Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beach bumming

Finally had a dip in the beautiful crescent beach in Mui Wo. Yes, after all our visits there, I haven't even dipped so much as a toe in the water until now.

Mui Wo was always the end point of our Discovery Bay-Mui Wo walks so we'd always reach the beach all sweaty and shaky-kneed and just dying to get home -- not an optimum condition for admiring the soft sand and clear water.

And our later trips have been house-hunting/contractor-interviewing ones so we'd usually be either jumping from flat to flat or stuck in ours waiting for contractors to arrive.

But we finally took advantage of the good summer weather and a long weekend to hit the sands. The necessities were cheap and easy to find. I bought a HK$16 mat from one of the beach-themed stalls by the seafood centre and, from the Ah Por next to the public library, a HK$38 swimsuit and HK$16 beach towel. Hubby, always a wimp when it comes to cold and water, bought a book from The Bookshop to keep him occupied while I went for my inaugural swim.

I know people make fun of Hong Kong waters. After all, when they were filming Batman here, the rumour was that Batman was supposed to dive into Victoria Harbour but the presence of raw sewage made the idea unfeasible (not true, of course, said director Chris Nolan).

The Environmental ProtectionDepartment website, www.epd.gov.hk, is not encouraging. It warns: "Although about 80 percent of the population of Mui Wo and the surrounding villages are connected to sewerage, some houses still use septic tank and soakaway pit systems for sewage treatment and disposal. Many of these are at close proximity to streams. If treatment systems are not properly maintained, sewage may overflow to the nearby streams and rivers leading to the beach.

"Similarly, sullage from village houses would also be discharged via surface channels to watercourses in the vicinity. Hence the water quality of Silvermine Bay is particularly susceptible to the effect of heavy rain, which may flush pollutants from the hinterland into the beach water."


The sea pleasantly surprised me, though. The water quality, according to the signboard at the lifeguard's post, was good. I could see my feet in the water. The only piece of rubbish I saw floating was a plastic bag some idiot had left behind after turning it into a makeshift bucket.

And the sand was clean. Cleaner even than in Singapore, where you'd think the law-abiding Singaporeans wouldn't dare to litter. I think it was because the beachgoers really appreciated the clean beach. A whole afternoon of public holiday crowds and there was hardly any litter to be seen anywhere at sunset. When a badly-placed styrofoam cup blew over, a stranger actually picked it up and put it in the bin.

We'd planned to stay there an hour. In the end, we stayed four, reading our books, slurping ice-cream and munching Pringles. Hubby said he hadn't felt this relaxed in ages. And to think we can do this every weekend when we finally move in.

But I think we're still staying out of the water after rainy days, though.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Home at last

The day is as lovely as only a non-polluted summer day in Hong Kong can be. The sun is out and tourists streaming out from the ferry terminal tilt their heads to enjoy the full warmth of its rays.

Tony the hairdresser waves to a regular from his salon while Tom enjoys a quick gossip with his customers outside his cafe. At the bus station, two dogs hold up an incoming bus from Tung Chung by refusing to budge. The driver just waits patiently and finally one dog lifts his head and ambles off, followed by the other. There's no rush, everyone seems to slow down the moment they emerge from the pier.

Ahhhh, this is why we have decided to move to Mui Wo, the southern gateway to Lantau island. People population: 5,000. Dog and buffalo population: Probably just as many.

I fell in love with the town the first time I saw it. We'd just done a two-hour hike from Discovery Bay to Mui Wo and, knees trembling from the long stairway down from the mountains, we stopped for a snack at a beach hotel that looked like a throwback to the 70s, complete with kitsch fountains and chipped statuary. I ordered spring rolls and orange juice. The drink was as flourescent as a safety vest and tasted like those Tang drinks I had as a child -- the one which made you feel like an astronaut. It was absolutely delightful.

With such an introduction to the town, it was no wonder that I was predisposed to it even before I saw it. I loved that it, like the orange drink, looked like a throwback to the 70s, when life was slower, quieter and unplugged. My husband was won over by the very professional looking second-hand bookshop on the corner, known as The Bookshop. Duh.

That was three years ago. And finally, after a lot of humming and hawing, we are going to move here. We've bought ourselves an absolutely tiny flat with a sea view. Many people have asked us why we bought somewhere in the town, their attitude being: "If you want country living, why are you not getting a village house instead?"

The reasons are:
1) We can't afford the minimum 30 percent downpayment on a village house.
2) With so many Cathay pilots snapping up the village houses, the prices are so high we can't even get a mortgage on one.
3) Lazy gits that we are, we like being three minutes from the ferry pier so we can see the ferry coming in and run.
4) The Wellcome supermarket is just downstairs. Told you we were lazy gits.
5) Most village houses don't have a sea view and the ones which do have are perched so high on the mountainside they take ages to get to.

More on Mui Wo living later.