch black. You absolutely HAVE to bring some sort of light. A headlamp is ideal (since you really need to scamper down those rocks into the cave), but with some teamwork, using the light from a cell phone can work.
We waited nearly an hour to walk through the cave, but once we went through it, we totally understood why the line is so slow. Only one person can fit at a time. It's really difficult (and slow) to climb down that ladder into that super narrow cave in the dark. Thankfully there were several of us together, so we provided light for each other while going through the cave.
There are also several beaches where you can just hang out all day.
All in all, Cheung Chau Island is one of my favorite day trips from Hong Kong. It's a quick ride, there's enough to do that it's not too boring yet it still feels like you are "getting away". The views are beautiful, the hikes are good, and the food is delicious. I highly recommend visiting!
Cheung Chau Island
This post is part of a greater series 50 Posts in 50 Days - Take 2
Library of Hong Kong posts
Jen's Guide - Best Places to Eat in Hong Kong for Visitors
Tung Po - A traditional Dai Pai Dong