Ma Wan – Hong Kong’s hidden island of weird wonders

17 10 2016

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Ma Wan is a small island between Lantau and the mainland, connected to both by the graceful Golden Gate-like arches of a bridge carrying the airport expressway. It is best known for the upper middle-class Park Island residential estate, sitting on a splendid artificial beach, and for the bizarre “life size” replica of Noah’s Ark sitting right under the bridge, housing an amazing Christian fundamentalist theme park.

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What I hadn’t known is that tucked just out of sight, behind Noah’s Ark in fact and under the bridge, is an abandoned local fishing village. The government had requisitioned  the land in 2011, evicting residents who were re-assigned to ( objectively, nicer) housing, albeit in hideously ugly urinal-like buildings along the island’s main road. But the old village now sits rusting away, next to a mangrove-like mudland surreally alive with scurrying crabs – hundreds of them – and a pleasant sandy beach. I wandered in the heat of the day, alone but for a fellow photographer and some elderly former residents (I’m guessing) fishing off the pier, feeling for all the world like I had wandered into a scene from one of my favourite novels, Coinlocker Babies, where the protagonists stumble onto a sinister abandoned settlement on an island.

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