Living on Lantau Island

My wife and I are contemplating moving to HK in April/May of 2004. We have 3 toddler children. We have never been to HK. I will work in Central.

We are thinking we might like to live on a less developed area of Lantau, say near Mui Wo. What realistically would the commute be? Are there good preschools/kindergartens?

commute from Mui Wo

Well, it's easy to answer the commute question -- if you'd be working in Central, i.e. the main business district. If that's the case, then you can figure just over an hour, or maybe a bit more, depending on how far your flat/office are from the respective ferry piers, because that's how you get from Mui Wo to Central! This commute would be quite 'easy' in the sense that riding the boat is pleasant, but there's really no way to shorten it.

If you lived in that other community on Lantau Island, i.e. Discovery Bay, the commute would be much shorter, since the boats between there and Central are jetfoils rather than oridinary ferries -- it'd be more like half an hour to 40 minutes, again depending on your distances to ferry piers. I am not a fan of Discovery Bay, but some people seem to like it a lot. It's a highly planned community with no cars/buses, and it's got lots of families with small children.

If your office would be somewhere other than Central, you'd be looking at a very long commute.

Mr Tall

Re:Living on Lantau Island

Mr. Tall,

What exactly don't you like about Discovery Bay? I've never been there, but I have included it in my list of locations I'd consider buying an appartment.

The main reason of why I think Discovery Bay could be an interesting place to buy an appartment is the new Disney themepark that is being built on the northern part of the island.

I know from experience with EuroDisney in Paris that after the park starts it's operation, the property prices around the park rise explosively. I don't see why that wouldn't be the case in HK.

However, looking at EuroDisney, I don't care how much property would increase in value, I'd never want to live in the Paris area.

Disco Bay

The reason I don't like Discovery Bay is that it's a bit 'unnatural'. Even the beach is man-made. It's essentially a large tiled plaza and apartments on the roads behind. If you like a bit of local flavour you'll not find it there.

Having said that it's a great place if you enjoy hiking - there are several good trails leading off from there, and the water seems cleanish for watersports.

Ferry Ride from Mui Wo to Central?

Dear Mr. Tall,

Thanks very much for the information.

Perhaps the fast hydrofoil ferries are also available from Mui Wo to Central? I looked at this website and couldn't quite tell:

It does mention fast ferries towards the bottom of the page, so maybe. Fast ferries would make the commute to Central tolerable. But the slow ride would make for just an intolerably long commute.


John Boyd

fast ferry - slow ferry & Sai Kung, CWB

But the old slow ferries were more comfortable and relaxing and caused less sea sickness.

The thing I would not like about living on an outlying island is being so tied to the ferry schedule.

I love living in the Sai Kung Clear Water Bay area. Rents a fairly reasonable, the air is clean, you can get buses and taxis pretty easily after the MTR closes down.

Of course, it's an easier commute if you don't work on HK Island.

island life

Thanks, Lohpoh, for recommending my favorite part of town, too. I'd love to live in Sai Kung, but Mrs Tall works in Central, and it really is just a bit too far -- also, you're at the mercy of traffic conditions on Hiram's Highway.

Back to John's Lantau queries: yes, it's true there are now 'fast' ferries available, and I guess I really shouldn't put the scare quotes on that word, since they do only take about half the time the 'slow' ferries do, i.e. from the time you leave the dock in Mui Wo to the time you land in Central is only about half an hour. When I mention an hour's commute, I was assuming the fast ferries -- it's the ancillary bits of the commute that really add up, i.e. getting down to the ferry pier in Mui Wo from wherever you live, waiting a bit for the ferry, then getting yourself to your office in Central (the ferry piers there are a pretty good hike from even the nearest office building, i.e. IFC II). All in all, unless you live right next to the ferry pier in Mui Wo (which isn't the nicest part of the island, by far) I think you'll still end up looking at about an hour's commute. It's shorter from Discovery Bay because of the way the housing there is clustered around the ferry pier (although you can still end up with a substantial walk) and since the ferry service there uses true jetfoils, which are still significantly faster than the 'fast' ferries to the other outlying island destinations.

To answer the query from Gary, about why I'm not a Disco Bay fan: mostly, I concur with NeilH: it's too artificial. It's got that Singaporean planned-community ambience that's just not for me. As I said before, though, many many people -- especially expats -- find it an excellent place to live. I would recommend that John, for example, at least go out there and take a look before he signs a lease elsewhere.

One other note to John: actually, at the income level you're talking about, I'd think pretty seriously about some of the places on the south side of Hong Kong island, e.g. Stanley and Tai Tam. Lots of very nice places to live, in both apartment blocks and townhouses, with good sea views, relatively clean air, lots of other expats (unless you want to get away from them!), etc.

Mr Tall

Commute time?

Mr. Tall,

Thanks for the responses and the great information. I very much appreciate it!

Let me ask you this specifically: How much time do you think my typical commute would be from Pui O village on Lantau Island to the Prince's Building in Central? If it is over an hour, that's probably intolerable. On the other hand, if it is at or just under an hour, I can handle that.

Other question: How practical do you think it would be to bicycle from Pui O to Mui Wo, as part of my commute? If the road is at least half-way safe, and not too outrageoulsy hilly, that might make for an efficient way to get exercise and to commute. Of course, this is with the hope that the Prince's Building has a gym/shower I could use to clean up and dress in the morning.

Kind regards,

John Boyd

Re:Living on Lantau Island

Pui O is between 2.5 and 3 klicks in a straight line from Mui Wo. There are no straight lines on Lantau - everything is vertical and twisty.

You're looking at a fairly strenuous bike ride there, followed by waiting for a ferry and the ferry ride, followed by the 5 to 10 minutes from the Ferry piers to Prince's Building.

You're looking at *at least* 40 minutes from ferry leaving Mui Wo to arriving at Prince's Building, not including doing a Lance Armstrong on your bike with an irate bus driver on your back wheel.

(Edit: I don't think there's a gym in Prince's Building, although there's probably one pretty close.)

I would say that expecting to do the commute in an hour is very optimistic and would only happen if you got your timing exactly right every morning. (and you are a demon cyclist.)

If you're working in Prince's Building, and you're on 200k per month, get yourself a place on the Peak or Mid-levels and have a 15 minute commute on foot, or go for somewhere like Braemar Hill (in Eastern District), where the commute will be 20 mins by bus or MTR (subway), and the rent will be far cheaper.

(A job I had a while back required commuting from North Point to near Prince's Building. I used the Bus (No. 18) and it took about 10-15 minutes in the mornings. We are talking rolling out of bed at 0830, shower, get dressed, get the bus, get coffee from Starbucks and be in the office by 0900.)

One advantage of a place like Mid-levels or Braemar Hill is that there'll be a lot of schools within walking distance, and Hiking trails too, while you'll still have the public transport easily available.

One absolutely enormous advantage of living on HK island is that if you work late (or go out for a few beers with your workmates), getting home late at night is a very cheap taxi ride and usually very quick. The ferries can get very sparse late at night, and you don't want to be stuck with a two hour wait for the next ferry when it's already 1 am.

Commute from Lantau

Dear Mr. Odaiwai:

Thanks very much for the thorough response.

Clarification: I am making US$ 120K per year right now in Washington, DC, USA. I don't know what my salary will be in HK yet.

Well, the commutes you mention on HK Island sound very attractive to me. However, the expense there is not attractive, and my wife really hates city/apartment living.

But the commute from Pui O sounds awful.

Do you have any suggestions at less than HK$35,000 per month, 3 bedrooms, some greenery, peace & quiet, and less than a 60 minute commute?

What if I drove from Pui O to Mui Wo, then could the commute be possibly under an hour, realistically speaking? What about taking bus from Pui O to Mui Wo?


John Boyd

Re:Living on Lantau Island


Braemar Hill sounds about right: It's high up and out of the bustle, it's suprisingly green and there are trails and walking areas nearby.

I think the flats are quite big (in HK terms) as well.

See for more info.

(It's referred to as North Point Mid-levels, although I've seen buildings on King's Road (sea level) included in that.


Shek O? Lamma?

Dear mr. Boyd,

If your wife REALLY can't stand living in an apartment, then you might want to skip the trip to interview in HK. There are very few reasonably priced detached houses within an hour commute of Hong Kong.

This is because the usual development in villages is to have a very built up area (the village), surrounded by land.

I used to live in a village in Sai Kung, up near Po Lo Che. I had a gorgeous huge sea view, lots of greenery around me. Some of my neighbors even kept chickens (not too close, no smell) but I was on the middle floor of a "Spanish Villa" style villahe house. It was an "apartment" ["But not as we know it, Jim"].

"Apartment" living in some of the fancy places Odawai mentions in Mid-Levels or Braemar Hill can be pretty and there's some green around (and usually nice views of the Harbour) and many offer "club house" facilities that often include children's indoor play room, an exercise room, a swimming pool, etc. This can be a good way to meet other people, and results in your feeling less "apartement bound".

Maybe you might want to try Shek O ? This site says that it's a 40 minute commute to Central :

Go Home has this info. about Shek O

Some of my in-laws live near Shek O and it's nice to visit, even though getting in and out on the weekends may be a bit of a hassle. But, if you're living there, why go anywhere else on the weekends. ;)

Lamma? I had a friend who would take the Ferry from Pak Kok Tsuen and it used to stop in Kennedy Town, and then she'd take the tram.

Maybe living near Yung Shue Wan? There you might be able to find a whole house for not too much $. But the style of life might be difficult at first to adjust to. And, as Mr. Tall pointed out, if schooling is an issue, Lamma might be a problem.

Sai Kung?

But Mr. Lohpoh, a commute from Sai Kung to Central must be pretty long also, right? I have read about Sai Kung, and it sounds very nice, but I figured it was a pretty long commute as well. Can one take public transport from there? How many minutes commute would it be from Sai Kung to Central? I guess Sai Kung would be a shorter commute to Central than would Pui O on Lantau to Central?

Shek O sounds very expensive.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Sai Kung commute

Hi Mr. Boyd,

It depends on where in Sai Kung you live.

If you live in "deepest Sai Kung", then yes, the commute can be well over an hour. But, if you live closer to town - say around Fei Ngo Shan or Tseng Lan Shue - you have a 10 min. bus ride to the Choi Hung MTR and about 35-45 minutes on the train to Central.

Or, if you live in the Silver Strand area of Clear Water Bay, you're about a 10 minute bus ride to the MTR in Tseung Kwan O and then about 40 miuntes on the MTR to Central.

Here are some of the listings for CWB

I live in Sai Kung near Pik Uk and can get to Central in less than an hour.

Actually, it's Ms Lohpoh (Cantonese for "old lady" which is also what my husband calls me sometimes - I call him lohgung "Old man")

Exact specs

Try here: