Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go visit my friend on an eco-farm on Lantau Island, an outer island of Hong Kong. The trip to Lantau isn’t bad from Shenzhen – you can take Hong Kong’s metro, the MTR, to Mui Wo Port from Futian Checkpoint, and from there it’s about a half hour ferry ride to the island. Lantau is a popular tourist destination because it is home to the aptly named Big Buddha, a 34-meter bronze statue of the Buddha sitting atop a hill completed in 1993. Underneath the Big Buddha is a museum outlining the life of the Buddha, to which entry can be purchased along with a complimentary lunch at a vegetarian Buddhist museum nearby. In the same park as the Big Buddha is the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, which holds (you guessed it) 10,000 Buddhas of various sizes and materials.
The island is also home to Tai Wo Fishing Village, a quaint community comprised mostly of stilted houses and a market with plenty of exotic fish products, including whole cuttlefish and any number of dried sea creatures. At the outskirts of the village is a gravesite, worth visiting if only to see the huge differences between Chinese and Western cemeteries.
Tai Wo fishing village
Tai Wo market
Tai Wo cemetery
Lantau does have a city center (Tung Chung), but most of the island is undeveloped jungle, a welcome break from the bustle of Hong Kong’s urban core. Tucked into the jungle is Ark Eden, the eco-farm I was lucky enough to stay at. The farm hosts school and business groups to take part in workshops and other programming wherein they learn about zero waste living, plant trees on the deforested hilltops, and develop strategies to become more eco-friendly in their own lives. They also host camps and eco-tours and have openings for volunteers and interns. The farm has a small staff who are committed to environmental advocacy and to lessening their own impact on the environment. Surrounded by lush wilderness and the farm’s minimal infrastructure (composting toilets, extensive recycling and composting, farm fresh foods, and a gray water system), and even the stray water buffalo, I was rejuvenated and inspired to live more consciously myself.
The road to Ark Eden
In the center of Shenzhen, it’s easy to forget our connection with nature and feel disconnected from the impact our actions have on the world. Beyond the skyscrapers and subways, however, we are still part of one huge body, and we are taking much more than we give back. On both a personal and political level, it’s important to recognize our the effect our consumption has on our natural resources and work to be better global citizens.
According to Hong Kong’s 2030 Planning Vision and Strategy Report, the government has plans to develop Lantau and turn it into a bustling metropolis, which would destroy the rich wildlife there. Because of that, Ark Eden and other environmental agencies on Lantau are enormously important, because many of them are working to push back against the development plan and because they show Hong Kong residents a part of their world that they may never know existed otherwise, and that may not exist at all if the government successfully develops the island.
I urge you to take a trip to Lantau, see the Buddha and the monastery, even go to the city center – but take some time to get lost in the jungle, too, and remember to be mindful of the footprints you leave—there and at home.