• Josh Garman

Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Caves

After leaving the wonderful times and strange encounters from my time in Xi an I was heading for Hong Kong. The train took a look time to reach my new destination even with China's ultrafast trains. I arrived at the main station before taking the underground to my new accommodation. Straight away it felt Westernised, as if stepping out of the old and rich culture I'd been living in, and entering something more modern but by no means less dazzling.

Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Caves
Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Caves

The first thing I noticed coming onto the tube was a lot more Westerners. For the first time in China I could hear American families chatting too each other, a group beside me on their way to Shanghai Disneyland. Greater than the shock I received getting off a plane into China for the first time, it felt strange to me to hear their voices when I was so used to Mandarin or a confused face.

The magic disappeared for me slightly. That feeling you get immersed in a rich culture unknown to you but I carried on towards the heart of the city. I arrived at my new hostel and settled down greeted by a mixture of travellers around me from different countries. I climbed to my bed, 3 beds above the guy on the floor via a little step ladder. Closing the railed curtain across the opening I hid behind getting my devices on charge and began thinking what I wanted to do now I had arrived in Hong Kong.

For the next couple of days I explored without heading too far. I had some of the Western comforts I had missed since leaving home like a haircut, a few burgers and free use of social media. Hong Kong had a uniqueness to it, a wonderful blend of Chinese and English culture. However I felt less inspired here, not that the city lacked anything but my Western habits returning my passion for adventure dwindled. No longer did I get lost, have no English words to navigate with or stomach strange foods without explanation.

I began to crave the obscure or at least a sense that I was a stranger heading into a foreign land. After a couple days wandering round the city and resting up I decided it was time for my first Hong Kong adventure. Knowing that there was a lot of islands surrounding it I headed for the first one that sounded interesting. After finding this article on Atlas Obscura I was sold and set off one morning in hopes of reaching Cheng Chau Island:

Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Cave – Hong Kong - Atlas Obscura

I headed along the underground route, by now familiar to me and reached the ferry terminal. I filmed as I went spending more time filming than usual knowing how easy it was to find my way. I bought a ticket and the ferry began to bob along the waters. As we came into the island we were surrounded by tiny fishing boats, hundreds of them all in different colours. Now this was more like it.

Arriving on the waterfront the fishing town streets were buzzing with activity. People flooded past me all interacting with the various shops along the way. It felt like entering a bazaar for the first time, the shops all slightly quirky in what they decided to sell. One shop caught my eye with a mixture of sea creatures, some alive and some dead displayed. A shop like this although undoubtedly cruel found an esoteric interest within me. The same way that there's something fascinating about taxidermy shops and the Natural History museum. After spending far too long looking at strange shells I carried on down the waterfront towards the caves.

A camera crew was filming someone famous as they followed him through the crowds of people. Not taking much interest in famous people, of course I had no idea who he was. After coming under an inscribed Chinese arch the path worked its way back to the edge of the water. I followed the route through rock passageways, hand carved steps and jumped over large rocks along the path. Eventually there was a final climb along a metal chain to the top of a flat rock, two giant stones on top of it. After a bit of a look around I had found the entrance to the cave.

A sign marked the cave entrance so I put on my go pro and climbed down the rocks into the darkness below. Here's what I know about the cave:

CHENG PO TSAI WAS JUST the son of a local fisherman when he was kidnapped by the notorious pirate couple Cheng I and Ching Shih, and adopted into a life of crime. According to legend, when Cheng I died, Cheng Po took up with his adoptive mother and married her, carrying on the family business of pillage and plunder.

At his height of infamy he is said to have commanded a fearsome pirate fleet of 600 ships and a veritable pirate army of 20,000 men.

Cheng Po is said to have squirreled his pirate treasure on Cheng Chau island 6 miles off the coast of Hong Kong. Visitors can follow in his footsteps and climb down into a small cave near the coast and look for themselves, but no treasure has ever been found. The cave is on the southwestern peninsula of the island, and is well marked. - Atlas Obscura

As I descended into the cave I kept in mind the treasure although knew I'd never find it. Can you imagine how many views my video would get? I used my phone torch to navigate the claustrophobic passageway, taking a look at the various engravings along it's walls. As I moved through it gradually got thinner and thinner before I ended up crawling and holding my breath to squeeze through the last section.

I climbed up a small ladder that had been attached at the exit into the sun above. My eyes took far too long to adjust but afterwards I ran back round and went through again. After having my fun, not finding any treasure I headed up to the highest point around and began flying my drone round to get a sense of the island.

I waved at passing fishing boats and chatted away to locals interested in my story. After meeting some great new people, some of which had photos with me and my drone hovering in the middle I started a large loop of the island along the path. I could follow the sea, keeping it to my left and did my best to use the rocks to navigate away from the footpath. I was surrounded by tropical trees and wildlife, in my element soaking it all in. I passed a temple and a graveyard looking out to the sea.

After a long walk in the sun I returned on the other side of the fishing village, ate some food and got the ferry back to Hong Kong. In the end of my Youtube video I talk about needing to get back for some plans in the evening. At the time of writing almost a year on, I can't quite remember what I ended up doing that night. It must of been exciting as it's rare to have plans in a foreign country. So while I ponder on what that might have been I come to the end of another blog, one more day in Hong Kong over.

In my next blog I will be heading to another island in search of the unusual side of Hong Kong. A haunted fishing village and Noah's ark await me!

5 views0 comments