Hong Kong isn’t just all about shopping and crowds. It is easy to get away from all of that and find some relatively quiet places whether by the beach or in the hills. This trip I wanted to do just that and revisit places I knew well as a child. Things have changed, of course, but some things remain the same and then the memories come flooding back.
Far from the madding crowd and mayhem in the city below is a beautiful walk around the top of the Peak. This is where we lived and today it is exactly as it was – quiet, peaceful and leafy. It is much cooler than in the city and the views are stunning – but different to our day as the construction of multi storey buildings has filled the landscape below and the vista to the islands beyond is now hazy due to pollution.
The Star Ferry has been crossing the harbour for decades and is, to my mind, the best way to go from one side to the other. The trip takes no more than ten minutes and is a pleasant way to travel. We did this so often as children – there were no cross harbour tunnels or MTR trains in those days. A vehicular ferry was available to take cars and passengers and on weekends we would often “drive” to Castle Peak or the New Territories and part of the excitement of the day was taking the car ferry!
Kowloon today is so different from the island – it is a mixture of crowds, smells, hustle and bustle, jewellers, hawkers selling copy watches or handbags, tourists galore and shop after shop. In spite of all this it was lovely to see a couple of colonial buildings preserved and now used as hotels or for retail.
The Peninsula Hotel was another favourite and although the decor has changed, the lobby is still magnificent and the staircase – which featured in every Ball or formal event – is the same.
Towering skyscrapers dominate the waterfront and reclaimed land is making the harbour even smaller – however, I could still find the old Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club which seems to be dwarfed these days.
A bus ride to Stanley is always a great outing. This little village was a quiet residential area with a small beach and good swimming. There was also a market where we bought Christmas gifts and local wares. Today it is a really pleasant place to stroll along the waterfront, visit one of a number of cafes or restaurants and, of course, wander through the market. There is a lot of history here as a Prisoner of War Camp was located in the village during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during the Second World War.
Blake’s Pier, which used to be in the city and where we met to go out on launch picnics, has been relocated here and is used by many pleasure boats each weekend.
The beautiful little temple of Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, features very much in the lives of local residents here. On entering the temple the smell of joss sticks and the smoke wallowing all around is almost overwhelming. There is a row of gods and goddesses on each side of Tin Hau and they seem to be watching you. To see the locals pay their respects and bow and pray is humbling and it is obvious that their beliefs are very strong.
And finally there is the food – a plethora of choices, any number of cuisines but always present are noodles – oodles of noodles and it is fascinating to watch them being made!