Many Filipinos have been to Hong Kong, but not many of them have been there as tourists.
Hong Kong has built itself as a bastion for business and shopping. This is why, growing up, I always thought of Hong Kong as a metropolis, one that was forever modern, devoid of anything apart from the present and the future.
Which, as we all know, is bunk.
Hong Kong is rich in history, from its part in the opium wars to past as a British colony to its ongoing reputation as a hub for commerce and investment. My family isn’t one for culture, so I grew up thinking of Hong Kong as a place where people went to shop (or go to Ocean Park or nowadays, Hong Kong Disneyland). It was only this year, when I traveled there with friends, that all of us decided to explore Hong Kong as tourists.
We caught a bus from Hong Kong Station to Stanley, about 45 minutes away. Stanley was named after Lord Stanley, a 19th century British colonial secretary. It is one of the oldest villages in Hong Kong, with mentions in records dating back to the Ming Dynasty. It became one of the most populated areas during British rule. Some of the buildings from that era are still in use. The Old Police Station, which was also used as headquarters by the Japanese during WWII, is still there, as are the military cemetery and Stanley Prison, the latter now a museum. The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is also nearby. The area is also a popular spot for beautiful private homes, as well as film shoots.
Stanley Waterfront Mart
Stanley is most known for the Stanley Market, an outdoor shopping district open from 10am-6:30pm daily where tourists can find different items, sometimes at a discount.
We skipped the market and went walking along the promenade, which is filled with food shops. We were very hungry at this point, so we stopped at the nearest stall that didn’t serve Western food and had an assortment of noodles. I ordered stir-fried flat rice noodles and Hong Kong milk tea. We didn’t expect much from what was essentially a tourist trap, and our expectations were met. It was still a decent meal though, and the women who ran the stall were friendly and accommodating; it was nice to enjoy lunch in the outdoors, right next to a beautiful view.
If we could do this over again, we would suffer the long line at the overcrowded Chinese restaurant in nearby Stanley Plaza, an open-air mall–before exploring. It was the only restaurant occupied by locals, a sure sign that, though it may be overpriced, the meal would actually be Hong Kong-standard good.
Murray House, one of Hong Kong’s oldest buildings, used to stand along Central. Named after Sir George Murray, the British Master-General of the Ordinance circa 1846. The House was dismantled brick by brick in 1982 to make way for Hong Kong’s growing need for land, restored in Stanley in 1998, and opened after renovations in 2002. It’s currently being used to house retail stores, including an H&M that was still being constructed when we were there.
Like Murray House, Blake Pier, named after the 12th Governor of Hong Kong Sir Henry Arthur Blake, used to be located somewhere else. The pavilion used to be located at the end of Pedder Street (hence, its old name, Pedder Wharf) in Central. It was dismantled in 1965 and moved to Stanley in 2007.
It was our first time to see Hong Kong’s historical side. Aside from being a stop on the tourist trail, Stanley’s historical buildings showed us that it is possible for the past to co-exist with the fast-moving present. All it needs is people who value what old buildings have to offer, and a government with enough political will to help integrate the structures into the current make-up of the nation.