If there ever was a nice tourist trap, I think Stanley in Hong Kong would count. This tiny little area on the hilly south side of Hong Kong Island is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. The famed Stanley Market attracts travellers looking for the quintessential Hong Kong souvenir. The waterfront attracts locals looking to enjoy some southern exposure on a sunny January afternoon. Expats love to travel here for a feel of something back home they might miss. This is Stanley.
Over a half dozen trips to Hong Kong and I hadn’t been back to Stanley since 1988 when I was just wee pre-teen lad. My only memory of Stanley was getting this cheap little fuzzy caterpillar toy that would move around almost magically via strings attached to my hands. It was a long windy bus ride on the upper deck. Riding along all the tight turns along the rocky edge of Hong Kong Island is an experience on its own.
The main draw in Stanley is the Stanley Market. The tight market alleys are lined with shops of all varieties selling bags, clothing, trinkets, and more. If you look closely, you’ll also see the entrance for the residences that are above the market’s covered canopy.
The Stanley Waterfront also provides restaurants lining a carefully manicured promenade. However, there are some craggy rock parts that people can hop along. There’s even a temple above the rocks that offer a great view of the bay.
Further down the waterfront, colourful buildings and boats line on either side of the promenade. It looked like there were lots of bars in which to down liquids of all sorts. This was a very popular stretch to walk along.
At the end of the promenade was the Stanley Plaza. Except for the Tin Hau Temple, this part of Stanley was very new and modern. The plaza was all new and complete with a 4-storey shopping complex. The standard McDonald’s and Starbucks were found right at the foot of the shopping mall. You’re never far from a MCD or SBUX in the developed world.
Just off to one side of Stanley Plaza, though, are two colonial gems. Murray House and Blake Pier were both deconstructed in Central Hong Kong and reassembled in their new home in Stanley. It’s a wonder anything of historical and colonial value can be found in Hong Kong, but two of them live side-by-side here in Stanley.
Blake Pier is beautifully preserved and seems popular with wedding photographers and buskers alike. The pier definitely offers a uniquely picturesque backdrop.
Even further past the majestic Murray House is the start of a trail. The trail can take one up the hills of Stanley and would be a good workout if you were looking for one. However, not to far into the trail is an old temple and old well. The roots of trees have nowhere to go but over the rocky face until they can find soil to plant their woody tentacles in. The temple is small, but offers another grand seaside vista. This one had a golden fan and incense set up along the ledge. The exact reason for the fan is lost on me, but it made for a neat photo.
Stanley is definitely a big tourist trap – no question about it. However, if you look past the touristy trappings of the market, Stanley has a lot to offer. There’s some great architecture found along the waterfront. There are trails if one wishes to spend a lot of time hiking about the area. There’s cultural landmarks like tiny little temples dotting the craggy waterfront. It’s a place even locals love to come to to shoot the breeze.