Slightly off the beaten track from Hong Kong lies the dirty, little fishing village of Sai Kung, known citywide for its fresh seafood and tourist friendly boardwalk. My partner was there a few weeks ago for a golf outing, apparently these mini ferries whisk golfers from the pier to an outlying island covered by the deep, manicured green of a golf course.

When returning from a devastating game where he humiliated himself in front of balding, middle-age putters, my partner decided to stop and have a couple of beers at one of the many restaurants lining the boardwalk. He called me from Sai Kung twice in the span of an hour just to tell my how beautiful and peaceful it was.

“Is it like Stanley?” I asked.

“Better. It’s less developed and the water and green hills and mountains are more spectacular.” He said.

So after spending Saturday afternoon in Stanley soaking up the sun, breathing in the fresh air, smiling at the sand and facing the breeze, I thought of what pleasures Sai Kung might hold. Better than Stanley? I imagined my partner and I moving from bustling Hong Kong to this magical beach village. I had promised my partner that I was open to the idea of moving to a beach community after two years in the city center. Why not? How many times would we get the opportunity to live on a Stanley or Shek O or this Garden of Eden called Sai Kung.

Imagine my surprise when we got to Sai Kung after a taxi ride that was far less spectacular than the one to Stanley, and I found not this oasis of calm, not this friendly, quaint village, but his garish, noisy hellhole. Around every corner, my expectations were not only dashed, but pistol-whipped and shot execution style. It was as if the whole of Central Hong Kong during lunchtime had moved to this stinky, Godforsaken hamlet. I tried to smile and act excited but I just wanted to get the hell back to Hong Kong.

Sai Kung is in the New Territories but it looked neither new or like any territory any country or Special Administrative Region would claim. The promised water view was blocked by this little bump of an island just off shore. The green hills and mountains were nowhere near as dramatic as in Stanley. Hell, Stanley’s boardwalk was quiet compared to the screams, wails and cries I heard–and that was just the little, old ladies.

I did leave Sai Kung with a souvenir of sorts. I got food poisoning at the restaurant I selected. You see, I let my partner choose one of those dirty, choose your own sea food joints. He can’t lie to save his life so I knew his food was mediocre. After he was done, it was my turn to choose a restaurant. I settled on one of the open air eateries near the pier. They were popular with expats and tourists so I figured it was safe. I’m pretty sure it was the stir-fried vegetables that did me in. You don’t have to cook vegetables as thoroughly as you do meat and I could tell from the first bite that something was wrong. Just thinking about that heaping plate of salmonella makes me cringe.

My partner felt badly about what occurred to me later that evening and all day yesterday, especially given that yesterday was our anniversary. We had planned to have dinner at a nice restaurant. Instead he ordered take out from Pizza Express and I ate a small bowl of brown rice.

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

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