Stanley is located on the southernmost tip of Hong Kong Island which makes up Island South. There are buses operating out of Exchange Square in Central. If you are in Causeway Bay, the minibus terminus is located on the street opposite Times Square. Express buses and minivans take the most direct route to Stanley by way of the Aberdeen Tunnel. To take in the view of the sea gleaming intermittently through the lush foliage, you can pick buses that run along the longer scenic route. The ride with the most fun is on the upper deck of a double deck bus, featuring overhanging tree branches taking on raring bus. It sounds silly but the anticipation of the next branch scraping against the window making a raucous rattling noise is a thrill. You will be amazed by the skill of the bus driver navigating the curves and bends of the narrow winding road, with the opposing traffic seemingly just inches away.

Hong Kong Stanley
Photo by question_everything

Island South is one of the most prestigious neighborhoods on the island after the Peak. Aside from seeing some expensive wheels and convertibles en route to Stanley, you will pass by some famous bays on Island South. The first bay to come into view is Deep Water Bay. It is much smaller and lesser known than neighboring Repulse Bay, which is great in terms of more elbow room for sunbathers and swimmers in the summer. The two small restaurants serve light refreshment and are frequented by locals who want to genuinely relax with the soothing sound of waves in the background.

Hong Kong Stanley Repulse Bay
Repulse Bay
Photo by denniswong

The second bay is Repulse Bay, made famous by the Repulse Bay Hotel originally built in 1920, demolished in the 70’s and 80’s to make way for more lucrative luxurious apartments. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the demolishment of the hotel because of its historical value. The controversy is stirred up again with the completion of a modern monolith complex with a gaping hole in the middle. The hole has been ridiculed for a long time and the rumor behind the design is to invite good feng shui. Strange looking it may be but its price tag is no joke.

Hong Kong Stanley Hole for Feng Shui
Feng Shui
Photo by G. Solomon from wikipedia

Hong Kong Stanley Repulse Bay Hotel
Repulse Bay Hotel
Photo frpm The Repulse Bay

The Repulse Bay Hotel has welcomed many distinguished guests, among them celebrities and royals. The Hollywood movie “Love is a many splendored thing” starring William Holden is filmed in the hotel. Hemingway is known to have stayed here as well. The hotel is not glitzy. Its charm feels more like genteel Merchant Ivory films. Ceiling fans, verandahs, gardens and a sweeping staircase bespoke the elegant décor of a period film set. An imitation of the hotel is built in 2001 and opened to the public in 2002 which makes you question why it is torn down in the first place. There is a bus stop right in front of the Repulse Bay as it is called now. High tea and brunch at the Verandah Restaurant is top notch as in the food, service and commanding sea view. From this vantage point you will see two huge statues, Guan Yin and Tin Hau, part of the Guan Yin Temple on the bank. A flight of stairs will take you down to the beach from the Repulse Bay. To attract more people to the beach, the beach has been expanded by importing sand from other beaches. A telling difference is this foreign sand is much coarser than the original finer sand of the beach.

Hong Kong Stanley Market
Stanley Market
Photo by dcmaster

On the ride to Stanley you can literally feel the pace becoming slower and the hustle bustle of the city further and further away. This is one of the reasons locals and tourists flock to Stanley, to soak up the ambience. After getting off at the bus terminus you will immediately see the Stanley market. Stanley market is filled with Chinese styled merchandize, clothing, framed prints, ceramic and much more. There are several shops selling linen and lace products ranging from bed spreads, pillow cases, runners, placemats, coasters, to tissue box covers. The quality of the linen is really good and a full set will transform your bed worthy to be a Martha Stewart show piece. The fine mosquito nets are more decorative than functional and it evokes the nostalgia of an era gone by.

You will find replicas of almost everything Chinese in the market, amongst them tiny shoes reminiscent of the foot binding practice in old China. Skilled craftsmen can chisel a stone Chinese seal for you with your initials and it comes with red cinnabar paste for stamping. After giving the calligrapher your name a translation will be written in Chinese characters with ink and brushes. You can also buy written ones displayed on racks. A confession though, the Chinese words are pretty funny to locals because they are direct translation of how your name sounds.

Stanley market is in the form of a circle. Depending on which way you enter, you either emerge to Stanley Main Street with all the bars and eateries or back at the area in front of the bus terminus. The bars are packed during the holidays and weekends. There are many cuisines to choose from, French, Thai, Italian. The jovial mood is contagious and a few beers definitely help to spread it around. The best thing is everyone seems to be cheerful and enjoying themselves. Smiles are rarely seen in hyper tense city life but there are no shortages here. Stanley is also one of the most dog friendly places in Hong Kong. Most of the parks in Hong Kong are off limits to dogs. Fortunately for dog owners and their pooches, Stanley is opened to four legged friends and you will see these furry friends beaming beside their owners at the outdoor cafes.

Hong Kong Stanley Murray House
Murray House
Photo by frankenstein

Murray House can be seen looming from the eateries. The building is originally built in 1846 and is one of the oldest surviving colonial era buildings. With development winning over conservation this round, Murray House is taken apart to make way for the Bank of China Building in Central. The pieces are numbered to be put back together at a later date. The Murray Building is relocated to Stanley in 2000. The architectural style is colonial with high arches, tall columns and long verandahs. It houses the Maritime Museum on the ground floor displaying seafaring history. While looking at the exhibit it’s interesting to note that pirates are active in those days, with Stanley being one of the main stays. Stanley is also notorious for Stanley Prison, a maximum security prison which is fully operational today. Ironically Stanley Fort is located in Stanley as well which has served as the barracks for the People’s Liberation Army since the handover in 1997.

As if Stanley is not colorful enough, the dragon boat races held every year on Stanley Main Beach is a crowd draw, with many serious competitors coming back every year to participate in the event. Dragon boat races are held during the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. On other days you will see windsurfers on the waters. The St. Stephen’s Beach is the second beach in Stanley complete with all the amenities of showers and changing rooms. There is a snack bar for refreshment as well. Sadly, dogs are not allowed on both beaches.

The appeal of Stanley and Island South lies in its magic to make you feel completely relaxed and always welcomed. It is a must see if you are in the territory. After all it’s just a bus ride away.

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Bonnie Wong is a full time writer, bilingual translator and founder of Pastel b. cards. She hopes to share the uniqueness of Hong Kong with everyone through her writing. Learn more about me [+]

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