Article from Time Out June 2009:
Although developers have been moving in fast on Lantau Island ever since the opening of Hong Kong International Airport in 1998, Mui Wo, on its eastern shore, is holding on tenaciously to its roots as a country village. Here, a piece of land also means peace of mind, with its laidback, serene way of life.
If you come to Mui Wo on a weekday, it strikes you that there is something not quite right about the place. You can’t put your finger on it; that is, until a dog’s distant bark shatters the silence. And then you realise – this place is unnervingly quiet for Hong Kong. Remarkably, village life has managed to prevail here for over 700 years, through its days as a silver mine (the area is still known as Silvermine Bay), to its present role as gateway to South Lantau. Today, Mui Wo’s residents still refer to it endearingly as the “countryside”. Indeed, it is this precise quality that has saved it from succumbing to the development befallen north Lantau, since Mui Wo is surrounded by country park.
By far the best part of settling in this area is the price tag. The psychological barrier people have against moving away from Hong Kong Island means despite commute time from Mui Wo to Central being the same as from Stanley or Repulse Bay, sea views, roof terraces, and gardens come at a fraction of the cost. The further you go from the ferry terminal, the cheaper it gets per square foot. Housing clustered around Mui Wo centre thus tends to be smaller, consisting mainly of generic six-storey apartment blocks for commuters wanting to maximise their lie-ins. Some bigger, plusher complexes line Ngan Kwong Wan Road, on the walk up to Silvermine Beach. The real village experience, however, begins after a ten-minute walk inland. Here, the few remaining cars fade away (access is by bicycle only) and the buildings turn into three-storey detached houses. Although some are rented as one unit, the floors are usually divided into three separate apartments, making village lifestyle more affordable. The only possible drawback is not being able to drive to your door (public car parks are free if you don’t mind leaving your car in town). If you want both the big villa and the car, you’ll need to go to Pui O, a seven-minute drive away (a very precise seven minutes since there is never any traffic).
Considering Mui Wo’s small population size, food options are surprisingly abundant. This is largely in thanks to the tourists that filter through the town on weekends. For a quality Italian roast and a breakfast that’s greasy in all the right ways, there’s Caffe Paradiso (Shop 8 Mui Wo Centre, 3 Ngan Wan Rd, 2984 0498), more affectionately known by locals as Tom’s Café. The Pizzeria (Grandview Mansion, 11C Mui Wo Ferry Pier Rd, 2984 8933) and the dinner buffet at Silvermine Hotel (Silvermine Beach, 2984 8295) also serve up Western fare in the evenings. However, a seaside town is not really complete without a spattering of seafood restaurants. Snag a waterfront seat at one of the many eateries in Mui Wo Cooked Food Market by the ferry pier, open from 6am till midnight, and order up a storm.
You can always trust that in any enclave in the world that boasts more than three Brits, a decent watering hole is sure to exist. The most popular joint for tourists and locals alike is the China Bear (Mui Wo Centre, 3 Ngan Wan Rd, 2984 972), which has a quiz night on the last Thursday of every month. Further down the beach lies the China Beach Club (18 Tung Wan Rd, Silvermine Beach, 2983 8931), while a little further away, in Pui O, is JK Club (20D Lo Wai Village, 2984 8366), which is more a pub than a club, despite its leading name. For a slightly different ambiance of the Mediterranean variety, enjoy a drink at Bahce (Shop 19, Mui Wo Centre, 3 Ngan Wan Rd, 2984 0222) a Turkish restaurant that becomes a bar at night.
Less than a Frisbee throw away from the ferry terminal lies Silvermine Beach. Together with Pui O Beach (located at Pui O Kau Tsuen), it ensures the locals have year-round access to the sandy shores. Further afield, and about a 45-minute walk away from the town centre, is the picturesque Silvermine Waterfall (follow the signs from Mui Wo town), which is best visited after a spell of heavy rain. Avid hikers can relish in the fact that Mui Wo is also the beginning of the 70km long Lantau Trail that snakes around the south of the island. Of course, if you’re really stuck for something to do – there’s always Disneyland (www.hongkongdisneyland.com), accessible by bus via Tung Chung.
Apart from the obligatory Wellcome and Park’n’Shop, there are just a handful of stores in Mui Wo, but that’s a good thing. With shops come people, and that would most likely negate the reason you moved here in the first place. As everyone cycles in these parts, the first stop for any new resident has to be the town’s leading bike store, the aptly named Bicycle Shop (Shop B, Silver Centre, 2984 2002). People also tend to be fairly home proud, so there is no shortage of furniture stores. Add a touch of the orient to your décor at Red Hall Chinese Antiques (Silver Pearl Mansion, 2988 1368). For some beach lit or to start a home library with all that new space, The Bookshop (Shop E, Silver Centre, 2984 9371) sells vintage and second hand books as well as new releases.
Mui Wo is a difficult area to get to by car (you’ll require a special permit to drive on Lantau regardless), but easily accessible by ferry from Central Pier 6. With the journey only 30 minutes long, the lack of alternative methods of transportation don’t seem so troublesome; at least, not before the last ferry departs Central at 11:30pm every night. Most residents commute this way, although there is an alternative path to the city via Tung Chung on the 3M or 13S buses of the New Lantao Bus Company, which both cost $12. A taxi from Tung Chung to Mui Wo will be roughly $260.
Mui Wo is where the reluctant Hongkonger resides. In the last two decades, it has become home to retirees and expats burnt out from city life. Residents tend to belong in the vein that “city life wasn’t really for them”. It seems this is where the metropolis’ self-professed misfits have gathered; and they look more tanned and less tense for it. Judging by the sea of pedal power next to the ferry terminal, most residents still commute to work in Central, but home is where the heart is. Many of the businesses in Mui Wo are expat owned, and the nearby international kindergarten and primary school reflects the diverse demographic of the area.
We have been looking at affordable places to buy in Hong Kong ever since we came to the SAR in 2007. I was happy with Lamma or Mui Wo. Buffalo Wilbur (ie hubby) was worried that cheap may not necessarily translate to charming. "There is a reason they are so cheap," he quite reasonably pointed out.
Then we spotted the above article in Time Out. Aha!
Ever since then, we have been noticing many articles talking about how Mui Wo is the next up and coming place. Today's SCMP has something on the yuppification of the town and how prices have more than doubled in the past five years. I feel vindicated.