Best of Hong Kong

Peng Chau, Hong Kong's underdog island

Christopher DeWolf, CNNPublished 12th July 2017
(CNN) — When it comes to island destinations in Hong Kong, Peng Chau rarely finds itself on the tourist agenda, making it the perfect place to get away from all those people trying to get away from it all.
Instead of mainland Chinese tour groups and partying teenagers, you will find old temples, a rustic beach, affordable restaurants and streets often completely devoid of people, noise, pollution.
Here is a memorable day spent exploring Hong Kong's most overlooked island.

Rustic beach with city views

Keeping the excitement in check with a game of Chinese chess.
Peng Chau is not a swimming destination but Tung Wan, the small bay across the island from the ferry pier, is home to one of Hong Kong's most picturesque beaches.
Littered with fishing boats, the only sound is the lapping of the waves and the occasional clatter of mahjong tiles being shuffled in nearby houses. On a clear day, sit on the beach as the sun sets behind you, the light reflecting off the city skyline in the distance.

Shrimps on toast

In the absence of shrimp on toast, why not try the dried fish maw?
It's hard to wander very far on Peng Chau -- the whole island measures less than a square kilometre -- but there are enough winding streets and hiking trails for you to meander through and work up an appetite.
Wing On Street, Peng Chau's main drag, is well-stocked with inexpensive Hong Kong-style cafes where afternoon tea is the main specialty.
Try Kee Sum, where you can snack on "shrimp toast," pureed crustaceans that are breaded and deep-fried. A red bean ice or pineapple Ribena completes the meal.
Bo Ma, a similar place down the street, makes a good greasy omelette and a satisfying milk tea.
Hanging out the red white and blue on Peng Chau's commercial thoroughfare.

Views from above

There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from in Peng Chau. The most memorable route takes you 60 meters up Finger Hill, the highest point on the island, where you can gaze out at the city to the east and the turrets and amusement park rides of Disneyland to the west.
For those less inclined to confront the massive spiders and tropical vegetation in Peng Chau's backwoods, great views can be found atop the island's tallest building, an apartment complex just off the lower end of Wing On Street.
Though it is not technically open to the public, there are no doors barring entry, and if you walk up to the roof you'll be greeted by a stunning vista of the whole island.

Unexpected heritage

Peng Chau is packed with history.
The Peng Chau Heritage Trail takes you past the remnants of an old lime kiln, one of 11 that were once found on Peng Chau, making it the epicenter of Hong Kong's lime production industry.
While fishing and farming are the most obvious pillars of Peng Chau's economy, it also has a surprising industrial heritage. People on Hong Kong's outlying islands have been using oyster shells and corals to make lime for at least a thousand years.
The heritage trail also runs by the remains of the Great China Match Plant, Hong Kong's largest match factory, which employed much of the island's population until it shut down in the 1970s.
Peng Chau is also well stocked with more conventional historic sites, including a picturesque Tin Hau temple built in 1792, a Qing Dynasty stone tablet and a couple of ancestral halls.

Peng Chau, France

For daytrippers, a visit to one of the outlying islands usually includes a seafood dinner, and Peng Chau's seafood restaurants are generally less expensive than those on other islands. But there's another culinary highlight here: good wine and cheese. Les Copains d'abord is a French-owned bar and cafe with a sunny terrasse on the island's main square, which plays host to the occasional game of petanque.

Hop away to another island

Peng Chau is a good place to start a day of island-hopping. From the main ferry pier, you can catch the Inter Island Ferry to Mui Wo or Cheung Chau, and from the adjacent public pier, you can hop aboard a kaito to Discovery Bay. Ferry schedules can be found here.
Christopher DeWolf is a writer, photographer and self-styled flâneur.
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.
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