Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Hidden Hong Kong: Cheung Chau Island

by : 
Rik Glauert

If someone mentions Hong Kong to you, you probably think of giant skyscrapers, busy streets and pollution. Indeed, the actual island of Hong Kong and the Kowloon peninsula opposite is home to 6 million people crowded into a very small place. There can be up to 50,000 people per square kilometre in these areas and property prices are some of the highest in the world.

However, the whole of Hong Kong is not this claustrophobic. The region is actually comprised of 263 Islands and a staggering 75% of the area is rainforest, mountains and sandy beaches.

I arrived in Hong Kong about a month ago and have spent most of that time sweating and spluttering through the crowded and busy streets getting things sorted. Life is very cramped and crowded – flats are incredibly small and the daily journey to work involves squeezing yourself onto metro trains, trams and busses.

With the arrival of my lovely friend from Seoul, however, I took the opportunity to get out of the city centre and into some unchartered waters. One morning, we set off to explore one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands – Cheung Chau. For city dwellers like me the adventure offered a welcome break from the rat-race, a real escape to the country. A holiday on my doorstep.

The island of Cheung Chau can only be reached by ferry. We boarded the ‘fast ferry’ which lived up to its name and smashed and bounced over the waves, making using the on-board toilet a difficult task. The ferry arrived safely at island’s dock and we were immediately enchanted. Cheung Chau has somewhat of a Mediterranean charm but in an Asian style. Old fishing boats bob in the harbour and restaurants line the seafront, offering the freshest catch from that day.

We rented bikes and set off in the blazing heat to explore the island. Cheung Chau is shaped like an hour glass. The town, the quay and main beaches are in the middle, where the island is less than a kilometre wide, whilst rainforest covered mountains and unexplored beaches are at either end. We cycled (and sweated) from tip to tip, discovering temples and hidden beaches.

After a well-deserved cool off in the sea and a snooze on a deserted beach, we went back to the quayside for dinner. A beautiful red snapper fish was served, plucked straight from the sea before us and steamed with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. As we watched the sun drop down amongst the distant sky-scrapers and mountains of Hong Kong island and plop into the South China Sea, we realised what a delightful break from the city we had had (and just how sunburnt we were!).

Discussion

Have you ever been to an island?