Exploring High Island.
A favourite Sunday destination for junk trippers and hikers, High Island or Leung Sheun Wan, was once an island in Sai Kung East Country Park. In 1979, it was connected to the peninsula by two dams to form the High Island Reservoir. About 400 villagers were displaced by the rising waters, but there are still four former fishing villages on the west coast: Pak A, Tung A, Sha Kiu Tau and Pak Lap.
There are public piers at the first three High Island villages, which can also be reached by an easy walk; reaching Pak Lap is more challenging. A good starting point is to alight at Pak A (near the now-closed Jaspas Beach Club), then follow the footpath past the houses and ruins, keeping an eye open for skinks, fungi, birds and butterflies. The path curves around the coast for a 20-minute walk to Tung A.
Leung Sheun Wan Tin Hau Temple, High Island
First constructed in 1741, this High Island temple was rebuilt four times subsequently.
Tin Hau is the central deity, lions guard the entrance and the roof is made of ornate Shek Wan pottery. Beyond the door gods is a spirit screen (dong chung) that keeps ghosts and evil spirits out, a spacious lobby and an offering table with five brass pots for joss-sticks. There are three statues of Tin Hau, including one used for parading on festive occasions and an unusual porcelain statue. The deity is accompanied by two female attendants dressed as maids and two demon servants – red-faced Thousand League Eyes and green-faced Favourable Wind Ears – which warn Tin Hau of impending bad weather at sea. The temple also houses two excellent model sailing ships, symbols of the Eight Immortals, a bell and drum and, outside, two dragon boats. Villagers often dry fish on the quayside beyond the forecourt.
Just beyond the temple on the way to Sha Kiu is the Sea Urchin Restaurant, serving urchins farmed locally. The delicate shellfish features in various freshly prepared dishes, including steamed egg white with sea urchin, sea urchin- fried rice and spring rolls. The restaurant is open on weekends and public holidays, 10am until late. It also offers a free boat service between High Island and Sai Kung for groups of 10 or more who order the nine-course set meal ($288 or $328 each). For details, call 2791 2668 or 6681 6667.
The village of Tung A is at the end of the inlet: the walk takes you past bushes filled with butterflies, including bluebottles and tigers. Photo opportunities abound – landscape, seascape, wildlife: a 1/200th shutter speed is great for capturing butterflies’ flapping wings. There’s a private ancestral worship hall for the Jiang clan and beautiful lilies grow further along the path, which climbs and then descends gently to the village of Sha Kiu.
This village has a public pier, a number of houses and Yau Ley seafood restaurant, a favourite with the boating fraternity. There’s also a small sandy beach and pagoda with views out to sea. Yau Ley also offers a boat service for diners (for details, call 2791 1822).
With a beautiful long sandy beach, Pak Lap is popular with junk trippers and for water sports. To get there, take the footpath to the left behind the Tin Hau Temple, or the footpath behind the Jiang clan worship hall. The path is clearly marked – if steep in places – and there are superb views and wildlife.
Before you go
Download the free mobile app MapsWithMe and its China map for a clearer idea of where the footpaths are. The app works offline, although most areas have network coverage.
There is no public ferry to High Island. From Sai Kung pier, hire a speed boat ($900 for up to 10 passengers) or sampan ($700 for up to 16). The trips take 30 or 60 minutes respectively and cost slightly less on weekdays. Book with Mr Lewey on 5604 2658, or haggle with the waterfront boat operators. Boats will drop you at one point and collect you at another. Pak Lap does not
Alternatively, walk or take a cab along Sai Kung Man Yee Road; the path to Pak A is signposted down a set of steps beyond the West Dam.