2

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.

 

Order my first book online

Buy the 52 Suburbs Book online

Find out more about the Sydney book here

Sponsors

Advertisers

EnglishItalianChinese (Traditional)GermanFrenchHindiTurkish
Site Meter