In this latest trip to Hong Kong, one of the things I was determined to do was check out the outlying areas of Hong Kong, away from the busy city centre. One of the places I heard a lot about was the island of Cheung Chau and that I had to go eat seafood there. Armed with no other knowledge, I hopped on one of the Central Pier Ferries and spent an afternoon on the island of Cheung Chau.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the MTR to Central station, and from there walk to the ferry terminals which are near IFC building. The Ferry to Cheung Chau leaves from Pier #5. There are fast ferries and slow ones – see the full fare schedule and pricing here, but overall the fast one costs about 2x as much and takes just over half the time compared to the slow boat which I took at 11.15am for HK$13.20 that took about an hour (the fast ferry costs HK$25.80 on a weekday). You can use your Octopus card for ferry fare, or buy a ticket in the window with cash.
WELCOME TO CHEUNG CHAU! NOW WHAT?
About an hour later, we finally arrived in Cheung Chau, and it had a completely different vibe from Central Hong Kong! No tall buildings or overwhelming greyness in sight.
It was crowded though – you emerge from the ferry terminal right onto the main street and it feels like a mini market place because the guesthouse booths, shops and tourists are all clustered there. Vehicles aren’t allowed on the island, but they have these small trucks that carry building materials and other large bulky items that trundle along the walkways so loudly and cause quite a racket every time they zoom by.
Here are a couple of things you can do once you emerge from the ferry terminal. Scroll to the bottom for the handy dandy Google Map with all my suggestions pinned on it!
1) TURN LEFT AND GO NORTH
If you go this way up Pak She Praya Road, I highly suggest you stick to walking (and not rent a bike) because at certain points this way, it gets so hilly I don’t think you will want to deal with a bicycle then!
Eat seafood – New Baccarat Restaurant
There is a row of seafood restaurants facing the bay that you can check out and grab some good seafood in. A cursory look at menus looks like most of the food offered along the stretch is similar, though some of the restaurants are more aggressive with inviting you in. We decided to walk on till we reached New Baccarat Restaurant at the end of the row, which was one of the names I came across when doing some research the night before, and one of the few who didn’t have someone stationed outside to entice you in.
There is a Chinese menu and one with English translations, though if you can read Chinese you should give the all-Chinese menu a look even if it’s harder to read (like it is for me) – the Mantis Shrimp that we ordered seemed to be cheaper on the Chinese menu (HK$70 vs HK$98 on the English menu) We ended up ordering between the two of us: Mantis Shrimp in Salt and Pepper, Squid in Garlic Sauce and Steamed Egg, topping it off with a Blue Girl Beer.
Mantis shrimp is the most combative food I’ve eaten! I’ve put in effort for foods like prawn and crab, but man, mantis shrimp is POKY and its shell really discourages you from taking a chomp out of it. My friend A managed to swallow down most of the shell, poky bits and all, when it was crispy; I took the wussy way out and slowly peeled off the shell on all my shrimps. It was quite delicious though – the seasoning was very tasty. The squid and garlic sauce was also quite a stellar dish, the steamed egg was also a decent dish. Man, the two of us were stuffed after that meal!
New Baccarat Restaurant
9A Pak She Praya Road (Ground Floor)
Grab some local desserts at Wan Sing Desserts
Also found through my online research, this little place Wan Sing is apparently quite famous for its desserts, in particular the mango ones. We had a bit of trouble looking for this place until we realized that the road it was on – San Hing Road – actually ran parallel to Pak She Praya Road which was the one we had been searching on, doh~ San Hing is in the lane behind the one where all the seafood restaurants are on.
We ordered a mango mochi each and a mango sago to share. The mochi was quite large and notable for the solid juicy piece of actual mango fruit in its center, not some paste or filling. The mango sago was pretty good as well – the portion of mango in this dessert was very generous indeed! They did have other mango desserts, as well as other fruits/fillings, but we were way too full to eat anymore at this point!
Wan Sing Desserts
3 San Hing Road
Touring the Temples – Pak Tai and Tin Hau Temples
Further down from the seafood restaurants, you’ll come across an area with a basketball court and football court – behind these community spaces lies Pak Tai Temple. It’s pretty small and unassuming, but around May every year (5th to 9th days of the 4th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar) it is the center of Cheung Chau’s famous Bun festival, where several steel towers are covered with buns and people go scrambling up these towers to get the top-most one for good luck. It’s quite a sight to see and I would love to check it out if I were ever in the area just because it sounds so bizarre~
Pak She Tin Hau temple is up the slope to the left of the Pak Tai Temple – it’s situated within an elderly centre, and there were a bunch of residents milling around it that day so we decided not to intrude, which is why I don’t have any pictures on hand for you.
Hike up to the North Lookout Pavilion for a birds-eye view
To the left of Tin Hau temple there is a sloping path and stairway that leads you through residential areas to a more wooded pathway that turns to the right. This is the Cheung Chau Family Walk and will lead you to a great lookout point if you follow the path.
This is where it gets super slopey, so take your time climbing up the stairs and steep slopes. This is also why I don’t recommend a bicycle! You’ll pass by a playground, a cemetery, even a path to a reservoir before you finally reach the North Lookout Pavilion. From there, it’s one last climb up a short (but slopey) path to get this pavilion with the beautiful view
2) TURN RIGHT AND GO SOUTH (WEST)
If you turn right from the ferry terminal and head south, you’ll find yourself in the centre of the town of Cheung Chau. It’s more bustling here, with many little shops and eateries here, including bigger brands like McDonald’s and Mannings just to name a few. Continue down Cheung Chau Sai Tai road and follow the coastline of Sai Wan and you’ll leave the town behind to a nice peaceful walk.
The land is much flatter here, and it is some distance to walk to the main attractions in the south-west corner of the island, so consider renting a bike or a tricycle/trishaw here to speed up the time it takes for you to cover the distance. We walked all the way, and were kinda tired in the end!
Pretend to be a pirate – Squeeze through Cheung Po Tsai Cave
Cheung Po Tsai was a notorious pirate back in the day, and this little cave on the south-west end of Cheung Chau was apparently one of his hideouts, and you’ll see why exactly it was such a good hideout. Sai Tai road leads you to Tsan Tuen road, and from there you’ll follow another uphill (yes, here’s where you put bike aside) slope along Cheung Po Tsai road. there’s a picnic area here where you can have a BBQ or just sit around.
The path starts to slope down a bit, and we hit the end of the path, which leads into a wall of rock. Where is the cave?
So apparently, the cave is literally a hole in the rocks – like I would not have known if I hadn’t seen people gingerly lowering themselves into the hole in the first place! Imagine it without the markers pointing towards it or the pathway and you can probably see why it would have been quite the effective hiding spot for hiding from the authorities.
You literally lower yourself into a dark hole and climb down a short steel ladder – bring a torch or use your phone light because there is no lighting at all in this cave! I thought it was going to be a seaside cove of sorts with one entrance, but this cave is more rightly a tunnel where you walk/stoop to get through it. Claustrophobic people, the walls are very narrow and the ceiling quite low in certain spots, so don’t go in if small tight spaces make you nervous!
And finally… finally you climb up another ladder and emerge to quite a lovely view!
Along the path to the Cheung Po Tsai cave, there is a fork that brings you to the Reclining Rock, which are several large rock formations, but we were getting lazy at this point so we skipped that.
3) WHAT I DIDN’T DO – HEAD EAST
One thing I might have done in future would be to head there earlier, and perhaps spend the morning checking out Tung Wan Beach and Kung Yam Beach on the Eastern coast. It was too cold for us to consider swimming, and starting to get dark by the time we were done with the south western end, so we skipped the beach this time around. Also in that direction is the rather oddly named Mini Great Wall which is also quite scenic.
Here’s the Google Map for your easy reference! According to this map we walked around 7km that day, and with the crazy slopes in spots, no wonder I was so freaking tired!
BRINGING HOME THE DOUGH
We didn’t get to witness the Bun Ceremony, but we (or actually A) ended up buying a whole bunch of little Cheung Chau bun magnets back as souvenirs. Naturally we attempted making our own bun tower, to… well… minimal success.
Till next time, Cheung Chau! I definitely recommend anyone heading up to Hong Kong and looking for somewhere a little different to check out this island. Also, check out my Lamma Island guide, another of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.