Looking for a different type of junk boat adventure in Hong Kong this year? Why not check out the Soko Islands? These remote islands are located just inside Hong Kong's southeastern waters. Although once home to a Hakka farming village as well as a community of Vietnamese refugees in the 1990s, the Soko Islands are now deserted. What better way to escape the crowds of Hong Kong than to go to a desert island?
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Junk Boat Season in Hong Kong
As anyone who's been in Hong Kong for a while knows, summer is junk boat party time. The season when Hongkongers and expats alike flock to the seas for swimming and partying. Because junk parties are so popular, people start forming groups, scheduling their weekends, and booking junks months in advance.
Junk Boat Meaning: For those of you confused right now and wondering why I'm talking about garbage... a 'junk' is a traditional Chinese sailing ship with fully battened sails. The junks with the red sails, like the one above, are an iconic symbol in Hong Kong.
However, now the term 'junk' is used to refer to almost any medium-sized sailing vessel including modern yachts.
Not Your Traditional Junk
Last weekend, I finally went on my first junk adventure to Soko Islands. Instead of a traditional junk, we sailed on a motorized junk or yacht with a local couple - Sarah Yip and Rex Law - from Cheung Chau.
About Sarah and Rex
Their story spoke to me - being a travel-lover myself! A few years ago, Sarah and Rex quit their jobs to travel the world for a year - made it to 38 countries! Now, they're back, bought and restored a boat, and are taking groups to the Soko Islands. They welcomed us aboard their boat (and home!) and hosted us like friends.
*This is not a paid promo piece.* I had an awesome trip, plus Rex and Sarah are great! So I want to recommend them to others looking for a unique Hong Kong adventure!
Soko Islands Junk Trip Overview
For our junk boat trip, we were picked up in Cheung Chau then headed out to the Soko Islands.
Check out this video on YouTube for snippets of our Soko Islands junk trip. But please excuse my novice filming/editing skills! There's a reason I'm not a vlogger!
Starting Point - Cheung Chau
Our Soko Islands junk boat adventure started early in the morning. The junk trip started at Cheung Chau at 10:00 am, so the the first step was to get to Cheung Chau.
Our group caught the 9:00 am fast ferry from Central Ferry Pier no. 5 to Cheung Chau which takes ~40 minutes. The ordinary ferry takes about an hour.
Pro Tip: Check the ferry schedule in advance. Going on a Sunday or public holiday? Be sure to click on the second tab of the scheduling chart! The ferry times differ slightly from the Monday-Saturday schedule.
We arrived in Cheung Chau around 9:40 am. This left us enough time to grab a couple jugs of water from the store before meeting our boat at the public pier.
Journey to Soko Islands
After our group of 22 people (the maximum capacity) boarded the yacht, Sarah and Rex introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of the day's itinerary and house rules. Literally - the boat is their house!
We set off around 10:15 am and the journey to Soko Islands took about an hour and a half.
Moving across the sea, it gets choppy so you have to be careful as you move around the sides of the boat. Don't want to get pitched off the side!
More about the Boat
If you're like me, you're always curious exactly what you're getting yourself into when you head out on a boat for the day. In this case, there was no need to be anxious. Floatudio's yacht is beautiful!
Some of its key features include:
Exploring Soko Islands
The only island you can really explore is the largest one. It has a dock so the junk can pull up and let passengers off. Before disembarking, we had decided to explore for 1-2 hours.
After walking around for about a half hour, we decided that there was no way we'd make it for 2 hours! It was HOT and incredibly HUMID the day we went.
As we walked around the island, we saw a ton of butterflies and could hear the hum of cicadas (or some type of bug) all around us.
Since the paths around the island are mostly in the sun, we worried about frying our skin. And for good reason! I think the worst of the burn I got from the trip was during this time.
As I write this a couple days later, my back is still stinging a bit. So make sure to lather on the sunscreen before exploring the island!
We explored the old Hakka village cemeteries and the concrete slab leftover from the old Vietnamese refugee community from the 1990s. Close to the concrete slab, we found a long snake skin shed sometime before we came. Luckily the snake was gone (or hiding)!
After about an hour on the island, our skin nice and toasty, we all headed back on the boat.
Looking for other hiking & swimming combos? Consider the Dragon's Back to Big Wave Bay Hike!
Lunchtime on the Junk Boat
After working up an appetite on the island and drinking an ice-cold beer to cool off, we feasted!
Our group chose to go potluck-style and everyone brought dishes to share. The dining table on the main deck worked perfectly for setting out all the dishes for a buffet.
As we ate, Rex sailed us over to a beautiful bay in another area of the Soko Islands.
Once I finished eating, I changed into my swimsuit. When Rex turned off the engine, nothing could keep me from jumping into the water immediately! The seawater was so perfect after that hot and sticky walk!
Swimming at Soko Islands
We spent the rest of the afternoon at one of the bays at the Soko Islands (~1:30-4:15 pm) in a more traditional junk boat party-style. Basically, this means a lot of swimming and drinking.
After we parked at our spot, Rex and Sarah unloaded various flotation devices so we could relax in the water with minimal effort!
Over the course of the afternoon, some of us made the swim to the beach. It looked a lot closer than it was! My arms were definitely tired by the time I got to the beach. The return swim took a bit longer and involved floating breaks.
We also took advantage of the top deck - jumping into the waters below. Maybe not an activity for those with a fear of heights!
Throughout the afternoon, only two boats were parked in that bay - us and another yacht. It felt like we had the place all to ourselves which is rare in Hong Kong.
For other Hong Kong trip ideas, check out these 16 Incredible Things to Do in Hong Kong!
Returning to Cheung Chau
Around 4:00 pm, we started preparing to leave - packing in the flotation devices and such. We left Soko Islands around 4:30 pm and made our way back across the sea during golden hour.
We got back to Cheung Chau just before 6:00 pm and said our good-byes to Sarah and Rex.
Hanging out in Cheung Chau
Jeremy and I decided to stay and catch the sunset on Cheung Chau before heading back.
Some of our junk trip group made it on the 6:00 pm fast ferry back to Central. Others decided to go for a big seafood dinner at a local restaurant.
If you want to extend your stay in Cheung Chau after your trip, you could even book one of the guesthouses in town for the night!
Find a Place to Stay on Cheung Chau
Want to stay on Cheung Chau to make it easier to catch the junk boat in the morning? Or perhaps you'd like to have a relaxing evening drinking a beer by the seaside?
You can use the map below to find and book local guesthouses and B&Bs on Cheung Chau.
What to Bring on Soko Islands Junk Trip
Have I convinced you to book a trip to Soko Islands? I hope so! After going on this trip, I have a few tips on things to bring with you on your Soko Islands trip...
1) Drinking Water - This is not provided so you must bring your own. After you get off the ferry in Cheng Chau, there will be several grocery and convenience stores right in front of the ferry terminal. You can purchase a large jug of water there so you don't have to carry it from Central!
2) Food (and other beverages) - Also not provided. Our group decided to bring dishes to share, but your group should decide what works best for you. Sarah and Rex provide paper plates and plastic utensils, or you could bring your own.
3) Sunscreen - Bring it and apply before getting off the boat at the first island! Re-apply after the island before swimming!
4) Mosquito repellent - Especially important if you're staying in Cheung Chau until dusk. I had no mosquito bites until sunset on Cheung Chau. Then, all of the sudden, it was like every mosquito on the island was after me!
5) Sneakers (and maybe long socks) - When exploring the island, the long grasses and bushes scratched up my calves which made them really itchy. Even though it's hot, I might consider wearing knee-high socks if I did it again.
6) Swimsuit + towel + dry clothes for afterwards - You'll spend the afternoon swimming, so be sure to bring a bathing suit! You may choose to re-wear the clothes you wore earlier. Mine were sweaty and gross and I was glad I had brought a different outfit to wear at the end of the day.
Looking for Other Hong Kong Adventures?
If you're looking for other adventures in Hong Kong, you might enjoy the following articles:
Parting Thoughts about the Soko Islands Junk Trip
Unlike most junk boat parties in Hong Kong, the Soko Islands adventure includes a bit of hiking and exploring on the islands. So, it's the perfect junk trip for active groups that are looking for a different kind of junk boat experience. Plus, the Soko Islands are far less crowded than other popular junk boat locations.
Have more questions about the trip? Let me know in the comments below!