A Gem of Hong Kong

The last time I had visited this gem was at least ten years before. Now on a crisply clear sunny afternoon, a companion and I set out for a rendezvous with the graceful Sai Kung Town and were overjoyed to find her little changed except for a flattering makeover. A long gleaming seaside promenade greeted us with a sunny warm welcome. We felt so drawn to the stunning sea view and the sparkling crystal clear water and white sands that we couldn't but let our reflex guide us – we thought nothing could beat a leisure stroll through the whole length of the promenade. Before that though, we needed to feed ourselves first.

Not far from the Seaside Square is the pier where Kau Sai Chau-bound golfers board the shuttling ferries. Although it was a Sunday, the pier was not busy. On the notice board were Jockey Club bulletins promoting buffet lunches at the golf course clubhouse on weekdays and weekends, the price of which included transportation. The weekday price (Monday to Saturday) of HK$125 was especially enticing. Judging from the small number of ferry riders that day, it would seem that their Sunday buffet was not very popular.

No place attracted more people than the plethora of seafood restaurants that scattered all round the Square, most of which were packed with tourists. For the ridiculously high prices these restaurants (most had open air tables) were asking though, one would have expected a more refined and comfortable setting, and above all, better-quality food presentation. (My gut feeling that there was something fishy going on with those restaurants later proved to be more than just flimsy – a news report just revealed that some seafood restaurants, including the ones in Sai Kung, had been found to have been cheating on the weight of popular seafood like lobsters and crabs, with the shortfall ranging from 21 percent to 60 percent.)

As my companion and I did not come for the seafood on that day, we decided to venture into the maze of intertwined lanes of the town to seek out our favorite food: che tsai noodles (i.e. noodles accompanied by a choice of two or more varieties of tasty food that range from fish-balls, beef briskets, squids, stuffed tofu squares, mushrooms, to several kinds of vegetables). After some intense searching, we found Chung Kee Noodles on King Man Street and not surprisingly, a long queue had already formed outside the restaurant when we arrived around noon – a sure sign of good food. When it was our turn to be seated, we were so hungry that we ordered far more than we could possibly finish. Still, we were not satisfied after we had our stomachs filled, as their desert - a black herb jelly with syrup - was just too tempting to pass. Everything tasted great and we earmarked the restaurant for another visit in the near future.

Now we were ready for the leisurely walk on the promenade. I couldn't remember the last time I had had such a breathtaking view of the Sai Kung seaside, or of anywhere in Hong Kong. It was such a picture-perfect day - a bright azure sky, brilliant sunshine, a light caressing breeze and glistening water that revealed the white sandy sea bottom. The horizon was adorned with bright specks of colorful wind surfs and white sailboats, darting here and there amidst a random cluster of green islands. We stopped every now and then to admire this panorama, trying to capture and savor every minute of it. The whole promenade was abuzz with activities that ranged from fishing to leisure strolling, jogging, sun-bathing, dog-walking to kite-flying. Everyone, people and pets alike, seemed mesmerized by the charming scenery and joyous ambience

About ten minutes' walk from the Seaside Square, a restaurant that caters to barbeque parties and another that serves dim-sum had tables placed right up to the edge of the beach. We wondered if these restaurants had a right to use the public walkway as part of their serving area, although they still provided a right-of-way to the public. This spectacle called to mind the issue of misuse of public open space by developers and property owners (and for that matter, breach of land lease conditions). What seems lacking is a transparent, open and fair policy that can enable the public to assert their right of use of public open spaces at all times.

I sincerely hope that the Hong Kong SAR government and its successors will have the good sense to continue to keep this beautiful "backyard" free from the claws of greedy developers and to leave it as a priceless legacy for the benefit of future generations.