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Voyage to Fog Island

07 March 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

It was virtually a voyage into the unknown, at least for the first-timer who was on board the slow boat steaming south from the Central piers in the afternoon of Feb 13.

But for the four of us – my son Alvin, his wife Cocoa and daughter Athena -- who had been to Cheung Chau a few times some years ago, nature lent a bit of eeriness to the trip on that balmy day.
The Xin Guang had left the quay just 15 minutes earlier on its regular sailing to Cheung Chau and about a dozen or so of us on the aft deck were busy taking selfies and groupies against the diminishing skyline on both sides of the Victoria Harbour.

Most other passengers of the New World First Ferry vessel were content relaxing on their seats, snacking and chatting, or busy tinkering with their mobile phones while several others took advantage of the slow sailing to take a nap.

For the few of us who might have been tied down by our jobs during the week, the 45-minute boat ride spent on the deck was a welcome change, especially as warmer weather took over that weekend from the chilly days earlier in the week.

Suddenly the passengers on the deck were astir. From the starboard thick fog could be seen creeping towards Hong Kong Disneyland, Kwai Chung and Stonecutters’ Island. That was about 3:30pm. Five minutes later, there was only dense fog ahead of the ship; another five minutes later and we were in the midst of the mist.

One could say visibility was zero because even the afternoon sun could not shine through the blanket of fog. Twice the Xin Guang had to stop for a few minutes in response to the horn blasts of invisible but ostensibly large passing vessels, apparently ocean-going container ships headed for or coming from the Kwai Chung terminals.

The voyage was about 10 minutes towards its end when the ship had sailed past the mist and in the distance loomed Cheung Chau, an outlying island that has transformed from an ancient fishing village and pirate lair to a holiday destination bursting with visitors on weekends and public holidays.
Once we disembarked, our first instinct was to look a for a food shop to calm our hunger, but McDonald’s lone outlet on the island was full, and so were other eateries on the waterfront.

As an alternative, we tried Cheung Chau’s famous mango mochi, a sweet sticky rice bun filled with a slice of Philippine mango, spiral crispy fried sweet potato, and fried ice cream – yes, fried ice cream. It’s a scoop of ice cream wrapped in sticky rice flour dough then deep fried until crispy brown.

Originally we planned to take a dip in the quiet waters of Tung Wan Beach, but during the hour or so of our food tripping and stroll on the island’s streets, the fog had moved in again.

At 5pm it was already dusk and gloomy on the beach, with only three or four youngsters discernibly playing in the knee-deep water on the beach. Where the shoreline started all we could see was fog so eerily thick that the people on the beach looked like they were standing on the edge of the world.  

We could see no farther than 100 meters such that the Cheung Chau landmark, Warwick Hotel, on our right was nowhere in sight, and so was the allegedly haunted Bela Vista Resort, notoriously called “Suicide Hotel” to our left.

Deterred but thrilled by one of nature’s quirks, we decided to take the next voyage back to Hong Kong Island.

How to get there:  At Central Ferry Piers, take NW First Ferry to Cheung Chau on Pier 5.  The company operates both slow and fast ferry services every hour 22 hours a day to and from Cheung Chau, with intervals varying from 30 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes for the Central-Cheung Chau outbound sailings and from 5 minutes to 30 minutes for the Cheung Chau-Central sailings. From Monday to Saturday the fare on the slow boat is $13.30 ordinary and $20.70 de luxe. Fares are higher on Sunday and public holidays at $19.40 ordinary and $30.20 de luxe. Seniors, children and the disabled pay $6.60 ordinary and $10.40 de luxe.  Fares on the fast ferry are $25.80 Monday to Saturday and $37.20 on Sundays and public holidays. Seniors, children and disabled pay $12.90 Monday to Saturday and P18.60 on Sundays and public holidays.

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