Stanley feels like a proper seaside place, with the waterfront and the market stalls. The town lies on the southern peninsula of Hong Kong island, and does take a while to reach – approx. 40 minutes on the number 6, 6A, 6X, 66, or 260 bus from Central, Admiralty or Wan Chai, depending on where you take the MTR to. It’s a popular tourist attraction though, and certainly worth the journey, and I’ve been twice already. The first time was just for a browse, and a beach barbecue later on, and then I returned to do my Christmas shopping and check out the German market that popped up. Stanley Market is open year round though, and has plenty of stalls to see, leading you along a warren-like trail. I particularly liked that this market has higher quality goods than some of the others I’ve been to, and although there is some overlap between stalls, many do have entirely unique wares. There’s everything from bags and scarves, to jewellery and ornaments, to children’s toys. I bought pretty much everyone’s Christmas presents here on my second visit.
From the market, you simply follow the path to the right and you’ll find the waterfront. It curves around a natural harbour, which makes for a pleasant walk around, with peaceful views out to see. The road is only built along the opposite side, with some colourful buildings, making it feel more like what I expect the seaside to be, which house several restaurants and pubs. There’s also a smaller market, including a few open-air cafes. On my second visit we bought coconuts from one, and drank the milk while sitting on the harbour wall – felt a little weird in December though! It’s still not too cold here, but we’re a long way from tropical now. The little fishing boats in the harbour also give it a very quaint feel, in contrast to the fancy looking houses on the hillside behind the waterfront. At the far end from the market is Stanley Plaza, a much more modern shopping centre, but still with some pretty cool, unique shops inside. There’s also Blake Pier, this wooden structure perched on the water, which is really nice inside, with these perfectly symmetrical arches, and feels very peaceful compared to the rest of the town (which is peaceful itself compared to Central etc). I spent several minutes here just enjoying the ocean view, and it later served as the inspiration for this Musings post.
During this first visit to Stanley I also ventured beyond the waterfront and into Ma Hang Park, a forest area along the coast. It’s on a pretty steep hillside, but there are steps and paths built into it. I didn’t explore too far, as the mosquitoes were out, but I did come across the Pak Tai Temple there, a tiny building perched in the side of the rocks, hidden amongst the trees. The building itself was closed, and was very small, but the coloured flags and decoration were pretty, and having a view out to sea like it does is pretty special. That night I then headed all the way back through the town and across the peninsula (it’s very narrow, this was about a 15 minute walk), to Stanley beach, where we claimed one of the barbecue pits. There’s a supermarket not far from the beach, so you can buy everything you need there, including charcoal, lighters and barbecue grids. It was nice to be beside the ocean, not that we could see much of it in the dark. The most problematic part though was the wind, which was blowing sparks from our fire everywhere, and resulted in a lot of our food getting a bit… crispy. We had enough alcohol to make it funny though!
I returned to Stanley this past weekend, mainly to buy presents, but I also wanted to see the Christmas market being held there. Having been to the one in Edinburgh for years now, my standards are pretty high and sadly Stanley’s effort was just not as good, as the “German” part was pretty small, and very crowded – the queue for the one sausage stall was soooo long! The handicrafts at the seaside market area were nice, but again, it was really crowded, and these stalls didn’t always feel that Christmassy, which is what I was really hoping for. I wasn’t looking to buy anything though, having already been to the main market, except perhaps food, but not when the lines were that long. It was nice to see all the lights and decorations though. I’m finding it hard to feel particularly festive when Hong Kong is so different to home, but seeing things like this definitely helps! There was also a small brass band (quintet) playing, which added to the festive mood, especially since I haven’t seen one of those in months! Also, as I was walking back along the waterfront to the bus stop, the trees lit up all of a sudden, as their Christmas lights were turned on for the night, which was a rather pretty sight. So although it wasn’t quite home, it was still a pleasantly festive day out. And Stanley is most definitely worth a visit at any time of year!