HONG KONGISH

In Hong Kong, suits also refer to the bathing kind. CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF looks at the territory’s 733 kilometres of coastline

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CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF swaps his business suit for a swimsuit on Hong Kong’s beaches

香港四面環海,有不少游泳的好去處, Christopher DeWolf在全長

733公里的海岸線上尋找水清沙幼的優美海灘

WHEN RONNIE WONG

wants to swim, he heads to the sea. ‘It feels totally different to swimming in a pool,’ says Wong, who swam for Hong Kong in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics. ‘You can see the mountains in front of you. You feel freedom.’

Every year, millions of people plunge into the warm waters of the city’s bays, coves and channels. This might be one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, but the beach is always free – and the territory’s long, craggy coastline means there are 733 kilometres of opportunities for a dip.

Some of the earliest public beaches were surprisingly close to the city centre. A century ago, people living in the crowded tenements of Central and Sheung Wan took the tram out to North Point, where a long stretch of sand spilled into the azure waters of Victoria Harbour. A pair of thatched huts offered changing facilities.

The Kowloon equivalent was Lai Chi Kok, with a beach facing the hills of Stonecutter’s Island. Amusement parks were built next to both beaches in 1949. The shortlived Luna Park stood in North Point until 1954, while Lai Yuen amusement park overlooked Lai Chi Kok Bay until 1997.

People with cars preferred the beaches along the Rambler Channel or on the southside of Hong Kong Island. Friends and families pooled their money to rent a matshed, a waterside shack with a verandah and changing facilities, and would spend the day camped out.

‘Repulse Bay was the most popular beach in the colony, and crowded on a Sunday,’ wrote young English expat Betty Steel in a 1930 diary entry. ‘When walking on the beach we wore pretty floral beach pyjamas or shorts, made by our Chinese tailor. Behind the matsheds, lining the beach road, flame of the forest trees were in full bloom.’

Not long after Steel’s diary entry, a new entertainment pavilion on Repulse Bay called the Lido offered public changing facilities – a more affordable alternative to renting a matshed. Crowds swelled as Hong Kong’s population boomed after the Second World War, to the point where Repulse Bay’s strip of sand was thoroughly saturated with half-naked bodies – a literal twist on the Chinese expression yan san yan hoi (‘people mountain people sea’).

With the people came a surge in pollution. Sewage and industrial waste were pumped directly into the ocean, and by the 1980s, the water at many beaches was rancid. Li Kwan-yu, a factory manager who learned to swim at Tsuen Wan’s Lido Beach in the 1960s, remembers the water was so murky ‘it looked like milk tea’.

Those who could stand the filth were scared off by sharks in the 1990s. For a time, Hong Kong was one of the world’s worst places for shark attacks, with six fatal maulings between 1991 and 1995. In response, the government installed shark nets at 41 of the city’s public beaches, and there haven’t been any attacks since – but some conservationists say the lack of shark activity has less to do with the nets than with overfishing in the South China Sea.

At the same time, new sewerage projects have vastly improved Hong Kong’s water quality. Nearly 11 million people visited the city’s beaches in 2016 – an increase of 27 per cent over the previous decade.

In October 2017 the government gave the green light for the annual crossharbour race to return to the original Tsim Sha Tsui to Wan Chai route. The event had been suspended in 1979 due to fears over water quality, until 2010 when it was reinstated further east nearer the South China Sea. Almost 3,000 swimmers gave their seal of approval, plunging into Victoria Harbour to complete the one kilometre route.

王敏超是退役游泳選手,曾於1968年及1972年代表香港出戰奧運。每當他想去游泳時,都會直奔海灘,因為:「置身海裡游泳時,還可以眺望遠處的山巒,感到自自由在,跟在池泳 游泳的感覺截然不同。」

香港這個城有多市 許 大大小小的海灣和峽灣,每年有數以百萬計的人縱身躍進其中,暢泳一番。這個城市的生活指數之高,全球數一數二,可是海灘卻是免費的;這裡有蜿蜒733公里的海岸線,其中有不少少泳的好去處。

其實,香港早期的公眾泳灘有與些市區距離十分接近。一個世紀,之前 港島的居民都集中在擁擠不堪的中環與上環一帶居住但,要只 乘搭電車到北角去,就可以見到長長的沙灘,一直伸延至維多利亞港蔚藍色的海水裡去。沙灘上搭了幾間簡陋的小屋,充當泳客的更。衣室

九龍的荔枝角曾經也有類似的泳灘,從海灘望可以 見昂船洲翠綠的山丘。1949年,北角和荔枝角的海灘旁均開設了遊樂場。北角的月園壽命較短,1954年結就業了;至於荔枝角的荔園則在荔枝角灣畔屹

立至1997年是, 許多香港人的集體回憶。

當年有階則的 車 級 喜歡到沿藍巴勒海峽一帶或港島南區的海灘。去 通常一班朋友或幾個家庭會一同合資,共租一個泳棚;泳棚是有陽臺和更衣設備的小棚屋,他們會以此為大本營,在海灘上消磨整一 天。

年輕英的 國僑民Betty Steel於1930年在記日 中寫道:淺「 水灣是殖民地裡最受歡迎的海灘,每到星期日總是滿擠戲水的人潮。穿我們 上由中國裁縫縫製的漂亮印花沙灘裝或短褲,在沙灘上漫步。沿著沙灘的路旁,泳棚林立,後面是參天的大樹開,滿色火紅 的花。」

就在Steel寫下這段記後日 之 不久,淺水灣出現了一個名麗叫 都的海浴娛樂場,為泳客提供公用的更衣設備,是在租用泳棚之外一個更實惠的選擇。二大之次 戰 後,香港人口激增,淺水灣的沙灘上亦擠滿弄了潮兒,可說已到了人山人海的地步。

隨著人口急劇上升,自然也帶來大量污染。由於污水和工業廢水直接排放出海,到了1980年代,香港許多海灘的水質開始變;差 1960年代已在荃灣麗都灣學少泳的工廠經理Li Kwan- yu還記得,海水十分渾濁,「就像奶茶一樣」。

即使泳客可以勉強忍受污濁的海水,但是1990年代初出現多次鯊魚襲擊泳客事件,卻令許多人裹足不前。在1991年與1995年間之 ,香港發生過六宗致命的鯊魚傷人事件,情況十分嚴重。障為保 市民安政全,府於全港41個公眾海灘上裝設防鯊網此, 後有再沒 出現鯊魚襲人事件;不過一些保育人士認為,鯊魚不再出現的原因是, 由於南國中 海過量捕魚而非防鯊網發揮作用。

與此同時,香港安裝全新的排系污 統後,令香港的水質大為善改。2016年有共1,100萬人次前往香港升個海灘,與過去十年相,比 增加了27%

1979年,一年度行維渡一 舉 的 港 海泳由於維港水質變壞而停辦,其後因水質改善,於2010年辦復 ,比賽路線則移往東面靠近南國中 海的水域。2017年10月,政將府年度的維港渡海泳路線回復昔日由尖沙咀至灣仔的傳統路線。這次有比賽 3,000名參賽泳手躍維入 港,少畢全長一公里的路線,這亦代表參賽市民對港內水質改善感到滿意。

Take the plunge The 1978 edition of the Victoria Harbour race (pictured); swimming at Stanley Main Beach on Hong Kong Island’s southside (below) 縱身一躍1978年的維港渡海泳(本圖);泳客在港島南區的赤柱正灘暢泳(下圖)

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