Village Focus: Yim Tin Tsai

We pay a visit the revitalised village.

Like many remote Sai Kung villages, Yim Tin Tsai is a small island which has succumbed to the perils of village abandonment. But fast forward to the present day and it seems the village has discovered a new lease of life.

Situated on the blue waters of Port Shelter, the only way of reaching the island is via the sampans lined along the Sai Kung harbourfront – taking only 15 minutes to transport you across to the village. As you step off the rickety sampan and take your first glance towards the lush greenery, sandy beach and crystal clear waters; you can’t help but become captivated by the idyllic charm of the island.

The entrance of the village is marked by a large old tree which faces out towards the sea. “This tree has been here for hundreds of years”, shouts the man working behind the small village store. Similar to the village, the tree has managed to stand the test of time.

The Chan family came and settled on the offshore island some 300 years ago, originating from the Yantian district of Shenzhen, formerly known as Yim Tin – a place well known for its salt farming; the name Yim Tin means ‘salt pan’ in Cantonese.

Yim Tin Tsai’s aforementioned salt pans

The Chan family decided to name their new island Yim Tin Tsai which translated to ‘little salt pan’, in honour of their homeland. For many years, the villagers were able to live off farming, fishing and salt-making; selling what they had to other villagers in Sai Kung.

Unfortunately, the diminishing farming industry and cheaper imported salt left the villagers yearning for better opportunities elsewhere, and in 1998 the last resident of the island left.

“We wanted to restore Yim Tin Tsai back to its former glory even before it was completely abandoned. We had actually begun planning back in 1994”, says Colin Chan Chung-yin, village chief of Yim Tin Tsai. “Restoration work finally started in 2008 and by 2011, the island had its first full-time resident back”.

Walkway to the village on a beautiful day

Yim Tin Tsai now holds daily ecotourism tours which welcome a flurry of visitors into its village. The salt pans have been reopened for demonstration purposes, and the salt produced is now used for souvenirs only. Chan explained his future plans for the island, “We want to restore the collapsed buildings so that former villagers can return and enjoy life on Yim Tin Tsai as they once did.”

How to get to Yim Tin Tsai

  • Take a sampan from Sai Kung harbourfront. Return ticket costs $50.
  • English speaking ecotours are available for $75 per person, which includes a return sampan ride. Fill out the application form found on www.yimtintsai.com. Minimum of 25 people required or email yttvillage@yimtintsai.com.
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