When two of my Chinese fellow seminarians invited me over, I couldn’t see my way clear. Both insisted I should come. Not to worry, they would take care of all travel arrangements. I am after all their Italian Mama!
It was a last-minute spontaneous plan and I soon embarked on an intensive, action-packed 10-day trip. I flew Finnair for the first time and on their brand new A350-900; it was a very quiet and pleasant trip both ways. Service, both on the ground and in-flight, was friendly and efficient. Finnair offers very reasonable flight fares and Helsinki airport is very modern and attractive. Waiting around for my connecting flight was no hardship.
On location, I had to get used to taking several modes of transport, which were time-consuming but the only way to get around the various islands and areas. Jackson, who had organised the whole adventure, ad mapped out the must see places, on and off the beaten track
My first stop was at Henry’s and his wife Sharon’ flat. It was a model of small space efficiency and quite comfortable.
After a enjoying Henry’s succulent dinner, we spent time reminiscing and catching up on our lives’ events till the wee hours of the morning.
I tagged along to Henry’s workplace and left him to explore Repulse Bay neighbourhood.
Repulse Bay is located south of Hong Kong and boasts the most exclusive and expensive real estate. A hotel used to be in this area. In its stead, a tall “building with a hole” was erected, imitating the hotel’s 1920 colonial style. A semi circular building complex, called the Lily, and other remarkable residential complexes offer a dazzling view.
At street level, upmarket shops and restaurants cater to their elite clientele. According to the tourist board, Repulse Bay has the most beautiful beach of Hong Kong.
Being surrounded by water, marine deities are prominent in the lives of fishing and trade. At the south part of the bay is the Longevity bridge with the large Taoist Kwum Yam Shrine, where imposing deities watch over the sea and its travellers.
Ma Wan Island
The Island is .97 square kilometres (according to the Land’s Department – Survey & Mapping Office)
Jackson’s home became our base for the next six days. I loved the island of Ma Wan, with its traditional 2 to 3-storey village homes, so vastly different from the ever-present high rises. Jackson and his family live in a traditional home. It was a pleasant change to the hectic pace of Hong Kong Island.
Ma Wan hasn’t been spared either. Development forced villagers to abandon their original seaside homes. As compensation the government had them select from the 3-storey homes or from 3 separate units in a block.
Ancient Ma Wan Town was on both sides of Ma Wa Main Street Village. Today the village is quasi deserted, as it looked like a handful of houses were still inhabited.
The Park Island apartment complex towers above the remaining area. Noah’s Ark, is Ma Wan Park Island’s attraction. Shaped, as you may have guessed, as the biblical Ark, it overlooks Tung Wan Beach, which draws many residents both in the evenings and on the week-ends. A lovely tree-lined boulevard skirts the ocean, on one side, and the high rise complexes on the other side. The apartment grounds are meticulous and overflowing with greenery, waterfalls and small man-made lakes. All is designed to give a feel of opulence and well-being.
Strolling down alongside North Beach, we passed one of the Tin Hau temples, the goddess of the seas and patron of seafarers, after a brief pause we continued on, admiring the islands in the distance and the never abating construction cranes.
Ma Wan has a fascinating past of its own. Jackson showed me the remains of two kilns, spanning from mid to late neolithic era and the Bronze age (3,000 —> 500 BC). Excavations uncovered that the prehistoric island had been home to neolithic inhabitants. In a small museum, the history of the Han, Tang and Qing Dynasties, and related artifacts are on display. In the last 250 years, fishermen had settled on the island, naming their village, Tin Liu.
The Fong Yuen Study Hall used to be a primary school built in 1920, and now houses historic and educational materials. In the latter days of Fong Yuen, about 20 years ago, there a total of five staff members. Two of them were Jackson’s acquaintances; links run deep.
As we made our way back home, I was looking forward to the evening’s culinary treats. Most days, we ate at home and were regaled by Jackson’s cordon bleu cuisine. It never ceases to amaze me how much he enjoys cooking and how accomplished he is in both Asian and Western cuisine; a real foodie. Must be all those TV cookery shows he watches!
Permissions and prohibitions!