Lantau Island

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Lantau Island
Lantauisland.png
Lantau Island is highlighted in red.
Geography
Location South-west Hong Kong
Area 147.16 km2 (56.82 sq mi)
Highest elevation 934 m (3,064 ft)
Highest point Lantau Peak
Country
Hong Kong
Islands District and Tsuen Wan District
Demographics
Population 105000 (as of 2011)
Lantau Island
Simplified Chinese 大屿山
Traditional Chinese 大嶼山
Literal meaning "big island mountain"

Lantau Island (also Lantao Island; Chinese: 大嶼山), based on the old local name of Lantau Peak (simplified Chinese: 烂头; traditional Chinese: 爛頭; pinyin: Làntóu; lit. Rotten Head), is the largest island in Hong Kong, located at the mouth of the Pearl River. Administratively, most of Lantau Island is part of the Islands District of Hong Kong. A small northeastern portion of the island is located in the Tsuen Wan District.

Originally the site of fishing villages, the island has been developed in recent years with the construction of Tung Chung New Town on its north-western coast and the completion of several major infrastructure projects, including Lantau Link (1997), Hong Kong International Airport (1998), Hong Kong Disneyland (2005) and Ngong Ping 360 (2006).

Geography[edit]

Overall view of Lantau Island, seen from the south-west.
Tung Chung New Town and Tung Chung Bay seen from the Ngong Ping 360 cableway.

With a land mass of 147.16 square kilometres (56.82 sq mi), it is the largest island in Hong Kong,[1] almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island.

Map of Lantau Island in Chinese

Lantau Island primarily consists of mountainous terrain. Lantau Peak (934 metres (3,064 ft)) is the highest point of the island.[1] It is the second highest in Hong Kong, after Tai Mo Shan, and is almost twice the height of Victoria Peak. Other mountains include Sunset Peak (869 m), Lin Fa Shan (766 m), Nei Lak Shan (751 m) and Yi Tung Shan (747 m).

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. The largest country park of Hong Kong, Lantau South Country Park is located on the island, which hosts two other parks, namely Lantau North Country Park and its extension. These parks cover slightly more than half of the area of Lantau Island.

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 m3.[1]

Fan Lau Kok at the end of Fan Lau Peninsula is the southwest end of the territory of Hong Kong. The small island of Peaked Hill, off Tsin Yue Wan (煎魚灣), marks the westernmost point on the land of Hong Kong territories.

Population[edit]

Lantau Island has a relatively low population density, with a population of 45,000, compared to 1.4 million on Hong Kong Island.[citation needed] Settlements are scattered throughout the island and each has its own distinctive characteristics. The completion of the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok in 1998 has led to economic development in north-western Lantau; the once quiet village of Tung Chung became a new town and is now home to over 25,000 people located in 30 to 50 storey high-rise housing estates and condominiums located near the airport. Over the next few years, the population of the North Lantau New Town is expected to increase to a target population of over 200,000 across 7.6 km² of reclaimed land stretching from Tung Chung to Tai Ho.

Discovery Bay is a privately owned residential development located on the south-eastern coast of Lantau. It has a current population of around 14,300 residents from over 30 different countries, giving it a reputation as an expatriate enclave.

Other settlements include Mui Wo, Tai O, Tong Fuk, Sha Lo Wan villages, Pui O villages, Luk Keng Village, Nim Shue Wan Village, San Shek Wan and The Sea Ranch.

History[edit]

The stone circle located at Fan Lau.
Entrance of Tung Chung Fort.

Early human artifacts have been discovered on the island. These include rock carvings at Shek Pik, which are thought to date back to the Bronze Age, and a stone circle at Fan Lau which is probably from the Neolithic Age. Both sites are located on the southwestern coast of the island. The island was also known as Tai Hai Shan (大奚山) before it became known as Lantau Island. It was often shown in navigation maps because of its proximity to a major sea route in South China.[2][3]

In 1276, the Southern Song Dynasty court fled to Guangdong by boat to escape Mongol invaders, leaving Emperor Gong of Song behind. The resistance centred on two young princes, Emperor Gong's brothers. The older boy Zhao Shi, was declared emperor at the age of nine, ascending the throne as Emperor Duanzong of Song. In 1277, the imperial court sought refuge first in Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo) on Lantau Island (then known as Gangzhou (碙州), and later in today's Kowloon City. The older brother became ill, died, and was succeeded by the younger brother Zhao Bing (Emperor Bing of Song) at the age of 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.

Lantau Island and 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 in around 1517, following their defeat by Chinese troops. The island later became an important trading post for the British, long before they became interested in Hong Kong Island.

Salt was illegally produced in Lantau island. This was discovered by the Chinese rulers during the 16th century, and the local warlord put many islanders to death as a result.

Like Cheung Chau, Lantau was once a base for pirates and smugglers, and was one of the haunts of Cheung Po Tsai in the 19th century. Silver was also mined at Mui Wo until the 19th century.

Lantau was a major site of resistance against the Japanese during the second world war. The resistance movement made use of the island's wooded areas and deep valleys in order to organise ambushes and move supplies. The resistance movement persevered through the war until the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945.

In 2000, Lantau Island acted as an important base for the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe project and the Asia-Pacific Cable Network which acts as an Internet bridge to the rest of the world.


Tourist attractions[edit]

Tian Tan Buddha with Lantau Peak in the background.
Stilt houses (pang uk) in Tai O.
The Yeung Hau Temple in Tai O was built in 1699.

The Ngong Ping Plateau features the Po Lin Monastery and its vegetarian restaurant, as well as the 85-foot (26 m)-high bronze Tian Tan Buddha (or "Giant Buddha") statue, once the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue. Walkers can ascend from Tung Chung to the monastery in two hours. Visitors can also take a 25 minute ride on a Ngong Ping 360 from Tung Chung to the Ngong Ping Plateau. Ngong Ping 360 is a tourism experience which combines a 5.7 km cable car journey with a cultural themed village and easy access to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.

Tai O is a fishing town located in the northwest of Lantau Island which is more than three centuries old. Tourists visit Tai O for its several hundred stilt houses (pang uk), though many of those houses were damaged in a fire in July 2000. 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 locally produced 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 of Hong Kong and was refurbished in 1988. The ruins of the Tung Chung Battery, also a historical monument, are located nearby.

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 lies on the northeastern part of the island, approximately two kilometres from Discovery Bay. It opened on 12 September 2005 on a massive land reclamation project in Penny's Bay. The US$1.8 billion project includes a Disney theme park, two hotels, and retail, dining and entertainment facilities stretching over 1.26 km² (310 acres). The project also has its own rail network linking from Sunny Bay MTR station in Yam O.

Over 50% of Lantau consists of national parks, including a large number of well-marked trails. The best known of these is the 70 kilometre, 12 section Lantau Trail composed of beauty of natural stone steps and the dense woodland along a 3-kilometer stretch.Section 11 of the Lantau Trail starts just across the Tung Chung Road, which is not far from Ngong Ping 360. This section of the trail will reach South Lantau Road at Pui O and hikers can appreciate the beauty of natural stone steps and the dense woodland along the 3 km journey.[4] The national parks feature campsites and youth hostels. Lantau's longest beach is Cheung Sha and one of its most famous hikes is to Sunset Peak, the third highest elevation in Hong Kong.

Flora and fauna[edit]

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

Prisons[edit]

There are six prisons on Lantau Island: Chi Ma Wan Correctional Institution, Chi Sun Correctional Institution (formerly the Chi Ma Wan Drug Addiction Treatment Centre), Ma Mo Ping Prison, Tong Fuk centre west of Tong Fuk, Sha Tsui Detention Centre and the maximum security Shek Pik Prison, both located near Shek Pik Reservoir. Plans were put forward by the government to build an enormous "Super Prison" on the sparsely populated nearby island of Hei Ling Chau, to be connected by a bridge to Mui Wo. However, this plan was indefinitely shelved after organised resistance by local residents.

Transport[edit]

MTR route map in the Lantau Island area.
Ferry in Discovery Bay.
Blue Lantau taxi in Tung Chung.

Airport[edit]

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG/HKIA) is located on Chek Lap Kok island and started service in July 1998. It is located off the north coast of Lantau, near the new 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.

Rail[edit]

The airport also has a metro rail connection to the rest of Hong Kong via the MTR's Airport Express, along 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. In addition, one can reach Tung Chung by train on the Tung Chung Line of the MTR, and there is a branch line to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Water transport[edit]

Tourists can get to Lantau using ferry services provided by New World First Ferry. This ferry service is available between Mui Wo and Central with a transportation time of about 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the vessel. A 24-hour ferry service operated by HKR International Limited connects Pier 3 in Central to Discovery Bay with a transportation time of 25 minutes.

There are also several smaller inter-island ferry services linking neighbouring islands and the mainland. These ferries, known locally as kai-tos (pronounced Guy-doe) provide scheduled services. These include Nim Shue Wan; adjacent to Discovery Bay, and Peng Chau Island with a stopover at the Trappist Haven Monastery on Lantau, Nim Shue Wan and Mui Wo on Lantau. Other Kai-To and ferry services link Peng Chau, Mui Wo Lantau, Chi Ma Wan Lantau, and Cheung Chau Island, and another links Tuen Mun, Tung Chung, Sha Lo Wan, and Tai O.

Travel between islands is also possible by walla walla, a traditional water taxi, typically from nearby Cheung Chau Island.

Road transport[edit]

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, green taxis serve the New Territories while taxis on Lantau Island are blue in colour. All three taxi services can ply for passengers at the Airport and Tung Chung, but only the blue taxis can take passengers to other locations on Lantau Island. There are 50 blue taxis serving the Lantau Island area.

Cable car[edit]

The Ngong Ping 360, a gondola lift, is located on Lantau and is operated by the MTR. Opened in mid-September 2006, this provides a 5.7 km 20 minute gondola cableway journey between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lands Department (February 2011), Hong Kong Geographic Data (PDF), retrieved 2011-04-29 
  2. ^ 明崇禎曹學佺《大明一統名勝志》卷一廣州府新安縣條,參見:蕭國健(1995)「宋代的香港」《香港古代史》,香港:中華書局,第58頁
  3. ^ 宋王象之《輿地紀勝》-{卷}-八十九,參見:蕭國健(1995)「宋代的香港」《香港古代史》,香港:中華書局,第58-70頁
  4. ^ Lantau Island Lantau Island

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°16′14″N 113°57′10″E / 22.27056°N 113.95278°E / 22.27056; 113.95278