Hong Kong Observations – and some history

We had decided that we would visit Stanley on Thursday, a fishing village and tourist attraction on the south side of Hong Kong island. Being of a curious disposition, I wanted to double check how the place got its name. Originally called Chek Chue, we Brits determined that it was a pleasant enough place to be rewarded with an English name. And so it was named in honour of the Minister for the Colonies at the time: Lord Stanley (pictured above). He also gave his name to the town in the Falkland Islands and Port Stanley, Ontario. Minister for the Colonies was a surefire way of having your name immortalised back in the day.

Anyway we set out for a quick breakfast at the ubiquitous local coffee chain here, Pacific Coffee, then headed for the bus stop. We had researched the necessary bus numbers, the 40 or 40X, but hadn’t appreciated that both of these were minibuses with a maximum capacity of 19 people. It was a fun way to cross the island.

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We got off the bus at the top of the hill leading down through Stanley Market to the waterfront promenade area. We witnessed evidence that there is still fishing activity in the area: a fisherman had set up a fish-drying line on his boat.

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We crossed over to the path that leads back up the hill to the Pak Tai temple which has been there since before the town was renamed.

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Judging by the number of smouldering incense sticks, it’s still visited regularly by adherents. We continued to stroll around the village for a while before eventually heading back to what we now think of as our side of the island.

This was our last night in Hong Kong as we were scheduled to catch the ferry to Jiangmen in China on Friday morning so we decided to head out for early dinner and pack later this evening. We decided to eat at The Pawn, a restaurant we had already taken a good look at during our architectural heritage walk from Monday.

IMG-0911We decided to have the ash baked French chicken to share, which took ages to cook but was delicious when it arrived. They brought it out straight after the salt and charcoal crust had been broken for us to have a look at, then jointed it for us to make for easier eating.

As it’s our last day here, there are a few observations I’d like to share. This is probably all blindingly obvious to seasoned visitors but, as a first-timer, these are the things that struck me as very different from home.

Pedestrians: older Hong Kong people have a strong tendency to walk like Prince Philip, with their hands clasped behind their backs. Unless they have a phone, in which case they walk like their younger counterparts: blind to what is approaching and engrossed in the contents of their screens. Multiple near misses and a couple of robust bumps have occurred as a result.

Engineering: Hong Kong Island is simply a steep, craggy peak jutting vertically from the sea floor. Undoubtedly there was some flatter shoreline on which settlement occurred originally but the population growth has resulted in some quite astonishing hillside building. I don’t know if there’s another municipality that has a department specifically dedicated to the inspection and maintenance of the retaining walls that ensure the buildings at higher elevations stay where they were put. And on top of that they love to see a banyan tree growing out of the walls.

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Taxis: the Toyota Crown Comfort is an amazingly boxy throwback car but that’s what every Hong Kong taxi is. There are 4-passenger and 5-passenger versions, the difference being whether the gear stick is on the steering column or on the floor.

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But the overriding memory I have is how friendly everyone is. Almost every time we stopped to get our bearings, someone would ask where we were trying to find and help us get re-oriented. We’ve enjoyed our stay here, but it’s now time to head to China.

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