“Here’s a nice old people’s home for you!” son #2 said laughing and indicating a square, whitewashed building next to a childrens’ playground overlooking the harbour of Cheung Chau island.
“Suits me. It’s got a sea view. Go ahead and make the reservation!”
We were on a boat trip around Hong Kong island. I’m a bit obsessed by it at the moment because I can’t wait until next year to go see son#2’s new place. In the meantime, I am revisiting the pics and diary extracts from the last trip.
The little island of Cheung Chau – about half an hour from the port of Aberdeen on Hong Kong island – would be perfect for me. It’s car-free! Almost everyone was on bicycles – some with trailers and some with stabilisers – even though they were adults. The only other vehicles were very small with electric motors.
It’s also got an interesting chequered history – once the haunt of notorious pirates who roamed the South China seas, and then a plague island. Now it’s mostly about fishing. Everyone seemed to have a boat; fishing boats, junks, sampans. We walked along the front, had dim sum in one of the many restaurants, really tender cha siu (pork) in slices, prawn har gau (prawn dumplings) cha siu bao, and Singapore noodles – which came in a curry sauce which was a bit of a shock but not bad at all.
Oddly, there were commercially produced – and probably foreign – Movenpic ice creams on offer for desert. I remember they were incredibly expensive but maybe they put the prices up for us, the only Westerners on the Promenade of a little Chinese coastal town off season when most of the tourist shops were closed.
We strolled up along the front and up the hill to find Tung Wan beach remarkably close on the other side of the island. It was the home of Windsurf Memorial Park but there were no windsurfers to be seen or any sign of the windsurfing Olympic champion who runs the windsurfing centre. The sandy beach was littered and rubbish floated at the fringes of the sea but maybe that’s to be expected when there is such a lot of shipping in such a small area.
Out in the sea, about ten metres off shore, we spotted a woman with a basket secured to her in some harness arrangement. She was wearing a large straw hat and seemed to be hauling fine fishing netting into a basket like a human trawler. She was too far away to tell what she was catching but she must have been wearing leaded shoes, because she was almost up to her neck, walking steadily along in the sea parallel to the beach.
We headed back past the deserted police station back into the narrow streets of town, where the locals leave offerings at the foot of an ancient banyan tree, the elbows of it’s long straight arms leaning heavily on the pavements and walls. It branches were getting in the way of the road and impingeing on a local shop but the tree remained as it had for hundreds of years, sacrosanct- not to be messed with.
Back on board we headed for southern Hong Kong island, getting a close view of the power station on Lamma Island and then Deep Water Bay.
High on a headland above us was Ocean Park where there is a big funfair and themed rides. We saw people on the roller coaster – one enthusiastic reveller in the back of the last car raised both arms as it plunged down out of sight into an abyss.
We sailed past the wonderfully decorative wrought iron pier at Stanley – a splendid reminder of the old colonial days – and ended up sailing back into the dock at Aberdeen, a big working port where fish warehouses, markets, industry, tower blocks and restaurants all sit or float, side by side.
Not sure if my reservation’s been made at the Cheung Chau old people’s home but I’m going back there anyway.
There’s a bun festival at the end of April/May which includes parades, effigies and lion dancing. They build tall bamboo towers and stick little white buns all over them, and at midnight, there’s a race to see who’s first to get the highest ‘luckiest’ bun.
Sounds great. No encouragement needed to join in a bun fight.
Views of Aberdeen…