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Lantau Island

Lantau Island (based on its old name 爛頭島 lan tau do, lit. rotten/broken head island; now called 大嶼山 pinyin: da4 yu3 shan1, Cantonese: tai yue shan, lit. big island mountain), the site of sleepy fishing villages, is the largest island in Hong Kong, located at the mouth of the Pearl River. Administratively, it is part of the Islands District.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Geographical characteristics
3 Population
4 Tourist Attractions
5 Miscellaneous
6 Transportation
7 External Links


Artifacts unearthed on the island show human activities dated back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age. For instance, rock carvings at Shek Pik are thought to date back to the Bronze Age, while a stone circle at Fan Lau is probably from the Neolithic Age. Both sites are located on the southwestern coast of the island.

In 1276, the Southern Song Dynasty court fled to Guangdong by boat, fleeing Mongol invaders, and leaving the emperor Gong Di behind. Any hope of resistance centred on two young princes, Gong Di's brothers. The older boy, Zhao Shi, aged nine was declared emperor, and, in 1277, the imperial court sought refuge first in Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo) on Lantau Island and later in today's Kowloon City (see Sung Wong Toi). The older brother became ill and died, and was succeeded by the younger, Zhao Bing, aged seven. He died in 1279, and the Song Dynasty ended. These emperors are also believed to have held court in the Tung Chung valley, which takes its name from a local hero who gave up his life for the emperor.

Like Cheung Chau, Lantau was once the base for pirates and smugglers, and was one of the bases of Cheung Po Tsai (張保仔) in the 15th century.

Lantau Island, together with Tuen Mun were among the first European trading settlements in the Pearl River area, established by Portuguese traders in the 1510s. The Portuguese abandoned these settlements around 1517, following defeat against Chinese troops (see Fernao Pires de Andrade). Later, the island became an important trading post for the British, long before they showed an interest for Hong Kong Island.

Silver was mined at Mui Wo until the 19th century.

A major change affected the island in July 1998, with the start of operations of Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

Geographical characteristics

Lantau Island consists of mainly mountainous terrain. With an area of approx. 142 km², it is the largest island in Hong Kong, and is almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island. Lantau Peak (934 m) is the highest point of the island. It is the second highest in Hong Kong, after Tai Mo Shan, and is almost double the height of Victoria Peak. Lantau Island is often referred to as "the lungs of Hong Kong", because of its abundance of indigenous forest and relative scarcity of high-rise residential developments which characterise Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.


Lantau Island has a very low density population, 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 in 1998 has irrevocably changed northern Lantau. The once quiet village of Tung Chung is now a mass of high-rise housing estates next to the airport.

Tung Chung is one of the new towns developed in recent years and its population is expected to increase from 20,000 to 130,000 (Source: The Hong Kong Economic Times, 08/08/2001).

Discovery Bay is a low-density residential development located on the north-eastern coast of Lantau. It has a current population of around 16,000 residents from over 30 different countries - gaining it a reputation as an expatriate enclave. The first phase went on sale in 1982.

Tourist Attractions

Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin Monastery

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 (大澳) 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 2005 or 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.


Chinese White Dolphins, often called pink dolphins can be watched off the coast of Lantau. A marine park north of the island was designated to protect them.

Shek Pik Reservoir is the fourth largest freshwater reservoir in Hong Kong. Completed in 1963, it covers an area of 1.01 km² and has a capacity of 24.5 x 106 m.

There are four prisons on Lantau Island: Chi Ma Wan Correctional Institution, Ma Mo Ping Prison, west of Tong Fuk, Sha Tsui Detention Centre and the maximum security Shek Pik Prison, both located near Shek Pik reservoir.


The Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is located on Chek Lap Kok island and started service in July 1998. It is located near the town of Tung Chung and is connected to urban areas by the Lantau Link, which is composed of the Kap Shui Mun Bridge, the Ma Wan Viaduct, and the Tsing Ma Bridge. The airport also has a metro connection to the rest of Hong Kong via the MTR's airport line - the Airport Express - together with several bus routes. Using the Airport Express, the journey time between Central, Hong Kong's business district, and Chep Lap Kok airport is 23 minutes. Trains run every 10 minutes.

Tourists can get to Lantau using ferry services provided by New World First Ferry; a ferry service is available between Mui Wo and Central daily, transporation time is about 40-55 minutes. There are also ferry links between Mui Wo and Chi Ma Wan (on Lantau) and the outlying islands of Peng Chau and Cheung Chau. A 24-hour ferry service operated by HKR International Limited connects Pier 3 in Central to Discovery Bay; transportation time is 25 minutes. One can also travel by walla walla, a traditional water taxi.

In addition, one can reach Tung Chung by train on the Tung Chung line of the MTR.

Residents and tourists can travel within Lantau Island either by taxi or bus. The New Lantao Bus provides major bus services within the island, where you can get to Tai O and Po Lin Monastery from Mui Wo pier. In Hong Kong, there are three types of taxis. Red taxis serve the urban areas while green taxis serve the New Territories. Taxis in Lantau Island are blue in colour. There are 50 taxis serving Lantau Island area.

See also:

External Links