SAI KUNG BUZZ asked residents two questions in an unscientific survey.
- Why in your view does Sai Kung have such strong community spirit?
- What do you suggest to further enhance that community spirit?
We got replies that were illuminating, perceptive, amusing and have-a-laugh naughty. Respondents said Sai Kung needed:
- Pedestrianised streets in the town centre
- An Edinburgh-style festival
- Beach boozetopia
- A sports czar
- A festival of light
- Girlie bars and a love hotel
PAUL LETTERS, AUTHOR AND TEACHER
Q1. As a historian, I’d love to say it’s because of the area’s history – but it’s more to do with the geography. The natural beauty of Sai Kung attracts more than its fair share of residents who aren’t caught up in the race of life. People here appreciate the great outdoors, and there’s a realisation that life equates to more than dollars and cents. There are fewer corporations and more local businesses with regular local customers: people matter. Children are welcomed in the restaurants (can you imagine that in Soho?), and you can rock up to the square or your favourite pub and there will be playmates for your kids and drinking mates for you. Forgot your wallet? “Pay next time” is the local spirit, in contrast to areas where you “pay through the nose”.
Q2. The more community events, the better – from the concert for Syrian refugees (held at Hong Kong Academy) to the outdoor Christmas concert to the jazz concerts hosted in front of the temple. The community-run Stingrays rugby on a Sunday morning in Sai Kung stadium is an example of parents coming together to create something wonderful (and low cost) for the kids – could we do this with more activities? And an end to the on-going battles with the authorities over outdoor seating would be marvellous. So would world peace. What would greatly enhance the town for me, and anyone else who uses a wheelchair or pushes a pram, would be some ramps to overcome the ubiquitous thick step that fronts every shop, bar and restaurant. As much as I enjoy the vibe of bygone eras (I write novels set in the 1940s), it would be great if we could join the twenty-first century for disabled access!
RUSSELL CLARKE SMITH, RETIRED QUANTITY SURVEYOR
Q1: Q1: Russell waxes lyrical in a poem that is rather good. Read here.
Q2: Maybe we could start by helping those who need it.
— Think of those poor guys who go para-sailing and hang gliding. It must be a struggle climbing up the mountain with their equipment. Perhaps we could build a ski-lift to help them on their way.
— What about those poor people who get withdrawal because they can’t log on particularly on a Monday morning? We need more megabytes for the internet and bigger servers.
— We should find out what it is in the local water that causes so many people to be that deaf that they have to shout particularly down the phone.
— How about imposing a rent cap on landlords to stop outlets from closing and help to keep the price of beer etc. down?
A couple of other thoughts spring to mind: Maybe we should elect a sports committee to organise matches and teams for soccer, rugby, hockey to represent Sai Kung against other towns and districts. We’ve got the facilities and we should make more use of them. We can all go along and cheer.
What’s missing in Sai Kung that other places do have? The answer — a short time hotel, but not if the harbour has to be filled in to build it. If we did get one then perhaps a few girlie bars wouldn’t go amiss.
DR JUDITH MACKAY, ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGNER
Q1: Sai Kung is the centre of the universe; that is what the residents think! And they are right – just walk around the town squares, thronged with people, the older ones playing checkers, younger ones kicking footballs around or on the netball court, small children in the play areas. Taichi and Qigong on the waterfront, and now a bowling alley. A wonderful mix of locals and expats.
The shops have everything, restaurants abound, and the harbour is full of pleasure and fishing boats, Saikung is the centre for the whole community of Sai Kung district, self contained with schools, clinics, serious sports facilities, Fire Station and Police Post. And the gateway to the Sai Kung Country Park.
The older parts of the town give it an historic grounding not overwhelmed by ultra high blocks of flats. It has History, an ancient temple and religious festivals, all things that attract loyalty, quite apart from the modern amenities that make this community a dynamic living entity.
Q2: Build on what is there already in the way of festivals, support for sports teams, publications such as the Sai Kung magazine and Sai Kung Buzz.Take an interest in the work of the District Councillors: vote for them at elections; write to them with your ideas and complaints, and praise.
ROGER MEDCALF, EDITOR, SAI KUNG BUZZ, DIRECTOR, DAN RYAN’S RESTAURANT GROUP
Q1: It starts with the geography. Surrounded by mountains and sea we have a feeling of oneness and completeness. The town is the right size: Not too big to be impersonal and not to small to be boring. The Chinese are accepting of the foreigners. If you remember their lovely saying, “If you respect me one inch I will respect you one foot”, and act on it, you will feel welcome here. Then there are the cows. They add a lot to the place’s charm. Most foreigners move to Sai Kung after years in Hong Kong. They quickly realise they have found a haven with one of the world’s greatest cities just over the hill. They say to anyone who will listen: “Sai Kung is my home, ————- is my country.”
Q2: We should have an annual Sai Kung Festival, like Edinburgh. The hubs could be the underused Tao Ho town hall and the Academy, which needs to become more engaged in the community. Also, how about a Festival of Light, similar to that in Lyon?
JILL ROBINSON, FOUNDER OF ANIMALS ASIA FOUNDATION
Q1: Sai Kung has always had the most brilliant community spirit — from the bars way back in the 80’s to those that still often see many of the same old crowd spilling out in the evenings and enjoying a beer. Named in the Ming Dynasty — meaning “tributes from the West” — it’s a place that really does have that wonderful eclectic mix of East meets West and is always welcoming and safe. I think once you live in Sai Kung you never want to leave and it’s a great place to bring family and friends. From the temples to the gardens, to the square of shops, bars and restaurants, the positive energy of Sai Kung goes on.
Q2: Please, Transport Department, sort the horrendous traffic problem out. The whole town is gridlocked, polluted and dangerous, especially at the weekends. As much as I love going into town, it’s often not worth it as you can’t get out again in the evening for hours if you’re trying to wait for a taxi. Please open a vegan restaurant and bar, or at least all of you restaurateurs, please introduce more exciting menus for those of us who don’t eat meat and dairy. There are some amazing veg/vegan cafés and menus all across Hong Kong, but Sai Kung seems to have been left far behind. I’ve just got back from LA and the place is crawling with upmarket vegan restaurants that have won multiple awards for their cuisine. One particular restaurant has a menu that has no obvious vegan cues and most customers don’t even realise that all the courses are purely plant based. No excuses any more not to help the planet, our wallets, our health, and of course the billions of animals cruelly raised and killed for our food.
PAUL ZIMMERMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST
Q1: Great nature, vibrant town, and the common casual attitude of those willingly living the bohemian mountain and seas lifestyle of ‘remote’ Sai Kung
Q2: Close the inner roads of Sai Kung Town – Man Nin, Nin Chun and Yi Chun – for vehicular traffic on Saturday and Sunday, and improve parking on the town’s edge as and when needed.
GUY SHIRRA, RETIRED POLICE OFFFICER
SK Stingrays mini rugby, mini soccer, SK Saturdays Hash House Harriers, ANTS (Andy Naylor’s Track Session) etc. Then there are the NGOs: The Friends of Sai Kung and Sai Kung Buffalo Watch, committed long-term residents doing their best to save the natural environment of Sai Kung which sets it aside from other NT towns and districts. Why are the expatriate community the driving force behind all these activities? Good question. (Not forgetting our new and exciting local online newspaper, of course!)
Q2: Another difficult question. Perhaps what we need is at least one enthusiastic and open-minded young Hong Konger to run for a seat in the Sai Kung District Council. In SK Islands Constituency for example, which covers most of the non-urban area of Sai Kung, the incumbent DAB councillor will be re-elected unopposed. To achieve this, perhaps there is room for the creation of a Hong Kong Non-Chinese Association and/or Green Sai Kung Party to get a voice and get things done as per Pok Fu Lam with Paul Zimmerman. Perhaps the Hiram’s Highway “improvement” scheme will energise people when they get stuck in the expected traffic jams…
Q1: I presume that you are talking about the expatriate community spirit here and not local as I can see no evidence of the latter since I lived here from 2005. Obvious examples of the community spirit are the various non-profit organisations formed in Sai Kung:
SIMON LORENZ, DIVER, POOL PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER
Q1: People who value a balanced life move to Sai Kung. Part of living in an inspiring and positive way is that you have a good attitude towards the people around you. Most of us in Sai Kung embrace this because it is a reason we love it here.
Q2: Sai Kung could have more events. Street events like Quarry Bay street market, or beach events like a mini Beertopia or Clockenflap where locals can present their skills and all have a good time together.
CHRIS LAU, MANAGER, THE HIVE
Q1: Cultural mix, social activities and communication are the perfect recipe for any community. Being a “local” or “expat” makes the community more interesting and everyone respects each other’s cultural values and philosophies. It’s easy in a small close knitted place like Sai Kung, but it’s held together by the local kindergartens (Sun Island, Lok Yuk), great places to eat, drinking holes and hang-out spots like the Square. All Sai Kungers (with different range of incomes) have an unwritten responsibility like no other community, such as looking after each other’s children at the parks, supporting local business, warning each other about the traffic, helping the helpers or even exchanging unwanted goods for free. Sai Kung is like a sunny English-style BBQ in Hong Kong’s very own back garden.
Q2. A bus route from Sai Kung to Central. The buses will run less often but give people options as well as the regular ones. Annual beach parties with games for families. Monitoring the potential high-risers that may occur in Sai Kung. They may disrupt the sense of community.
JOHN WRIGHT, LAWYER
Q1: It’s the physical characteristics of the area. Sai Kung is low rise, not heavily populated and small, so you get to know people after a while. Those living in high rise blocks hardly, if ever, get to know the neighbours even in the next apartment. Here people living miles apart are neighbours.
ANDREW MAXWELL, CRANE ENGINEER
Q1: I think it’s a combination of a few things, but mainly because Sai Kung is literally the backgarden of Hong Kong, and even if people (I’m referring to expats) come here with little knowledge or interest in what Sai Kung has to offer with regards to nature, I believe they will certainly leave with a different view. It’s bound to encourage a cohesive society. Living in this environment it is easy for everyone to get on, because it just makes them feel good.
The harmony between races, religions, colours and creeds, evident wherever you go in Sai Kung, must have a feel good factor attached to it. Especially as there are many mixed-race children around.
Q2: This is easy for me to answer: pedestrianise the centre of town at weekends. The traffic situation in Sai Kung gets very little attention from the authorities, and at weekends it’s like a recurring nightmare with blaring horns and illegal parking. Get the cars out of the town centre, stop them parking illegally and cordon off the lower half of Fuk Man Road, Man Nin Street and Yi Chun Street. I’m sure this would make everyone – except for tourists, of course– much happier, and thus more harmonious.
PETER ROBERTSON, RETIRED TELEVISION ENGINEER
Q2: I think we should start by listing the things that, if allowed, will spoil it: shopping malls, high-rise blocks, multi-screen cinemas, night clubs, business conference centres, international hotels etc.
We should encourage the population to exercise more care when using our roads. Drivers must learn to be more patient when following cyclists, and be more cautious when confronted with cows. Cyclists must obey the rules and stop riding on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction along one-way streets. Pedestrians should stop walking in the road. The police should take more initiative in tackling these and other offences. In particular, they should prosecute those drivers who park on the zig-zag lines on the approach to pedestrian crossings. (And they should stop doing it themselves!)
Some of these problems would be alleviated if money was spent on cycle paths and a pedestrian bridge over the river at Mak Pin rather than that monstrous white elephant known as “Sai Kung North Public Transport Interchange”!
Responses are still coming in. If you would like to send in your comments in answer to the questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org