Tap Mun – island hopping in the New Territories

One of the things that I miss here in Hong Kong is large expanses of grass to sit on. The parks here are lovely, but they are all landscaped with plants and benches and paths. But last year, Tom and I took a trip out to Grass Island (also known as Tap Mun in Cantonese) in the New Territories where, as the name suggests, we found some grass!

Tap Mun Hong Kong

Tap Mun lies just north of the Sai Kung country park. To get to it, we took a ferry from Ma Liu Shui which goes past Plover Cove and through the Tolo Channel to get to the island. It’s a really beautiful boat trip.

Firstly, the practicalities. To get to the Ma Liu Shui ferry pier, leave University MTR station by Exit B and head along Chak Cheung Street, following the path over the main road and through a subway until you come out by the cycle track by the waterfront. Turn left and walk along by the cycle track until you reach the ferry pier. The ferry leaves at 8.30am, 12.30pm and 3pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays (the 12.30pm ferry does not go on weekdays) so we took the 12.30pm ferry. All the ferry times I mention in this post are available on the Android HKFerry HD app (on the Kaito page in the app), which I talked about here. We arrived quite early for the ferry (you really don’t want to miss it!) and the ferry pier got pretty busy by the time the ferry arrived.

The ferry itself is nothing to write home about. The top deck is open on all sides although they had tarpaulins down on most of the sides when we were on it – so pick your spot whether you want to be able to the see the view or be a little protected from the wind!

Ferry from Ma Liu Shui to Tap Mun

We started off sitting in the middle of the boat but went out to the front to see the view, which was lovely – even on a hazy day like ours.

Tolo Harbour Hong Kong

Sai Kung Country Park Hong Kong

The ferry stops at Sham Chung and Lai Chi Chong before reaching Tap Mun and takes about 75 minutes in total.

Upon arrival, we turned left out of the ferry pier and followed the path up. Firstly we passed a nice temple and then we just kept going and after a very short walk (I can’t remember but something like 10-15 minutes) we came out onto a viewpoint with the grass! Maybe the quality of the grass isn’t what you get in the UK, but to be fair it was spring when we went so the earth was a bit dry (summer is the wet season here).

As you can see there were plenty of people around but it never felt too busy, there was space for everyone.

Grass Island Hong Kong

If you wanted to explore the island thoroughly, you could start by turning left here and going up the hill (but I don’t think there’s much grass on that side).

Camping on Tap Mun

We didn’t do that, so after consuming our picnic lunch we turned right and followed the path along the coastline.

As you came to the south side of the island you could see the north side of the Sai Kung Country Park across the water. This village is Ko Lau Wan Tsui.

Ko Lau Wan Tsui Hong Kong

There is a famous(?) rock formation here as well called Balanced Rock, which is on the left side of this photo.

Balanced rock Tap Mun

Keep following the path round the coast and you end up back at the main village with the ferry pier. I don’t remember the walk being particularly long, maybe an hour in total. We took a few snaps while we waited for the next ferry.

Fishing boats at Tap Mun

View from Tap Mun

View from Grass Island

We then took the 4.20pm Wong Shek ferry from Tap Mun and got off at Chek Keng (there are quite a few ferries to Wong Shek from Tap Mun, but only the 10.00am, 2.00pm and 4.20pm ferries stop at Chek Keng). We went there before (see this post) and really liked it, it’s very peaceful and serene. This time there were people picking things out of the water. If this was the UK I would guess that they were cockle pickers or winkle pickers, but I don’t know if you get those in Hong Kong!

Seafood pickers at Chek Keng

Chek Keng Hong Kong

Unfortunately, we didn’t have long in Chek Keng because the last ferry left at 5.20pm for Wong Shek (ferries go every hour from 10.20am to 5.20pm) so we had to head back to the ferry pier. At Wong Shek we took the bus back to Sai Kung and had dinner there.

N.B. On Sundays the 698R bus goes all the way from Wong Shek to Siu Sai Wan, via North Point. A very easy way to get home if you live in or are staying on Hong Kong Island!

Alternatively, if you want to go back to Ma Liu Shui instead of going to Chek Keng or Wong Shek, you can take the same ferry back as the one you took out. It leaves Tap Mun at 11.10am, 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays (or 11am and 5.30pm on weekdays).

This was a really lovely way to see some of the further reaches of Hong Kong without hiking for miles and miles. I was pregnant at the time and didn’t want to do too much so it was great for me to be able to get out this far. I’d really recommend it if you are looking for something a bit different to do in Hong Kong!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Go Cheung Chau!

This is what is written on the sign by the ferry pier to Cheung Chau Island in Central, Hong Kong. It always makes me smile! I think it’s just a literal translation from the Chinese, and just means something like ‘go to Cheung Chau from here’.

Cheung Chau is a really nice place to spend a day. It doesn’t take long to get to from Central (pier number 5), although it depends on whether you take a fast ferry or a normal one. The normal one takes about 50 minutes and feels like it goes incredibly slowly! The fast one takes about 30 minutes. I think they roughly alternate, but I tend to just catch the next one that is leaving and have to put up with it if it’s a slow one!

Cheung Chau Island is very close to Lantau Island. It’s a really funny shape with a very narrow part in the middle and then a much wider part at the top and bottom. I’m afraid I can’t think of a better way to describe it! The main town straddles the narrow part, and your ferry will land on one side, in amongst all the fishing boats. On the other side is a beach. I’ve only been there when it’s been pretty quiet but I reckon it gets very busy in summer! The town is really nice and laid back, especially once you walk about 5-10 minutes away from the ferry pier and escape all the other tourists. It doesn’t feel like Hong Kong, more like a holiday seaside town. Near the ferry pier are many touristy shops, the usual dried seafood sellers (smelly!) and little cafes.

Cheung Chau Island

This photo is from the north side of Cheung Chau, looking back over the town. You can clearly see the beach side from here and all the boats in the harbour on the other side.

The north side of the island has some nice views, like this one, and on a clear day also out towards Hong Kong island (it wasn’t a clear day when we went!). To walk around this side of the island, turn left when leaving the ferry pier and keep going for 5-10 minutes until you get to the Pak Tin Temple playground. Walk round the playground and stop for a brief look at the temple. To the left of the temple is a path leading upwards, follow this to the lookout spots. You can then take a path for a short walk around the north side of the island and back into town.

I have to admit that I prefer to go the other way and turn right out of the ferry pier. Keep following the path by the waterside and you walk around the bottom of the main harbour. The boats (and people!) thin out and you get views like this:

Fishing boats at Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau port

Dragon boat training on Cheung Chau

You can see some dragon boat training in the last photo – it’s really popular here in Hong Kong and people train for months in order to do a few short races during dragon boat season (which I think is in May or June). It’s really hard work – definitely doesn’t appeal to me!

Anyway, keep following the path until you come to the end of the esplanade (after about 20-30 minutes) and you can take a smaller path straight on which is signposted to another temple, or you can turn right and go up inland. I’d recommend you go inland. This path is usually very quiet. You walk through houses for about 5 minutes and then you are in the woods on the back of the island. After another couple of minutes, there’s a turning to the right – take this and follow the path down to Italian beach, which is a nice and often very quiet spot.

Italian beach, Cheung Chau

After you’ve sat on the rocks or the beach for a while, head back to the main path and continue on your way and have fun wandering the paths of the back of the island and the quieter high areas of the town. There are many routes to take and places to explore, and periodically there are signposts telling you where you are. I often wander for 30 minutes to an hour and finish up on the main beach. A very pleasant way to spend a day!

Do you have any more recommendations for things to see or do on Cheung Chau? Please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel