Saturday, February 24, 2007

Our new favorite beach: Shek-O!

Slowly, we gravitate away from the old standard beaches, like Stanley, Big Wave Bay and Chung Hom Kok (a name I just love to hear the kids say) and try something new. Over Chinese New Year, our meanderings paid off big time in the discovery of Shek-O. On our first day there, we eased our minivan into the last available spot in the municipal parking lot and thus entered Shek-O buoyed by a sense of good luck. And oddly, over the next two solid days we spent there, that feeling never left.

The beach itself is quite nice, in between a peninsula of land with the village of Shek-O on one side and vertical green mountains on the other side. Like all beaches here, it is well groomed by beach keepers with machines and rakes but in addition to the grooming, it did actually seem clean. The beach and sand were so nice that it held our attention for two full days, with no side trips to the playgrounds near the parking lot. We did backtrack to the kiosks near the beach for mint chocolate chip ice cream (never before seen by us in Hong Kong) and a couple kites. We flew the kites far and wide and high, until Tori got scared and cried that the kites were too high to possibly be safe.

In addition to the beach, Shek-O has a small village as well. The village has one street for cars and the rest are more narrow passages for foot traffic only. One day we ended up eating lunch at Black Sheep Pizza, a place that would have counted as a very good bohemian type restaurant anywhere let alone in a little village on the edge of Hong Kong Island. We ate by and later explored the village’s own Tin Hau (goddess of sea travelers) temple. While many people were praying over Chinese New Year’s, no one did anything other than smile at our little kids crouched in the temple, watching everyone say their prayer, light their joss sticks (to carry their prayers to heaven) and bang the gong afterwards. Inspired by all this good will, we even convinced the kids to go on a short hike through the village, past beautiful mansions with even more beautiful gardens, out the peninsula and up to a small look pagoda. Good will prevailed. We all made it out and back.

Back in the village, we continued to hear the drum beat of the lion’s dance. At times, it was quite close to us and others far away. We watched shopkeepers tied long strings in front of their shops with money (even $1,000 Hong Kong dollar notes- that I have never seen before. Tradition is to give new money, crisp clean bills) and lettuce. While we don’t know the full significance, we have seen it enough recently to know that the lion dances in front of the store and grabs the money and lettuce while doing all sorts of jumps and tricks to get the rewards. It was all very holiday like and festive but we didn’t stay to watch the actual dance. The lion dance is very loud and pretty much terrifies Roycie. Full of beach and holiday, we left. Only to have the kids enact their own lion dance at home, run into the wall and knock Tori’s loose tooth out! After all the drama, tears and blood, the Shek-O lion dance might have proved tamer in the end.


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