Where To Live: Discovery Bay
Expatriates will feel at home in Discovery Bay if the rest of Hong Kong is too stressful and too much of a culture shock for them. DB is a self-contained, low-density, resort-like environment with 15,000 residents in a 649-hectare enclave on Lantau Island, accessible only by monopolised ferry services and a tunnel with restricted access. Only communal buses, approved serviced vehicles and golf carts are allowed on the roads in the development. Community life revolves around the plaza near the ferry pier. The first sight to greet ferry passengers on disembarking is mums and dads sharing camaraderie while children run free in the plaza or the man-made beach nearby (right). The recently overhauled waterfront area, called the Water Margin, has an alfresco dining area featuring 12 restaurants serving various international cuisines. Surrounding the plaza are the bus terminus, shopping mall, supermarket, clinics and veterinary surgeon. DB was conceived in 1976 as a public holiday resort by developer Hong Kong Resort (HKR), but was later converted to a residential development.
The ferry was the only way to travel between DB and Central before the Discovery Bay Tunnel Link opened in 2000. The land access has enabled bus services to Tung Chung to connect the MTR Tung Chung line, the Hong Kong International Airport and Sunny Bay, where Hong Kong Disneyland is. The ferry ride to and from Central takes about 30 minutes on high-speed catamarans. They are operated around the clock at 20 to 30-minute intervals during the day and up to 90 minutes at night. Gaido, small motorised ferries, take passengers between DB and Mui Wo, another major Lantau gateway with regular ferry services to and from Central. Residents can get around DB using communal buses with designated stops or hire cars that stop on demand, if they do not rent a private golf cart for HK$4,000 to HK$6,000 per month or buy one for HK$600,000 to HK$720,000. The prices of golf carts have been rising because only 500 carts are allowed on DB roads.
Sunshine House operates a private international kindergarten while Discovery Mind Kindergarten offers private pre-primary education in Chinese. Discovery Bay International School offers British curriculum for Primary One to Primary Six classes, serving mainly DB residents. A new private independent school under the English Schools Foundation, Discovery Bay School, will have its imposing new campus in DB next January. The school will offer International Baccalaureate curriculum for 1,300 children from age five to 18. The primary section will offer 90 places in each year group and the secondary 120 places in each year group. The first intake of students starting in the new school year in September will use ESF Bauhinia School as a temporary campus. Residents can also access the government-aided SKH Wei Lun Primary School in DB and other public primary and secondary schools in Central and Western.
Developed in 13 phases, DB provides 6.5 million square feet of residential floor area in units ranging from 432 to 5,168 sqft in high-rise blocks of up to 25 storeys (left), low-rises, town houses (below), or homes with gardens. Hong Kong Resort envisages that DB, which has more than 8,000 units, will eventually be home to 25,000 residents. Savills (Hong Kong) senior manager Dorathy Lui Kwong-lan said rents had risen in the past year by about 10 to 20 per cent for low-rises and town houses and 5 to 10 per cent for high-rises. A low-rise garden unit of 1,357 sqft can rent for HK$36,000 to HK$50,000 a month. Expect to pay HK$30,000 to HK$40,000 for a terrace unit, or HK$35,000 to HK$60,000 a month for a town house of about 1,600 sqft. A 1,900 sqft garden house may rent for HK$65,000 to HK$80,000. Ms Lui said low-rise and garden houses in DB were still popular options for expatriates because they were available in more configurations and were better value than in the city. Rents for high-rises range from HK$8 per square foot for older units to HK$17 to HK$20 for units in the latest development, Chianti. Living on yachts is another option. Discovery Bay Marina Club has 48 dry berths and 188 wet berths.
Residents can use recreational facilities at the Residents Club, Club Siena, Discovery Bay Marina Club and Discovery Bay Golf Club after joining as members. The Residents Club has 6,000 members and requires a monthly subscription fee of HK$400 in addition to debenture and entrance fee. Facilities include tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pools, fitness centre, sauna and steam bath, snooker room, dance studio, games room, dining outlets and function rooms. The newer Club Siena provides additional clubhouse facilities to the expanding population. The Marina Club has a monthly subscription of HK$730 per family, in addition to membership, entrance or berthing fees, and provides additional recreational and dining facilities. The 27-hole golf course lets non-members on to the green on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays on booking. Yachties can join either the Discovery Bay Yacht Club (below) or Lantau Boat Club. The lack of traffic also makes DB good for jogging and biking. Hilly tracks on Lantau offer a variety of hiking choices.