Slow Boat to (a Special Administrative Region of) China


Hong Kong’s a busy place. Everyone knows that. Even people who have no real concept of Hong Kong as a place will imagine it as busy. People, buses, taxis, neon lights… It’s odd how neon lights are synonymous with ‘busyness’ but don’t actually contribute any kind of physical presence on the street. Anyway…

Up in the far east of Hong Kong, however, deep in the wilds of Sai Kung Country Park, you can take a journey that is the direct antithesis of a city centre bus ride. A detox journey. The ferry from Wong Shek to Ma Liu Shui. It departs twice a day, with six stops in a total journey time of nearly 2 hours. Hong Kong is a small place. There aren’t many journeys that take 2 hours here without delivering you back to where you started.

But this tub chugs along, so slow that you think it must be intentional, a wilful test of Hong Kongers’ patience….

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Past distant Sharp Peak, to Tap Mun, almost to China, then back round in to Tolo Harbour. It stops at solitary piers and apparently deserted villages. The captain sounds his horn, last call, but nobody is there. There is genuinely nothing to do on board except sit back and watch everything go by. You notice that the mountains are layered in the haze, like a kid’s pop-up book. While sitting on board, alongside perhaps ten passengers in total, I began to wonder why this service is still running when it clearly hasn’t been required since the 1950s. Maybe the authorities don’t realise that it is still running. In that case, I hope they never do…

DSC_0281 DSC_0278Finally we meander in to Ma Liu Shui, near Sha Tin. There are roads, and tower blocks, and various other signs of civilisation. Because this is Hong Kong, we can then jump straight on to a taxi and shoot back in to the city’s neon belly.



In Print…



The Hong Kong Writers Circle has just published its 2014 Anthology – ‘Another Hong Kong’. A range of short stories and poetry re-imagining the city in the past, in the present, in the future… Well worth a read, even if it does feature a story by yours truly. Click on the pic for more details!