There wasn’t really a plan for this weekend, but as sometimes happens, that made it all the more interesting. My boyfriend was late for a swimming date which was commuted to dinner on Friday night so I ended up waiting in the re-opened People’s Recreation Community, a little upstairs bookshop in the hubhub of Times Square, specialising in Chinese language books banned on the mainland. These consisted of tomes on the ever-fascinating topics of (in order of popularity) feng shui, sex and politics. I was pleased to see the place open, its owner having only recently returned from his politically-motivated abduction and arrest on the mainland, and bought a book in solidarity, a Shigeru Mizuki comic. They actually have a small but quite interesting English selection, as well as (uncensored!) internet booths and a modest two-table cafe serving comfort food.
From here we set off to eat, and to celebrate – I hadn’t realised that the next day was a public holiday! Scouring the backstreets of Causeway Bay without much of a plan we ended up in a twenty storey-high office block into which I had never ventured but which turned out to be piled high with restaurants and thronged with customers. There were Japanese oyster bars, a vegetarian Sichian restaurant, a 1980s Guangdong-style BBQ place with luridly painted mural walls and a manequin of a girl in a leather miniskirt, and finally a rowdy Korean joint. Here, students snacked on fried chicken and squid’s legs wrapped in cheese and graffitied the bare concrete walls, while knocking back bottles of cider held upside down into large glasses of melon soda. It felt like a little slice of Seoul, totally unexpected, and it was called “Mr Korea Chicken”.
The next day, again unplanned, we got up early to head out for a hike and picked the Twin Peaks trail, which sets off from the Parkview housing estate and heads Southwest across the island to Stanley.
As we climbed up into the forested slopes along muddy paths, our voices echoed through the valleys and billowing white cloud wrapped around us. It was hard to believe we were in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities! Truly amazing. We passed the Tai Tam reservoir and vistas of rolling hills covered with trees and then began the grueling 1000-step staircase of the first of the two forested mountains, before tackling the final peak and descending to Stanley below us. Beautiful.
As we got down to Stanley, the cloud lifted and the sun came out. After a lunch soundtracked by Ella Fitzgerald at an idiosyncratic little cafe in a corner of Stanley Market called Lucy’s Kitchen, we headed down to a sunny, secretive little beach. We had seen this from above as we descended. It was near where a war cemetery sits on a well-manicured lawn and bright laundry flapped on the balconies of the correctional services staff apartments for the families of those staffing the nearby prison. Via streets of hundred-million-dollar mansions and thick green foliage we arrived at St Stephen’s beach and splashed about contentedly as the sun shone down, a few children played and the clear, warm water washed our tired bodies. Floating on the sea, we could look up and see the path on the hillside which we had so recently descended.
The final surprise of the day came back in Causeway Bay. After a cheap but hearty vegetarian meal and a massage in a little Thai place located semi-legally in a residential block, it was time to head home. But it was only then that my partner realised he had lost his housekey somewhere and we had to wait for him to pick up his spare from his mum, before we could finally pile into bed, worn-out after an action-packed and adventurous day, thankful for the incredible variety of scenery Hong Kong island packs into such a compact package.