Hong Kong is blessed with so many outlying islands and vast countryside space that can be easily accessed from the city. And in the past year or so – thanks to COVID – they have been utilised in the most unimaginable way.
It has been at least five years since I last visited an outlying island, and since we haven’t been able to travel for the past year, I thought I’ll check out this little island called Peng Chau.
On a gloomy Sunday in spring, I hopped on a ferry in Central, headed for Peng Chau. It was a 40-minute ferry ride, and the moment I set foot on the island, it felt like going back in time. It’s like I took a time machine that took me back to the 90s. Traces of history can be found everywhere – hand-drawn shop signs, old tiles that can only be found in shops in the city with at least 40 years of history, old school retro signs – it felt like finding treasures from a lost period of time.
You’ll find plenty of travel guide on Peng Chau on the ~intrawebs~, so I won’t repeat that. I’ll just share my humble opinion and experience on my day trip here.
Hoho Kitchen // 新寶馬茶餐廳小廚
A local cha chan teng famous for its ice cream filled pineapple bun. From what I saw online, people have been loving the hot and cold sensation that you get from taking a bite of it. I don’t completely disagree? I thought it was alright. But if I ever crave one of these, I’ll just walk for 10 minutes to the local bakery, and get a pineapple bun for $10 (or less?), and go home and scoop out some ice cream from the tub that has been sitting in the freezer for god knows how long. Nice and easy, and the main point is it costs a lot less. This just wasn’t for me, sorry…
G/F, 29 Peng Chau Wing On Street, Peng Chau
A Noy Bakery // A Noy 麵包舖
Originally opened by a local over two decades ago, a Thai lady took over when he retired two years ago. While they sell other common breads and pastries, the bakery is most famous for its fermented beancurd sesame biscuit. The fragrant aroma of sesame with a subtle taste of fermented beancurd, this flavour is one of a kind. One that you’ll not be able to find anywhere else. It only costs $4, so what’s not to love?
G/F, 11 Peng Chau Wing Hing Street, Peng Chau
I imagined it to be one of those lame (sorry) regenerated culture & creative spaces in Taiwan, like the one in Tainan (Blueprint Culture and Creative Park, yes, I’m looking at you, and I’m very sorry), and hence I didn’t have my hopes up before coming. This has a similar vibe, but also different in a better way.
Peng Chau was once the hub for industrial production from late 19th century to mid 20th century. While deindustrialisation took place, some of the infrastructure still remained on the island. One of them being a leather factory, which has a Grade III Historic Building status granted by the Antiques and Monuments Office. The leather factory buildings have now transformed into a junkyard, with artwork created with the most random objects. From old chairs, medals, guitars, clocks, to bikes. It might not be the most glamorous artwork, but they are quite hard to find in Hong Kong. There are also a few lifestyle stores and handcraft workshops in the area.
Entrance on Wing On Street
A Lit Corner // 燈隅
Formerly Sun Sat Store, the famous vintage/antique store that only opens (you guessed it!) on Saturdays and Sundays. The owners of the former Sun Sat Store went their separate ways. While one renamed the store on the same location, the other opened Hoi Sing right opposite (more on this in a minute).
I absolutely adored the vibe. It’s tucked away in a quaint corner, and it’s full of treasures. To name a few – typewriters, turntables, beer glasses, telephones, and fans. It has a very warm and cosy ambience. And remember the time machine element of this trip that I mentioned earlier? This is the epitome of it, if I may. It felt like entering someone’s living room in an old Japanese movie.
Apart from vintage goods, they also sell merchandise from local businesses, such as handmade soaps, postcards and prints from local artists. There’s also a coffee stand, whose owner is a former Head Barista and Operation Director at %Arabica Hong Kong and China. For any local coffee lovers, you might know him as the founder of Why50 in Sheung Wan (which is now, sadly, closed). Pictured below is the cold brew.
27 Peng Chau Wing Hing Street, Peng Chau
A Lit Corner // Facebook
Bike Coffee Man // website
Hoi Sing 海城
Literally means sea city. Opened by one of the former owners of Sun Sat Store, Hoi Sing is a quiet book shop specialising in urban planning and architecture, which makes me super happy. They also recently founded Islanders, a small seasonal magazine for the people of Peng Chau.
38C Peng Chau Wing Hing Street, Peng Chau
Hoi Sing // Instagram
Islanders // Instagram
Finger Hill 手指山
A 355-step stairs will take you to Finger Hill. At 95m, it is the highest point on the island. Supposedly this spot will grant you views of Discovery Bay, Disneyland, and more of Lantau Island. But like I said, it was a gloomy day. So, I didn’t get to see anything. The fact that I didn’t even take a single picture explains it better than I can with words (lol). But it was a nice feeling to have fresh air on my face. And since it was such an easy hike, I enjoyed it very much.
Island Table Grocer Café
Island Table Grocer Cafe is a tiny space of about six tables, nestled in a narrow alleyway, about three steps away from the laundromat right opposite.
To be completely frank, I wasn’t that interested in this cafe at the beginning. I thought, why come all the way to Peng Chau for coffee or avocado toasts that you can easily get in the city? But I changed my mind as I set foot in the cafe. The staff were incredibly friendly (sister trio), and the ambience was very welcoming as well. The food and drinks were a nice surprise. After the underwhelming pineapple bun and the (short) hike, suddenly a simple cup of Earl Grey Rose Latte and an apple turnover became the comfort that I never knew I needed. Every hot drink comes with an amaretti biscuit, and it is the perfect accompaniment to the drink.
G/F, 9C Peng Chau Wing Hing Street, Peng Chau
Island Table Grocer Cafe // Facebook / Instagram
Peng Chau is an island known for its secludedness. Unlike other more famous islands like Cheung Chau or Lamma Island, Peng Chau is not as popular with tourists as the other two. I’m sure this is the reason why many urbanists decided to move to the island – to escape from the hustle and bustle.
With the ridiculously high rent in the city, there is virtually no room for independent businesses. Hence Peng Chau has became a haven for these businesses to flourish, and resulted in the huge variety of shops we see here today. There is only one chain supermarket on the island, no a single McDonald’s, KFC, or 7-11. This uniqueness is what is lacking in the city, and therefore the island is perfect for an escape from that homogeneity.
I am still very much a city girl. I live in New Territories, which is already considered as a rural area. But I am still able embrace the convenience of living in the city: being a ten-minute walk away from the train station and the nearest shopping centre; five minutes away from a bus stop that can take me to Central and Tsim Sha Tsui in less than an hour; being near choices where I can pick between hot dogs, Shanghaiese noodles, Pho, barbecued pork rice, pasta, coffee, and cakes. And therefore I thought I hated the countryside, but this visit to Peng Chau changed my mind. I absolutely loved the uniqueness of the island. I wouldn’t call this a hidden gem, because it is not that much of a secret. But the tranquility and raw-ness (if I may) of the island is something I adored, and it is a gem for me, no doubt.
Dear Peng Chau, please stay this way forever.
P.S.: a little tip for you! Most shops only open on the weekends, so be sure to check their business hours before you plan your day trip to Peng Chau.
Thanks for stopping by! Don’t be a stranger, stay connected!
Take care and see ya soon! <3