香港的安静角落 / Hong Kong’s Quiet Corners

香港的安静角落

大多数人都认为香港嘈杂而拥挤,这么说基本不差。这是一座喧闹的城市,占地425平方英里,被700万人挤得满满当当,它最著名的形象莫过于摩天大楼、船只熙来攘往的码头和人潮涌动的人行道。这些行人正在去上班、购物或是吃点心的路上。

比较不为人知的是,公园占据了香港40%的陆地面积,禁止用来开发房地产。还有,在香港的沿海地区,分布着250多个岛屿,其中大部分无人定居。

我在不久前的一篇关于风水的博客中(《风水真的管用》),曾经写到我在香港的离岛长洲的生活经历。

那时候,长洲有几处漂亮的沙滩,但一到夏天的周末,它们就会变得有点拥挤。为了躲到一个更加清静的游泳场所,我和朋友们有时候会租一条舢板,前往大屿山的大浪屿或者是它南边的小索罟岛,玩一整天。这两个地方从往来于港澳之间的渡轮上可以看到。

Hong Kong’s Quiet Corners

Most people think of Hong Kong as noisy and crowded, which for the most part it is. A bustling city of 7 million people jammed into a 425 square mile area, Hong Kong’s best-known images are dominated by skyscrapers, a harbor criss-crossed by all manner of shipping, and sidewalks jammed with pedestrians en route to shopping, work, or dim sum.

Less well known is the 40% of Hong Kong’s land area which is occupied by country parks, protected from real estate development, and the 250-plus islands which dot its coastal area, most of them uninhabited.

In my recent post on Feng Shui (Feng Shui is Alive and Well), I wrote about my experience living on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, Cheung Chau.

In those days, Cheung Chau had several nice beaches, although on summer weekends they get a bit crowded. To escape to quieter swimming spots, friends and I would sometimes charter a sampan for a day and head to Tai Long Wan on Lantau Island, or Little Soko Island to the South of Lantau. Both spots are visible from the Macau ferries which ply between Hong Kong and Macau.

长洲码头,从这里可以租到去大浪屿或是索罟群岛的舢板。 / The pier on Cheung Chau from which we’d catch sampans bound for Tai Long Wan or the Soko Islands.

索罟群岛是最理想的地点。虽然搭舢板去有点儿远,但它却是个与香港其他地方都不一样的偏僻角落。它的两个主要岛屿——大索罟和小索罟——都有人定居。大索罟刚好位于香港海域与大陆海域的分界线上。

大索罟当年居住着大约100名村民,小索罟的海滩更漂亮,常住居民只有两位——一对老夫妇,已经在没有电和电话的条件下在那里住了很多年。两人以网捕鱼,用盐腌制成咸鱼,然后到长洲贩卖。他们还种了一些菠萝和其他作物,养了几头牲口,远离香港的都市丛林,过着简单的生活。

对于这对可爱的老夫妻来说,长洲是座大城市。坐他们的无篷舢板,需要45分钟。只要天气许可,他们隔几个星期就会去那里卖咸鱼,并买回一些日用品。在回来的路上,他们会从停靠在长洲港的给当地鱼船供货的冰船那里买上一大块冰带回去。夏天,他们还会储备一些罐装和瓶装的饮料、啤酒及水,卖给像我们这样偶尔会在周末到访的客人。他们把冰块和饮料保存在一个带盖的大木桶里。

这对老夫妇还养了好几条狗,其中一条是黑色的。这条狗身上带着一种乡村自力更生的气质,和家养宠物很不一样。有一次,老先生告诉我,这条狗擅长捕杀香港离岛上常见的眼镜蛇。

(我在长洲经常看到眼镜蛇,有一天早晨我甚至在厨房里看见过一条,所以我非常清楚捕蛇犬的重要地位。)

小索罟岛的形状很像是一只哑铃,一段低矮的狭长地带连接起多丘的南北两端。有时候,为了躲避黄黑色的大狼蛛在低处丛林的空地上织下的大网,我们会爬上山丘。这种蜘蛛大到可以盖住一个小孩的手掌,虽然毒性不很强,但它个头这么大,咬你一口会很疼。

但我们去那儿的主要目的还是沙滩和游泳。那里水质好,沙滩上通常只有我们两人。

那对老夫妇最终老到无法维持这种离群索居的生活方式,退回了 “大城市”长洲。

大索罟岛的村民把土地卖给一家香港地产开发商,开发商原本计划在那里开发高端豪华地产项目,但一直没有结果。

上世纪80年代初,香港人口中越南难民激增,索罟群岛反而变成了越南难民营。若干年后,大部分难民被重新安置,索罟群岛又空了。

如今,有人提出在索罟建设天然气存储设施,这种做法的利弊引起了商界和环保人士的激烈争论。不知道,倘若那对老夫妇仍然健在,会有什么话要说呢?

The Soko Islands were a favorite destination. Although a longer trip by sampan, it was a remote corner unlike anywhere else in Hong Kong. The two main islands, Big Soko and Little Soko, were inhabited. Big Soko sits right at the demarcation line between Hong Kong and Chinese waters.

Big Soko Island had a village with about 100 residents in those days. Little Soko, on the other hand, had a much nicer beach. Its population was exactly two people — an older couple who had lived there for many years without electricity or telephone, netting fish to be salt-cured as “ham yu” for sale in Cheung Chau, growing pineapples and a few other crops, tending a few head of cattle, and living a life of simplicity far, far removed from the hustle-bustle of Hong Kong’s urban jungle.

To this lovely old couple, Cheung Chau was the big city, a 45-minute ride away in their uncovered wooden sampan. They would make the trip, weather permitting, once every few weeks to sell some salted fish and buy provisions. On the return journey, they would bring back a big block of ice bought from one of the ice boats moored in Cheung Chau harbor, which supplied the local fishing junks. In summer months they would also stock up on cans and bottles of soft drinks, beer and water which they would sell to the occasional weekend visitors like us. They kept the ice and drinks in a big covered wooden barrel.

They had several dogs, one of which was black. He had an air of rural self-reliance about him, very different from a typical house pet. The old man once told me that he was very good at catching and killing cobras, which are common on Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

(I used to see cobras quite often on Cheung Chau and one morning even found one in my kitchen, so I could relate to the usefulness of a snake-catching dog.)

The island was shaped like a dumbbell, with a low, narrow isthmus leading to two hilly points at the North and South ends. We’d sometimes hike up the hills, dodging the huge webs spun by big black and yellow wolf spiders in clearings in the low forest. The spiders were as big across as a child’s hand, and despite not being poisonous, they looked large enough to inflict a painful bite.

Mainly we were there for the beach and the swimming. The water quality was good, and we usually had the beach to ourselves.

Eventually, the old couple became too old to maintain their solo lifestyle, and they retired to the “big city” of Cheung Chau.

The villagers on Big Soko sold their land to a Hong Kong property developer who planned a high-end luxury development, but that never came to fruition.

Instead, as Hong Kong’s population of Vietnamese refugees swelled in the early 1980s, the Sokos were turned into a Vietnamese refugee camp. Years later, after most of the refugees were resettled, the Sokos became empty.

There is talk now of building a natural gas storage facility there, the pros and cons of which are being hotly debated by business and environmental interest groups. I wonder what the old couple would have to say about this, if they were still around.


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