Name: Monica Guzkowska
Occupation: Business manager
Where do you live?
Cheung Sha, South Lantau.
How long have you lived here?
Going on eight years – about the same length of time I’ve been in Hong Kong. This is where we rented when we first found a place and we loved it, so when a place came available, we bought. We’re probably oddities in this town!
I’m from Toronto, and my husband is from a small French village and spent a lot of time growing up by the sea. We’re both very active, and nature is a need for both of us, whether it’s in the green or by the seaside. Plus, as thirtysomething arrivals in Hong Kong, the bustle of the island appealed to us for a Saturday night but we knew that it wasn’t what we wanted to wake up to on Sunday. In the end, South Lantau trumped Sai Kung and DB with buffaloes. Not kidding.
Describe your South Lantau lifestyle?
Laid back, active, family-oriented, sub-urban. Visitors to our place tend to exclaim “You have butterflies!” People talk about “putting on their Central clothes” to go into town. This area has a lot of villas and village houses, so we tend to go over to each other’s houses, whether to hang out with a drink in the evening or for a dinner or barbecue. You will want a car. One frustration is when tradespeople, shops and couriers, who normally deliver, don’t, calling this place “remote”.
When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is…
Sometimes, the giant gecko or Tokay gecko that lives in the wall across from our door. Otherwise, our neighbours’ cars (and ours) in the street (for some, this is a turn-off for living here – for me, it’s a bit of a cultural comfort; something familiar that I grew up with). No doubt someone with a baby stroller or a dog. Sometimes one or more Lantau cows. The path to the beach. Butterflies.
Technically, there are some tiny convenience stores in Tong Fuk and Pui O with water, cup o’ noodles and the like. For all practical purposes, it’s a toss-up of the crossroads: Wellcome or Fusion in Mui Wo are by the ferry pier to Central. Both carry a decent range of expat grocery products. Taste in Citygate Outlet Mall in Tung Chung (“over the mountain”) has a wider range and parking if you’re taking the MTR, going to the pool or gym, and so on.
Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of…
Point Break. Maybe crossed with Desperate Housewives… Kidding! Don’t print that! <sorry Monica, it was too cute to leave out!>
How are the neighbours?
Generally, a mix of native Hong Kongers and expat nationalities tending toward the nature and dog-loving. A couple of our immediate neighbours use their villas as holiday houses; full-time residents include a high proportion of pilot families. People are incredibly warm, saying “hello” in the street and perhaps stopping for a brief chat; you really can knock to borrow a cup of sugar. People look out for each other – car-pooling for kids and checking on houses when a family goes away.
The unofficial uniform of your street is:
Board shorts, yoga or compression wear. A dog. Children. Worn singly or all together. Jeans and an edgy T-shirt for going out – surfer hipster.
A mandatory stop for guests is:
Tai O and the Big Buddha. Cheung Sha beach on a weekday when sometimes you can have it to yourself. Mavericks or The Gallery for food.
Date night – what and where?
On a clear night, the rooftop or the beach with a blanket, a bottle of wine and some snacks. A star-gazing app is optional, but great nerdy fun. Key concept: you can actually see the stars here. Or a dinner at one of the restaurants in Mui Wo, followed by a Thai massage.
Best thing for kids in your area?
Nature. Sure, there’s rugby and dance, playgroups, etc., but really: nature. Scraped knees and burrs on socks, egrets and herons in the wetland and estuary, dirt trails (they still exist!) and a glimpse of a barking deer if you’re very very quiet and very very lucky. And happy smeared faces after finding mud pies in the buffalo field…
You’d swap houses in a second with…
I struggled to answer this. Our place isn’t huge and it isn’t perfect, but I love our home. Having said that, there’s a holiday house by Lower Cheung Sha – a bungalow with a red brick wall and barbecue, with a pool; it’s got to be one of the most coveted houses in the area.
Favourite places in your area?
Cheung Sha beach. The many Lantau hiking trails accessible from my door to Lantau Peak. Sunset Peak. The Pui O wetland looking west when the buffalo are out – I keep meaning to snap a photo and submit it to a “Where in the world?” contest; no one would ever guess that this is Hong Kong. Mavericks beach shack and restaurant. Mau Kee restaurant. Tong Fuk’s The Gallery for the grilled meats, pizza and divine chocolate cake. 9 Dragons gym in Tung Chung.
Strangest thing you’ve seen in your area?
Billy the Cow has been a bit of a local sensation after he was adopted by a Pui O family. Lately though, I’ve seen a black goat being walked on a leash. It was a PALS (animal shelter) volunteer who has a pretty luxuriant white beard. Who knew he’s such a hipster?
Guiltiest pleasure in your area?
Regular massages. No shame!
What would you never change about your area?
The road permit, which is only available to residents and area businesses. It’s what keeps us from being inundated with cars and people.
Best thing about living in your area?
Nature. Hmm, appears to have been a bit of a leitmotif here. Gosh, I’m so Canadian!