A day at the beach remains a favourite activity in this city. Every weekend, thousands head out to beaches on Hong Kong Island's southern coast and around Sai Kung and Clear Water Bay. In the 1930s, swimming in the sea was an almost exclusively European affair; few Chinese swam in the ocean before the 50s. Midnight swims at Repulse Bay were a regular ending to a night on the town, with a bottle of cherry brandy taken along as a nightcap. The Repulse Bay Hotel (below), built in 1919, quickly became famed as a spot where Hong Kong Island's Hawaiian-like natural beauty was combined with the conveniences of the nearby city. The hotel was a much-loved feature of middle-class Hong Kong life until it was demolished in the early 80s. For decades, a day spent swimming at Repulse Bay, in gin-clear seas surrounded by green hills, was one of the pleasures of life in Hong Kong and a tourist draw. But on a hot weekend afternoon these days, almost as many people are crowded onto the beach as on the city pavements over the hill, all milling about in water heavily scented with suntan oil and other, less appealing fluids. Modern Repulse Bay, like Stanley, Chung Hom Kok and Shek O, is simultaneously an upscale residential area and downmarket resort - a fascinating Hong Kong contradiction. Castle Peak's beaches, which extend from Tsuen Wan to Tuen Mun, remained popular for decades, as they were remote from heavily populated areas, clean and enjoyed magnificent island views. Most are now closed to bathers and ominous skull-and-crossbones signs leave no doubts about the water quality. In the 20s and 30s, Ting Kau was fashionable because of its mat sheds, semi-permanent structures made of bamboo and palm-thatch matting. Groups of urban residents would rent them by the year and store rattan furniture and a few other belongings in them, which made an impromptu picnic easy to arrange. Local villagers would sell weekend visitors a few fresh fish or a bucket of crabs or prawns. Only the relatively wealthy could maintain the sheds, and people whose parents spent their summer weekends at Castle Peak now jet off to resorts in Phuket and Bali. Tsing Yi - better known today for public housing estates and petroleum storage facilities - was once home to a nudist beach. Wok Tai Wan, on the northwestern corner of Tsing Yi, was popular, both for nudists and binocular-bearing observers, in the 50s. More remote corners of Sai Kung and Lantau are still favoured by those seeking an all-over tan.