Young couples holding hands and gazing into one another’s eyes are a common sight in Hong Kong. Across socio-economic divides, lovers seek out some time alone together in a crowd whenever the happy opportunity presents itself. Those with more financial resources – then as now – had a greater choice of venues for these magical moments. These days, the scope for meeting up is almost endless – everything from a bar stool to a mountaintop provides a welcoming perch. In the days when arranged marriages were commonplace, chances for young people to get together unsupervised were strictly limited. Temple festivals, quick glimpses on market outings or at village gatherings were about the only opportunities. Lifestyles started to change with increased Westernisation from the 1930s, and today’s dating culture began to emerge. But where did Hong Kong’s gilded youth go for a date in earlier times? The need to maintain one’s reputation in a small town meant that many dates were, by necessity, conducted in the open air, where tolerant chaperones could ensure that some semblance of propriety was maintained by a complaisantly distant, watching eye. Coffee, cream cakes, holding hands and perhaps a shared banana ice cream confection was about “as far as it went” in less permissive times. This was especially the case before reliable contraception made the consequences of a back-seat liaison that got a bit out of hand on the long drive home at night less catastrophic. On Hong Kong Island, Repulse Bay, with the combination of its world-famous, olde-worlde hote l and the beachside Lido, known for its tea dances, was a popular pre-war date spot for the affluent. Picnics on the beach, and a swim in then-pristine coastal waters, were available to those with less money. For the more adventurous, Shek O and Big Wave Bay offered a similar coastal drive, with quieter beaches offering greater seclusion and privacy. Castle Peak beaches were popular among those with cars in the pre-war years, particularly so with the local Portuguese community, who then mainly lived on the Kowloon side; some families maintained permanent mat-sheds on the beach. The Castle Peak Hotel, which opened in 1956, was reached by a dramatically scenic drive along winding coastal roads that went almost as far as it was possible to go into the New Territories. A creeper-hung terrace overlooked Lantau and Castle Peak; Deep Bay and mysterious, closed-off “Red China” beyond were glimpsable – just – if one looked long enough in the right direction. Another attraction was the hotel itself – with the beaches nearby, this made a perfect weekend getaway for urbanites, in the days before affordable, readily accessible short regional trips by air. Yucca de Lac, the terrace restaurant on the old Tai Po Road at Ma Liu Shui, opened in 1963. This rapidly turned into a favoured out-of-town date spot, becoming increasingly popular when the place was featured in various Cantonese-language films. To a generation of Southeast Asian Chinese movie-goers, Yucca de Lac epitomised the sophistication and glamour that the Hong Kong lifestyle then signified. Visitors from Singapore and Malaya made a pilgrimage to Yucca de Lac for lunch or afternoon tea, as much for the photo opportunities and film-set ambience as the delicious food and dramatic mountain and harbour vistas. After years of sad decline, hastened by the loss of the views across Tolo Harbour when Tide Cove was reclaimed, Yucca de Lac closed and was sold for redevelopment in 2005. Inevitably, a block of flats arose, clad in faux-Italianate embellishments, with all the character and charm of a hillside gun emplacement. Some reference to Yucca in the new name – and the passing memories of those who once enjoyed a date there – are the only reminders of this formerly magical spot.