Header image courtesy of @benoitbphotography (via Instagram)
Any seafood lover worth their salt should pay a visit to Lei Yue Mun at least once—it might not be in easy reach of Central like Lamma Island or a quick hike away from white sand beaches like Sai Kung, but Lei Yue Mun is a thoroughly charming destination in its own right. Though the name (which translates to “carp gate”) technically refers to the narrow channel between the eastern end of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, for most people, “Lei Yue Mun” is synonymous with the fishing village on the Kowloon side of the channel.
Lei Yue Mun is technically comprised of four squatter villages—the main two of which are Sam Ka Tsuen, the typhoon shelter and seafood bazaar that most tourists are familiar with, and Ma Wan Tsuen, a more residential area that is home to the village’s famous Tin Hau temple. Once you’re there, you’ll understand why Hongkongers love Lei Yue Mun so much—with its higgledy-piggledy stilt houses, drying trays of seafood, and relaxed pace of life, it’s like walking into a living, breathing picture of the Hong Kong of yesteryear.
As a typhoon shelter and fishing village, seafood—specifically Cantonese-style seafood—dominates the dining options at Lei Yue Mun. For the full experience, wander through the warren of stalls in Sam Ka Tsuen’s “Seafood Street” and pick your bounty from the live tanks. If you don’t already have a particular craving or dish in mind, the vendors can advise on the best cooking methods. Classics include Cantonese-style steamed fish delicately flavoured with Shaoxing wine, boiled prawns, black bean clams, salt and pepper squid, steamed razor clams piled high with garlic and vermicelli, and lobster with e-fu noodles.
Generally speaking, seafood sellers prefer to work with certain restaurants that they have existing relationships with—so if there is a specific restaurant that you want to try, just let the vendor know. Popular eateries include Gateway Cuisine, Happy Seafood Restaurant, and Hyde Park Garden Restaurant, but there are plenty of good restaurants dotted throughout the seafood bazaar.
Gateway Cuisine, 58A Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2727 4628
Happy Seafood Restaurant, 53 Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2340 1998
Hyde Park Garden Restaurant, 44 Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2717 6381
Located conveniently on the Sam Ka Tsuen ferry pier is a seafood restaurant unlike the others in Lei Yue Mun—with its wood panelling, cheerful paper lanterns, and giant crab marking the door, Sankason Suisan looks like it could have been transported directly from a coastal Japanese town.
This restaurant specialises in hamayaki, a style of tabletop seafood grilling which has its roots in Japanese fishing culture. Instead of browsing the covered outdoor stalls for your catch, you take your pick from chilled tanks inside the restaurant—and besides the classic grilled preparation, you can also have your seafood served as sashimi, sushi, or on top of donburi (丼; rice bowls). Try and snag a table by the restaurant’s huge windows so you can watch the ferries bob in against the backdrop of Sai Wan Ho; alternatively, if the weather is pleasant, you can ask to be seated outside.
Sankason Suisan, East Wing, Sam Ka Tsuen Pier, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2660 8798
If you’re spending the whole day in Lei Yue Mun and want to try something other than seafood for lunch, duck into Fulum for siu mei (燒味; Cantonese roast meats) and small plates. This restaurant touts itself as a “roast goose specialist”, but there’s also Peking duck, roast pigeon, and char siu on the siu mei menu, as well as an extensive dim sum menu filled with popular items like har gow (蝦餃; prawn dumplings), sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves (珍珠雞; zan1 zyu1 gai1), and more.
Fulum Restaurant, Shop 5–6, G/F, Canaryside, 8 Shung Shun Street, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2379 1293
Snack on Hong Kong-style pastries and biscuits at Shui Heung Yuen. Everything at this longstanding stall is made fresh and on-site, from the shatteringly crisp egg rolls to flaky wife cakes and homemade ice gems—or as Hongkongers like to call them, belly button biscuits (肚臍餅; tou5 ci4 beng2).
If you prefer herbaceous flavours, you can try the coriander biscuits from the nearby Walnut Shop and Sing Yuen. The former, which has parlayed its humble Lei Yuen Mun shop into a citywide chain of snack stalls, does a mean Canto-style pork jerky with just the right amount of sweetness and chew, as well as other assorted snacks like chicken cookies (which actually contain pork, not chicken), dried figs, and walnut crisp clusters.
Shui Heung Yuen Bakery, 41C Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2347 4483
Walnut Shop, 46A Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2717 3421
Sing Yuen, 27A Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2348 2215
You can reach Lei Yue Mun a few different ways—MTR, bus, minibus, or even hiking—but the most scenic by far is getting ferried across the channel from Sai Wan Ho on Coral Sea’s nostalgic refurbished kaito (街渡; gaai1 dou6), which will deposit you at Sam Ka Tsuen Pier for the princely sum of $9. Pictured above is ferry 18A, which you will be able to recognise from the straw hats on the prow and the paintings of smiling Hakka women that decorate its hull. Inside, it’s decked out in old Hong Kong-style green tiling and brash monotone calligraphy in the style of the King of Kowloon.
Though it’s been decades since mining took place at Lei Yue Mun, the village’s granite quarry and pebble beach are still popular… with Instagrammers. To reach the pebble beach, just walk through the seafood bazaar, past the playground, and through the mini-village of Ma Wan Tsuen until you hit the pebble beach in Ma Pui Tsuen. The craggy, rugged terrain makes for a great moody photo op à la Caspar David Friedrich, but it’s also popular with couples taking their engagement photos. If you enjoy exploring abandoned (but safe) structures, continue walking until you hit the quarry, where you will find the half-mined pit and a few old stone houses.
In Lei Yue Mun’s heyday, the population was large enough to warrant a dedicated village school—now, with a smaller population and an economy largely driven by tourism, the decades-old building has been refurbished and converted into a multi-use cultural space. The venue, which pays tribute to the Hakka people who worked in the local quarry with a permanent cultural exhibition, also hosts a number of workshops on everything from watercolour painting to pottery and even textile-weaving and -dyeing. If you’re in need of refreshment, there is even a rooftop café (though it’s only open on weekends).
Jockey Club Lei Yue Mun Plus, 45 Praya Road, Lei Yue Mun | (+852) 2205 8100
On the way to the pebble beach and quarry, just past the boundary between Sam Ka Tsuen and Ma Wan Tsuen, you’ll see a red temple nestled into the rocks. This is a temple dedicated to Tin Hau, a sea goddess worshipped by fishermen. Here, you can light a stick or coil of incense as an offering to the goddess, relax in quiet contemplation, or have your palm read by a fortune-teller.
If you’ve visited Lei Yue Mun within the last year or so, you may have noticed more and more murals popping up around town. Throughout the village, vibrant murals have been slowly appearing everywhere from shopfronts to seawalls, thanks to a beautification programme led by the local community. You’ll see abstract patterns, cat paintings, and cool graphic designs everywhere throughout the coastal hamlet, and if you visit at the right time, you can even volunteer to paint your own mural!