ultramarinus – beyond the sea

A REMOTE LEISURE PARADISE, Grass Island (塔門), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has over 200 outlying islands, and only a handful are inhabited.  North of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢), at the intersection of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Long Harbour (大灘海), the small Grass Island or Tap Mun (塔門) lies across the South Channel from Ko Lau Wan (高流灣) Village in northeast Sai Kung.  At its peak, about 2000 inhabitants lived on the Grass Island.  They were mainly farmers or fishermen.  Today, only about 100 residents stay on the Grass Island, mainly as shopper or restaurant keepers to serve the influx of tourists during weekends and holiday, when the island would turn into a large camp ground for leisure seekers from all around the city.  Simple seafood eateries, a ferry pier, a Tin Hau Temple, an abandoned school, unique rock formations, old village homes, and a few stores catered for weekend tourists, Grass Island is a getaway destination for anyone who is willing to venture this far out from the city.

DSC_4461From Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, we took a local ferry out to the Long Harbour (赤徑海) heading towards Grass Island.

DSC_4484Other than a newer cluster of buildings built in 1964 with a charity aid from New Zealand, most village homes on the Grass Island are located near the pier.

DSC_4507Near the pier, we stopped by a simple eatery for lunch.  The local squid is really fresh and delicious.

DSC_4508Sea urchin fried rice is a popular dish in many fishing villages in Hong Kong.

DSC_4511We also ordered the fresh catch-of-the-day: two small sea bream caught in the morning.

DSC_4531A few dragon boats were lying around a small waterfront area.

DSC_4539During Tuen Ng Festival, there would be a dragon boat race at the Grass Island.

DSC_4548A small trail off the main street of the Grass Island led us to a popular open area above the eastern shore of the island.  The space is crowded with camping tents, kite-playing visitors and feral cattle.

DSC_4567The sloped open lawn seemed had endured heavy foot traffic throughout the years.  The silhouette of the iconic Sharp Peak on the Sai Kung mainland provided the best backdrop for Grass Island.  In a clear day, the water should have been blue and Sharp Peak lush green.

DSC_4601From the hilltop overlooking the open lawn, we followed a off the beaten trail that winded through dense woods for half an hour and eventually arrived at the rocky beach of Che Wan (車灣).  This was probably the most difficult hike on the island.  Our aim was to seek for a seaside rock called the Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋).

DSC_4628The Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋) is one of Grass Island most famous natural feature.  It is frequented by hikers as well as visitors who come for fishing.

DSC_4639Back to the top of the lawn, we followed another footpath down the east coast of the island.  Along the path, some visitors set up tents and picnic areas, some went for fishing at the rock beaches, some braved the cliffs for rock climbing, some continued to fly their kites on the windy slopes.  The Grass Island is truly a small leisure paradise for all.

DSC_4640Another well known rock feature was the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石).  Two similar stone cubes, one sitting on top of the other, resemble the Chinese character of the surname “Lui”.

DSC_4671Looking at the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石) from afar, it was hard to imagine how the stacking rocks were formed in the first place.

DSC_4688The entire day was cool and grey while we were on the Grass Island.  The wind was a little strong, and so as the waves.

DSC_4706Ko Lau Wan(高流灣) at Sai Kung Peninsula seemed pretty close from the southern tip of the Grass Island.  The sea was a little rough in between, in the 400m wide channel of Tap Mun Mouth (塔門口).

DSC_4716The utilitarian New Village of Tap Mun was erected in 1964 by a charity from New Zealand.  The houses are still occupied today.

DSC_4722After the New Village, we were getting close to the pier again.

DSC_4723We could see the incoming ferry while on our way walking to the pier.

DSC_4731As we boarded the ferry, the sea and the fish farming areas seemed calm and relaxing.

DSC_4782After half a day on the small and remote Grass Island, it was time for us to return to Wong Shek Ferry Pier in Sai Kung.

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