Just 15 minutes boat ride away from Sai Kung pier, Yim Tin Tsai is a nice quick getaway for nature, history, culture and art. “Yim Tin” literally means salt field in English. This small outlying island was the first settlement of a Chan Hakka family originating from Guangdong in 1880s and lived for 10 generations on fishing and salt farming.
Turning into a Catholic Island
In 1864, Fr. S. Volonteri and Fr. G. Origo did missionary work in Yim Tin Tsai. In 1866, all 30 family members of Chan was baptized. A church and a school were built on the island. In 1875, all residence in Yim Tin Tsai were baptized, turning it into a Catholic Island! That’s very unique for Hong Kong where there are certainly more temples than churches.
In 1890, a bigger St Joseph’s Chapel was built which remained one of the best preserved ones in Hong Kong. In 2011, this quaint little church was listed as Grade II monument by the Antiquities Advisory Board and is a significant landmark of Yim Tin Tsai.
Yim Tin Tsai was home to over 200 residents at its peak with farm lands extended beyond this small island. Parts of coastal area in Sai Kung were Yim Tin Tsai for a while. In early 50s/60s, villagers started to move out of the island for a better living in other places of Hong Kong. Many moved overseas. By 1990s, Yim Tin Tsai was pretty much abandoned. A returnee of the Chan’s family decided to revitalize the village, restarting salt farming over the past 10 years. It was hard work to start everything from scratch again.
Today, the chapel some houses were refurbished, a small salt field was set up, there are two tea houses and a private kitchen opened at the weekends.
Becoming an Art Platform
In December 2019, the Yim Tin Art Festival has made this small island filled with interesting outdoor sculptures, painting and installation. The long free form wooden bench near the ferry pier was made of three damaged tree trunks during the super typhoon in 2018. It is a great spot for viewing the sunset over the water. “Saltpans” is the most prominent sculpture of all, signifying the importance of salt field in Yim Tin Tsai.
Some of the sculptures are inspired by the Bible stories. As you arrive at the ferry pier, the roll of colorful wind chimes imitates the sound of the church bell. The “Five. Two. Nine” art work near a farm field was inspired by the five loaves and the two fishes bible story. Next to an ancient well sits a white bird on a bible book with a running water underneath, saying “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” Very thoughtful!
Restaurant/tea houses, salt field workshop and guide tours are available at the weekends only. You may simply buy a packaged ticket at the “Sai Kung Yim Tin Tsai” ticketing & reception booth at Sai Kung ferry pier. The packaged tour is organized by Salt and Light Preservation Centre.
Packaged price HK$60/person
Price include round trip ferry tickets, entrance fee to the Heritage Exhibition Centre and St. Joseph Chapel.
Ferry Schedule to Yim Tin Tsai 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 , 13:00, 14:00, 15:00
Return schedule to Sai Kung 12:20, 14:20, 15:00, 17:00
* Ferry schedule my varied. Please check the latest schedule on the official website.
Alternatively, you may take a ferry run by other boat companies which operate at different schedule. Round trip ticket costs HK$50 but you will have to pay $20 to visit the Heritage Exhibition Centre and St. Joseph Chapel. So the total costs is higher but may give you a bit of flexibility. Please check the individual ticketing booths at Sai Kung pier.