When I woke up on Saturday morning to a sunbeam shining on my face through the gap in my clumsily-pulled across curtains, I knew it was a day for an island adventure. Living in Hong Kong is pretty amazing because whenever the urge takes you, you can jump on a boat and be washed up on an island within 20 minutes. Thus, after letting what can only be described as a pre-pubescent teenager cut my hair (let’s just say he was a stranger to scissors before Saturday), I dashed off to the ferry terminal to jump aboard the next boat to Cheung Chau island.
25 minutes later I found myself on a swarming harbour-front. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the big M for McDonalds, the 7/11 sign flashing in my peripheral…this was not what I’d been expecting. I imagined a sleepy little fishing village, no tourists in sight. I was wrong, but I had an idea. I scouted the horizon for a clearing and made my escape. I found a bicycle rental shop, picked the prettiest purple one I could find, complete with teapot shaped bell, and made a beeline for anywhere without people. Pretty soon I was riding downhill, the chilly winter air slipping through the wool in my jumper, my new haircut the epitome of windswept. I spotted a patch of sparkling sand and smiled to myself at being so clever for knowing that if I just cycled 5 minutes away from the crowds, I’d find my slice of paradise.
I spent the rest of the late afternoon cycling and carrying my bicycle uphill to all the look-out points. Let me tell you, this island is BEYOND BEAUTIFUL. Standing at the tip of the north look-out pagoda and seeing the Hong Kong skyline behind you, while down below fisherman go about their simple day, and farmers potter about on the land, that is how I want to spend every Saturday. Once again, I realised how much my heart beats countryside. The smell of cut grass mixed with incense and freshly-caught fish, meddling with the salt of the ocean and a hint of suntan lotion, that is what Cheung Chau smells like.
I cycled long after the sky had turned pink, as the smell of BBQ’d seafood started to blow through the lanes and the ukuleles came out to play. I ate fish balls on sticks and red bean buns sealed with a lucky red stamp and chose apartments that I’d like to live in if I could move to such an island. There was a feeling of community that must have settled over the island many years ago, that still lingered in the old, crooked alleyways.
I certainly wouldn’t mind living somewhere so special. As the sun was setting, I caught an older lady taking photos of me sitting on the rocks. I went to collect my bicycle from the path and we started to chat in Mandarin. We walked back to the village together with her dog and she even carried my bag up the hundred steps as I struggled with my bicycle. She was so friendly, and it made such a nice change getting to chat to a stranger which doesn’t often happen in my daily life in Hong Kong, at least not on such a personal basis. I even made friends with a group of teenagers who helped me tie up my bicycle to theirs while we went to look at some cave that pirates used to frequent!
Island people are really quite lovely. I think it’s all the fresh sea air and lack of traffic. If only we could all live like that…
Cheung Chau, I can’t wait to visit you again.