Just as Hong Kong is itself an island, just off the mainland from Kowloon, so there are others less well known but equally worth a visit. Lantau Island, which houses the now famous Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha, is the central starting point for visits to these historical treasures.
Lantau Island houses much more than the exquisite Po Lin monastery and famed giant Buddha statue. A short bike ride from the monastery is Mui Wo. For those who prefer a less strenuous form of transportation there’s also a convenient bus from the main depot at Po Lin.
Mui Wo is on Silvermine Bay, named after the 19th century silver mines that provided wealth for some and hope for others. The Silvermine Cave where most of the digging took place is now sealed off for safety reasons, but the area still offers much to see. The peaceful coastal waters and many trails aside lush greenery make the side trip well worth the effort.
Located on the southwest corner of Lantau Island is Fan Lau, a fort built in 1729 to protect shipping on the Pearl River. Once among the most notorious areas – hotbed of smugglers of guns, drugs and people – the fort now provides arrivals with a more peaceful visit. The ruins provide an interesting look back to a – happily – bygone era.
West of Lantau Island is Tai O, known as ‘Hong Kong’s Venice’. Housing several temples, including Guandi, Yanghou and Hongshenye, this tiny fishing village offers visitors excellent shrimp paste and fish.
After a small meal, explore some of the waterways and pedestrian bridges that make this island facing the South China Sea so spectacular. Among the many interesting sights are the pang uk, houses built on stilts over the waterways.
The occupants of those houses are the descendants of an ancient people, the Tanka. Immigrants to the Hong Kong area during the Han Dynasty, the Tanka have been fishing and navigating these waters for hundreds of generations. Visitors can pay one of the local boat owners a small fee and take a trip out in hopes of catching sight of one of the renowned Chinese white dolphins.
The village also houses a small museum for visitors, but the streets themselves offer the best source of information about the area. Residents can tell polite visitors anything they want to know about its ancient history or contemporary situation.
For those truly looking for something out of the way, try a visit to Peng Chau. Along the quiet green hills, hikers can take a journey back through time only a short ferry ride away from bustling, ultra-modern Hong Kong.
Here you can enjoy a visit to the small Tin Hau temple, built in 1792. Walk around the less than one square kilometer island and take a hike up to Finger Hill, then take the ferry back to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s nearby island neighbors are welcoming and ready to proudly display their ancient heritage.
“Lantau Island” by Photos By Dlee