Houston Community News >> More to Hong Kong than Shopping

6/1/2007-- FLYING into Hong Kong is not nearly as exciting as it used to be when your flight took you through the frighteningly narrow corridor between the steel and glass towers of the Kowloon Peninsula to Kai Tak airport.

Nowadays, the flight path goes elsewhere into the excruciatingly modern Chek Lap Kok airport on Lantau Island but as the Cathay Pacific flight attendant Sue Li Kim said as my recent flight circled before landing, "You get a less thrilling experience but a really pleasant view over Hong Kong's harbour townships".

As we approached Chek Lap Lok, she added, "There you can still get a close up view of Hong Kong. I can just see the block of apartments I live in at Sai Kung."

A fishing village less than an hour from downtown Tsim Shat Sui, the heart of Hong Kong's shopping district, Sai Kung is a popular residential area for expatriates and Cathay Pacific crew.

It is also home to the unique Duke Hotel, formerly the Duke of York Hotel, which is something of a home-away-from home for foreign residents, particularly those from Australia and the United Kingdom.

Saturday afternoon at the Duke is very like Saturday afternoon at any pub in Waterloo, Carlton or Fortitude Valley. With the Fosters flowing and the noise level rising, punters huddled over a form guide and drinkers arguing about football it was a far cry from the tranquil fishing village outside.

It used to be called the Duke of York but as one quite well-indulged patron, perhaps unkindly, noted the old name might have been reflecting poorly on the establishment.

On the other hand remnants of Anglicanism may have been discarded when the territory was handed back to the mainland Chinese Government. Against a background of fishing boats bobbing at the wharf, lines of stalls selling everything from shrimp to shark and a host of Chinese cafes the Duke is something of a surprise.

For the more intrepid tourists who don't mind venturing onto public transport Sai Kung is an escape from the shopping jungle of Kowloon. With Hong Kong's great transport system getting around is easy and cheap, even for non-Cantonese speaking Aussies.

Twenty minutes on the speedy, spotlessly-clean MTR underground railway to Choi Hung will cost a couple of dollars and then clearly-marked mini buses run down through the mountains to Sai Kung.

There's a sense of adventure making your own way around a strange city, and if you happen to overstay at the Duke the buses run all night, though there are plenty of taxis for a quick trip back to the city.

Sai Kung is not alone as an escape hatch from the hustle and bustle on downtown HK.

Only about 30 minutes by bus from Central you will find a beautiful little beach called Sheko. Through the island skyscrapers past the Colonial mansions at Repulse Bay, Sheko's crystal clear water and golden beach lined with stalls selling superb seafood and tasty dim sum snacks is a world away from the swirling, brown waters of Hong Kong Harbour.

Further out of town are a number of islands which retain much of the lifestyle of China of old. Reaching them by chugging wooden-hulled ferry from the Outlying Island's wharf, just along from the Star Ferry on the Hong Kong side, is a bit of an adventure in itself.

Have a vegetarian meal at the monastery on Lantau, explore the tiny villages on Peng Chau and try some of the wonderful seafood restaurants on Lamma.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island remain the primary target for those who like to shop and there are plenty of options for those who don't.

(Contributed by News.com)