Sai Kung breathes a sigh of relief as tourist numbers decrease

by Erithacus

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Ham Tin Wan beach. Photo: Ming Pao

Sai Kung and its surrounding scenic areas were swamped with tourists over the mini-Golden Week long weekend. Locals, and the media, reported a tent invasion at Ham Tin Wan Beach, which left massive amounts of garbage and overflowing toilets to be dealt with. Other reports show a No. 12 Green Minibus overloaded with 22 passengers. And the pier area became overly crowded with people pushing and shoving to get on the boats.
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Government figures show that the number of mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong over the weekend rose by more than 20% over the previous year, with most individual travellers, not on tour groups. Many of them were young tourists attracted by companies advertising two or three day trips to the rural countryside around Sai Kung for HK$250-300, which included a camping holiday and the opportunity to catch and eat the local seafood. Of course, this is against the Country Park regulations. At the same time the area around Tai Long Wan was the favourite destination, with over 200 tents counted on the beach at Ham Tin Wan, where the AFCD has a limit of ten at the campsite. This also caused the toilets and other facilities to be overwhelmed, with AFCD cleaners picking up hundreds of bags of garbage each day. The “refugee camp” as some local media called it, itself became a tourist attraction!
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The overwhelmed toilet facilities at Ham Tin Wan. Photo: on.cc

According to the tour company’s advertising, a two-day, one-night “tour” will start from Sai Wan Pavilion and head to  “Southern China’s most beautiful beach” in Ham Tin Wan. Visitors can catch sea urchins, crabs and oysters, etc; then they will have seafood at Sai Kung Pier the following day. Meals and shopping in the city range from RMB 229 to RMB 280 per person.
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Queuing for a boat. Photo: on.cc

AFCD said that it sent staff to patrol  the Ham Tin Bay camp to step up publicity to the campers for the protection of the countryside. They said they advised the campers to take care of themselves and pay attention to safety when using camp facilities. Cleaners on the scene revealed that they had to deal with large quantities of rubbish left by tourists every day. “There are piles everywhere, on the beach, on the side of the beach. The hot sun does not help, with bags exploding. And when they go they just leave everything behind, tents, bedding, everything”, said one cleaner. AFCD advised that they must clean up when they leave. In the toilets the washbasins were clogged and filthy; the toilets blocked up.
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The #12 GMB packed with 22 passengers. Photo: topick.hket.com

Of course there were many people happy to take advantage of the situation. One 16 seat No. 12 GMB was found to have 22 passengers, mostly sporting camping gear and mainly speaking Putongua.
The pier area was temporarily jammed solid with hundreds of people trying to get on the boats to the islands. According to locals interviewed by Chinese media, as well as comments made to me, Sai Kung Town was a “zoo” yesterday, and as usual, impossible to park after around 9:00 am, with cars illegally parked on every available road space.
What is the government and Sai Kung District Office doing about this? Well, it’s given planning permission for thousands of new flats in town, with only 10% of flats having a parking space, as well as advertising the joys of Sai Kung to attract more tourists. It seems to have been successful in doing so. But how can it continue?
 

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