A 15-minute boat ride from Sai Kung, Yim Tin Tsai wins hands down if you’re into the abandoned vibe. The island was originally populated in the 1740s by a family from Guangdong. The descendants of these people developed salt farms on the island and made their living selling the salt – the island’s name literally means ‘small salt field’. There were once around 1,000 inhabitants. However, as the salt industry declined in the early 1900s, so did the population. The salt farms were converted to fish ponds in the 1960s. By the 1990s, no-one was left living on the island.
Thanks to a regular ferry service, however, it’s now popular with day trippers. The island, which is surrounded by mangroves, is also connected by a bridge to a public golf course on neighbouring Kau Sai Chau.
You can easily explore most of this tiny isle in a few hours – it’s only 0.24sq km. Once you arrive at the pier, check out the nearby photogenic St Joseph’s Chapel, which was built in Romanesque style in 1890 and is now a Grade III listed building. Next door is the former Ching Po School. The tiny school opened in the 1920s, but closed down in 1990 due to a lack of pupils. It’s now the Yim Tin Tsai Village Heritage Exhibition, which houses a modest collection of artefacts, demonstrating what daily village life was like during the last century.
You can then follow the trail around, and you’ll go by the abandoned village houses (many of which are technically still owned by the villagers’ descendants). The houses still offer spooky remnants of the last people to live there, from radios, kitchen appliances and televisions to bed stands and crockery.
The path takes a loop past the abandoned salt pans/fish ponds, before coming back to the pier, where there is a small kiosk selling tasty and chewy Hakka sweets.
One thing not to miss:
The spooky, yet fascinating abandoned houses.
How to get there:
Small ferries run from Sai Kung’s waterfront promenade regularly, and cost around $35 for a round trip, which takes 15 minutes. For the full schedule, see bit.ly/YimTinTsai. For more information, see yimtintsai.com (Chinese only).
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Yim Tin Tsai
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