Ferry Day 2 – Central Ferry Pier No3: Hong Kong to Discovery Bay, Lantau Island

A long and very picture-heavy blog today, so settle back. First, a little housekeeping from yesterday’s blog: I asked if anyone could help with an ID of the Late Neolithic Celebrity I met on Park Island, and my brother Seb came to the rescue. Here’s a reminder of the gentleman in question:

And the answer is……Richard Branson! Doh! It’s just so obvious now, isn’t? Great work, Seb.

  • Today’s Distance (cycling & ferry): 28.8 miles
  • Time in saddle/pushing bike: 2h 49
  • Time on Ferries: 45m
  • Max temp (°c): 40°
  • ‘Feels Like’: ?°
  • Climb (feet) : 1715
  • Calories used: 2,050
  • Beaches: 2
  • Beach / Cafe time: 4h 52

The mild-mannered, good natured Sun I left behind at Copenhagen Airport has been replaced here in Hong Kong by its evil twin. When the tropical clouds clear it beats down with a determined ferocity, and after only a few minutes effort on my bike I find sweat is dripping from the end of my nose. Despite this, I love the climate. But only when wearing lycra and able to enjoy a cooling breeze on the bike.The map’s back! I’ve lost my blue tac, so we’re using small pieces of ginger and cocktail sticks to show the waypoints.

And so to today’s Hong Kong Ferry Challenge: it’s the turn of Pier No.3, and the destination – Discovery Bay, Lantau Island.

Lantau is by some way the largest of the Outlying Islands, so it was fitting that the ferry was the biggest I’ve taken so far. I estimated that it must hold over 300 passengers on the main deck. This morning on the 9.40am departure I counted 20 people, and they were mostly women in blue outfits carry buckets, mops, hoovers and one ridiculously heavy floor polisher that took two people to manoeuvre on and off the boat. It also had the fiercest Air Conditioning so far. I get pretty hot cycling my vintage bike even on gentle inclines, but it actually really helps to be a little acclimatised to the humidity rather than to the chilling effect of AC.

This mountainous island is so large that it looks as though I’ll be visiting it at least once more this month but on different ferries, of which more on future posts. Today the ferry took me to the South East part, based around Discovery Bay. I’m limited by the roads I can cycle – there’s a tunnel through the huge mountains but bikes are forbidden – so will just focus on exploring this corner today.

I disembarked with a plan: to make the greatest effort as early as possible to avoid the afternoon heat. I found Discovery Bay Rd, then turned left on Discovery Valley Rd, and started to climb. I was instantly in my ‘lowest’ gear, which feels about the same as medium gearing on my road bike, and the road started to rise up in earnest. I was spurred on by the most unlikely bike-sighting ahead of me, a small-wheeled folding bike of some sort being ridden by a chap with his top off who was using his shirt to alternately wipe away the sweat that was pouring off him, and to shade his head in between wipes. as I got up close I saw that it was another Dahon, and when I asked if he minded a photo he grunted something, grimaced, and nodded.

So now there were two of us on ridiculously inappropriate bikes toiling up towards Discovery Bay Lookout. As my legs started to ache and my speed dropped to near-stationary, I started tacking from side to side since there was little or no traffic. Without this tacking – a technique you can see on the Tour de France when a team domestique finishes his gruelling turn on the front of a climb then pulls away to recover – I don’t think I would have made it today, and I noticed that my new Dahon buddy took up the same trick, although his shirt-wiping left him blind to traffic every now and then. He was a bit of a dude, with his Gremlins-style hair, cycling Crocs and beach shorts. Can anyone recall the name of the ‘bad’ Gremlin? This was him, on his holidays.

It felt satisfying to make it almost to the top, where a gang of workers were out laying cobbles for a new complex and gave me lots of waves as well as steady stares. The Hong Kong and Kowloon skyscrapers were clearly visible in the far distance.I turned off onto a track for one last stretch of climbing.Which led me up to the Lookout Point over Discovery Bay. Here I met Paul and Andrea, who were recovering in the shade with their Dog Club after climbing up as I had, but by a more off-road route. They had mostly rescue dogs plus a few from friends who lived nearby, and once the dogs got used to me they were great company. First a few introductions:

From left to right, here goes: Fred, Eric, Sophie, Royce, Radnor(!) and finally Kelvin Jackson aka Kevin, because apparently he never answers to anything else. Sitting patiently on the bench keeping them all happy is Andrea. I hope you appreciate the work that went into that role call.

Sophie just chilling.

Eric, ditto.

Whilst Kevin, bless him, spent a minute or two just carefully licking sweat off my right leg. Dogs, eh?

Time for a digression. An orchestra I was on tour with in France during a heatwave had the misfortune to work with a very bad-tempered conductor, who really did his best to piss everyone off. He was particularly hard on a good friend of mine, the orchestral manager Andrew. “That boy is SO lazy!”, he kept saying, when his ridiculous requests weren’t dealt with instantly. The following morning, as a petty but satisfying revenge, Andrew and I came up with the following anagram of the conductor’s name:

Our Dog Club Shat Here

Answers to the Mystery Maestro Anagram in the Comments section please. No members of English Chamber Orchestra, or their families, are allowed to enter. Prize is a pack of dog chews, the flavour of your choice.

I carried on further up the main road to the reservoir, a beautiful spot with verdant mountains rolling away into the distance:Then one last steep section, but now with a cooler breeze thanks to having climbed up around a thousand feet, and I reached the Golf Club and Resort, the final stop on this road. It reminded me of the place I spent a night staying with Brant and Dagmar in Kelowna, Canada. Something about the order and calm of golf resorts like this makes me want to set off across the immaculate greens on my bicycle, but as usual I resisted.

After an exhilarating downhill that finally took advantage of one good thing about my bike – it’s heavy, stable and fast going downwards! – I rode north east along the bay to a place called ‘Siena’. Every Italianate house had red roof tiles, I sat in the shade in the piazza sipping a classic Italian summer beverage, “iced pure matchu latte with tofu pudding”, and admired the familiar campanile and, er, flamingos.

The sun came out fully, and it got seriously hot. It turns out I wasn’t actually that hot earlier. My mistake.

I returned to beautiful Tai Pak Beach just beside the ferry pier and finally had my first proper swim in the South China Sea, and it could not have come at a more welcome moment as the afternoon temperature really soared. I failed to film the first splash as planned, due to intense sunlight and a lack of reading glasses! All I got was a fleeting shot of my knee post-swim:

The highlight of my stop at Tai Pak was meeting three great lads, aged between nine & eleven, who first told me where the open-air showers were before we got into a conversation as we all swam about, on the theme of what it’s like living in “DB” (as they all called Discovery Bay). They were brothers Nova and Eden, who were English/Swedish and the sons of a pilot, and Yoshi, who was English/Japanese and also with a pilot dad. “It’s really common to have a pilot dad”, said Nova. “They only have to go through the tunnel to be at work. In England it could take, like, an hour!” (As mentioned before, the new airport is on Lantau). They were obviously great friends, and said that they loved it best after a typhoon, when they plundered all the wood and so on that gets washed up on the beach to build forts on the sand. “Then we come down and all try to steal bits of wood from the other forts!”, Eden told me. “It’s like a computer game, only real life!”, he added sagely. They generally thought it was a bit boring in DB, and the brothers said they missed their old school friends back in Arundel, England. I told them I sometimes played the music for movies, so we went through a list of virtually every film they could think of from the last few years, mostly with me saying “No” “No”, “Nope, not that one either I’m afraid”. When I scored a hit from time to time, it seemed to make up for all the fails. Another great fact they told me was that the golf carts you see everywhere here cost HK$3,000,000 each (about £300,000) to own and license. No cars allowed except taxis and buses. Electric bikes have been banned too, to protect the Golf Cart Industry. I met mum Sandra, who’s from Sweden, and was happy to have her kids appear in this evening’s blog, and was sure Yoshi’s family wouldn’t mind. In fact they were all quite keen to see what might get mentioned, so HELLO NOVA, YOSHI, EDEN AND SANDRA!!! Thanks very much for your entertaining company today. I feel I know Discovery Bay a lot better because of you.

Lunch was a bubble tea and some spiced cuttlefish balls whilst I typed back at the ferry pier area, before I set off for one quick last look to the south west. I came across a small beach with a shanty town of shacks behind it, with a serpentine path that I cycled slowly along, pulling aside occasionally to let another bike or hand-pulled cart go by. Discarded junk lay everywhere, ovens, TVs, fridges, bikes, mostly lined up on the low concrete sea wall. The beach showed you what happens when no one is clearing up the plastic. We really do have a massive worldwide problem with this.

The day ended with a lovely cocktail party in the Intercontinental Grand Stanford, hosted by the ABRSM and the hotel’s General Manager, Mr Alexander Wasserman. This is the main difference between cycling across Canada and the HK Ferry Challenge: way more cocktail partiesThe largest collection of whisky and whiskey in Hong Kong

On a lighter note, some funny stuff, firstly from yesterday that got forgotten:Getting some mixed messages here.HK$51,000,000 of assorted Golf Carts

And finally, when they build your apartment building a few metres above the sea, how on earth are you going to get there every day?

5 thoughts on “Ferry Day 2 – Central Ferry Pier No3: Hong Kong to Discovery Bay, Lantau Island

  1. Hi Ben! I’m James; Yoshi’s dad. It was great to read about your encounter with my son and his friends today. I’m glad they made a positive impression on you about our lives in Discovery Bay. Golf Carts are very expensive indeed, but not quite $3M! Closer to $2.2M which is enough to buy a Ferrari anyway. I wish you well on your travels and on behalf of Yoshi, Nova, Eden and Sandra we all hope to bump into you again before you leave.


    Jim Gray

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A very warm welcome Jim, and thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself! Also thanks for the good wishes. I had a memorable day at Discovery Bay and loved meeting your son and his buddies. This for the Golf Cart update too! I’ll try to mention it in the blog. I know they complained about getting bored, but I thought to myself “Great!” – that means that they set about finding things to do, which is a great skill which so many kids aren’t learning these days. Have a great summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Meant to say, I think there’s a poem In the women lugging their hoovers on the ferry. The invisible mycelium that keeps everything functioning.
    Great to have local contribution from Yoshi’s dad. The boys’ real life computer game has a poem in it too!

    Liked by 1 person

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