Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Exploring Silvermine Bay and a hike over the hills

DAY 20: Tuesday, 6th of March

A rather dull welcome to Hong Kong

After a long 12 hours flight we finally descend to Chep Lak Kok International Airport, Hong Kong. But the weather doesn’t look like Hong Kong at all. Has the captain by chance got the continents wrong, are we back in the UK? Grey and dull and cold is all we feel as we exit the clean and efficient airport. 
Welcome back to Hongkong
A blue taxi (blue is for Lantau Island, red for Central and green for the New Territories) brings us across the hills of Lantau to the southern side of Silvermine Bay. The road is very windy. We are quite relieved to finally reach our Hotel, the “Silvermine Bay Hotel”. If you ever believe what the internet tells you, then don’t stay here. What had seemed to be a nice attractive looking hotel near the sea, turns out to be a rather derelict two storey building that certainly had seen better days. But nevertheless, our room faces the sea, it’s quiet, the hotel staff is friendly - and we have no other option!

We digest our arrival by sipping a cold bottle of “Qing dao Beer” at a little pub near the ferry pier. The Germans certainly did their share in bringing something good to this part of the world.  

Later in the afternoon, I go out on my own determined a. to get some exercise and b. to discover what there is to discover in the little township of Silvermine Bay. At first glance, you’d think ”what a scruffy, boring, odd place”, but the more I walked, the more I actually enjoyed this place. There are old people sitting in their tiny, little houses (most times you couldn’t see, just hear them) playing Majong, the typical gambling game of China. There are no cars here. Everybody is riding bicycles like in the good old days, and even mummies and dads picking up their kids from school have to come on a bike.

Then there are little temples and shrines all full with whatever God there is to the Chinese pantheon of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian heroes. I found the most curious offerings: pieces of fat pigs meet mixed with boiled eggs, apples, pears and oranges! Of course all auspicious symbols, as apple in Chinese is a homonym for “peace” and pear has the same pronunciation (of course in a different tone) as “strength and power”.

views over Lantau Island
The smell of burning incense reminds me of my many visits to this country. I think back of the year 1986 when I arrived first to Hong Kong after a terrible 24 hrs flight from Frankfurt, via Rome, Dubai, Colombo and Bangkok. I had just finished High School and wanted to travel to China, the country where my mother was born and my grandparents got married. Travelling for two months around China backpacking and hardly speaking the language was such a challenge that I came to the following conclusion: 

Sometimes I hated China (mainly because at that time buying tickets was such a nightmare and nobody was interested in selling you anything), but I also love it, so I wanted to study Chinese. And second, travelling is the best thing in the world. I still agree with both!

Mar 6/Day 20            

My first visit to Hong Kong since before ‘handover’, itself now nearly 10 years ago – a new regime and a new airport. CLK seems very efficient despite long queues at Immigration. Allie, who has just spent the flight practising her Japanese with a stewardess switches effortlessly to Putonghua/Mandarin Chinese to talk to the Hong Kong taxi driver.

E-mail success short-lived as it now doesn’t want to send my wi-fi messages. Very frustrating and difficult to resolve at this remove. It even looks as if I may have got ‘infected’ by a ‘worm’ because my anti-virus has been offline for so long.

Silvermine Bay Hotel and beach (internet photo)
Anyway, the Silvermine Bay Hotel (along with almost all of Silvermine Bay) has seen better days. I recall trekking here over the hill from the nearby Trappist monastery with first wife Jane in 1982 on a hot March day. She was six months pregnant with our first child, Nicholas, and the oasis of refreshment after our exertions was an Australian-run beach bar with lots of quirky character. 

Orientals in general and the Chinese in particular seem to have no feeling for ambience in their modern domestic architecture or social meeting places, so the littoral is now lined with fading concrete structures offering changing facilities, lifeguard towers, barbecue pits and toilets but the wooden Antipodean surf-shack is long gone. Mui Wo ferry terminal, another architectural eyesore, offers an escape (?) to Hong Kong Island tomorrow.

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