A small house in a Hong King village sits on the water.

Celebrating the Waterways of Sam Man Tsai

Words and Photographs by Johnson Lui



Photographer Johnson Lui documents Sam Man Tsai, a fishing village on the outskirts of Hong Kong in which local communities live in pang uk—a halfway point between boats and houses.

In 2022, after almost three years of not being able to travel home without having to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel, I finally found myself back in Hong Kong—or as my friends call it, Home Kong.


Having spent months of lockdown confined in small urban spaces,  I decided that—this time round—I wanted to avoid the frenetic pace of downtown Hong Kong for a completely different experience. So, I reached out to a close family friend, who owns a fishing raft out in the countryside, to show me a different side of the city I grew up in. 


What first struck me about Sam Man Tsai Village Pier was the vibrant colors that locals had chosen to paint their houses and boats. Each construction was purpose-built—some resembled traditional regional homes while others were used primarily as sustainable fish farms. I became particularly interested in stilt houses known as pang uk, which are built on waterways as a halfway point between boats and houses; a commitment to their lifesource.


This was the refuge I had been searching for.


Sam Man Tsai’s surroundings are as lush as its waters: full of verdant greenery. The wetlands are a feeding ground for—among many other species of mammals and avians—great egrets. Watching them fly over mountains sure did not feel like the Hong Kong I had come to know. 


But as so much of this Earth, the waterways and the communities that live in Sam Man Tsai are under threat. As the city continues to evolve and expand, many of these villages are being pushed out and moved onto the land. And with these changes, the local way of life is disappearing. 


This photo series is a reminder to cherish the authenticity of these communities while we still can. 

A man sits in a boat with buckets of fish and other aquatic animals.
Two small red boats float in the water.
A fan hangs on the roof of a blue shack.
The sunlight reflects off a body of water during dusk with mountains in the background.
Two people in a Hong Kong village peer over the side of their boat.
A slab of wood sits in a blue boat on the water in a Hong King village.
Several houses sit on the water in Hong Kong.
Two people stand in a small boat in a Hong Kong village.
A blue bucket is filled with water inside of a sink.
The front of a large boat in a Hong Kong village.
An array of aquatic life sits in buckets.
A large shack sits on top of a body of water in a Hong Kong village.
Several shacks sit on top of the water in a Hong Kong village.
The front of a blue boat faces a fishing village in Hong Kong.
Several kitchen utensils sit on a shelf on a boat in a Hong Kong village.
Several different aquatic life species sit on a blue boat in buckets.
Two people sit on a boat in a fishing village, working on the food they caught.
A large boat sits on the shore of a Hong Kong village.
A large black pot and other kitchen utensils hand from the wall of a house on the water in a fishing village.
A man sits cross legged on a boat in a Hong Kong village.
A table and chair are soak in the sun at dusk. The water in a Hong Kong village is in the background.
A bird stands at the end of a dock.
A bird flies above the waterways and mountains in a Hong Kong village.
Several fish are lined up in white buckets in a Hong Kong village
The top of a blue boat
The inside of a shack shows large blue buckets and opens up to the outside of a fishing village.
A fisher guts fish in their blue boat in a Hong King village.
A large red umbrella stands up on a boat floating on the water in a Hong Kong village.
A collage of a fishing village in Hong Kong.
A small towel hangs on a clothesline during dusk.
A black and white image of a Hong Kong village.
The inside of a home shows a refrigerator and wooden table with a cat sitting on top.
A person tends to a bucket of fish on their blue boat.
A cat walks along a dock with a blue shack.
Blue and green tarp sits on a dock.
A person in yellow rain boots is covered by a large red umbrella while standing on a boat in a Hong Kong village.
A small red stool sits inside a small brown boat.
A large blue boat sits on the water in a Hong Kong village.
The numbers 5280 are painted on a green wall.
A large green net hold beige fur that is sitting on a blue boat.
Large mountains sit behind a Hong Kong fishing village.
A black and white image of a man floating in a boat, facing away from the camera.
A boat is filled with fish while it floats on the water.

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