1. Cheung Chau Island – Hong Kong

    Cheung Chau on a Saturday in August. Everything about that sentence indicates it’s not the best idea in the world but this is where I found myself a few weekends ago whilst on a quick trip to Hong Kong. I had originally wanted to visit on a weekday however my work schedule did not work out so with nothing else to do at a weekend, I decided on a quick trip to Cheung Chau.

    The ferries to Cheung Chau depart from Pier 5 at the Central Piers which are easily accessible from the MTR – you just need to take Exit A from Central Station and follow the signs. There was hardly anyone to be seen at 9:00am in Central on a Saturday morning and the walkway towards the piers was empty which I’ve never seen before.

    There are two types of ferry which operate to Cheung Chau – Ordinary and Fast. The Fast Ferry takes roughly 35 minutes however the fare is nearly double of the Ordinary Ferry which takes 55 minutes. The next ferry leaving to Cheung Chau was a Fast Ferry which cost HK$26.80 and which I paid using my Octopus Card. The list of fares to Cheung Chau can be found here and the ferry timetable can be found here.

    If I’d done some more research in advance then I would have found out beforehand that there are no outside decks on the Fast Ferry. However if you take the slower Ordinary Ferry and pay the Deluxe fare then you will have access to the outside deck. Luckily I was able to get a seat by the window and as it was a clear day, there were great views of the Hong Kong skyline and Lamma Island on the journey to Cheung Chau. As it was a extremely humid August day, the air conditioning inside the Fast Ferry was very much appreciated.

    After arriving in Cheung Chau, I waited until nearly everybody else on the ferry had disembarked before making my way onto the island. San Hing Praya Street where the ferry pier is located was incredibly busy with people walking around and cycling along – you can even rent tricycles along here! There are no cars allowed on Cheung Chau but I did see a small ambulance and fire truck with their sirens sounding when I arrived.

    Along this street is where you will find many familiar shops such as Wellcome, Circle K, 7 Eleven, McDonalds and Watsons – I bought two large bottles of Pocari Sweat here to take with me on my first mini hike on the island. There are also several seafood restaurants located further along the street as well as numerous souvenir shops.

    I headed north along San Hing Praya Street and thankfully it was a lot quieter as I walked further away from the ferry pier. There were so many fishing boats in the harbour and I took so many photos.

    My first stop of the day was Pak Tai Temple (also known as Yuk Hui Temple) which is dedicated to the God of the Sea who protects the local fishing community and is the oldest temple on the island.

    On the way to my next destination, I took a wrong turn and climbed a long flight of stairs which was hard work in the humidity however I was rewarded with an unexpected amazing view of the harbour – it was definitely a great wrong turn to take!

    After making my way back down the stairs, I found the correct path I needed to take to get to the North Lookout Pavilion which is located just to the side of Pak Tai Temple. From this point, there were plenty of signs and the walk uphill was a combination of both steps and a path. When you reach a small block of pagodas, you will need to take the staircase behind them which leads you to the pavilion. From the temple, the walk took me just over twenty five minutes.

    I’m glad it was such a clear day as the view from the North Lookout Pavilion was amazing and the quiet isolated beaches below looked beautiful and very inviting. However, I don’t cope with humidity well at the best of times so walking to the highest point on the island in August was definitely making me question my own sanity. Thankfully I was able to sit down in the shade in the pavilion and enjoy the view from there and I was happy I had my small hand held electric fan with me (one of the best Hong Kong purchases I’ve ever made) as well as those two bottles of Pocari Sweat that I had bought after disembarking the ferry.

    Whilst sitting at the North Lookout Pavilion, I saw another staircase that headed down towards a beach and I could already see that this was the path where you could get the photo looking towards Tung Wan Beach. I made my way about half way down and the view was absolutely perfect.

    Sadly even though it wasn’t many stairs back up to the Lookout Pavilion, it was a difficult climb in the humidity with no shade available even though I was using my umbrella – so much so that I nearly threw up when I was at the top of the steps. I then spent the next fifteen minutes sitting in the shade in the Lookout Pavilion with my fan and what was left of my Pocari Sweat wondering whether to call it quits and head back to my hotel or not. I did not feel good at all but slowly started to feel better – there was a little breeze too which helped.

    Once I felt sufficiently recovered, I made my way downhill back towards the ferry pier. I’d already drunk all of my Pocari Sweat by this time so I was gasping for a drink when I made it back to Wellcome – I drunk one bottle in less than a minute as I was so thirsty. The moral of the story is to take at least double the amount of liquid to what you think you need. I had thought that those two large bottles would be enough but in that humidity, it definitely was not. I also stood by the door of 7 Eleven for about fifteen minutes enjoying their freezing cold air conditioning and another cold drink whilst using their free wifi.

    Even though I had considered leaving Cheung Chau at one point and heading back to Hong Kong, I definitely felt better after the magic of air conditioning so decided to stay on the island for a little bit longer. I was feeling hungry so walked along a very crowded Tung Wan Road where there are shops selling a variety of different foods and drinks – I had to get a twisted tater or hurricane potato as they are also known and it tasted amazing.

    If you walk all the way to the other end of Tung Wan Road, you reach Tung Wan Beach. There were quite a few people here but it was still a lot quieter than what I thought it would be given the crowds elsewhere. Most of the people were sitting under parasols or trees in the shade but I did see one person in the sea holding an umbrella whilst swimmming to shade themselves from the sun which I loved. Part of me was wishing I had brought my swim stuff with me so I could go into the sea for a swim – there are both shark nets and lifeguards on this beach.

    Further around the bay is the smaller and quieter Kwun Yam Wan Beach where windsurfer Lee Lai Shan, Hong Kong’s only Olympic gold medallist trained – there is a small monument in her honour.

    As I was now already on that side of the island and had some bottles of water with me, I decided to carry on walking and find the “Mini Great Wall” trail. It was clearly signposted and on my way to the trail, I discovered the beautiful and peaceful Kwun Yam Temple.

    The “Mini Great Wall” was an interesting experience but not in a good way. It is just under one kilometre long and its name comes from the concrete railings which are supposed to look like the Great Wall of China. The trail passes sixteen different shaped rocks – the majority of which were obscured from view by the surrounding overgrowth. A lot of the foliage was even starting to block the trail in a few places – including the view where the trail abruptly ends leaving you no choice but to walk back the same way to where you started. However there are a few good viewpoints where you can look across the sea towards Lamma Island and Hong Kong. I would not walk the Mini Great Wall again but if you do want to walk it, bring plenty of mosquito spray!

    It was 2:00pm when I got back to the beach after walking back along the Mini Great Wall and by that point, I was ready to get the ferry back to Hong Kong as the humidity was simply draining and being outside was not fun anymore. Whilst walking back along Tung Wan Road, I stopped to buy a Mango Smoothie which was absolutely beautiful and incredibly refreshing.

    An Ordinary Ferry had just departed as I arrived at the ferry pier but thankfully I could wait for the next Fast Ferry inside the ferry terminal in the shade and where they had plenty of fans running which made the wait easy. They boarded the ferry about fifteen minutes before it was due to depart and it left a few minutes early when it reached the maximum number of passengers it could carry.

    As I was one of the first passengers to board the ferry, I was able to get a window seat on the right hand side so I had views of Cheung Chau, Lamma Island and Hong Kong Island on the journey back to Central. As soon as I got back to my hotel in Causeway Bay, I had a freezing cold shower which felt heavenly after the humidity outside.

    I will definitely go back to Cheung Chau again as there is still so much more of the island that I need to explore. However next time I will go during the winter months when temperatures are much more pleasant as Cheung Chau was hard work and not really that much fun in the summer heat. On my next visit, I will also make sure that I use the Ordinary Ferry so I can sit on the outside deck and enjoy the view.

    Despite me worrying about the weekend crowds, I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting it to be much busier than it actually was – it was definitely a nice break from the crowds on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon at a weekend.

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