Out and about

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 March, 2010, 12:00am

Forget the Peak - whatever the latest glossy property brochures would have one believe. For right-up-there residential status, the environs of Deep Water Bay, on Hong Kong Island's southern coast, are the city's own Millionaires Row. In a society where millionaires - real, self-proclaimed or anything in between - are a conspicuously common commodity, this brash label speaks for itself. While some homes here, such as the Tung family compound, are discreetly elegant, others are flashy and vulgar enough to merit their own sociological category.

When not busily engaged in fleecing the rest of us through their cartels, Hong Kong's close-knit tycoon fraternity tee off at Deep Water Bay's picturesque nine-hole golf course. Established in 1898, the fairways stretch between jungly hillsides and sandy beach. Of further socio-anthropological interest, Deep Water Bay's tycoon-and-princeling transport convoys, accompanied by squads of ear-piece-wearing bodyguards with decoy vehicles fore and aft, head into Central every morning. Watching these self-important tinsel cavalcades pass by the golf course affords a surreal glimpse into contemporary Hong Kong's more bizarre parallel universes.

In a more prosaic link to the world of commerce, Deep Water Bay once linked Hong Kong to the wider world by submarine cable telegraphy - the late 19th-century equivalent of e-mail. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company (later Cable & Wireless) lines came ashore at Deep Water Bay. Hong Kong's role in China's emerging modernity was profound; technological innovation and transfer, such as telegraphs, telephones, electricity, artificial ice and refrigeration, as well as ideological transfer, were all made through Hong Kong.

The Victoria Recreation Club nestles between the rocky shoreline and the road above the western corner of Deep Water Bay beach. Fondly known down the generations as the VRC, the oldest surviving sports club in Hong Kong was started in Canton (Guangzhou) in 1832, and was established in the British colony in 1849. For decades, the VRC operated from a harbourfront clubhouse next to the Royal Naval Dockyard, just east of the present-day City Hall. When the dockyard closed in the 1950s, the club moved to Deep Water Bay, and also opened a New Territories branch at Tai Mong Tsai, near Sai Kung. The club has always focused on water sports, especially rowing. Now rather run-down, the VRC remains popular with a handful of members who don't expect luxurious club facilities.

A concrete walkway snakes across the rocky shoreline between Deep Water and Repulse bays; magnificent views across to Lamma and the southern islands can be enjoyed from here on smog-free days.