Hong Kong Photo Gallery
Yim Tin Tsai

Sai Kung is not only famous for beaches, rock formations, and boat parties. The Hakka settlement of Yim Tin Tsai produced salt, which was a valuable commodity in the old days when food could only be preserved with it. Being a remote location, tax collectors could not make it out here and the residents made good money out here. Catholic missionaries arrived in the late 19th century and successfully converted the island.

At its height, the Chan clan had some 1200 residents on the island. However, cheaper salt from mainland China and Vietnam had cut into the trade and the island fell into decline. The last resident left in 1998 and the village was officially abandoned.

Conservationists have targeted this area for ecotourism in the past decade. Descendants of the former villagers returned at the turn of the century to try to revive the island. The old salt pans have been brought back and are the only ones operating in the city.

Yim Tin Tsai is now a scenic 20 minute ferry ride from Sai Kung.

From the pier, you only have one direction to go - uphill. The Chan clan settled on this island and still own many of the properties here today. Many have returned to be guides for weekend day-trippers.

All the island's residents were converted to Christianity by 1875. St. Joseph's Chapel was built in 1890 in the neo-Romanesque style. Subsequently renovated in 1948 and 1962, it fell into disrepair as the villagers left. The Catholic church went on a fundraising to restore the building after seeing the damage war gamers did over the years. With over $1 million in donations, the chapel was renovated in 2004 and won a UNESCO prize for cultural heritage conservation.

Next door, the Ching Po School opened in 1920 for the island's children. It is now an exhibition centre.

Not all houses appear to be abandoned and there appears to be a sprinkle of residents around. Beyond the town, the trails head uphill to a few lookout points that offer good views of the sea and surrounding islands.

Next to the village are mangroves and the revitalized salt pans, which earned a UNESCO cultural heritage conservation award for industrial heritage in 2015. The traditional way of making salt requires 2 weeks of evaporation from these ponds, resulting in salt crystals.

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