Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Po Toi: an outlying island to leave out there

While we have had many great adventures here, some do go awry. Sadly, our last island hopping venture, with my visiting and good spirited Mom in tow, was one of them. While we have great views, beaches and pools, and the American Club (our private club with restaurant and sports facilities across the street) here in Hong Kong, we also have crowds, apartments, heat, extreme humidity and Po Toi.

The standard way to reach any of Hong Kong’s islands is via the central ferry terminal in Central (downtown Hong Kong.) As that involves a 30 minute drive downtown, parking at the Consulate and then a short taxi ride to the ferry, it is not a real attractive option for us. Better are the ferries that leave from the south side of Hong Island, the side we live on. We have the Aberdeen ferry on the south side that goes to Lamma Island, which we have used extensively. Also in the Aberdeen area, there are numerous sampans (small fishing boats) that can be hired at little cost to take you to or from Lamma if the ferry schedule doesn’t suit.
There are also a few ferries that leave out of Stanley, the small town closest to where we live, on a pretty limited schedule. With the vague idea that scarcity increases value, we opted for the Sunday only ferry out of Stanley to Po Toi. We happened to run into a woman expecting twins who I slightly know for that very reason. She mentioned there were no sampans for hire on Po Toi. Despite this last minute warning, we pushed on and soon found ourselves stranded on Po Toi for a three hour tour.
Speaking positively, one could say that Po Toi was like Hong Kong was hundreds of years ago- deserted, no electricity and little commercial overkill. But somehow that doesn’t translate into a pristine natural getaway or at least not in 2007, with a family in tow and a humidity index reaching 100%. Po Toi does have hiking trails that cover the island and in fairness to the island I feel compelled to go back and give them a try. On the day we were there, it was just too hot to even consider making it beyond the one restaurant and the one temple.
The restaurant was packed and whirling with conversation, fans and the noise from its own generator. We ate as best we could being a non-seafood family. Roycie loved the garlic broccoli and of course our kids can now eat white rice with the best. Far surpassing the food, the restaurant highlight was definitely the kids running to the back kitchen and watching with a mix of awe and horror the scaling and cutting of many many fish.
We pushed forward through a little village of sorts to the local Tin Hau (goddess of seafarers) temple. Most villages have a Tin Hau temple and I have yet to see two temples that are alike. We could not get a good look at this one however as it was under construction. The worker men were gracious, stepping over drying cement and two by fours to point out the new ceramic figures that are being placed on the temple. Still, a temple shrouded not in silence and reverence but scaffolding and the sounds of drilling seemed an apt symbol of modern Hong Kong for my Mom to witness.


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