A taste of the good times

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am

There's more to Cheung Chau than the Bun Festival which brings thousands of visitors to the island every year.

If you want a quiet getaway from the city's endless skyscrapers, bustling traffic and crowded streets, Cheung Chau is a good choice.

It offers both the old and the new, from ancient temples and rock carvings to hotels and seafood restaurants.

There are ferries leaving the Central pier every hour, and within 30 minutes, you'll be in a very different world. Cheung Chau, with a population of about 30,000, used to be a fishing village. But now it is a major tourist attraction with plenty to do and see while having a relaxing day out.

The roads on the island are so narrow they cannot accommodate the average car. Instead, you'll see small motor trucks, or 'village vehicles', and specially designed mini fire engines, ambulances and police cars.

Residents either walk or ride a bike. The island is a popular cycling destination - you can rent a bike for as little as HK$20 a day.

The Bun Festival, which originated in the 18th century, is the biggest attraction on Cheung Chau.

It began as a ritual for fishing communities to pray for safety from pirates and drive away evil spirits. But today the festival has become a showcase of traditional Chinese culture.

The bun-snatching competition is a feature of the week-long celebrations. Participants race up the 'bun towers' or 'bun mountains', grab as many buns as they can and put them in their bags.

The festival reaches a climax with a street carnival which includes traditional lion and dragon dances and a parade of floats.

There are also young children dressed as famous Chinese characters doing amazing balancing acts.

Although the Bun Festival is usually held in April or May, you can still buy the traditional Chinese steamed buns and other products or decorations any time of the year.

Besides the tourist attractions, such as the hiding place of famous 19th century pirate Cheung Po Tsai, Pak Tai Temple and Tin Hau Temple, Cheung Chau is well-known for its beaches and delicious seafood.

The restaurants provide various kinds of cuisine, including Thai, Japanese and Italian food.

If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss this popular dessert - a molten chocolate cake offered by a small cafe hidden among the narrow lanes. Katie Dessert is very famous, and its baked Alaska - ice cream cake topped with meringue - is yummy, too.

If you are planning an overnight trip with your friends, it would be a good idea to book a holiday house.

How to get there: There are ferries leaving Central Pier No 5 to Cheung Chau every day. For the ferry schedule, visit www.nwff.com.hk