Step on to a small sixteen passenger express bus departing the bustling Causeway Bay, drive through Aberdeen tunnel under the tree capped mountain, pass the pristine waters of Deep Water and Repulse Bay and you will find yourself in the quaint suburb of Stanley. Stanley is home to a number of noteworthy attractions, but unlike the majority of Hong Kong tourist destinations, Stanley has a tranquility and beauty that is improbable in a country that boasts more sky scraping towers per square meter of harbour front than many, if not any, other. Here in Stanley you can enjoy a sand swathed beach, a profusion of delicious cuisine, a contemporary plaza full of chic boutiques and a mature market where haggling is not just encouraged but necessary if you want to get the unfeigned price. Murray House, a colonial era Officers’ Barrack, was dismantled and re-constructed on the south-side of the waterfront next to The Blake Pier at Stanley which welcomes in tourists by the boat load. Both relocated structures provide an ambiance of romanticism that resonates with nostalgia of a long past era. An ambiance that is not lost on droves of newly weds and ad agencies that convene on the steps of the Murray House and through out Stanley for the optimal photo backdrop.
Stanley, one of the oldest villages to be established on Hong Kong Island, appears in the official records of the Ming Dynasty circa 1600. Its Chinese name is Chek Chu and for many including myself it is home. Both the fabulously wealthily and the old guard, the few original land owners who were put up by the government after their village was replaced with a labyrinth of twelve story apartment complexes painted pastel pink and mint green, live and play here. It took me several weeks to work out the quickest path from my flat to the school. The walk now takes me a mere ten minutes and I need only traverse few sets of stairs. Pleasantly more efficient than my previous routes, which led me through buildings, past stone tables and chairs for Chinese checkers and two massive stone dragons. My current path is beautifully landscaped with Koi ponds, waterfalls, turtles bathing on rocks and one of the two previously mentioned dragons. The Dragons are there of course to protect against the gold crazed dwarves that wish to reclaim Chek Chu and their precious Arkenstone. Wait that is the plot to the Hobbit film. Stanley is not Middle Earth but at times I feel like I am in a magical place. A calm little suburb that is minutes away from the hustling-bustling city, and only seconds away from soft sandy beaches. A place where old and new, rich and richer, native and foreign, convene to shop and eat, work and sleep, and most of all enjoy.
Chek Chu to some Stanley to the rest is where I now call home. Everyday it offers a new flavour to taste, a new sight to behold, a new song to be heard, and a new smell often to be avoided, seriously some times it can really stink. Foul fish smells aside, Stanley is a splendid place to reside, I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else in Hong Kong.
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