Sai Kung’s last salt factory

Sai Kung salt farm keeps tradition alive
Sai Kung salt farm keeps tradition alive. By Christopher Alexander

Located just 15 minutes by boat from Sai Kung Pier, Yim Tin Tsai is the only place in Hong Kong that produces salt. 

Measuring just 500 metres across and standing only 37 metres above sea level, Yim Tin Tsai (meaning ‘Little Salt Pan’ in Cantonese) was named by its first inhabitants; members of the Hakka tribe who arrived from Southern China in the seventeenth century and immediately saw its potential for producing salt (a rare and valuable commodity at the time).

However, by the early twentieth century, demand for the island’s produce – like the saltwater itself – had all but evaporated. By the 1980s, only four people remained on Tim Tin Tsai, by then more commonly known as ‘Ghost Island.’

After several decades of abandonment, a group of residents and volunteers decided to revive their history and restore the salt pans to working order. The island was back in business by 2013 and even earned an UNESCO protection status for its commitment to heritage. 

Along with restoring the salt pans, the group also built a Salt and Light Preservation Centre, to conserve and promote the unique culture and ecology of the island. “Our priority is the revitalisation of the culture,” says David Ip, coordinator of the island’s preservation society. “We use traditional methods to do the salt production and respect the ancestors of Yim Tin Tsai.”

Read more: The ultimate guide to Sai Kung’s Islands

The traditional salt has given many visitors a chance to take a piece of Sai Kung home with them after their trip. The salt has even become popular with gin fans after Hong Kong-based gin distillery, Two Moons Distillery,  released a new gin made from local ingredients including a sachet of artisan sea salt from the island with every bottle. 

Today, visitors can explore the area, take guided tours of the salt pans and purchase bottles of the iconic seasoning they produce. A newly built seawater workshop also reveals the manufacturing process of sun-dried salt and lets visitors try their hand at the process for just $30.

How to get there 

To visit Yim Tin Tsai from Sai Kung Town, simply head down to the waterfront, where you’ll find the booth for the Yim Tin Tsai ferry at the western end. A return ferry ride costs around $60; the fare includes access to the island, its chapel and the salt pans.

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