Just Breathe (Part 2: Peng Chau island)

Had I known this existed, I would have come sooner. But it’s that un-rushed, nonchalant, exquisite emptiness that makes Peng Chau island so special.

It’s a 20-minute ferry ride from Central’s Pier 6, about the same time it takes to get the lay of the land.

There’s a main square with blocks of pastel-painted housing, with clotheslines strung with laborers’ uniforms, that just hints at the island’s industrial past. (It was once home to the largest match factory in the region.)

Within an eight-block radius, you can find all the comforts you might need before venturing out into the hills and forests: a Wellcome supermarket; a French restaurant with a sparse menu that suggested it was no stranger to slow days (charcuterie and cheese platter on the expensive side, two different kinds of quiches, a few beers, coffee, tea); a hairpin alley of market stalls, hair salons and clothing shops; a bike rental place; a Chinese dessert shop.

A painted wall near the French bistro.

We had quiches in the shadow of an orange picnic umbrella. Not quite sated, we were grateful to discover a little cafe just a three-minute walk away, just by the nearest promenade, which had tasty deli sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and nice cold drinks.

The checkered walls, miniature Coca-Cola dispenser, white-aproned cook and chrome-and-wood furnishings suggested it was going for a slick ’50s diner feel. The homey, motherly kindness of the Cantonese waitress merited the name Cozy Cafe Peng Chau.

We snacked on a simple cheeseburger with neon cheese (there is an organic lamb version), while telling the lady about our sweaty, crowded Cheung Chau experience. She sympathized, saying we would get all good, calm vibes here.

Except for my harrowing attempts at negotiating the bends and downhill inclines of the hiking/cycling trails, the whole experience was exactly as advertised.

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