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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Peng Chau Street Scene

Peng Chau village elder watching me, I was watching the kids and I didn't see him
wingssail-Fredrick Roswold

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Friday, April 08, 2005

April 9, 2005-Peng Chau

I'm not saying it's impossible to get lost on Peng Chau Island, but it isn't easy. Peng Chau is a small island, and you can walk the whole place in one day, but there is a town on Peng Chau, and wandering through Peng Chau's alleys ands lanes you might think you are lost, at least lost in time.

Peng Chau is rural China, and it seems to be right out of the 1920's.

Where much of Hong Kong is tall buildings, traffic, and crowds, Peng Chau is small town, low rise, and quiet.

Quiet Peng Chau

Peng Chau is a little shabby, but it has its charm.

House on Wing Hing Street

The buildings are old and dilapidated concrete slabs of apartments with faded and chipped paint, and laundry hanging out everywhere. But in doors often have colorful holiday decorations, and you will find the family's shoes and sandals lined up outside in neat rows. The narrow alleys are filled with open fronted small shops crammed in an unruly jumble of goods and usually in some corner there is a small table with somebody's half eaten lunch and a TV set is going. Maybe past a curtain in the back room you can hear the clatter and shouts of a Mah Jong game. Even if you disturb the shopkeeper's meal, and he arrives before you wiping soy sauce off his face, he will smile and bow and be charming to you; and try to help. With the narrow alleys the shops are close enough to their neighbors across the alley that you can stand in one place and inspect merchandise in two shops at once, if you want to. And when change is needed, well, the neighbor across the street is only a few steps away.

And then there is the junk.

Chinese places like Peng Chau are a virtual chaos of clutter. Junk is everywhere. The Chinese people seem to be pretty comfortable with piles, stacks and crates of old, disused, stuff cluttering every place. Plus they seem to like rusty corrugated steel awnings and falling down fences. There is so much clutter around you as you walk through a small town like Peng Chau, that you can't see everything which is there. You have to stop and look around. I stopped to take a photo of an interesting building and then noticed that an old man was sitting quietly right in front of me, hidden amongst the junk

You have to slow down in Peng Chau…to experience it.

That however is easy on a quiet Sunday morning; the pace is already slow. There aren't many people out and about, and those that are out are walking. Peng Chau, doesn't have cars. People walk and ride bikes, and they don't seem to be in a hurry. That is not to say they don't have a purpose to where they are going, they just go at an easy pace.

While we were standing in front of a restaurant looking at the menu on display, a procession came down the street. Five little children led the way, taking karate poses as they walked, in sort of a halting, parade like fashion. They were followed by Mom walking in her black satin Mao jacket and punk hairdo, and Dad peddling a small wheeled bike with one more kid on the handlebars. We guessed they were on the way to a weekly karate lesson. They paraded by without a word, throwing karate punches as they went.

Sunday Karate Moves
Peng Chau Family

We walked through town and climbed up Finger Hill Road, to the highest point in town and the best neighborhoods, where the walled houses had fresher paint and nice views, and fewer junk piles. We saw flowering bauhinia trees, a sign of spring, everywhere.

Crash Scene

After conquering Finger Hill we wandered down through the woods to the beach on the back side of the Island and to a local temple where people burn incense for dead relatives. Then we walked on a concrete trail along the shoreline and back to town, where we had a Tsing Tao beer in a sidewalk cafe before boarding the boat for the trip home.

For cruisers in a foreign land, visiting Peng Chau is a nice way to spend a Sunday.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Hong Kong

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