MIDDLEBURGH DIDN"T DO STANLEY
Recently I borrowed, from the library, "The Leisurely Hikers Guide to Hong Kong
". This details amongst others, three walks around Stanley which during WWII was the site of an infamous Japanese Internment Camp
.It so happens,I once worked with a girl (Heather Eden) whose father was a POW in that camp and although Stanley is just up the road I have visited neither the site nor the Military Cemetery
there.(Stanley Fort was a British Army base before and after the war and is now home to a PLA garrison.) So a couple of weeks ago, even before HM Queen was visiting Islandbrige and the Gardens of Rememberance in Dublin (both of which I have visited) we set off to explore......
Nothing went to plan ....Although we made sandwiches for breakfast, we also bought some buns, on a whim, on our way down to Stanley.(don't ask why). These we ate instead, whilst watching the Dragonboats and Windsurfers practicing off the beach by the HK Sea School. (we just sort of found ourself on the beach, buns in hand). Since we were there and I had never been to Stanley's Main Beach before (it's embarassing really, considering that I've lived in HK for about 10 years and have permanent residence status), we took the opportunity to look around the watersports centre after which we walked back to the bus terminus to formally start our "hike"
We started along one of the routes described in the book getting only as far as the playground on Wong Ma Kok Road just past the Public Dispensary opposite Banoo Villas, approximately 400m (if that) along our way. The first "landmark" a few steps from the bus terminal was the old Stanley Police station, now repurposed as a Welcome Supermarket. Frankly one supermarket is very much the same as another even if it is in a listed building. Unfortunately having failed to excite, my wife's objections started to kick in, as we walked towards the Cemetery and St Stephens Beach (a 15 minute walk),.... the route was "deemed" to be a "boring" old road NOT child friendly like a shaded walk along a Country Park Trail or a beach. It was true.... and the fact that the sun was unexpectedly blazing down fit to fry eggs on the pavement didn't help either !!. (basically I had got it wrong !!)
So we put the book away and improvised, finding a path from the road back down to the small beachlet at Pak Kan where there is a nice sitting out area in front of a row of 8 restored "cottages". These are a cross between beach huts and artisan cottages in which the local authority houses some OAPs. There we sat and relaxed whilst
- watching qualifying heats for the June Dragonboat races (?). Although there will be dragon boat races all over HK next week, including Stanley ,there were some signs up indicating that these races were something else. (We noticed on the way in that the dragon boats were also out racing at Deep Water Bay.)
- watching other gwaillos eating their sandwiches. No buns for them!! - french bread , ham , sliced cheese , tomatoes etc - very provencale....
- paddling in the sea and
- obliging Korean girls who begged to be photographed with jamie (go figure!!)
Eventually, when Jamie got bored, we up'd sticks and headed in the direction of Stanley (taking our sandwiches with us!!). To our suprise, after passing the pumping station at the end of the "beach", we found ourselves at the end of a "new" broadwalk/Water Front stretching back up to Main Street . I say "new" but apparently it was completed mid/late 2008 which only goes to show how infrequently I visit Stanley. We wandered down the broadwalk like weekend tourists and then cut up against the flow to the bus terminus to go home. By this time the tourists were flooding in which probably explains why I don't visit often.
When we got home I studied the hiking book and a map closely , whilst I finally savoured the sandwiches (the rest of family went for a McDonalds). There is a lot to see in Stanley (which is why it's so popular with tourists.
There is for example
- Stanley Plaza: currently being revamped with phase 1 due to reopen October 2011.
- Murray House: This 1846 building was relocated from Central where it was the officer's quarters at Murray barracks and reopened in 2002 containing restaurants (took patrick and SJ here) and
- Hong Kong Maritime Museum which is free, open 10am -6pm except Mondays and next to
- Blake Pier relocated in 2006, originally a ferry pier in central. Now served by local ferry (weekends/holidays) between Po Toi Island - Stanley - Aberdeen.
- The Tin Hau temple near the ampitheatre build by the pirate Cheung Po Tsai It has a tiger skin hanging on the wall previously worn by a tiger shot by an Indian policeman, Mr Rur Singh, in front of Stanley Police Station in 1942.(apparently the locals feared it was going to put the bite on them)
- Main Street: full of bars cafes etc - one of which has/had Patricks UCD ID card stuck to its ceiling.
- Stanley Market. The pictures tell it all.
- Stanley Main Beach
- St Stephens Bearch which also has a watersports centre and a rather pleasant Lantai cafe
- Military Cemetery: There are 600 graves some of which date from 1843 as well as graves dating from the war.
- The Correctional Museum (also free and closed on Mondays)Was reopened in January 2010 after extensive renovation. The museum's main building has 10 galleries with a mock gallows and two mock cells.
- Ma Hang (ecological) Park newly opened January 2011
In retrospect I realised that what I should have done was to take the #14 or 6a bus from the terminus to St Stephens Beach, spend a couple of hours there, then have a walk around the cemetery before going home. we could have eaten our sarnies at either or if we we really adventurous we could have gone to Correctional Museum - it's on the bus route although I doubt if they would have let us eat our sarnies in the cells !!!