If you’ve ever been on the Lantau Link on the way to Hong Kong International Airport, when crossing Kap Shui Mun bridge you may have noticed a small village on Ma Wan Island. From a distance, it looks like any other typical fishing village, say, Tai O or Tap Mun: there is a pier, a typhoon shelter, and a cluster of shabby low-rise buildings at the water’s edge. But Ma Wan Village is in fact an empty shell of its former self – it is a ghost town, vacated by its inhabitants and forgotten by almost everyone else. It’s a fascinating place.
Ma Wan Island
Ma Wan is a small island, less than one square kilometer, located between the larger Tsing Yi and Lantau islands on the Ma Wan Channel. As part of the Lantau Link that connects the airport and the city center, Ma Wan and its inhabitants underwent many changes during the 1990’s when the highway and bridges were constructed. A gated luxury apartment complex, Park Island, was developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties and the villagers were relocated (evicted) to the north part of the island where new housing was made available as compensation. There is also a theme park (Ma Wan Park and Noah’s Ark) that was built as part of the agreement between the government and the developer.
Today you can still find a small collection of fish farmers in Tam Shui Wan bay, but the village life of old is gone. Scores of abandoned buildings are all that remain of the old fishing village.
The Abandoned Village
Finding Ma Wan Village can be a little tricky as there are no signposts, and the place isn’t exactly promoted as a tourist attraction. Following a nondescript path behind Ma Wan Park and down a set of stone steps will get you to Ma Wan Main Street, which is where the village is located. Here you will find dilapidated wooden stilt houses rotting by the water, and dozens of deserted village houses. Most of the buildings are two or three floors, and fenced off with “No Trespassing” signs. It is an otherworldly sight that looks like a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie set. The location is popular for wedding and engagement photoshoots, and the pier is a local fishing spot, but other than that the village is completely empty.
Walking the narrow streets and pathways, you get the impression that this was once a thriving and tight-knit community. There were playgrounds, a cultural and arts community center, and a number of restaurants. Apparently Ma Wan, like Tai O, was famous for its shrimp paste and dried seafood. Now there is nothing left except shells of buildings and rubble everywhere, presumably awaiting demolition to make way for yet another luxury apartment complex. There are signs protesting the mass eviction by the Lands Department, as clearly not all the residents wanted to leave the village.
Interestingly, the street lights still turn on in the evenings, and the small Tin Hau temple is still maintained. Some of the old buildings still have lights on inside – so when night falls this is a very creepy place!
It was recently revealed in an internal Sun Hung Kai Properties memo that the construction of the Ma Wan Park was used simply as an excuse to evict the villagers and allow the construction of the Park Island apartments. This came to light as part of the corruption trial of Hong Kong tycoon brothers Thomas and Raymond Kwok, owners of SHKP, who are charged with grafting and bribing public officials. Too little, too late for those who opposed the development…