I was never convinced that a place that’s tinier than Hong Kong can be any good, until I got chances to get to know about our neighbor city Macao through a couple business trips (which is a lot smaller than Hong Kong). They got everything there and even more than I expected at some point, to name just a few the Macao Grand Prix Annual Road race, the preservation of Colonial Buildings. My former Portuguese colleague being a local in Macao had shown me why he had been staying there for nearly two decades. Just to see how well he knows the people would understand how a foreigner is not at all foreign. For the rest of the Macanese, I even realized it does not matter what they got or they couldn’t get. It’s a self-sufficient city that requires nothing but their people. It taught me a great lesson of how a community can sustain, grow and pass on to the others.
Hong Kong is always considered one of the brightest metropolitan cities in the East. Our economy is driven by the stock market, business trading and tourism. The city is full of mix of nationalities. It’s not uncommon to bump into the Brits, the French and even the Americans in the expats gathering area. However, the exchange between the cultures and peoples cannot be easily seen.
Our city’s impression to the world is often perceived as: populated, multi-cultural, beautiful skyline, full of skyscrapers, nightlife, dim sum, ever-busy. While these all holds the truth, there’re just a lot more to explore.
As you could imagine our land is already full of skyscrapers, where do the rest of the people live? Much of the debates in 2012 and 2013 have been the proposed sites for new town development in the rural area (northern inland of Hong Kong). The Government is certainly facing tremendous amount of resistance from the press, the (affected community) existing residents on those proposed sites, and the political parties. I started to wonder if we are having too many people. Is it a sign of over-capacitation?
The Cheung Chau Island
Cheung Chau is an Island west of the main Hong Kong Island near the Southeast of Lantau. What’s different about this community is its isolation from the city. My regular work has been mostly documenting lives in the city. Many towns and districts i’ve traveled were actually connected geographically. There’s virtually no distinction at all. On contrary, Cheung Chau requires ferries to commune between which takes about 30-45 minutes.
The Island is just 2.45 km², you can walk from the far ends to another in just an afternoon. The terrain is hilly, you could imagine how homes were built (like in Rio, Brazil), very densely built. There’s no skyscrapers on the island, mostly no more than 5 story tall. The tallest building I could find is a hotel.
No vehicles are allowed on the island except the emergency branches (ambulance, fire dept and police), making it a car/pollution free environment. There’s no surprise to see bicycles everywhere. That’s precisely what I like about Cheung Chau. There’s more human interaction this way and shops on the ground are just walking distance, so welcoming.
The island has a population of 30,000 and is driven by travel and resort. It’s got everything you need to get through a day, weeks or even months. There’s a central market which the locals can get their fresh produce. There’re basketball courts and a hard ground soccer field (in front of a temple). There’re mountain trails for anyone who wish to go back to the nature. There’re restaurants along the shore where you could enjoy both the ocean breeze and fresh seafoods cuisine with your friends. And how about some ice cold beers…
The local businesses are not dominated by the franchises. You could easily spot some elderlies still operating convenient stores around and restaurants you’ve never heard of from the city.
The Bun Festival & Parade is another highlight once a year which draws tourists and visitors to Cheung Chau. We have a saying ‘The island can sink on that day!’. It’s just that crowded.
I became addicted to this island after my first visit at the end of June 2013. It’s the scourging sun, the sandy beach, the crowded ferry, the energy saving bicycles, the glittering reflection from the sea water, the reasonable isolation and the happy people shaped this island. I decided to photo document my visits the following 7 weeks.