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Lantau living: What it’s like to live in Discovery Bay, Tung Chung and South Lantau

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Residents of Discovery Bay, Tung Chung and South Lantau give an insight into everyday life in their corner of our unique island.

From stilt houses to skyscrapers, it’s fair to say that housing options on Lantau are somewhat broad. But what is it actually like to live on Hong Kong’s largest island? We take a look at life in Lantau’s three main residential areas: Discovery Bay, Tung Chung and South Lantau.

Discovery Bay

Popular with expats and locals alike, DB started out life in the late 1970s. Privately owned by Hong Kong Resort International, the town offers a resort-style way of life, just a 25-minute ferry ride from Central.

For mother-of-three Atika Sandham, DB was the obvious choice when choosing where to live in Hong Kong. “We moved here from the UK in 2014,” she opens. “It was very easy to settle in. DB is extremely child friendly, and the green, open spaces helped to make it less of a culture shock.

“Life in DB is low stress. There are no traffic jams [DB is a car-free town] and it’s easy to get around, which is vital when kids have so many activities to be shuttled to and from!”

According to Atika, one of DB’s biggest strengths is its sense of community. “People in DB are always happy to help out – there’s a real neighbourly spirit. There’s always something going on too, whether it’s trick or treating at Halloween or community events on the beach.

“If I had to name a downside, it would be that a small number of people don’t clean up after their dogs properly, but in general, DB is clean, safe, and a fun place to live for both kids and adults.”

For fellow resident Tim Marrable, the contrast that DB offers to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island is a big plus. “DB is less hurried, less crowded,” he says. “It’s a slower pace of life. The air is cleaner, and it’s much quieter, however there are still plenty of amenities, shops and entertainment options.”

DB also works well for Tim in terms of its location. “The ferry is very efficient,” he explains, “and there’s easy access to the airport. I travel frequently, so convenience is important for me.”

Of course, resort-style living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – DB is often criticised by outsiders as being a little like The Truman Show – however its residents don’t seem to mind. And with amenities including large international schools, a multitude of restaurants and easy access to hiking trails, it’s easy to see why DB appeals to so many.

Tung Chung

Located on the north coast of Lantau, Tung Chung is the island’s most populous town. Currently home to approximately 80,000 residents, the population is set to nearly triple over the coming years due to the proposed Tung Chung New Town Extension.

Well connected both locally and internationally – Tung Chung has its own MTR station and is minutes away from Hong Kong International Airport – there are a range of housing options, from high rises to village houses.

“Day-to-day life in Tung Chung is pretty easy going,” says four-year resident Nuwan Kamaragoda. “It’s always buzzing in the outlet mall, but as soon as you get past that you wouldn’t believe you’re in such a densely populated area.

“The leisure facilities, from sports pitches and swimming pools to running tracks and gyms, are adequate, and we have a few bars, restaurants and takeaway options in the area. There are also several hotels nearby for visiting friends and family.”

Nuwan says that property prices are a bonus too. “Rental rates in Tung Chung are more reasonable compared to DB,” he says, “although the apartments are small and some of the older ones are a bit tired.”

While Nuwan admits that Tung Chung isn’t necessarily the most “happening” of places, he points out that Hong Kong Island is just a short MTR ride away and that, as with DB, there’s always a mountain on your doorstep to climb.

According to local Hongkonger Elsie Hung, Tung Chung is a good option for families as well. Elsie, who moved from DB to Tung Chung with her young family in 2016, likes the fact that her children can go to school on foot and says the convenience of having wet markets and public facilities close by is a bonus.

“The public library is popular with families,” says Elsie, “as is the community hall. The high-rise buildings also have well-maintained clubhouses, which help to nurture a sense of community. Tung Chung offers a quality lifestyle at a lower cost.”

South Lantau

In contrast to Tung Chung, life on the south side of the island is somewhat more horizontal, with villages made up of low-rise buildings scattered along the coast.

Shui Hau resident Dee Eadon moved to South Lantau with her family in 2012, after a stint in Pokfulam. “Village life is quieter and friendlier than on the island,” she begins. “There is a strong support network within the expat community and people are very outgoing. The local Hong Kong people are very friendly too and have personally welcomed us into their schools and neighbourhood,” she adds.

When it comes to education, options in South Lantau are admittedly more limited than in DB or Tung Chung, however Dee says this isn’t a problem. “It was a conscious decision to send our kids to local school,” she explains. “We really wanted them to speak Cantonese and to feel like Hong Kong was home.”

Another advocate of the quiet lifestyle that South Lantau affords is Mui Wo resident Lucie Element. Having lived in DB for six years, Lucie and her family made the move along the coast two years ago. “We used to hike from DB to Mui Wo at weekends,” says Lucie, “and were drawn to the quiet way of life, with cows and buffaloes roaming free. Initially, I found it harder to settle than I did in DB, as my children are older and go to school on Hong Kong Island. I knew I had to get myself out in the community to meet people, so I joined a fitness class and dragon boat team, and soon built a network.

“As a family, we lead an outdoor lifestyle; we enjoy hiking, going to the beach and having people over for barbecues, so Mui Wo suits us perfectly.”

Of course, village life does have a few drawbacks, but Lucie says you soon get used to the little quirks. “Shopping can take a couple of trips if you live in a village without car access,” she explains. “The bank runs out of money after the weekend, the internet doesn’t work at times and the cows eat all my plants. But we’re only 30 minutes away from Central by ferry, there are lots of great restaurants nearby, and best of all the kids can be kids, building tree houses, playing by the sea and enjoying the great outdoors.”

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