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Sam's Exotic Travels: Lantau Island - Hong Kong's Largest Island

Flags at Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong  Buddha Statue - the largest sitting Buddha in the world, Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong  Bridge connecting HK Island to Lantau and airport, Hong Kong

Lantau, the largest of the islands (142 sq km/55 sq mi) has a population of 45,000, a 933m (3060ft) peak, and a 70km (43mi) walking trail, but has avoided many of the development excesses of other islands.  80% of the island is virgin land, which is untouched by human beings.

Map, Lantau Island

Lantau Island has a relatively low population density, with 45,000 people living there, compared to 1.4 million on Hong Kong Island. Settlements are scattered all over the island and each has its own distinctive characteristic. The completion of the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok in 1998 has irrevocably changed north-western Lantau; the once quiet village of Tung Chung is now a new town home to over 25,000 people in a number of 30-50 storey high-rise housing estates and condominiums located right next to the airport. Over the next few years, the population of the North Lantau New Town, on reclaimed land stretching from Tung Chung to Tai Ho is expected to increase to a target population of over 200,000, across 760 hectares of land.  Discovery Bay is a privately-owned residential development located on the north-eastern coast of Lantau. It has a current population of around 14,300 residents from over 30 different countries - gaining it a reputation as an expatriate enclave.

Major tourist attractions include the Po Lin Monastery on Ngong Ping Plateau, where the Tian Tan Buddha (or "Giant Buddha"), an 85-foot-high bronze Buddha statue, various monastery buildings and a vegetarian restaurant can be found. Walkers can ascend from Tung Chung to the monastery in two hours.

Tai O is a fishing village located on the west of Lantau Island and more than three centuries old. It is also known as the "Venice of Hong Kong". It is also a hot tourist spot for tourists visiting Hong Kong, despite damage by a fire in July 2000, thanks to its several hundred stilt houses. Tai O retains most of its historical setting such as waterways, stilt houses and fishing boats and it is famous for its fishing village scenery. Traditional Chinese food like salted fish and shrimp paste can be found there.

Tung Chung Fort was built in 1817 to thwart the opium trade and defend the coast from pirates. There are 6 old cannons and the enclosures are made of granite. During World War II, the Japanese army occupied the fort. In 1979, it was listed as one of the historical monuments and was refurbished in 1988.

The Trappist Haven Monastery at Tai Shui Hang, home to a number of Roman Catholic monks, sits on the east coast of Lantau Island, approximately halfway between the towns of Mui Wo and Discovery Bay. The Lantau Trappist congregation was established in Beijing in the 19th century.

Hong Kong Disneyland is being constructed on the northeastern part of the island, approximately two kilometres from Discovery Bay and is expected to be completed and opened in 2006, on a massive land reclamation project in Penny's Bay. The US$1.8 billion project is planned to include a Disney theme park, two hotels and retail, dining and entertainment facilities stretching over 126 hectares (310 acres); as well as its own rail network linking from Yam O.

Over 50 percent of Lantau consists of national parks, including a large number of well-marked trails. The best known of these is the 70-kilometer, 12-section Lantau Trail. The national parks feature campsites and youth hostels. Lantau's best-known and longest beach is Cheung Sha and its most famous hike is to Sunset Peak, the third highest elevation in Hong Kong.

Lantau is linked to Hong Kong and Kowloon by a series of bridges, built to provide service to the new airport.  Railway service by MTR Airport Express to the Airport takes only thirty minutes from HK Central.  Express buses to the airport and neighboring Tung Chung connect Lantau with Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories.

A ferry service from Central also services Mui Wo on Silvermine Bay. The trip takes about an hour, and the ferry passes lots of tiny islands on its way to Lantau. The area of Silvermine Bay has a beach and lots of little restaurants.   Ferries also run to Discovery Bay.

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Please note that all photographs and text appearing on this site are the exclusive intellectual property of Sam Stearman. No images are within the Public Domain, and no image use is permitted without the written prior authorization of the copyright owner.  If you see any pictures you would like to buy, all the thousands of pictures on this site are available in high resolution digital format, suitable for framing, use in magazines or advertising.  Email me if you would like to know more.

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