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Sunday, June 23, 2024

For your travel bucket list: Cheung Chau’s old-world charm set in a trendy vibe 

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If you are looking to visit a new place that does not require a visa for us, Filipino travelers, Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau or “long island” might just charm you to pack your bag and breathe in the island’s laid-back life.

But wait, there’s more to it than that. In a recent virtual tour hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, I got to experience the place, albeit virtually for now. 

To recap, here are some tips on where to go, what to do, should we finally book that ticket, especially now that travel restrictions have been eased in many parts of the world. 

The island has sandy beaches and a scenic family-friendly trail that never loses appeal especially to city-dwellers.

This small, dumbbell-shaped island of Cheung Chau, which covers almost 3 sq. km. is well-known for its distinctive waterfront accented with moored fishing boats and seafood restaurants. 

For those who love an easy hike, the island has sandy beaches and a scenic family-friendly trail that never loses appeal, especially to city-dwellers. In fact, the last couple of years has seen younger people moving to the island to call it home, bringing with them a demand for contemporary, ‘Instagrammable’ cafes, which sit in harmony alongside the island’s timeless, laid-back charms such as Pak Tai Temple—established in the 18th century by fisherfolk to honor the Taoist ‘God of the Sea’—which is the traditional venue for the island’s vibrant annual Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, also known as the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, activities.

Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau island is known for its distinctive waterfront accented with fishing boats and seafood restaurants

Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Wan

Only a short walk from the east of the ferry pier takes you to the long, crescent-shaped stretch of beach called Tung Wan, from where on a clear day, you can see southern Hong Kong Island.

Further south leads to a coastal walkway below Warwick Hotel where you will see a group of Bronze Age rock carvings a declared monument featuring stylized geometric patterns, some resembling human or monster forms. From here, it will lead you to Kwun Yam Beach, a windsurfing center, which has been attracting a number of water sport enthusiasts, including stand-up paddlers, kayakers, and kite surfers. 

Mini Great Wall

This is the island’s easy-going, 850-meter-long paved hiking trail behind Kwun Yam Beach and the Chi Ma Hang headland, tracing the southeastern coastline where one can take in panoramic ocean views while passing beside stunning rock formations. Birdwatchers come to this area to admire the migrating species that stop here to rest in-between making long-distance ocean-crossing journeys. 

San Hing Street and Pak She Street

Over the years, San Hing Street and Pak She Street have transformed from being laid back to one that is rejuvenated by the influx of new, younger residents who have decided to call Cheung Chau home. Tourists will love exploring craft shops selling handmade items created by local artists and trendy new cafes. The red-stamped ‘lucky bun’, filled with different sweet pastes such as sesame, red bean, or lotus seed is something a visitor must try. 

The red-stamped ‘lucky bun’ is a must-try for visitors.

Tai Hing Tai Road and Tai San Praya Road

On the island’s southwestern village waterfront, lies Tai Hing Tai Road and Tai San Praya Road, where one can savor traditional delights such as Cheung Chau’s famous curry-flavored fish balls, fisherman’s barbecued squid, and mango mochi—old-time snacks that remain a hit for both young and old visitors and remain available in the trendy cafes that since popped up on the island.

Pak Tai Temple

Also known as Yuk Hui Temple, this is one of the oldest historic Taoist temples in Hong Kong situated north of the main village area, where Pak She Street meets the Cheung Chau Family Walk.

The Cheung Chang Festival draws visitors from all over the world.

Originally built in 1783 by the island’s fishing community to honor Pak Tai (also known as ‘King of the North), the protector and patron deity, this impressive structure includes a colorfully ornate ceramic-tiled roof with two green-and-gold dragons standing guard along the ridge. The main square outside Pak Tai Temple hosts the much-cherished Cheung Chau Jiao Festival or Cheung Chau Bun Festival.  

North Lookout Pavilion and Pak Kok Tsui

The Cheung Chau Family Walk heads from Pak Tai Temple to the hilltop on the island’s northern side. This short but steep stretch takes hikers to Cheung Chau North Lookout Pavilion, the island’s highest point. From here you can enjoy a lovely view of the island’s tombolo formation. If you happen to be here on a clear day, you can look across at Lamma Island on one side, and Tsing Ma Bridge, connecting Lantau Island to Hong Kong’s urban areas on the other. This also gives a perfect spot for sunset views, which are not to be missed.

Cheung Chau North Lookout Pavilion, the island’s highest point

Further east along the pavilion, head to Pak Kok Tsui, a small peninsula with a small beach called Tung Wan Chai, a popular scenic spot then continue along the path through a little forest and back to the bustling part of the island.

San Hing Praya Street and Pak She Praya Road

If you northwards along the waterfront, past the main pier and rows of hanging sun-dried fish and you will reach San Hing Praya Street and Pak She Praya Road, which are home to many Cantonese-style seafood restaurants with al fresco dining. Diners can choose freshly caught seafood bought from the island’s fishmongers, and have it cooked to order. As an aside, there are also French, Thai, and Indian restaurants serving a wide range of seafood delights.

From being laidback, San Hing Street and Pak She Street are now vibrant areas of the island.

From 26 September 2022, inbound travelers from overseas places or Taiwan arriving at Hong Kong International Airport will no longer be required to undergo compulsory hotel quarantine; instead, the new ‘0+3’ boarding and medical surveillance arrangements will apply. Visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board website at https://www.discoverhongkong.com/in/index.html for deals, package tours, or more details. 

For feedback, I’m at joba.botana@gmail.com

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