Occupying an area of just less than 1 km² off the north-eastern coast of Lantau (roughly opposite Discovery Bay and Trappist Haven Monastery), this little island is famous for its easygoing small island ambience, as well as for its numerous temples and homestyle seafood restaurants.
Although the island can be explored in no time, quite a few visitors take it easy and spend the whole day here...
The old village spans across the island's "narrow neck", between the Ferry Pier and Tung Wan Beach and is where "things happen". Stroll around the narrow pedestrian-only streets (no cars are allowed on the island, other than emergency vehicles, so it's a great place for walkers and cyclists), browse the shops for something authentic, visit the traditional Chinese temples and feast on some fresh seafood... That's what life in Peng Chau is all about.
Located on Wing on Street, just a minute from the Ferry Pier, the old Tin Hau Temple is probably the island's most famous site. Built more than 200 years ago in honor of Tin Hau (Matsu), Goddess of the sea, protector of the seafarers and Hong Kong's most beloved deity, the small temple boasts a lavishly decorated golden altar and an 8-feet whale bone which was dedicated to the goddess hundreds of years ago, by local fishermen (and which is believed to be virtuous...)
Kamfa Temple(also known as "the golden flower"), just a stonethrow away, is not as old as its neighbor (as a matter of fact, it is pretty new...) but is still worth visiting... The small, vivaciously decorated shrine is reputed as a place where worshipers can choose the gender of their unborn babies...
Further on, facing Tung Wan Beach, Lung Mo (also known as Dragon Mother) is another lavishly decorated temple. Touching the "dragon Bed" inside the temple is believed to bring good luck...
Just a few steps from Lung Mo, there is another old temple, built in honor of Hung Shing Ye', a mysterious figure who, according to legend, was an honest government official, much appreciated by the people.
It is said that Hung Shing continued to bless the villagers even after his death, and had showed his presence to save many people during storms.
Walking up to the top of Finger Hill, south of the village, will probably be the best part of your visit to Peng Chau. Although it is just a few hundred metres from the Ferry Pier, climbing the steep hill is a bit difficult (not too much though...) and might take a bit of time... especially for those of you who need to catch their breath...
On the peak, almost 100 metres a.s.l, there is a pavilion from which you can enjoy an unbeatable 360° panoramic view of the island, Lantau Island, Tsing Ma Bridge, Lamma Island and Hong Kong Island's southwest shore.
Getting to Peng Chau : Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry Ltd. (HKKF) operates the service from Central (Hong Kong Island). Ferries depart from Pier No. 6 every 30 - 40 minutes, from 7am till after midnight, and take 40 minutes (ordinary ferry) or 25 minutes (Quick ferry) to reach the island. For more information, you can call them on 2815 6063 or visit their website:http://www.hkkf.com.hk/
New World First Ferry Services operates the Inter-islands service which connects Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau. Ferries depart roughly once every two hours. The journey from Cheung Chau to Mui Wo (via Chi Ma Wan) take something like 30 - 35 minutes, while the section from Mui Wo to Peng Chau takes another 15 - 20 minutes. For more information, you can call their customer service hotline on 2131 8181 or visit their website http://www.nwff.com.hk/eng/fare_table/island_hopping/
Kaito boats ply the water between Discovery Bay, Trappist Haven Monastery and Peng Chau. They leave Discovery Bay's Nim Shue Wan Pier every 40 minutes or so (depends on demand) and cover the short distance in slightly more than 10 minutes.
Click here for more info on Discovery Bay and Trappist Haven Monastery.
Occupying an area of slightly less than 2.5 km² off Lantau's southeast coast, this dumbbell-shaped island is formed from two mostly granite lumps, joined by what was once a spit.
The northern and southern parts are mostly hilly, and boast a rugged coastline with plenty of massive boulders, while the central part (the spit) is plain and looks like the long and narrow handle that connects the dumbbell weights...
It is here where most of the island's population dwells, near the Ferry Pier and the long, sandy beach.
Although it is far more populated than Peng Chau, Cheung Chau seems to have much more to offer than its northern counterpart... Just like in Peng Chau: beautiful trails, scenic view points, fishermen village ambience, Chinese temples and great seafood restaurants are the main draw, but they seem to be better here... and quite a few visitors spend more than just one day on the island.
Every visit to Cheung Chau must start from the Ferry Pier, within the natural harbour on the island's west side. The Praya (waterfront promenade) along the bay is lined with seafood restaurants, shops and bars, and the harbour is dotted with lots and lots of fishing boats, which makes you feel like you are on a Mediterranean island...
From the Ferry Pier, turn left and follow the promenade till its end. You will see a football pitch on your right hand side, and beyond it lies the Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau's most prominent sight. The lavishly decorated temple, one of Hong Kong's oldest, was originally built in 1783 in honor of the island's patron, Pak Tai: A popular Taoist deity, considered as the "supreme emperor of dark heaven and defeater of evil..."
The island's most famous story tells that in the 1770s, a plague broke out on Cheung Chau and took a heavy toll on the population... and as if that was not enough, the villagers were also harassed by pirates around the same time...
In order to put an end to the chaos, local fishermen brought an image of Pak Tai to the island. Paraded through the village lanes, the deity drove away evil spirits. Villagers too disguised themselves as different deities and walked around the island to drive away the evil spirits responsible for the plague.
Ever since this day, the people of Cheung Chau have been living in peace and prosperity, and a few years later, a group of devotees built the temple, to honor their savior.
The temple features the architectural layout of a typical traditional Chinese temple, with a wide flight of stairs in front, a main hall where the statue of Pak Tai stands and two secondary halls, on the left and right sides of the main hall.
Stone lions guard the entrance to the temple, and intricately carved dragons are decorating the roof, alongside a line of tiny ceramic figurines.
Inside the temple, there are quite a few "treasures" worth paying attention to, including some pieces with historical significance, like a Song Dynasty sword, some old whale bones, a golden crown and two granite pillars, carved with dragons...
Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the island's most ostentatious event, is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (usually falls in beginning or mid May) and commemorates the miracle in which the beloved deity had put an end to the plague.
The festival draws tens of thousands of both local and overseas tourists every year. It lasts for seven days, on three of which the entire island goes vegetarian.
The festival's big hoo-ha takes place in front of the Pak Tai Temple, where the "Bun Towers" are erected. Those are three giant 60-feet bamboo towers, covered with Chinese buns (that gave the festival its name).
Historically, young men would race up the tower to get hold of the buns; the higher the bun, the better fortune it was suppose to bring to the holder's family. However, during a race in 1978 one of the towers collapsed, injuring more than 100 people. In subsequent years, three designated climbers (one climber to each tower) raced up their respective towers and having cleared the top buns proceeded to strip the towers of their buns as they descended.
In 2005, the "Bun snatching race" made a comeback. This time with extra safety precautions including proper mountain-climbing tools as well as tutorials for participants (which now include women).
During the festival, Chinese operas, lion dances, and religious services also take place on the island (including the famous parade-in-the-air, where children, dressed like heroes, are gliding above the crowds, suspended from steel frames.
From the temple, walk down along Pak She Street and San Hing Street, the core of the old village. Those narrow pedestrian-only streets are lined with three-storey balconied shop-houses, with all sorts of shops on their ground floor.
Peep into the back lanes and you will see traditional shops, where locals still practice their old trades...
Turn left to Tung Wan Road and follow it to the beach (it's a two minute walk...). Tung Wan Beach spans along the eastern side of the narrow isthmus that links the two hilly ends of the island. It's a long and sandy beach and although it is not the most pristine place on earth, it is cleaner and more pleasant than many beaches across Hong Kong.
Turn right and walk southwards, along the beachline, for 2-3 minutes... till you get to the Warwick (the island's only "real hotel"). Right below the hotel there are some 3,000 years old Rock carvings and a few steps ahead, on the small headland, is the Cheung Chau WindsurfingCentre (CCWC), where you can enjoy a nice meal or just a drink in one of the island's loveliest seaside cafés, or you can hire equipment and plunge into the water...
It is here, at Cheung Chau WindsurfingCentre, where Cheung Chau born Lee Lai-shan, Hong Kong's first Olympic Games gold medalist (and the owner's relative) started her windsurfing career, at the age of 12...
Past the headland and the Windsurfing Centre, there is a small stretch of relatively secluded beach, known as Kwun Yam Wan... It is much cleaner and quieter than the main Tung Wan Beach, ambience is nice and easygoing, and there is a simple, shack-style beach bar where you can fetch some cold drinks...
At the end of the beach, where the hill rises steeply out of the sea, there is a little temple, dedicated to Kwun Yam (The bodhisattva of compassion, also known as Guanyin). Just above the bright red temple, there are a couple of trail junctions in a small valley. Turn left and start climbing the stairs along the stone-paved path, known as the Mini Great Wall. The scenic path got its somewhat pretentious name due to its resemblance to the path on top of China's Great Wall.
It climbs to the pavilion at the top of the hill, from which you can enjoy some magnificent panoramic views of the island and its environs. From here, the path starts to descent, winding above the rugged coastline and passing by huge granite boulders with imaginative names, like the "Vase Rock" and the "Human Head Rock"... The path comes to a dead end on a southeast-facing headland, but that doesn't mean you have to walk back using the same route... there are a few other signposted walking trails that cover the island's southeast corner...
You can continue along the south shore till you get to a small Tin Hau Temple, facing the rocky Nam Tam Wan Bay (past the Don Bosco Youth Centre).
From here you can walk back to the village, passing by the Alliance Bible Seminary and onwards, to Cheung Chau Sports Ground and the Warwick Hotel. Just near the Sports Ground, on Kwun Yam Wan Road, there is another site worth visiting... That is the Kwan Kung Pavilion (also known as Kwan Tai pavilion). Dedicated to Kwan Tai (Guan Yu), a general during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China, who started to be worshipped after his death (mainly by Taoists around Hong Kong). The beautiful pavilion is quite elegant and boasts some lovely gardening around it.
The island's southwest corner is quite nice too, and since everything here is so small, exploring it is not going to take too much time... From the Tin Hau Temple you can continue westwards along Peak Road (which becomes Peak Road West at a certain stage). The trail passes through some greenery with nice observation points and connects with Tsan Tsuen Road, as you reach the westernmost tip. Before you reach the end, near the crematorium, you can turn left and walk down (past an abandoned farmhouse) to a beautiful, secluded bay, called Pak Tso Wan, where you can find a nice sandy beach, bordered by rocky headlands and lush, green hills. Nicknamed the Italian Beach by the island's European expats who treated it as their own private beach, when it was still a "secret", before the trail was built...
From the beach, there is a trail that encircles the rugged coastline around the island's southwest tip, passing through the Reclining Rock (a huge and impressive boulder, shamefully covered with graffiti...) and some other boulders before reaching the famous Cheung Po-tsai Cave and Sai Wan village (where another Tin Hau Temple can be visited).
One thing you should note: Although it's a proper concrete trail with metal fence.
It stops at a certain point (where the small cove is), possibly due to some land ownership issues... and you will have to go behind the cove and cross it (no trouble if the tide is low) or try to go behind it and climb on the rocks (which is not as difficult as it sounds...) or just get your feet wet...
Cheung Po-tsai, after whom the small cave is called, was a famous 19th century Chinese pirate, who had tens of thousands of followers and possessed hundreds of ships... Although the legend claims that the small cave is where he used to keep his treasures... there's nothing here... (and there is no storage space either... it's just too small).
From the cave, the concrete trail climbs to the top of the headland, from where you can descent to Sai Wan village and onwards, to the Ferry Pier and the Village Centre.
Obviously, you can come here directly from the Ferry Pier... simply walk along the waterfront (southwest) until you reach Sai Wan village.
Nice walking trails can also be found across the northern part of the island (although they are not as nice as those of the south). If you have got the time, climb to the top of the hill and enjoy some gorgeous views of Lantau and the other islands.
There are a few options for those of you who want to spend the night on the island: The Warwick, Cheung Chau's only "real" hotel is fairly modest, when compared to Hong Kong's glittering five-star hotels... But it's really fine, with a nice swimming pool, and the view you get from the oceanside rooms (especially those on the high floors) is truly fantastic... The cost is around HK$ 750 - 850 per room per night, in the middle of the week.
B & B Cheung Chau is a lovely little guesthouse on Tung Wan Road, between the Ferry Pier and Tung Wan Beach, just a spit away from everywhere. They have 16 rooms and they are all quite clean, comfortable and properly equipped. Rates are around HK$ 400 - 500 per room per night (midweek - bed & breakfast).
There are quite a few holiday flats across the island. As soon as you leave the Ferry Pier, on your left (along the Praya promenade), you will see numerous stands where holiday-flat-promoters are standing (equipped with photos of their property)... If it's not on a weekend, you have little reason to be worried... You can take your time and see 2 - 3 places before making up your mind...
Sea view Holiday Flats are quite reasonable (and so are their prices), and they do have a website (but no working contact): http://hkseaview.tripod.com
Getting to Cheung Chau : New World First Ferry Services operates the service from Central (Hong Kong Island). Ferries depart from Pier No. 5 every 20 - 40 minutes, almost 24 hours a day, and take almost one hour (ordinary ferry) or 35 minutes (Quick ferry) to reach the island.
New World also operates the Inter-islands service which connects Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau. The ferry departs roughly once every two hours and the journey from Mui Wo to Cheung Chau (via Chi Ma Wan) takes something like 30 - 35 minutes, while the section from Mui Wo to Peng Chau takes another 15 - 20 minutes.
For more information, you can call their customer service hotline on 2131 8181 or visit their website http://www.nwff.com.hk
Although only five kilometres or so from Stanley (on Hong Kong Island's south shore) this small and craggy island takes the word seclusion to new heights... (Not that there is a lack of secluded islands around the world, but hardly will you find them that close to a giant metropolis...).
Occupying an area of just less than 3.7 km², south of Hong Kong Island (right under D'Aguilar Peninsula and its famous Dragon Back Trail), Po Toi Island is famous for its impressive boulders and rock formations, as well as for its lovely hiking trails (unbeatable views) and its beautiful hidden cove, next to the pier, where a nice sandy beach, a small authentic village and a nice seafood joint can be found...
The almost deserted island used to be more populous in days bygone, but rapid urbanization and modernization did to it what they did to many rural communities across Hong Kong... The young ones were attracted by the city's glitter, and only a handful of residents remained behind... You can still see a few abandoned houses around the cove, slowly being conquered by shrubs...
The Kaito boat from Aberdeen (or Stanley) will drop you at the pier in Tai Wan (The Big Harbor), on the island's southwest corner. This is, indeed, Po Toi's only natural harbor, and the island's only village (or what has remained of it) is also found here...
Ming Kee, the island's famous seafood restaurant is right on the beach, a spit away from the Kaito berth, and you can seat on the wooden balcony and indulge on some nice and fresh seafood, while enjoying the lovely view... (Most people though, will first go for the walking bit, before allowing themselves to enjoy those justly earned calories...).
Chili Squid and Baked oysters in wine are the restaurant's "jewel in the crown" but everything else is nice too...
You can call Ming Kee on 2849 7038, although I'm not sure whether they'll agree to actually book a table.
Secluded or not secluded, Po Toi is still a part of Hong Kong, and as such, it "enjoys" a network of some properly maintained (and well signposted) concrete-surfaced hiking trails (that come along with those eye-irritating metal handrails...), which covers the island's southwestern part.
For a start, you can take an easy walk to the nearby Tin Hau Temple. Perched on a small cliff above the cove, the small temple is certainly not the most impressive thing you have ever seen, but there are nice views towards the cove from here, and there are some interesting rock formations nearby, worth seeing...
The main hiking trail climbs from the pier and the village and leads to a small shop, where seaweeds can be bought in winter. Turn right and follow the signposted trail to the top of the ridge. The trail (mixed with flights of steps) passes through some lush green woodland which dwindles as you climb, and gives way to grass and low bush. A side trail will take you to the reputedly haunted Old Mo's House, a ruined house which sheltered Japanese soldiers during World War II.
As you climb higher, breathtaking views of the cove and rocky coastline are being unveiled... The path disappears every now and again, when it crosses large rocks, but it appears right thereafter...
The concrete trail makes a right turn (southwards) when it reaches the ridge, and starts to descent towards Po Toi's southernmost headland (which is, arguably, Hong Kong's southernmost piece of land).
Looking like a small, rocky peninsula, the headland is where you can see some of the island's most impressive boulders and rocks... It takes a truly wild imagination to actually see a tortoise climbing up the mountain, or a monk, or a hand palm (some of the names that were given to these boulders, due to the shapes they presumably resemble) but, nonetheless, the rocks are remarkable.
The trail crosses the rugged headland, past the lighthouse, and gets to its tip, where you can enjoy some formidable views of rocks, sculpted by sea and wind.
From here, the trail runs westwards, along the rocky tideline, and northwards, through the woods, back to the cove and the village. Enroute, you will see a small rocky headland on your left, from which there are nice views towards the neighboring islet. There are also some ancient rockcarvings which can be seen enroute.
Getting to Po Toi : Kaito boats connect Po Toi Island with both Aberdeen and Stanley, on Hong Kong Island's south shore. On Tuesdays and Thursdays (excluding public holidays), there is only one boat a day (on each direction). It leaves Aberdeen on 10 am and departs from Po Toi, on its way back, at 2 pm (which means you can't really come for a daylong trip in the middle of the week).
On Saturdays, there are two boats from Aberdeen (10 am and 3 pm) and one from Stanley (1:20 pm). Boats depart from Po Toi at 12:40 pm (to Stanley only), 2 pm and 4 pm (to Aberdeen, via Stanley).
On Sundays and Public Holidays, there are boats at 08:15 am (from Aberdeen to Po Toi), 10 am, 11:30 am, 3:30 pm and 5 pm (from Stanley to Po Toi). Boats leave Po Toi at 9:15 am, 10:45 am, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm and 6 pm
Prices range around HK$ 40 per person for a round trip (same day return). One way tickets can be purchased at around HK$ 20 (but not on Sundays, when demand is high...)
Please note that the berthing point in Stanley is at Blake Pier, and no longer near St. Stephan's beach.
If you have enough people in your group, you can just hire a junk or a sampan in Stanley, other than to restrict yourself to the Kaito timetable