Ghost Towns of Hong Kong
For most people, the thought of Hong Kong conjures up images of a bright and densely populated metropolis, skyscrapers reaching for the clouds and neon signs illuminating the 24/7 bustling commercial centres. But hidden away in dark corners of Hong Kong's network of islands, lie whole towns long abandoned, their stories slowly crumbling with each passing day.
Yim Tin Tsai
Home to around 1000 Hakka people in the 90s, islanders supported themselves through rice production in small paddies. Today it lies abandoned with the villagers all having relocated. But strangely, lying at the top of the village is a UNESCO heritage cathedral and all the supporting infrastructure such as toilets, cafe's and regular ferries. With such easy access I took the bus to Sai Kung and hopped on the boat heading to the island. Being a weekend, the small port on the island was a hive of activity with people having come to visit the cathedral, have a BBQ and enjoy the view back towards the mainland. But take a few steps away from the crowd and you suddenly find yourself in an eerie deserted town, complete with bat colony, moulding furniture and slowly crumbling houses.
This small island on to the west of Kowloon is dubbed ‘Park Island’ on the ferry destination board due to the flashy ‘Noah’s Ark’ theme park and solar observatory it lies home to. There is a large area of residential skyscrapers and the atmosphere in the main port feels more like something out a Californian TV show, with people jogging along the pedestrianised waterfront, drinking coffee out on the square and enjoying the sea breeze while walking their dogs.
But hidden away on the North-East side of the island is the eponymous fishing village of Ma Wan. Once home to hundreds of villagers, the land was earmarked as the location for an extension to the theme park and so in 2011 the government forcefully relocated all of them. But so far no development has taken place and the village lies empty, an eerie reminder of the past. Strangely, although all but the small local temple are secured by metal fencing, the village still has a fair amount of activity. Fisherman hang their rods from the pier, wedding parties use the decay as backdrops for photos and theatre groups rehearse in the empty squares. Add to this the large scout camp at the edge of the village and you end up with another bizarre, haunting and occasionally comical atmosphere.