We’re welcoming another guest blogger to our ranks – the lovely Jackie, who has had us dreaming of holidays-to-come thanks to her travel blog The Amateur Explorer. This time, she’s exploring somewhere closer to home… a day trip to Cheung Chau, perfect timing if you’re planning on visiting for their famous Bun Festival, which is from 25-29 April this year!
Last May, my friend Justin and I took an afternoon ferry from Pier 4 in Central to Cheung Chau for a day of seaside wandering. Forty-five minutes or so later, we arrived and discovered a very busy and celebratory island. Cheung Chau’s main street and village area were PACKED with people. The steady beat of dragon dance drums filled the hot, humid, fishy air. Cheung Chau’s ambiance provided us with quite the surprise. We were expecting lazy tranquility but we got loud music and an almost frantic, festive atmosphere. As it turns out, we visited Cheng Chau during its busiest weekend of the year. It was the ever-famous Cheng Chau Bun Festival and we rode right into the middle of it. Lucky us!
Our first moments of excitement quickly dissipated into sweaty frustration. We had to make our way through the crowd to access the rest of the tiny island and, let me tell you, getting through that crowd was no easy task! Imagine thousands of people packed together shoulder to shoulder in 32-degree, 80% humidity weather. Everyone is pushing, random and inconveniently placed fences block your way and open umbrellas pose an ever-present threat of poking your eye out. That was the crowd we had to forge through… and we were a bit annoyed about it after our third dead-end alleyway!
Despite our irritability and sweaty brows, we found enjoyment in the festival’s details. We admired the towering and truly impressive Cheung Chau bun pyramid (the festival’s focal point), checked out some traditional dance performances and sampled festive sweets.
Soon, we found our way out of the main festival area and into quiet streets lined with low-rise apartment buildings, deserted courtyards (I imagine EVERYONE was at the festival) and laundry lines full of t-shits and shapeless “old people pants”. From there, we wandered towards the island’s main stretch of beaches, the first of which was covered in garbage. Talk about a bummer! We stood in awe for several moments, considering the vast amount of trash before us, then continued along the beach towards less polluted areas of sand.
As the stretch of beach ended, we found ourselves at the foot of Cheung Chau’s Mini Great Wall, a stone-paved path that leads up and around the face of a small mountain. The wall, which was a bit of a difficult hike in places, led us towards clear air and fantastic island, sea and city views.
After the wall we found shaded, quiet and mostly flat roads that led us around and throughout the island. We walked and walked and walked around the entire perimeter of the island until we finally came to a sign that blocked our way. It read, “DANGER – Path Under Construction.” We decided this was as good a place as any to call it quits.
Our excursion to Cheung Chau provided us with a lot to laugh about. We saw many strange things (think children dressed in traditional festival costume held high in the air above crowds on small pedestals). We took part in a well-known and much-loved Hong Kong festival and enjoyed the island’s more private tree shaded areas, its gardens and its rocky coastline. We peeked into small, hidden temples and took a boat ride around one part of the island on a funny little vessel captained by a rather terrifying Chinese woman. All in all, a great day!
Jackie is a silly American girl who loves eating good food, travelling and studying people and their cultures. Check out her travel blog The Amateur Explorer or email her with freelance enquiries at [email protected].