V, the kids, our helpers and I did a two-and-a-half day minibreak on Lantau island this weekend. It was beachy awesomeness.

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Lantau is where the airport is located. It also houses a developed high-rise residential area called Tung Chung and another lower-rise-but-still-suburban area called Discovery Bay. And then there’s the rest of the island which is basically beaches and villages.

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Villages with farms and little houses and narrow roads where sometimes cars are not allowed to enter but on which buffalows might roam. I remember my first visit to Mui Wo. I was going to interview the principal of a village school on a tip from an editor at the newspaper who used to work there. He suggested that I rent a bicycle at the ferry pier. I laughed. I couldn’t imagine a part of Hong Kong existed where there was no motorised transport. I ended up clicketing clacking down village roads in my (thankfully) small heels, sidestepping cowdung and desperately looking for a stray human to ask directions to. The first one I came across looked Indian, but couldn’t speak English and finally asked another stranger who came along to help me by speaking Cantonese. It was all very surreal. When I got to the school hot and sweaty in my shirt and little skirt and my feet raw from the miles of walking in heels, everyone stared at me like I was an alien.

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This time I knew how to dress. Shorts, flat shoes, glares, umbrella (because it always rains in Hong Kong), swimwear. Also, we had a car. The bungalow was provided by V’s bank and was thankfully located in the area where one could take a car. It was a lovely house, the only drawback of which was that the aircon didn’t work quite well in the upstairs rooms and I discovered how much of a Honky I am when I couldn’t deal with this. In my defence, had there been a fan, I would have been fine and I was mostly worried about my sweathead kids waking up in the night. After some squabbling, it was decided that V and I would utilise the couch downstairs and the kids and the helpers would inhabit the upstairs rooms where the aircon was tolerable.

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The advantages of a big home – something I have never really experienced the benefits of – were immediately clear. The kids ran through the rooms squealing in excitement and up and down the stairs for the sheer joy of it. The stairs were a pain in the ass with Mimi, as she was ever in danger of falling down. It was nice to have people in different parts of the house so that they were out of hearing as well as sight. On the other hand, it would be a bitch to clean and air condition (ahem). I also found myself loving the cable channels (we had cut off cable TV at home a while ago) and flipping through with a delight I usually experience with magazines.

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Mainly we did beaches. The morning of day one was spent at Lower Cheung Sha Beach, which has turned into a whitish sand beach instead of the black sand I remember. It was cloudy and gorgeous and we had a great time and to top it all off two bullocks wandered through at some point. I am glad we resisted the urge to eat at the famous South African restaurant and had a very nice Thai lunch instead. Topped off with a siesta.

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In the evening, we drove down to Mui Wo and wandered past Silvermine Beach where V and I talked about what it might be like to live here. I have changed enough to actually see it as a possibility despite being still too chicken to take the actual step. I claim it is because of the kids and inconvenience to the helpers and the commute but am I ready live in a place where there is no accessible cinema or clothing shops? Not just yet. V is though. And therein lies the difference.

We had lots of skirmishes on this trip, and V told me I need to learn to let go by which he means let it out and let go, but I am incapable, I need a furious and lengthy discussion and then closure. I guess if one of us is willing to let go, then maybe there’s hope. We had a dinner a deux at this open air place with the smoke from the barbeque around us and I had two glasses of wine and launched into a rant that mounted into a crescendo and then ran out of steam and ended in giggles. V suggested I have another glass.

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The next day it was back to the beach by way of a long drive through tempting-looking villages and past a correctional centre (which we noted did not have air conditioning). Pui O is a popular beach, with people kite-boarding and parasailing in the distance, but for the first time, I encountered truly dirty water. We stomped into the surf with plastic swirling at our ankles and it only got less disgusting when we were properly in. Lunch was at the most laidback place ever, very basic menu (but not prices) and self-service of sorts but not entirely friendly. I cannot for example understand people who don’t want people to touch their dogs but such people seem to be abundant in Hong Kong.

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I had the mother of all siestas in the afternoon, resisting V’s exhortations to join him on the couch and sprawling on the bed with Benji instead, and then there was a bit of chaos in the evening when it was time to leave and we couldn’t be ready accordingly to the schedule determined by V. It worked out in the end, and we were back home by 7 pm.

I could have done with a longer break, a week at least. I could have done with less fighting. But overall, this is the kind of holiday I need to have. Where there are no flights and time differences involved. Where there’s enough space for the helpers to come along and all of us to relax. Where the kids are not disoriented but basking in it all. Vacation at home for the win!

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