Fresh from my rejuvenating trip to Lamma, I took an afternoon off to visit another outlying island, Cheung Chau. I had finished the morning session at the Catholic school where I was teaching some casual classes and, with nothing else planned after lunch, decided on the spur of the moment to hop on to the ferry.
I was surprised both by the length of the journey – on the “slow ferry” it takes just under an hour, and by the island when I arrived. Cheung Chau is much busier than Lamma. Unlike Yung Shue Wan, Cheung Chau’s main settlement is not a village, but a bustling Southern Chinese provincial town. It has a McDonalds, seedy karaoke bars, lots of plain little local eateries, shoe shops, flower shops, kids clothes, the inevitable oceanfront seafood restaurants…The clatter of mahjong tiles rang down dingy stairs from upstairs apartments, the smell of salted fish hung in the air and people pinged past on bicycles down the narrow lanes. Of the Lamma-expat-organic-chai-latte set, there was no sign.
After walking a few minutes through the main commercial district you come to a hill, lined with spacious old 1970s apartments, with green tiles and big balconies, and then to a shady, forested walk down to a calm sandy beach with beautiful views. There is a walk all the way around the island, stopping at various pirate caves and unspectacular rock formations, but it was a hot day and I decided to stick close to town.
Here I found a petite hipster strip of touristy stores selling vintage clothes and cute postcards ( in Thai, probably bought wholesale at Chatuchak) as well as the bizarre Homeland Tearoom, a dusty little sitting room packed to the rafters with what looked like office folders and First Aid kits, as well as various pieces of Chinese and Japanese memorabilia such as papier mache masks and geisha dolls. Run by a Japanese couple, the eccentric outpost serves tea, sushi rolls and red bean cakes, and each guest is photographed and asked to sign a guest book.
From here it was just a short walk back to the ferry again.