Stanley, Hong Kong
Photo: Blake Pier © Beth Reiber
I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve been to Hong Kong over the past 30 years, but I always make a point of spending at least half a day in Stanley. In fact, compared to bustling Central or Kowloon, going to Stanley is like taking a mini vacation. First, there’s the roller-coaster bus ride in a double-decker from Central that careens around curves and zips over hills on its 30-minute journey, providing tantalizing views of the South China Sea along the way. Although bargain shopping makes my heart beat faster, a leisurely meal is also always in the picture.
Stanley village, sprawled along a peninsula on the south side of Hong Kong Island, exudes a relaxed and laid-back ambience, making it popular among foreign residents and visitors alike. Just a minute’s walk from the bus stop, Stanley Market provides the top tourist draw, an intimate warren of narrow streets lined with stalls and shops selling clothing for the entire family — shoes, watches, linens and Chinese souvenirs.
A woman at one of the stalls spotted me eyeing one of her silk scarves on my last visit. As she told me, the first customer brings good luck, so she gave me a good price.
Actually, I bought several scarves because purchasing more than one item from any one vendor usually fetches an even better price.
You’ll find loads of inexpensive clothing — think silk dresses, linen blazers, cashmere sweaters, sportswear — as well as Chinese art (a framed calligraphy of your English name is popular), beaded purses, jewelry, embroidered tablecloths and many other crafts and souvenirs.
After shopping, reward yourself with a meal at one of the open-air restaurants on the waterfront promenade at the far end of the market, where you have a view of boats bobbing in the harbor; the historic Murray House, first erected as officers’ quarters in Central in 1844 and moved here stone by stone in 2002; and Blake Pier, with ferry service to Aberdeen and Po Toi Island.
You can also visit the quirky Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum with its canes, handcuffs, replica gallows and jail cells, and other artifacts stretching back more than 170 years to Hong Kong’s early colonial days. Stanley’s name in Cantonese, in fact, is Chek Chue, literally “Bandit’s Post,” supposedly after a notorious pirate said to have holed up and stashed his treasures here in a cave.
Nowadays, though, I am the one who feels she has made out like a bandit because escaping to Stanley proves so much fun.