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Cheung Chau

 CC intro

 

In need of a break from Hong Kong’s 7,650 skyscrapers, countless low-scrapers and scary hazy air, I got off the island this week – and headed to another of Hong Kong’s 236 islands, Cheung Chau.

I’ve been to Cheung Chau before many years ago but only as a ‘tourist’. This time I wanted to leave the waterfront and seafood cafes to the daytrippers and explore up into the hills where the locals live.

Some facts about Cheung Chau before we wander. A 30 minute ‘fast ferry’ ride from Central, the island is one of the oldest inhabited areas in Hong Kong, with estimates as high as 7,000 years. Fishing village originally and still is with a harbour full of boats and nothing over three storeys on land. Population swells by the thousands once a year during the annual Bun Festival. Cars are banned except for a few emergency vehicles. Name means ‘Long Island’ despite the fact it weighs in at a tiny 2.45 km².

Okay, let’s do it.

 

Part 1: Day 1 wander

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was coming down with an upper respiratory infection when I first set foot on Cheung Chau last Saturday. Which explains why I wandered around in a kind of daze, my only thought being to explore beyond the waterfront.

 

leaving the big smoke behind, literally

leaving the big smoke behind, literally

 

 

 

where bikes rule the roads

where bikes rule the roads

 

 

 

exercise then eat

exercise then eat

 

 

 

folds

folds

 

 

 

temple vs church

temple vs church

 

 

 

battle's on dude

battle's on dude

 

 

 

Chinese New Year, just around the corner

Chinese New Year, just around the corner

 

 

 

out for their midday stroll

out for their midday stroll

 

 

 

is that a Canon 5D?

is that a Canon 5D?

 

 

 

rub it in why don't you

rub it in why don't you

 

 

 

love

love

 

 

 

protect your wealth or just wear it in your teeth

protect your wealth or just wear it in your teeth

 

 

 

gold is god

gold is god

 

 

 

I kept bumping into temples on my wander but the one that intrigued me most was dedicated to a feisty looking god, Kwan Ti. While I was there I thought I’d give the fortune sticks a go; you shake them while thinking of a question and the one that drops out of the container first gives you the answer. I asked how this year would go, shook the sticks in front of Kwan Ti, and waited to hear my destiny from a man behind a desk with lots of little papers. After consulting his big book I got the thumbs up – apparently 2012 is going to rock. No pressure but I’m counting on you Kwan Ti.

 

shaking the sticks before the mighty Kwan Ti

shaking the sticks before the mighty Kwan Ti

 

 

 

and the result is ...

and the result is ...

 

 

 

Leaving Kwan Ti to his business I resumed my wander. Just down the hill I stopped to photograph a pale blue wall. Mid-shot, its owner suddenly appeared. As I was explaining to Belgium-born Catherine that I liked her wall and er, would she mind me shooting it, two street-sweepers wearing the traditional Hakka hat strode up the hill. A rare sight, I gestured to them if I could take their photograph. Smiling shyly they shook their heads. Until Catherine uttered ten words of Cantonese and converted them into almost-willing subjects. Ah, what I’d do for an instant grasp of the local language.

 

Catherine of Cheung Chau

Catherine of Cheung Chau

 

 

 

Hakka hats

Hakka hats :: 1

 

 

 

Hakka hats :: 2

Hakka hats :: 2

 

 

 

hard yakker in a Hakka

hard yakker in a Hakka

 

 

 

Part 2: Eugen’s house

Catherine, who has lived in Hong Kong for 20+ years, 17 on Cheung Chau, told me about another long-time ‘foreign local’ and friend of hers, Eugen, who lived in an old interesting house, the only one of its kind on the island. Was I interested? Hell yeah.

So two days later I met Eugen and the 70 year old house he has rented for the past 20 something years. How was it? Let me show you…

 

the entrance

the entrance

 

 

 

outside in

outside in

 

 

 

Mister Eugen, very nice picture

Mister Eugen, very nice picture

 

 

 

east west

east west

 

 

 

no no, not the kitchen please!

no no, not the kitchen please!

 

 

 

the parlour

the parlour

 

 

 

flowers on the wall

flowers on the wall

 

 

 

late avo :: 1

late afternoon :: 1

 

 

 

late avo :: 2

late afternoon :: 2

 

 

 

window love

window love

 

 

 

The house belongs to a Chinese family and has been divided up into sections over the years, one of which is Eugen’s home. But at least it’s still standing and so much of it is still so original, like the many insets, high windows and stone floor. An ideal setting for Eugen’s blend of precious with lap sap (rubbish). 

I also loved the ancestral shrine on the top floor of the house belonging to the Chinese family. Sure, the incense and candle burning has taken its toll over the years but what a lovely way to keep your loved ones alive so to speak.

Oh and the place has ghosts Eugen told me. They smile and play nice. How cool is that?

 

shrine :: 1

respect

 

 

 

grandpa

grandpa

 

 

 

Part 3: Lin Cheung and other dearly departed

I’d heard of the Chinese custom of building and then burning 3D paper models of someone’s favourite things upon their death to ensure they have a comfy afterlife. Just never seen it. Until my visit to Cheung Chau when I stumbled on an almost full size car and other various objects made out of colourful paper. Peering into the models I noticed an ID card stuck to the paper – Lin Cheung, 85 years old.

 

Lin Cheung of Cheung Chau

Lin Cheung

 

 

 

these are a few of her favourite things

these are a few of her favourite things

 

 

 

The day after I’d seen that I was on the ferry coming back to Cheung Chau when I noticed little yellow papers being thrown off the back of the ferry. Turns out there was a coffin on board and relatives of the deceased were performing another ritual associated with death – offering paper ‘money’ to the ghosts in the sea to placate them and keep them from bothering the dead. Not entirely sure how the dead can be bothered (anyone?) but that’s approximately the story.

 

keeping the ghosts happy :: 1

keeping the ghosts happy :: 1

 

 

 

keeping the ghosts happy :: 2

keeping the ghosts happy :: 2

 

Now, fair enough, they didn’t want me to photograph the coffin or the procession of relatives that left the ferry and made their way to the square. But was this Lin Cheung I wanted to know? On my third and last visit to the island I made the long trek over to the far side of Cheung Chau to the cemetery there. I wanted to find Lin Cheung.

 

on the way to find Lin Cheung

on the way to find Lin Cheung

 

 

 

where are you Lin Cheung?

where are you Lin Cheung?

 

 

 

There was no sign of a newly installed headstone and as it was getting late I headed back. (Eugen later told me I was looking in the wrong area; the custom is that they bury the coffins in a certain area and then seven years later, the bodies are disinterred and organised into these smaller plots.)

Just before I jumped on the ferry I noticed a new lot of paper models had arrived in the square, this time for a man. Another dearly departed soul, a Merc driving, Mahjong playing one at that.

 

no guessing what type of car he drove

no guessing what type of car he drove

 

 

 

his_Mahjong_buddies

his Mahjong buddies

 

 

 

the Merc driver's send off

the Merc driver's send off

 

 

 

Why so many funerals I wondered. Turns out that Cheung Chau is considered an auspicious place to be buried because it has good feng shui. Not to mention great ocean views.

 

four funerals and a wedding

four funerals and a wedding

 

 

 

Part 4: Old Cheung Chau

Some of which I found on my trek to try and find Lin Cheung, some just when wandering around.

 

in need of tender love

in need of tender love

 

 

 

Europe-ish, aside from the mad wall

Europe-ish, aside from the mad wall

 

 

 

Europe-ish

Europe-ish

 

 

 

how old does that look

how old does that look

 

 

 

old shop

old shop

 

 

 

and the obsession continues

and the obsession continues

 

 

 

mail but no mail box

mail but no mail box

 

 

 

go get the mail junior

go get the mail junior

 

 

 

criss cross

criss cross

 

 

 

lethal looking

lethal looking

 

 

 

see through

see through

 

 

 

5: Surprising Cheung Chau

Very simply this is something I never expected to see or hear anywhere in Hong Kong let alone on Cheung Chau – bagpipes.

 

a Chinese Scotsman

a Chinese Scotsman?

 

 

 

from the Scottish isles to the islands of HK

from the Scottish isles to the islands of HK

 

 

 

Part 6: Fishy Cheung Chau

On one of my visits to Cheung Chau, with some time to kill before a ferry arrived and Coco at my side, I decided to break with tradition and do something completely touristy – hire a little putt putt boat for a spin around Cheung Chau Harbour. Of course I was more interested in the old wood inside the boat than the scenery around me.

 

wood on water

patina on a putt putt

 

 

 

captain

captain

 

 

 

spin around the harbour

spin around the harbour

 

 

 

as you were

as you were

 

 

 

cat fish

cat fish

 

 

 

right back at you

right back at you

 

 

 

ciao Cheung Chau

ciao Cheung Chau

 

 

 

The Wrap

It’s pretty remarkable that chilled Cheung Chau is just 30 minutes from hyper Hong Kong. There are parts of the island where I didn’t see or hear another living soul for what seemed like an eternity. And for someone with a brewing chesty coldy thing, it was a welcome breath of fresh air. But most of all I enjoyed exploring an old house that has managed to escape the wrecking ball. I just wished I could have paid my respects to Lin Cheung. Never met the woman but may never forget her either.

 

address is Far from the Maddening Crowd, Cheung Chau

address is Far from the Maddening Crowd, Cheung Chau

 

On the ‘home’ front

Coco and I have both been under the weather this week. She with a garden variety head cold that passed quickly. Me, not so lucky. But I’m on the mend now and may resort to wearing one of those face masks you see everywhere here to ward off any more evilness. Be a good look wouldn’t it? Being asked by a woman wearing a mask and wielding a camera if she can take your photo?

See you next Friday.

 

  1. schnook says:

    Looks like you are in full swing now schnook. Cat fish reminded me of Morris Cunningham in Vine Street. Beautiful. xxx

  2. Robert says:

    So weird, CC was where I lived for awhile in H.K.and returned in 2008 for a holiday there rather than stay in a tourist hotel in H.K. Not much had changed in over 35 years compared to H.K.in fact not much has changed on C.C. In a thousand years.
    Today I am going to a funeral of an old lady (88), who had H.K. Connections,but I doubt if there will be any paper car or majhong players there.
    Hope you have some chili prawns at a C.C. Waterfront cafe or snake soup to cure your cold…

  3. Kylie says:

    Another great post Louise. I hope Coco and yourself are feeling much better. Looking forward to your next destination.

  4. Zainil says:

    Thank you so much. I LOVE this. I live at 23D Peak Road for 11 years. It was home. I know Eugene. I recognise the places, shops, streets and temples. Cheung Chau and Hong Kong will always be home. It is a very special place.

  5. Nicola says:

    Love your work Louise, look forward to your next post.
    I flew over from New Zealand to Sydney to go and see your exhibition at MOS and loved every bit of it.

  6. Louise says:

    Schnook – Is Morris C. a person or a cat? x
    Robert – Next time I come to HK I’m staying on CC too!
    Kylie – Thank you on both counts. At least I don’t feel like my throat chest are under assault anymore.
    Zainil – The other Peak Road right! And how amazing you know Eugen. It is special I agree. I loved it.
    Nicola – Oh wow. All the way from NZ?! Well, thanks so much and I’m so glad you enjoyed the exhibition.

  7. Belinda says:

    I love Cheung Chau too – even if I have only been there for day trips. Eugen’s house looks amazing!

  8. Mario says:

    Thanks for the amazing pics. My dad moved into Cheung Chau in 2007. He grew up in HK and spent close to two decades working in Beijing. He wanted to escape the urban grind and smoky haze. When I first visited (having grown up in Sydney) I was so amazed that such a place existed in HK. I’d visited innumerable times – but had never been to Cheung Chau. Since then, I have returned many times. To me – its a new home. My dad has introduced me to all his neighbours and friends. The island is a very special place – made even more precious by the wonderful, friendly people.

  9. fistrel says:

    Lovely post, Louise. Where do I get one of those dang hats?

  10. Sandra says:

    What beautiful images, a gorgeous exploration

  11. Tatyana says:

    Amazing. I’m a regular reader and still not sure how it works – this magic of being fully involeved in a trip without actually being on it. Feels like I’m back from Cheung Chau myself:-) And it’s not just just pictures that ‘worth a thousand words’ – it’s your unique vision, Louise, and – let me say it – talent for finding the right words (have to confess that reading the captions is one of my all time favourite moments:-)). Thank you for that. And, of course, get well!

  12. Jeanette says:

    Just amazing imagery

  13. Louise says:

    Belinda – Eugen does a lot of work on the house to keep it looking so loved. It’s lucky to have him!
    Mario – I imagine CC would be a lovely place to retire too. And how interesting for you to meet locals there and hear their stories of the place from over the years.
    Fistrel – They’re good aren’t they?!
    Sandra – Thank you.
    Tatyana – I love that you felt like you’d just stepped off the ferry. And that you like my captions. Sometimes I think, wow, that’s daggy or whatever but they amuse me so I hope they amuse other people. Even just slightly.
    Jeanette – Many thanks.

  14. Donna says:

    magnificent images yet again Louise…I am enjoying the trip…thank you and get well ,,,, :)

  15. Karen says:

    I’m not sure but some locals may believe that by photographing graves you have captured the souls of those buried there!

  16. Lisette says:

    Been waiting impatiently for your next post, and am delighted at how worthwhile it was! Good choice, Cheung Chau! Went there a couple of times when I lived in HK and always loved how far removed it felt from the hustle and bustle of HK Island and Kowloon. Was shocked at seeing the level of pollution – makes me glad I don’t live in HK anymore, much as I still miss it a lot every now and then…

    Have a great week exploring, and get better soon, both of you!

  17. Louise says:

    Donna – Thanks so much.
    Karen – There are so many superstitions in Chinese culture, that could well be true. But I hope not!
    Lisette – Glad I could reward your patience. It’s true, CC is a world away from HK/Kowloon. Hope it stays that way.

  18. Delia says:

    Living in HK for 28 years, 22 of which Cheung Chau was my home…There is no place like Cheung Chau.
    I used to lived in one of the old free standing walled house with a big garden on Peak Road. I left Cheung Chau 3 years ago for the US and it is good to see Cheung Chau from another perspective.

  19. Herb R Koenitz says:

    Great images, been there a long time ago,and now recently again through your images.
    cheers ( Eugens brother)

  20. Julie Cooper says:

    Oh I’m so glad you’re back, I was having withdrawals. Love love love your work. I’m trying to view your photographs on my phone, but I want to see them big. Will have to have a viewing session on the laptop tonight. Can’t wait for the next post

  21. Dan says:

    The photo where you ‘leave the big smoke behind’ is amazing, I don’t know why but I was particularly drawn to it. They’re all amazing! Can’t wait to see your next adventure :D

  22. Louise says:

    Delia – 22 years on CC? You must know every square inch of the place. Hope you get back to visit from time to time.
    Herb – Well hello! Nice to meet Eugen’s bro! And glad I could provide a virtual trip back there.
    Julie – Many thanks! Yes, see them big! Too teensy on the phone.
    Dan – That image is surreal I think. Especially with that new hotel skyscraper on Kowloon towering over everything. Still don’t quite understand how towers like that don’t fall down.

  23. Jacq says:

    Lou, happy new year, and nearly Chinese new year. I’m thrilled to be joining you on your travels, virtually. Unlike others I’ve never been to HK. I don’t know how you do it but while capturing the unique and exquisite, somehow there is also a familiarity or accessibility or something….is there an opposite to culture shock?
    On a personal note, love to you and Coco, from big S, M, little O and me.

  24. Julie says:

    Louise, some lovely detail shots in this lot. I loved the free bird vs the caged bird, that is having a bit each way. Real but caged, vs imagined but free.

    Plus, loved the hakka head gear. But it looks very hot for a climate that can be sweltering. They appear to have bath towels on their shoulders. Is that to catch the sweat?

    Hope the lurgy dissipates by next Friday.

  25. Julia says:

    I lived in Cheung Chau during the 1980s and 1990s (including at 23D Peak Road, Zainil’s neighbour!) and recognise so many of these places. Brilliant photos – brought it all back! Thanks, Louise.

  26. Louise says:

    Jacq – Thanks so much, glad to have you on the journey. Love to all you lot too.
    Julie – It’s cool now, winter, so the towel with the Hakka hat would be fine. Not sure if they abandon it in summer and swap it for bare head?
    Julia – So glad I could take you for a walk down memory lane.

  27. Ness says:

    Fantastic post Louise – so interesting, and of course amazing shots. Hope you both are feeling better by now.

  28. Chantal says:

    Stunning images & what a fascinating story this suburb has to offer – thank you!

  29. evan says:

    Great article. Hi, Delia

  30. Anna says:

    Amazing. One can live in HK for 30+ years, visit spots like Sham Shui Po and Cheung Chau over and over, and then along comes Louise and 52 Suburbs to show us “new” sights we’ve never seen before. Bravo!

  31. Toni says:

    Your photos just capture the true essence! They are wonderful, and I just loved the ones which include the bicycles! Great!!And the tartan pants? A nice take on the Scottish kilt.Look forward to next weeks edition. Hope you both have recovered from your illness. :)

  32. Jackie Nolan says:

    What a wonderful written and photographic insight
    into this part of China! Cheung Chau is so ineresting.

  33. Louise says:

    Ness – Thank you! And yes, we’re both okay now. Sort of!
    Chantal – So glad you enjoyed it.
    Evan – Thanks.
    Anna – Job done if I can show locals ‘new’ sights!
    Toni – Love a man in a kilt though!
    Jackie – A very laid back part of China isn’t it?!

  34. bronnie_beede says:

    Huzzah, I’m with you now, Louise! Got my fix, yay. Firstly, do you carry cards or something in Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin?) to hand to locals to ask if you can take their photo and explain why and do they see it on your blog? You must get a lot of “No”‘s otherwise…? I LOVED these 3 diptrychs: the kimono/flowers on wall, the colourful rickshaws against the white environs, and the painted bird/birdcage. Fantastic. As a sponsor, will I be able to choose the images I want at the end? Can we buy them? You are so clever. But some of your pairs seemed a bit rushed to me, not as consistently good as in the Sydney book. Keep up the good work, tho… and hang in there, Coco… Like many periods, you will probably look back on this year hugely grateful and fondly, tho it may be hard at times to actually experience now.

  35. Louise says:

    Bronnie – Yep, got a card in Chinese. Doesn’t seem to help that much I have to say. To answer your question about the Kickstarter reward card(s), I’ll probably choose a couple to print but can’t print everyone’s faves I’m afraid. And re-the pairs, if you’re talking about the ones in the book as opposed to the Sydney blog, the ones in the book are obviously the ‘best of the bunch’, chosen from thousands and thousands of diptychs. If you look at the actual blog, you’ll see there are loads that aren’t in the book. Thanks for the feedback anyway!

  36. Hyacinth says:

    Also lived on Cheung Chau in the 90’s. Know Zainil, Julia, Eugen and co. You have an amazing eye and your photos capture so many of the details I love and remember about Cheung Chau. Thank you!!!

  37. Carol says:

    Love your blog Louise. It’s taking me to places I’ll never get to.

  38. John S says:

    As someone who flits in and out of Central, Shenzhen, Foshan and other city centres around southern China on a regualr basis, you are opening my eyes to a world I don’t ever see – a new world, and reconfirming the importance of this amazing project. I have a feeling at the end of the project I might just begin to understand some of these places and cultures a little better, thanks to your images and the stories that they tell. Great work, Louise, and thanks..

  39. Louise says:

    Hyacinth – Wow, you guys must have been quite a posse! Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.
    Carol – I’m so glad I can take you there.
    John S – That’s exactly the sort of response that keeps me motivated so thanks so much for letting me know.

  40. Sharon57 says:

    Thank you for the wonderful journey once again. I have now been inspired to ensure I take a trip to Cheung Chau.

  41. Karen says:

    I live on Cheung Chau & love these photos! I must ask Eugen if I can visit his house!

  42. IG says:

    My wife and I have bought a place in CC and have lived here for two years now – it does turn up some surprises and below the surface there are sinister goings on (believe me) – as a photographer/photograph lover myself, I have to say your photos, and the way you’ve put them together, is beautiful. Thank you! (Where does Eugene live?!)

  43. Jethro says:

    Love your post very very much!! Best shots and great compositions! I was borned in Cheung Chau in 60’s and now I am living in Shanghai. I miss Cheung Chau a lot and got touched when I saw your post and photos. They brought back lots of sweet memories to me immediately. Thanks a lot for the lovely post!!!

    • Louise says:

      Very glad you got so much out of it. I hope to get to Shanghai one day too!

  44. andrew says:

    In the early 1970s, I had the very good fortune to live for nearly two years in an old Portuguese sea captain’s house on Cheung Chau’s Old Peak Rd. Crenelated columns, a wide terrace on two sides, a shady gnarled old bauhinia tree, a rocky “garden” and a live-in non malicious ghost. In the little rocky cove below, washed by the chop of of the South China Sea, an old weathered and well used Tinhau Temple. A wonderful sanctuary from the then war zones of Southeast Asia. Your happy snaps/blog give a tantalising glimpse into what that cosy little Long Island might have been like. Keep on rockin’!

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