I intended this post to be an update, but it turned out to be too much about our recent staycation so to make up for the drought of posts, I’m splitting it into two.
Last week as I think I reported was chaos. At the end of which, we had planned a mini-break to one of Hong Kong’s several outlying islands, this one called Cheung Chau, known primarily for its famous bun festival where people climb poles to fetch buns like a similar festival in India. I had been casting around for placing to go for the Easter long weekend earlier in the year and come across this cute little B&B which seemed to have good reviews and capable of dealing with English speakers, not always the case with the very local places here. However, when we called then it was all booked up. Since Benji had a mid-term break last week, V decided to take some leave and suggested we try to go to Cheung Chau. We got the booking but I was not truly looking forward to it because it came in the midst of my week of crazy.
A view of Cheung Chau island from the ferry.
In the end, it was lovely. The place was really nice – small but nicely renovated rooms, with all the little touches you have in a hotel room like fresh towels, kettle, mini-fridge, effective air-con, etc. Breakfast was a part of the deal and very nice too. The best part though was the location which was a literally five minutes to the beach, so that if we went there for a swim, we could just wrap our towels around ourselves and come back to our rooms to shower.
I’ve been to Cheung Chau once before and it struck me as a relatively sleepy village, particularly outside the main street near the ferry pier. But now it’s totally on the tourist trail with several bylanes of shops with knicknacks, little cafes – including a few Western ones – seafood restaurants and stalls selling the famous gigantic Cheung Chau fish balls. The shops targeting visitors run all the way to the beach and some are quite yuppy, but the good thing is the village has not lost its character and many of the snack stalls or products on offer tie in with the village. Also, if you veer off the beaten track you’re pretty much in a sleepy village.
Everything is mini here. The streets are narrow so no cars are allowed, except for emergency vehicles, which are hilariously mini-sized too (like the ambulance in the background of the photo). Benji and I burst out loud when we turned around at a siren to spot a police car – it was an electric Smart car.
The village-ness of it all is evident in the street names, which are pretty much descriptive. For example, this one:
If you veer a bit off the beaten track, it’s a typical village where the olders hang out together in chairs under banyan trees and dogs roam. I dragged V to lunch at a European-looking place, where the proprietor-chef was clearly one of the Western-educated returnees to the village. That’s her dog in the photo:
The above is a giant incinerator for burning offerings (I think) and below are the traditional Chinese publicity for an upcoming performance or festive event (at least that’s where I usually see them), though this one is more lurid than normal:
On the one hand, there are these touristy touches, like these tong laus (Chinese-style shophouses) given a makeover with brightly coloured paint; on the other, there are the usual dried fish stalls typical of a Chinese fishing village:
Apart from the beach and wandering the bylanes, the local Pak Tai (Taoist God of the Sea) temple is quite impressive.
In the land next to the temple was a house adorned in a style similar to a temple to my eyes, but the more I think about it, I think it’s just a very grandoise house stuck between two normal houses.
We had some really good and reasonably priced seafood meals there. Our kids love Yeung Chow style fried rice, I loved deep-fried squid and V loves steamed fish. So we were all happy. The tables are outdoors, right at the seaface and we had to watch out that the kids didn’t fall into the water. But it did amuse them to look at the boats.
We were gone all of two days. During which time we swam, wandered and ate. The kids were addicted to the beach and digging in the sand so V and I could leave them with the helpers and walk around the island ourselves. We came back refreshed.
I’ve noticed that most of our friends with young kids do holidays abroad. The idea of getting on a plane with the kids does not thrill me. Maybe because I’ve travelled a fair bit before I had kids, these excursions to different parts of Hong Kong sate my need for a change of scene and the kids seem to love them too. I figure apart from our annual trip to India we’ll be doing this for the next year or so, and I’m really thankful that Hong Kong has such amazing places to explore just a ferry trip away.