Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lights up!

Ok, I take that back about the fortune trees. They're pretty cute when they light up.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sunday stroll

Chung Hau village is a hive of activity early Sunday morning. People are out and about early getting in a bit of Chinese New Year shopping.

Sports carnival

A smattering of stalls, a clown making balloon shapes, a bouncy castle and some games stations in the huge basketball field. It wasn't much but hey, it was all free and the kiddies loved it.

Plus I got a free fragrance sachet to take home so the sports carnival was a success in my books at least.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chinese New Year decorations

Okay, I get the giant lanterns, the big red banners, the manic bunnies and all the usual gold decorations to usher in the Year of the Rabbit.

But what's with these plastic trees? They look so strange and detract from the lovely natural landscaping of the (no dogs or humans allowed) park.

Am I missing something of the symbolism here? Are they supposed to be money trees or something?

Maybe they light up at night? I haven't had time to do a night stroll yet but I will soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Village carnival

It was our first Mui Wo carnival and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The setting was not very exciting – a concrete ground with patches of grass smelling of dog poo.

But the energy and charm was amazing.

There was a bouncy castle, bonsai exhibits, games stalls, a series of weird papier mache animals made with stools. And the entertainment was basic – a lion dance, a taekwondo exhibition, recitals and singing by the students of Mui Wo Primary School and Little Owls Kindergarten – but the fun was infectious.

The best bit was that the food was free! I had come armed with lots of coins to buy samples of the local cuisine but I didn't have to pull out my purse at all.

So, never one to pass up on free food, I was one of the firsts in the queue.

I passed on the chicken feet but the rest were good, especially the spring rolls and soya sauce chicken. There were even people walking among the crowd dispensing milk tea.

Bring on the next carnival... especially if there's more free food!

Rome reopens

My Mui Wo expert (who has lived here almost 20 years) swears by Rome Restaurant. He says it's the place locals go to for cheap but good set meals.

The restaurant, which has been passed down from father to son, closed for much-delayed renovations a few months back and, since it's reopened for business, I've noticed the crowds are back in force.

We haven't gone in because we've been daunted by the Chinese-only menus outside. But my friend assures me they have English versions if you ask for them.

We must go there one day and, when we do, I'll post my gastronomic findings.

Bye bye banana tree

I know it's stupid to get sentimental over a wild banana tree but this one along the path to Pui O was my favourite.

A legacy of a long-forgotten farm, it probably had not been tended to for decades but it still continued to produce fat bananas (I admit I did take one and it had a wild tangy flavour).

Since then I've looked forward to saying hi to it every time we go on our usual walk.

So I was really sad to see it dead and mutilated on our last walk. Yes, I know, it was wild, uncared for and probably chopped down to create a firebreak.

But it was still a living thing and I miss my little banana tree.

Sports carnival

Who says just because you live in the Outlying Islands all the fun activities pass you by? I spotted this banner in Pui O today advertising a sports carnival with games booths, free gifts, clowns and an "air bouncer" (lightweight security guards perhaps?).

The one at the Mui Wo playground will be from on the morning of January 30 and the carnival will then move on to the Pui O playground.

And tomorrow, there is the Mui Wo carnival to look forward to. Gosh, what a whirl of activity in this small town!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Postponed pampering

Oh no! Thai Pailin Massage is closed from now till February 1 (or thereabouts) for renovations.

Where am I going to get my weekly massages? My shoulders will all be in knots by the time February comes.

Can't wait. But here's hoping the new decor won't come with new prices...

Flea fi fo fun!

I love flea markets. And were it not for Buffalo Wilbur, who acts as a clutter police, our flat would be filled to the brim with things nobody else wants.

Mui Wo could do with a charity shop, I think. It has everything necessary for an Oxfam or Salvation Army shop: well-to-do charity-minded wives and a ready pool of buyers (yours truly especially).

So of course, when I saw a sign advertising a flea market at Epiphany Church, I was excited. The strange thing was, the sign looked new but the date was 2009... so when exactly was it?

Turned out it was yesterday and today – and I was just in time to catch the last of the bargains.

The good thing about turning up half an hour before closing time, though, is you get a lot of stuff further marked down. I got a lovely Zara tweed skirt and Ralph Lauren silk shirt for HK$10 for two and three woolly scarves for HK$20.

It really brightened my weekend. Pity the flea market can't be held more often. And I get given ample warning.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pun choi feast

We were passing Pui O by bus today and spotted a pun choi (basin vegetable or big bowl) feast about to commence. Just the sight of the big metal bowls was enough to make my mouth water.

I can imagine what's inside: The traditional pun choi has eight core ingredients, according to politician-turned-food critic Stephen Ip, has pork belly, radish, pig skin, fish ball, bean curd skin, shiitake mushroom, chicken and squid.

These days, restaurants also add fish maw, dried oyster, roast duck and goose, and seafood such as prawn and crab.

Everything is seasoned with sauces like soy sauce or fermented bean sauce, then cooked in the metal bowls – though in the old days, they were cooked in a wooden basin.

The radish at the bottom is the most coveted because it has absorbed all the flavors during the long cooking time.

Pun choi feasts are usually held during family gatherings, religious festivals and big celebrations – like the Lunar New Year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brrr... it's freezing

My colleague laughed when he saw me putting on cardigan, jacket, scarf then hat as I left work. "Is it that cold in Mui Wo?" he asked.

"You have no idea," I replied.

I never thought Hong Kong winters were especially chilly... then I moved to Mui Wo. After all, as the weather report keeps reminding me: "Temperatures over the New Territories will be a couple of degrees lower than those over the urban areas."

The area between McDonald's and the pier is especially cold. Even as I type this, my back spasms at the thought of braving it in the morning.

There's something about the wind there that cuts right through anything I'm wearing and leaves me shivering. Thank goodness for the breakfast stalls at the pier, which are always good for a warming waft of steam.

The poor cat has taken to burrowing under her fleece blanket so that her bum is warmed by the electric blanket. Buffalo Wilbur has been wearing three layers... indoors.

Thank goodness we live close to the pier and in a built-up area, which shelters the flat somewhat from the chilly winds. I really sympathise with those who have another 20 minutes walk in the biting cold to their uninsulated village houses.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New hiking trail

Looks like Mui Wo has got a new trail, called the Islands Nature Heritage Trail. That's a picture of Mui Wo from Mong To Au, taken from the government website.

We caught glimpses of the opening ceremony at the Nam Shan picnic area from the bus but thought it was just another marathon or something.

The new trail starts in Mui Wo and goes all the way to Pat Mong in Tung Chung and is supposed to take three hours (most likely all day for people like me).

We may just steel ourselves for a walk. But can anyone tell me exactly where the trail begins in Mui Wo?

Mui Wo FAQ – Amenities

A picture paints a thousand words, so take a peek at this short video, which will tell you in images more than I can in words. Below are some of the FAQs people have asked me since I started the blog:

How are the property prices in the area?
Mui Wo is getting quite popular so the days of HK$2,000 to HK$3,000 rents are over. But it is still lots cheaper than the rest of Hong Kong. In the town, you can get a studio/one-bedroom for slightly above HK$5k a month and a two-bedroom for HK$6-8k.

If you are willing to live farther from the pier (a bike is a good idea), you can probably get a 700 sq ft place for about HK$6k or less. But don't quote me on that.

The property agent websites to look at are Findley Leung, Lantau Home Solutions, Proper Trip and Easy Reach. But they're not all updated frequently so, if you want a more realistic picture, contact the agents direct. I'd recommend Alice from Findley Leung. She's always out of office but answers her email pretty quick: alice@findleyleung. No, I don't get a commission for recommending her cos no one knows who I am!

Do people speak English?
Definitely. The place has a big expat community and all the shopkeepers speak English. The general manager at Wellcome, Mr Lam, speaks English. The people at Wah Kee seafood centre speak English. Most taxi drivers don't speak English but you don't have to say anything to them. Just remember the right intonation for Mui Wo, Tung Chung and Airport ( 機場gēichèuhng) and you'll be fine. They have an English booking line. I will put it up if I remember to take it down when I walk past the taxi rank next time. Check out the Wikitravel website for basic Cantonese.

The ferry is the fastest and most convenient way to get to Central. There is a road from Tung Chung to Mui Wo (South Lantau Road). If you drive, it will take only 15 mins but the buses take about 40 minutes. Usually people take the ferry as that cuts down travelling time.

Seasickness is a problem but you'll probably build up resistance, as I have (fingers crossed). And don't forget that, during Typhoon Signal 8, ferries stop working and buses are intermittent so it is an expensive trip back by taxi from Tung Chung.

There are two supermarkets, a 7-11, lots of restaurants and a seafood centre, some frozen meat shops, a laundry, a vet's, a hardware shop, a decent coffee joint, a bookshop... all essential for townies like us. We haven't used the three bike shops, the workshop nor the petrol station yet but they are there if you need them. In Chung Hau village, there's also a library, a wet market, a furniture shop, a plank shop (pictured above), a couple of DIY shops and those selling home stuff.

There's no shopping centre. The nearest are Citygate mall in Tung Chung or DB Plaza in Discovery Bay. If you want children's clothes and toys, there's Bizzie Lizzie.

Ikea delivers to the ferry pier and, if you ask them nicely, they would even deliver all the way to your doorstep. And so does Fortress in Tung Chung. You might have to pay extra because the trucks have to buy a one-day permit to drive on South Lantau Road.

There are no food deliveries that I know of but, after you've been living here a while, you learn to do what most people do: pack something back from Central or pop over to McDonald's or Bombay Cafe for a takeaway.

Any gyms?
Yes, above the library in the municipal building. You have to take a short equipment course before you qualify for a gym card. There are plenty of hiking and mountain bike trails, some starting from the town itself. The most trodden/cycled is the trail to Pui O and the Olympic Trail. Or you can just don jogging shoes and run along the waterfront as most people do. There's also a clean (shark-free) beach and a public swimming pool.

Cash is king
Restaurants and shops in town usually don't take credit cards, so everyone here pays in cash. Despite that, there are only two ATMs in town: BEA and an overused HSBC one. You can get cashback at the supermarkets if you pay by EPS.

Biggest drawback?
I've said it once and I'll say it until I am blue in the face: There are no private doctors here (ok, there's one but he opens his clinic at 5pm). The nearest private clinics are in DB or Tung Chung. And there are no pharmacies... maybe the Mui Wo authorities think the sea breeze has enough medicinal value?

More info?
There is a great website for Lantau dwellers, which has all the useful phone numbers, upcoming events and a chatroom for residents looking for homes or other services. It's Lantau Link.

Video tour of Mui Wo

Ever since I started this blog, I've been getting queries about Mui Wo from a few people considering moving here (yay).

I will be posting some Mui Wo FAQs later but, in the meantime, Youtube has a video that gives you an idea of the faces and place in the area.

I can't figure out the code on blogspot that will ensure that the right side of the screen isn't chopped out but you can view the high definition of the video on Youtube.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


It's fun living in a small town because there's always something happening.

Woke up this morning to singing and a general hubbub. The Catholic church round the corner was having a Virgin Mary procession around town.

Now we're not Catholic but it was rather sweet to see the statue of the Virgin being carried shoulder high to bless the area. Makes a good start to the year, I think.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The plum nest

Mui Wo translates to "plum nest" in Cantonese in reference to the fat that the original village, Mui Wo Kau Tsuen, looks like it is nestled in the middle of the five petals of the plum.

It's hard to imagine that when you're down in the villages but just pause by South Lantau Road and you can see the villages are in a pretty bowl-like valley.

Most would think it's a pretty sight. Buffalo Wilbur, who has no romantic soul at all, says it looks like his town in Cityville.

Mui Wo carnival

The last time I read about a Mui Wo Carnival, I turned up at the square to find no one there, not even a village cat. So I am quite sceptical about this one.

But then again, the banner is all over the place so maybe the rural committee may make good their promise.

See you there then, on January 23 at the Mui Wo Square. They have promised village food stalls and a Butterfly Hill run. I'm just going to find out what a silver cave model looks like.

Village representative elections

Apparently the village representative elections are bitterly fought. On polling day, the supporters set up tables, yell to passing cyclists: "Vote for No 1/No 2/whatever the candidate's number" and all but trip you up in their enthusiasm.

I'm sure they mean well and are perfectly harmless. But I wouldn't like to meet them on a dark night – especially if I've voted the wrong person.

Hence this photo taken from afar... from very, very far.

By the way, if you want to know who won, the results are here.

Nam Shan historical trail

You see it on signposts as you leave the ferry and on the big map of Mui Wo just before entering the beach. Nam Shan historical trail, according to the map, is 20 minutes from the beach and just beside Luk Tei Tong.

It caught my imagination. What does a historical trail have? Lots of stalls selling traditional goods? Cantonese opera performances? Maybe a few museums scattered along the way?

So, after a few false starts (including following a trail past the Luk Tei Tong temple into someone's garden), we finally found it. The start was an unassuming bit of dirt in someone's backyard leading first to a few graves (I hate graves but when you walk anywhere in the hills in Hong Kong Kong, you are sure to find one or two because of the good feng shui).

The AFCD website states: "Historical records show that South Lantau's complex circuitry of village paths date back several hundred years. Most stone trails still existing today, known as traditional paths, are frequented by hikers.''

But this path looked "historical" only in a sense that it was not modern. Instead of concrete stairs, huge boulders led the way upwards.

And it was up, up, up, without a pause. Sure, it was only half an hour but it felt like forever.

But it opened up to the Nam Shan picnic area, which felt like an English park. Very pretty... but I think next time, we'll just take a taxi there.