TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO IN STANLEY
Stanley is one of Hong Kong's oldest villages, popular with both the local Chinese fisherfolk and later the British. This coastal town was named after Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 19th century, but its Chinese name ‘Chek Cheu'— literally translating to ‘red column'—likely references the cotton tree which bears red flowers in the area. Subtle nods to its rich history can be found around town, such as the hint at pirating at the Smugglers Inn Bar.
Peek into the criminal justice system
Stanley Prison is a maximum-security level facility and obviously not open to the public, so the Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum is worth a visit for those interested in criminology. The site of this two-storey structure used to be accommodations for married members of the Correctional Services force and their families, and now showcases various changes in Hong Kong's penal system over the last 160 years, with displays on different equipment used for castigation purposes. There are even mock prison cells to inspect: a Victorian display juxtaposed alongside a modern jail.
Spot these buildings
Pat Kan Uk in Cantonese literally means ‘eight houses'; unsurprisingly, this refers to a row of eight terraced bungalow houses located near the market. Many assume these are simply abandoned pre-war buildings but each of them still house village elders. Supposedly, farming families had homes in the nearby village of Wong Ma Kok before the Sino-japanese war, but the government recovered the land to develop barracks. The existing eight houses were later built along Stanley Bay for the displaced residents. You might run into an occupant, and they should have some interesting stories to tell.
Pay your respects to deities
For a rather small town, Stanley has its fair share of places of worship. The most well-known is the Tin Hau Temple, located past the tiny Tai Wong shrine on the main street and behind Stanley Plaza, which displays a real tiger skin and was originally built by the pirate Cheung Po Tsai. However, we think the Pak Tai Temple built in 1783 is more interesting; dedicated to a sea deity, it allegedly blessed original settlers when a plague threatened the area, granting them good harvest instead. Pak Tai Temple is in a more secluded location, a tiny structure right on the edge of the rocky cliff face. There's also an ancient well at the foot of the temple. Even if religious relics are of no interest, the little temple balcony has excellent views of the sea.
Shop in a historical monument
The Old Stanley Police Station was built in 1859 and is considered one of the earliest in Hong Kong. As all the other old police stations have been demolished, Stanley's is now the oldest and therefore of great heritage significance. This two-storey colonial style building, in an odd nod to heritage preservation, was converted into a supermarket in 2003, still boasting its original antiquated wooden floor and an unusual layout. It's worth popping into just for the novelty of doing your weekly shop in a 150-year-old historical monument.
Enjoy the surrounding nature
Stanley is still surrounded by much greenery—a world away from the metal and concrete of the CBD on the other side of the island. Stanley Ma Hang Park is a relatively new park which opened in early 2011, covering an area of approximately 50,000 square metres. It's partly built into the cliffside, giving it lovely views of the sea. The entrance is tucked away behind Murray House; journey up the boardwalk to discover a butterfly garden, a fitness deck, bird-watching platforms, a heritage corner, wind turbines and a terrace from which to enjoy the view from up high.
The more adventurous can head to Po Toi Island, the southern-most of Hong Kong's 200-plus isles. With a population merely numbering a couple hundred, Po Toi is a sleepy little place known for not much else but its seaweed and peculiar rock formations. Hike alongside views of the South China Sea, then stop by establishments serving seafood fresh off the local fishing fleet. Ferry services to the island run from Stanley's Blake Pier over weekends, but infrequently otherwise, so do plan ahead.