Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5 Days in Shek O

I recently returned from 5 wonderful days in the small village of Shek O beach, on Hong Kong Island.

Shek O is an anomaly by Hong Kong standards. Although it's headlands and cliffs are ringed by massive mansions, which tell of unbridled wealth and those who play golf in its beautiful country club, Shek O itself still has the feel of old Hong Kong, with no house above 28 feet, one road, small alleyways with old ladies sitting on their doorsteps, not atms, mcdonalds, skyscrapers or shopping centres. Many of the houses are also painted in pastel colours, which add to the beauty of the homes themselves and the small alleyways of Shek O which most people live off.

In fact there is a law in Shek O that protects the village from the high rise development that have overtaken the rest of Hong Kong. The people who live there have apparently been there for generations and although they enjoy some mod cons, like air conditioning, internet connections, gas and electricity, flat screen tvs and modern bus transportation linking them to the city, they remain a world apart.

To get to Shek O from Hong Kong Central involves a 20 minute underground train ride to Shau Ki Wan and then a transfer to a Double Decker Bus or Minibus that takes a further 35 - 45 minutes to reach Shek O. The bus ride is both beautiful, scenic and frightening as the bus drivers navigate a small single lane road up through the mountains, around hillsides with sheer cliffs dropping off on the other side of the road and down to Shek O.

Once you arrive it feels like another world (and it is) with no signs of the modern Hong Kong other than the expensive cars in the beach car park.

There is only one road into, out of and through Shek O and the traffic is minimal to say the least, with most arriving on the public buses.

Shek O itself has 2 beaches, one a small back beach (where I stayed) and the much larger and very beautiful main beach. This beach has modern amenities, which are free, like showers, toilets, change rooms and drinking water. The beach is also patrolled for 3 months of the year by life savers on pontoons and in towers. 

Many of the small shops that ring the Main Beach Car Park also hire out and sell flotation devices, beach balls and even rubber dingys!

Its says Repulse Bay, but it's actually Shek O!

The beach itself can get crowded on the weekends, but it really is a very large beach ringed by beautiful mountains and offshore islands, so there is plenty of space for all. I also like that you can rent beach umbrellas and chairs really cheap if that is what you want!

As Shek O village itself is quite small and my rented apartment was within 5 mins walking distance of everything it was easy to move back and forth to the beach once I had rented an umbrella and chairs to buy food, go to the toilet, pick up some beers etc.

It was also beautiful to be at the beach all day, especially as people left around 6.30 - 7pm and I would stay to watch the sunset.

It was always great watching the life savers pack up after another hot and busy day and finally relax.

I spent 5 nights at Shek O and got to eat in each of its restaurants and cafes and drank every night in its only bar, Ben's Back Beach Bar and I can say that I had a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable time.

I will return to Shek O again at some point but for now I miss it's hot days, warm breezes and cold beers...

Rob Steer

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