Starting from Central, Shau Kei Wan is the 10th stop on the Island Line of Hong Kong’s MTR. The trip takes about 18 minutes in the non-rush time frames.
Located in the Northeast corner of Hong Kong Island, it is a rather densely populated town with lots of high-rise apartment towers. I was there to pick up the number 9 bus to Shek-O.
When you head upstairs at the Shau Kei Wan MTR station – look for the A2 exit. This exit is virtually across the street from the bus terminus.
The 9 Bus which goes to Shek-O also stops at the Dragon Back Trail Head.
As you leave the MTR station – the 9 bus is about the next to last one down the line. There are signs showing the bus numbers, and the waiting area is at least covered overhead, so you won’t have to stand in the rain. A particular Bus Route always arrives and leaves from the same aisle. Unlike the MTR which is based on distance, the buses are flat-rate. So bring your Octopus card.
There are touts present who will ask you to take the light bus – rather than the big double-deck buses. They are in fact a few HK dollars cheaper. The main difference is the amount of leg room. If you are more than 6’1″ then I suggest the bigger buses. As I approached, the tout pointed and said mini-bus. I pointed at my chest, then separated my hands vertically in front of me and said ‘dai‘ or big. Then I pointed at the mini-bus, and brought my hand close together horizontally for small. I think he got it, because he didn’t ask a second time.
Up on the second deck of the bus, I ran into a New Yorker, a Gerry Mullany. Gerry is the Asia Editor for the New York Times. That’s him on the left.
He’s on assignment in Asia for a year and his duties are to run the coverage for the NYTimes – assigning reporters, editing stories, and working out the space and size of the website Asian news coverage. Gerry had just done a piece on the typhoon in the Philippines. On this day, he was heading for the Dragon Back Trail.
Mullany got off the bus at the trail head, and I continued on to Shek-O.
I had just been there a few days before for hiking on Dragon’s Back and having lunch. Today, I was intending to try the surf. I discovered that I could buy a swimsuit right there in Shek-O. There were showers and changing rooms, lockers to stash your stuff, even bathrooms. But the day was clearly on the coolish side, and just as clearly, it was far from sunny, a bit breezy, and the surf was relatively mild. At least milder than it had been a few days before.
So instead of body surfing, I walked the beach, sat on the rocks. took some photos, before having lunch at the Happy Garden Thai restaurant just steps from the beach. At the Shek-O bus station, which could accommodate only one bus at a time, once again, the light bus operators had touts on hand to try to drum up some business. The summer season was officially over, and had been over since November 1st; the beach life guards were no longer on the job, and business had slowed down considerably.
So I simply waited about five minutes for the Number 9 bus, and I headed back to Shau Kei Wan.
Now I live in Sarasota, Florida, and I shop whenever necessary at the Publix Supermarket. The Publix is a large chain and is well-known in Florida for the quality of its goods, the wide number of choices or selections, its daily BOGO sales (Buy one get one free), the cleanliness of the stores, and their helpful and cheerful staffs.
Now in Shau Kei Wan, as well as most of residential Hong Kong – they don’t have supermarkets. Housewives and singles shop every day, that is when they or the family are not going out for dinner. When I say what’s for dinner, I hop into my car, and drive to the market.
In Shau Kei Wan, people walk to the wet market. There people will shop for fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh meat, chickens, pork, and sea food. I did say wet market didn’t I? I also meant to say open air. The butchers work in stalls with just one wall at the back, and an awning or tarp overhead and plastic sheets on the two sides. There are no front doors. They cut the meat, and simply hang it on hooks. There’s no refrigeration. Ditto for the fruit and produce.
They call it the wet market because the floors have to be kept wet to keep out dust. For a westerner used to shopping in a big air conditioned store, this was quite a change for me to see. For me it was unusual, different, and foreign.
For the locals – it is their way of life.