Urban Diary
未來故事 永續香港|Sustainable Future, Hong Kong Tales

Gladys CHENG Wai Ling: Ap Lei Chau Metamorphoses

Gladys CHENG Wai Ling
55 years old
Lived in Ap Lei Chau Main Street for 14 years.

 “I was born in Ap Lei Chau, where I lived the Main Street till the early seventies when the squatters were demolished.  Electric boats ran back and forth between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau.  The Hung Sing Temple marked the forefront; whereas Kwan Yin Temple (now the Wind Tower Park) marked the back.  My home was somewhere near Kwan Yin Temple.  On the Main Street, drainage ditches roughly 1” wide could be found for every five stores.  The residents used the ditches to draw water from the hillside.  I tried to run over the ditches when carrying carts of coal for the Chinese restaurants.  But eight times out of ten I would tip the cart over.

Back then there was much less transport, so we stayed along Main Street for entertainment.  Pearl Theatre was a prominent landmark, my elder sister would bring all seven of us in with only one ticket.  We’d occupy the chunk of space in front of the screen. I’d also play with my neighbours; we knew what’s going on in each family.  The Hungry Ghost Festival was big for us.  Every family would burn paper money and offer coins.  Kids pocketed the coins when the adults were done.  On the seventh day of the seventh month, single women honoured the Seven Sister Festival  with elaborate rituals.

The hills and shores were also our playmates.  We went uphill by going behind the Kwan Yin Temple.  Yuet Heung Yuen was a soy sauce workshop where we could pick Indian gooseberries and guavas.  We’d also go swim near the ship cradle and catch the small crabs when tides were low.  Yuet Heung Yuen was located where the West Estate is.  During high season, the workshop would hire many people to work.  Everyone on Main Street would help peel gingers, and scoop out the lotus seed kernels.  It was a great sight.  I played my part as well to earn pocket money.

When I was small, I felt like Ap Lei Chau was the whole world.  We would get off the electric boat, and there were delicious food waiting for us from Hung Sing Temple till the very end of the street.  Nowadays, Ap Lei Chau Main Street is just like any other street.  When I return for class reunions, I still feel a sense of belonging.  Compared to the Aberdeen Centre, I prefer a walk along the coastline.  Seeing how Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau have changed, I feel like I’m only a passer-by.”