February 9, 2006
Cheung Chau, which translates into “long island,” is a small three-pronged landmass just southeast of Lantau Island and several miles west of central Hong Kong. Centrally located, Cheung Chau Village has a good number of people but never feels overcrowded. Wander about and you will definitely enjoy nature while also encountering a few cultural highlights along the way. Cheung Chau is a smaller version of Lamma Island, one of the other Outlying Islands slightly closer to central Hong Kong.
The only way to get here is by ferry, and transport while on the island is limited to bicycles and these small hospital golf carts that seem to carry elderly locals around the island. The refreshing lack of cars frees you to enjoy some pleasant hiking about the island. Enjoy mundane scenes, like colorful boats docked at the harbor, freshly caught sea creatures drying en masse in the strong sunshine, and locals fishing or frolicking at the casual beaches.
The Pak Tai Temple is the ornate structure at the north edge of the main village. It is the site of the annual Bun Festival, which draws locals in droves to temporarily overpopulate the tiny island. This Taoist festival honors the god Pak Tai with floats, costumes, and the mad grab for lucky buns by extremely superstitious Chinese visitors. The temple itself is lavishly festooned with a colorful cornucopia of figures great and small. Ferocious dragons line the roof tops, balanced by more peaceful scenes of flowers and birds. Have a look about and admire the wealth of richly detailed surfaces.
One does not think “archaeology” when visiting Hong Kong, but there is a notable carved rock located near the Warwick Hotel. It is about 3,000 years old and is displayed like a convict under glass and behind bars in a somewhat obscure spot by the hotel. The short hike from the central village to the rock’s holding cell is pleasant enough, and don’t forget to have a look back at Tung Wan Beach along the east coast.
The paths are well marked, such as the one to the Cheung Po Tsai Cave. Supposedly this was a hideout for renegade pirates years ago, and they were apparently very skinny pirates, as the crevice-like cave entrance is definitely not for the squeamish or claustrophobic. Perhaps a more serene setting is at the dramatically situated cemetery, where the headstones face towards the eternally scenic panorama of the blue sea. As a living person hiking along this ridge of the island, the views were splendid, but some could be even more spectacular if not for the overgrown vegetation. Perhaps it is refreshing that it is so, that living trees and plants were not needlessly pruned (or just lopped off) in the name of progress merely for the sake of a view, even an eternal one.
From journal Bill in China - HONG KONG (Outlying Areas)