Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheung Chau: a piratical adventure

Recently, we made a return visit to Cheung Chau, a small island to the southwest of Hong Kong Island (where we live). To get to Cheung Chau, we take a ferry from the Central Pier. Experience has taught us to pay a few dollars more for the fast ferry, which gets you there in just over 30 minutes as opposed to the regular ferry, which takes at least one hour. In the early days, we were happy just to get off Hong Kong Island and explore a bit. Now, we know to check for fast ferries, to sit on the upper deck and to always check the return ferry schedule. After close to five years, we have also cased out all options for a good cup of coffee between Hong Kong and Cheung Chau, so the adults are fully adventure ready too.
Cheung Chau is mostly a fishing village, with some hotels and holiday homes for those trying to get away from the urban grind. Cheung Chau has a population of about 20,000 but feels even smaller than that as there are no cars on the island. This is not strictly true as my kids always point out. There are specially made and very small police cars and ambulances driving around but all in all, people get around by bicycle. This is in fact that main allure of the island for us. As it is rather hard to ride bikes around our apartment complex, we now go out to Cheung Chau to rent bikes. It is a long way to go for a bike ride but somehow it all seems worth it. The kids hear a lot of Chinese along the way. Tori reads us a few signs that she can make out. The kids test ride their bikes in a large plaza that has a Tin Hau temple (protector of fishermen) on one end and the sea and all its boat traffic on the other.
Cheung Chau is also well-known as a possible hideout for Cheung Po Tsai, the famous 19th century pirate (1783-1822). Cheung Po Tsai was kidnapped as a boy by a pair of famous pirates, Cheng I and his wife Ching Shih. These pirates adopted him and Cheung Po Tsai then took over the family business.  At the height of his powers, he had 50,000 followers and a fleet of over 600 ships. He surrendered to the Qing Imperial Government and later made a navy colonel for the Chinese. It is thought that a certain cave on Cheung Chau was Cheung Po Tsai’s treasure hideout.
We followed the signs to the pirate cave. It was essentially a hole opening down into the rocks. I thought we would look at the hole and leave. Then we noticed others going into the hole. All kids went right down, though Royce came back up. We stood around waiting until someone else told us the cave opened up about 40 yards away on the other side of the rocky cliff. We ran around to the other side just as our kids were emerging with big smiles. The kids went through the cave over and over again. Phil somehow got lured in and emerged to say it was terrifying. He described creeping along in pitch dark, climbing a ladder in the dark and walking hunched over until he finally saw the light at the end of the cave. Tori and Adam described as the best thing ever and even did it without their flashlights. There is probably something to be learned here about whether the cave is half dark or half light but I did not learn it. I stayed out of the cave and just clapped for everyone who made it to the other side.


Post a Comment

<< Home