It’s been nice getting back into our normal routine after the holiday hustle. Sean and I have been spending the weekends relaxing, catching up with friends at hotpots & Sunday brunches, or going for hikes enjoying the great HK weather. Hong Kong beats New England weather any day, but this January seems to have started off particularly warm with temperatures in the mid-70’s. (For those of you concerned, Sean’s garden survived our US trip home so he is proudly getting to enjoy his cherry tomatoes.)
With the nice weather, what’s better to write about than one of Sean & my favorite Hong Kong islands: Cheung Chau! Unless you are familiar with Hong Kong (which I hope you are by reading my blog!), you may be surprised to know that Hong Kong is comprised of the mainland, but also 263 islands. Many of the islands are uninhabited or are very rural, but there are a handful that have quite large fishing villages and are a great place to explore and travel to for the day.
Cheung Chau was the first island that we adventured to and our “go-to” for a quick an easy Sunday get-away. It’s the perfect island to escape the HK city life as it provides a completely different vibe to what think you know about Hong Kong. On the island is a love lock wall and on our first trip, Sean and I added our names.. and it’s still there! Also, extremely important for us (and Bailey): the island is dog-friendly! We can take him on hikes around the island, on a designated dog section of the beach, and even to most outdoor restaurants.
If we don’t have any plans on the weekend and the weather looks nice, we can wake up and get to the island in just over an hour. We typically take a 10 minute taxi ride to the Central ferry piers and get on the slow ferry, which is about a 1 hour ride. There is a faster 30 minute ferry, but only the slow ferry allows dogs (did you know Bailey is considered cargo?) The ferry makes all dogs wear muzzles, which Bailey hates, but even with the muzzle he still gets a lot of attention.
Cheung Chau is a traditional fishing village and has more people that live on “junks” (Chinese fishing boats) than on land. There are no cars or trucks allowed on the island, except for very small versions of emergency vehicles, so everyone either walks or bikes around. There are some pretty easy 1 hour long hiking trails that will give you great views of the island, Lantau island, and even Hong Kong island (on a clear day).
And as a fishing village, going to one of the local seafood restaurants along the water is a must! All of the seafood is caught fresh. When you walk along the streets you will see dozens of tanks filled with fish, prawns, crabs, and other shellfish which go from boat to tank to plate most of the time all in one day. Our go-to favorite dish is the fresh scallops, served still in the shell topped with sauteed garlic and glass noodles.
We haven’t been to it, but there is an annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival which is quite famous and draws thousands of people from all over to the island for the festivities. At the center of the festival is an event they call “Bun Snatching”, which involves three giant 60 ft bamboo towers, every inch covered with sweet buns. It used to be that young men would race and climb the towers to get the buns. The higher the buns, the better fortune that family would have. After one of the towers collapsed in 1978, the race is a bit revised to add safety measures, but the big bun towers still remain.
And last but not least, Cheung Chau has nice & quiet beaches. Over this past summer & fall beach season, Bailey has conquered his big fear of ocean waves (sometimes I wonder if we are living with a dog or a baby). Dogs are not allowed on the main beach, so we bring Bailey a bit farther down to an area where there is a wind surfer school. Attached to it is a little cafe at the water front, where we go after a day on the beach for a great Lebanese beer called 961.
To learn more about the Bun Festival, I linked the wiki site.