Cities/countries gain notoriety by definitions but sometimes it is difficult to confine them into one shell. Hong Kong is one such place that is quirky, antiquated and contemporaneous, a prop of Chinese culture juxtaposed with British expediency. Spread across both sides of the Bay, Hong Kong projects a compact look probably due to vertical landscaping. But in reality is packed with activities and visual delights spread out from the Island to Kowloon and New Territories. The kaleidoscopic attractions include fascinating temples, steel and glass futuristic structures, Colonial architecture, tantalizing beaches and green hideouts, swarming streets and alleys, dilapidated housing branded by suspended clothes lines, museums, universities and public parks.
In two and half years Hong Kong has come across as a fusion of different images punctuated by the speeding airport express; tick-tock road signals; the silently pushing scurrying crowds in subterranean walkways reminding of inscrutable ant colonies; aerial connectors; busy streets or teaming malls. When I think of Hong Kong it is not of pyramids of twinkling lights against the night sky or the water traffic in the fast contracting Bay but of a city-state changing colors, chameleon like, to suit varying moods and desires of its residents and visitors.
Walking Around: Hong Kong is for walkers and not necessary history or nature trails but walking around the crowded markets and areas inhaling the flavors and smells of food shops or herbal doctor’ clinics or counting the timeless hours in parks and on beaches. It is a walk not measured in miles or health parameters but ‘walks’ to get acquainted with a city accentuated by the hypnotic rhythm of the waves.
1. Gold Coast Piazza – One need not be a beach person to walk along the slurping waters beating against natural or man-made land fills. One such tailored beach is the 545 meters long Golden Beach, the largest man-made public beach in Tuen Mun, New Territories, accessorized by the golden sands imported from Hainan Island, China. The Golden beach is part of Hong Kong Gold Coast Resort, a new township set amidst the picturesque Castle Peak Bay area complete with swaying palms and pink European continental architecture. The beach, still fcatching up on the popularity of Lantau Island’s Silvermine Bay beach, Stanley, Shek-O, Sai Kung or Repulse Bay beaches, makes up with usual family fun ingredients such as barbecue stations, shaded areas for moms and pops to play board or card games or listen to blaring music, build sand castles, cycle or play volleyball depending on age. The Golden Beach is the practice locale for the Hong Kong beach volleyball team.
The ‘Mediterranean’ ambience of the Piazza, reflected in the design that includes patio, courtyard and marina, serves as a view-deck to drool over the anchored yachts. The food outlets scattered around the Piazza offer choice of Chinese, Thai, French and including the ubiquitous McDonald. It was Saturday and crowded as on weekends and holidays the Piazza and its Montmartre, the Art Promenade and the Culture Square was a colorful hub of Western and Chinese art, handicrafts, pottery, hand-made jewelry, toys and puppet shows, cartoon and portrait painters, toys and ivory carvings. We talked with one of the exhibitors, an artist who informed us that Ivory carving is an ancient art form on wood, bamboo and ivory taken from tusks of elephants, walruses and narwhals. It is expensive if purchasing authentic pieces and one should first learn to differentiate between original ivory which is smooth and the sheen and color comes with aging. The tourist market is flooded with imitation decorative pieces is high-risk zone for novices.
The Gold Coast Hotel and Resort with its landscaped locale and plethora of facilities is a welcome respite. We walked to the ‘Golden’ beach, a few kilometers away along the 480 meter long Promenade. The beach is flanked by old residences and adding the touch of modernity are the kiosks selling drinks and snacks with families making maximum use of the open spaces.
There is a statue of three golden dolphins at the Dolphin Square and if lucky one can spot the rare pink dolphins swimming around the marina and Castle Peak Bay.
We took an about turn towards the Piazza and hopped on to a mini bus for Jordan. The hurtling ride along the Bay on Castle Peak Road had all the ingredients of an escapade, eyes and ears focused on the beeping speedometer when not admiring the silhouetted sun against the Tsing Ma Bridge. The Castle Peak road stretches from Yuen Long to Kowloon.
Location: The Gold Coast Resort is in the Tuen Mun District, a fisherman’s colony called Tsing Shan and later as Castle Peak New Town. The new town, built on reclaimed land from Castle Peak Bay was later named Tuen Mun in the early 1980s.
We had gone on cloudy and windy day, wrong choice, but this we realized on disembarking at Tuen Mun MTR station. The West Line from Hung Hom goes straight via tunnels and through hills. The slippery steel benches take time getting adjusted to otherwise it is a comfortable journey. From station we took K 51 bus that drops off outside the palm shaded Gold Coast Piazza.