The Days Are Just Packed

Shek O On Mother's Day, we escaped the mad rush to dim sum restaurants by visiting Shek O.

It's a small, remote village that stares into the South China Sea, with its back nestled against Ta Lan Tsing Teng Shan, otherwise known as Shek O Peak.

Situated two kilometers south of another popular beach known as Big Wave Bay, Shek O is well-known for its large beach, and is a popular spot for family barbeques. Sandwiched in between these two beaches is a golf course.

"We could deep breathe and not hack up chunks of lung."

We arrived after noon; the sky had cleared from the scud of morning clouds, and the sun shone down in earnest.

Shek O is a self-contained entity. You can visit with nothing in hand and buy everything you either forgot to bring or didn't want to carry. They have it all: swim suits, water toys, buckets and shovels for the kids, prepackaged charcoal and food for barbeques; you name it.

A never-ending procession of elderly women wearing wide brimmed Chinese-style straw hats offered to rent us beach umbrellas and other items. We encountered all this before setting foot on the beach.

We didn't swim; we were content to walk the beach and take photos. As remote as this beach was, I had misgivings about swimming in these waters, given what I've read about the pollution levels in the seas around the island.

However, the air was much cleaner. It and quiet atmosphere was the antidote to the city. We could deep breathe and not hack up chunks of lung.

When I felt the beginnings of a sunburn coming on, we left the beach and explored the back streets and alleyways of the village to see if anything interesting would turn up.

Shops and restaurants peppered main streets. We meandered through jumbled paths and lanes, heading deeper into the New Village and the Headland. We found a sea wall, built to protect the village against the unbridled fury of summer typhoons.

Away from the swimmers on the other side of the mini-peninsula, garbage washed up on the beach.

I hate being right all the time.

We made our way around the sea wall and back into the village. As we looped back around toward the beach, we thought it would be fun to play a round of mini-golf. A nine-hole course was made up of small Chinese stone sculptures that acted as obstacles. It had pagodas, walls, forts and the like. We tied for par.

Afterward, we had lunch at one of the restaurants, then hopped on the bus heading to Shau Kei Wan on the northeast corner of Hong Kong Island. We took the tram from the terminus back to Causeway Bay.

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Mabel needed a new watch, so we went shopping. After wandering down busy and crowded sidewalks for about an hour and a half, we felt bagged.

"We about had heart attacks from the ultra-frosty air conditioning."

I was a bit crispy from the sun, and the heat and humidity weren't breaking. We made one last stop in a grocery store near home,where we about had heart attacks from the ultra-frosty air conditioning. We grabbed what we needed and slogged home, looking forward to sitting down, but it wasn't to be.

We needed to do a bit of cleaning before we could start cooking. While I was washing dishes, Mabel shrieked and jumped back, pointing at the wall by the garbage bin. I thought: Oh great, just what we need, more cockroaches.

When I asked her if it was a roach, she said no. I became curious to see what had made her react. As I pulled the bin away, a gecko squiggled up the wall. It was pale green, about five inches long, and moved lightning-fast. When it ran, it moved in little S-shaped arcs, back and forth, boogying up the wall. When I moved closer, it ran behind the refrigerator.

Swell. We couldn't let it run around the flat as though it owned the place, but we also didn't want to kill it. It was way too cute. We moved the buckets, bags and brooms from the corner, followed by the rice cooker and the microwave, while watching to make sure it didn't try to escape.

When I moved the fridge, the gecko bolted up the wall. I tried to scoop it up, but it ran back down and then jumped off the wall back to the darkness underneath the fridge. Once I moved the fridge out far enough, it ran into the corner behind some tiles. I grabbed a long shopping bag, hoping to catch the lizard inside.

When I moved the tiles, it scampered up the wall, then turned around and zipped down to the floor toward Mabel, who blocked the floor with a foil backsplash from our cook stove. It ran up the foil to the edge, then paused to catch its breath.

After a brief chase, it ran back up on the wall. I was amazed when I placed the bag along the wall and it ran inside. I folded the top over so it wouldn't escape, then went outside to set it free. We felt good we got it out without killing it.

Chasing a gecko about the kitchen was a weird way to cap a day of relaxation. How it got into the flat I can only guess. It either got under the door or was hiding along the edge and sped in unnoticed when we entered.

The wildlife in our flat is growing larger. What's next: rats?

After the excitement, Mabel took a nap while I reorganised the kitchen and finished cleaning. Then we made dinner and watched a movie. As the day wound to a close, we made a couple of long distance calls to Canada, because there, Mother's Day had just begun.

The days are just packed.

May 16, 2000

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