Out and about

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 October, 2010, 12:00am

The rugged beauty of Sai Kung - with its grassy hillsides, remote rocky headlands, deserted beaches and dozens of islands - is one of Hong Kong's greatest recreational assets. And though it can be crowded on the weekends, during the week one can easily hike all day and not see anyone else.

Until the 1950s, Sai Kung remained remote. Banditry was commonplace well into the late 30s. From time to time, brigands and pirates raided isolated Sai Kung villages for valuables and livestock. Major road works, such as Hiram's Highway (named after tinned sausages), were constructed in the late 40s but subsistence farming in more remote communities continued well into the 60s. Until then, much of the district could only be visited on foot or by launch.

During the war years, Sai Kung's remoteness aided banditry of a more patriotic kind, embodied most obviously by the communist East River guerrillas, who assisted in the resistance against the Japanese. Escapees from the military prisoner-of-war camps in Kowloon were also helped to safety. Many guerillas were Hakka and took advantage of Sai Kung's pre-existing village and clan links that joined up the eastern New Territories with Free China. Daring raids were conducted into urban areas. One of the most dramatic acts involved blowing up the railway bridge over Argyle Street.

Sai Kung's guerillas were awarded certificates of recognition and cash payments by the Hong Kong government after the war. One guerilla leader, Major Raymond Wong, a pre-war student at Hong Kong's elite Queen's College - then on Hollywood Road - was awarded a military division MBE. He later became a personal aide of Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. Wong was killed in 1955 when the Air India plane he was travelling in was sabotaged by Kuomintang agents at Kai Tak airport and crashed into the sea off North Borneo. A substantial memorial to the East River guerillas - or the 'Hong Kong-Kowloon Guerilla Troop' - stands at Tsam Chuk Wan, the final resting place for at least 70 fighters.

Sai Kung's fishing industry greatly expanded by the 1890s, as Hong Kong Island's steadily growing urban area provided a constant market. The district's fishermen generally transported their catch to Shau Kei Wan, where it was sold to retailers. As in other parts of the delta, a significant proportion of their catch was salted.

Hong Kong's fishing industry is a thing of the past these days and fish, crabs, clams and prawns are imported from all over the world. Numerous open-air restaurants on the Sai Kung waterfront serve up excellent Cantonese-style seafood - an enduringly popular end to a day out in Sai Kung.