When you think of Hong Kong, what do you see?
Sky scrapers? Buildings? Bee hive like apartment buildings, warrens of walkways overflowing with a constant rush of people? You’re probably not thinking of beautiful long white beaches. I’d suggest you’re defiantly not thinking of a great camping destination, and I’d place money on the fact you’ve never considered a teepee as potential Hong Kong accommodation.
Hong Kong, however, can really surprise you. Just when you think you know Hong Kong, it throws out another angle you never knew was there. This, i’d suggest, is why people find it so hard to leave Hong Kong, why Hong Kong has a huge population of long term ex-pats who came to Hong Kong ‘just for a year’.
Cheung Sha beach, is one such surprise. A beautiful stretch of white, clean sand stretched out under the Lantau hills. Deserted in the early evening, we wandered along, footprints in the damp sand, the lowering sun turing the sky golden, silhouetting the island’s peaks.
Palm Beach is the home of a very unusual camp site right on this stunning beach. At palm beach you can embrace your inner Pocahontas and camp out in teepees.
Sat on a rare patch of grass, the teepees look right down onto the beach. A world away from the city.
We stayed in one of the 12ft teepees, big enough to sleep two. All the other teepees were occupied by families, the children running barefoot in their pyjamas around the grass. The air is filled with the smokey smell of barbecues. It feels like childhood summer holidays.
Lying inside, looking up at the bamboo wigwam and the painted canvas is surreal. Its a surprisingly comfortable place to sleep, it doesn’t get damp or sticky like modern style tents. With the canvas flap pulled across the doorway for the night, the teepees are cosy and snug.
Just few minutes walk down the beach is The Stoep, a South African and Mediterranean restaurant on the beach.
Opening right onto the quiet sands, strung with fairy lights, you could easily be miles away from Hong Kong. It feels more like a beach in Thailand, it feels like being on holiday.
Lantau is roamed all over with cattle and buffalo. Here the cattle wander casually along the beach, coming right up to the tables on the sand. Did you ever think of Hong Kong as a place where you could share your dinner with a cow?
The sunset over the water, the sky turning a deep blue. We sat for hours, getting very comfortable, drinking far too much wine.
The atmosphere is relaxed, laid back. The staff are friendly; this is the type of place where people ask your name and remember it.
For dinner we shared a plate of meat. Chicken breast, lamb chop, juicy steak and boerewors, South African sausage. Meaty and spicy, the sausage was my favourite part of the meal. As we ate, sizzling plates of meat were taken out to other tables, making me want to try more of the South African specialities. Alongside the meat we had roast potatoes, a huge plate of garlic bread and a thick, salty feta spread.
The food is homey and comforting.
For desert, Malva pudding, a light and sticky steamed caramel cake, and a rich, fiery chilli chocolate cake.
If you want to see a very different side to Hong Kong, take the slow ferry to Lantau island. Sit at the back on the open deck and watch the view change from sky scrapers to mountains. Get yourself to Cheung Sha beach for a weekend, or just a day. Remember to take cash. The Stoep is cash only, the nearest cash point will be a 45 minute bus ride away.
This is a real break from city life.