Despite the slow creep of floodlit housing estates to
the east and west, the south of Hong Kong Island (or “Southside” as
everyone calls it) retains more than enough rugged coastline, wooded
upland and sequestered beach to startle anyone whose preconception of
Hong Kong was wholly urban. Traffic from the city passes through the
Aberdeen Tunnel and enters a bright and shiny landscape of golf clubs,
marinas and opulent homes. There is good swimming at Repulse and Deep
Water bays, and even, at Big Wave Bay, some acceptable surf. Over at
Stanley, stallholders set out their coral beads and antique opium pipes,
while at isolated Shek O, media types and young commuters snap up
beachfront village houses. The Dragon’s Back ridge, plunging down the
southeast corner, offers some of the island’s best walking, with views
of the South China Sea.
The British made sure
that Hong Kong was well defended from the sea, but it was always
vulnerable to attack from the north. During World War II, the island
fell to a Japanese attack via the mainland. Hundreds of civilians were
interned in Stanley prison, and the well-kept cemetery nearby is the
resting place of many who died either trying to defend Hong Kong or
during the occupation.
Sights in the South
blocks crowd Aberdeen’s small, lovely harbour, which is still filled
with high-prowed wooden fishing boats despite the fact that overfishing
and pollution have decimated the Hong Kong fishing industry. Ignore the
ugly town centre and instead photograph the tyre-festooned sampans, or
walk to the busy wholesale fish market at the western end of the harbour
and watch the catches being loaded onto trucks and vans.
in Aberdeen Harbour are two giant floating restaurants, which are
popular but garish, production-line eateries. The most famous, The
Jumbo, is said to have served more than 30 million people. Prices are
not especially attractive, nor are the culinary achievements. Free
ferries shuttle between these restaurants, and pushy sampan handlers
also lie in wait for meandering tourists. Take one of these boats if you
want to get a good view of the harbour, boats and boatyards. However,
when you want to eat, take a ferry from Aberdeen to Lamma Island’s many
seafood restaurants instead .
long-established theme park responded to the arrival of Disneyland on
Lantau Island with a major refurbishment and a corresponding surge in
popularity. There’s enough to keep children and adults alike busy for a
whole day. More than 30 permanent rides and animal attractions range
from rollercoasters to giant pandas and great aquatic displays, such as
Atoll Reef, which recreates the habitats and sealife of a coral reef .
Giant panda, Ocean Park
Deep Water Bay
an almost Mediterranean air to the lovely beach and waterfront of Deep
Water Bay, a popular place for beach lovers and the well-to-do who
settle in the Bay’s upmarket housing. The smallish beach is protected by
lifeguards and a sharknet, and the water is usually clean. As with most
beaches in Hong Kong, it gets crowded in fine weather.
popular destination, Repulse Bay’s beach is clean and well-tended, if
sometimes over-crowded with thousands of visitors. Eating and drinking
choices range from small cafés on the beach to the Verandah,
a classy restaurant run by the same group as the Peninsula Hotel in
Tsim Sha Tsui. Try afternoon tea here. The Hong Kong Life Guards Club at
the far southern end of the beach is also worth a look for its scores
of statues of gods and fabulous beasts.
and undeveloped, the village of Shek O is worth the relatively lengthy
train and bus ride necessary to reach it. The serenity is upset only at
weekends by droves of sun worshippers heading for its lovely beach. A
short walk to the small headland leads to striking rock formations,
pounding waves and cooling South China Sea breezes. Surfing and body
boarding are often viable on Big Wave Bay, a short walk or taxi ride
north. Head to the Black Sheep, a lovely bar and Mediterranean-style restaurant, for a post-ramble beer and a bite to eat.
House by the sea, Shek O
The Dragon’s Back
4-mile (6-km) walk looks daunting on the map, but the route along the
gently ascending ridge of the Dragon’s Back will not mean too much
huffing and puffing for the reasonably fit. The reward is unbeatable
views down to the craggy coastline of the D’Aguilar Peninsula, Big Wave
Bay and genteel Shek O. At a gentle pace the walk should take about
three hours, enough time to build up a good appetite when you arrive in
Shek O. Take plenty of water.
former fishing village, Stanley was one of the largest towns on the
island before the British arrived and placed a fort on its strategic
peninsula. Relics from both eras remain, but Stanley’s many excellent
seafront restaurants and its extensive market are justifiably the main
draws for visitors .
Ap Lei Chau
the most densely populated island in the world, Ap Lei Chau (or Duck
Island), opposite the Aberdeen waterfront, is crowded with new high-rise
developments. Bargain hunters may find a visit to the discount outlets
at the southern end of the island worthwhile (see Designer Outlets in Ap Lei Chau). Close to the ferry pier are some small family businesses, boatyards and temples that have survived the modern developments.
away on the hill above Aberdeen, the Chinese Cemetery is a great place
for photographs, both of the cemetery itself and of the harbour beneath.
Negotiating the steep, seemingly endless steps is quite an undertaking,
though, especially on a hot day.