Quite often tourists, including myself, arrive in Hong Kong with the preconception of a concrete jungle. While this certainly is correct – the city’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre, stands at 484m tall, over a 150m taller than The Shard in London – it does have areas of natural beauty.
It doesn’t take long to escape the frantic pace of one of the most vibrant and modernized cities in Asia. Little over an hour long on the No. 6 bus from Central station takes you to the tranquil town of Stanley, in the south of Hong Kong Island.
As it is a bus, be prepared for traffic delays as getting out of the congested centre of the city can prove difficult – it took us over 40 minutes before we reached the edge of the city – but the erratic driving will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Nevertheless the bus journey is scenic and great views can be enjoyed as the bus motors along the winding road overlooking the neighbouring Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. There’s a constant reminder about the extravagance of Hong Kong, particularly as bus travels under the resounding gaze of the impressive Repulse Bay Towers. The roads become narrower and the buildings become smaller as our destination approaches.
Formerly a fishing village, the clamour of tourism has seen it develop from a market town selling fish to one selling knick-knacks at affordab
le prices, making it perfect to get a last minute gift for a family member.
Handmade crafts, kimonos, Chinese lucky cats as well as the usual items available at souvenir shops. For someone who loves browsing, it is very easy to lose track of time and spend the day wandering around the narrow streets.
The market is quieter than Temple Street and usually finishes trading at approximately 6pm. It is best to head to the market in the early afternoon as the closer to 6pm it gets, the more intent the sellers become in packing up and therefore are less interested in haggling.
Away from the market, three temples are situated in Stanley,
Pak Tai Temple, Kwum Yam Temple and Tin Hau Temple. Pak Tai Temple sits on the hill offering excellent photography opportunities. Consisting of just one room, the temple was locked when we there, but the burning of incense was smelt from outside the quaint little building. Steps from the temple lead down towards rocks – another peaceful place to hear the waves crash up against coastline and watch the sunset.
The picturesque setting allows life to be brought down to a slower pace compared to the centre of the city. It’s a perfect getaway for relaxation and the many beaches and bars along the promenade provides a great opportunity for people-watching.
The people in the town are friendly and willing to answer questions however their English can be quite broken. While sitting in a bar as the sun set, one of the locals who had lived in the village for over 50 years told me that everything he needs is right here.
This isn’t the Hong Kong that appears on all of the tourist posters and adverts and while no amount of words could accurately convey the splendor of the little town, it will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Three days on from our visit, it’s still hard to believe how this sedate seaside village is only a suburb in a dynamic city dubbed the ‘Gateway to Asia’ with world leading financial district.