Moving with kids from DB to South Lantau

Relocating from DB to South Lantau is a no-brainer for some, a step too far for others. Rebecca Tomasis weighs the pros and cons.

Almost nine months ago, in November of last year, my husband and I made, what was for us at the time, something of a momentous decision. It was a decision we made seemingly quickly, as we seem to make all our major decisions. Basically, we think about it over a period of a year or two, procrastinate a lot, and then pretty much overnight decide to act.

And so, after 10 years of calling Discovery Bay home, we made the decision to uproot our family (three children, two helpers, two dogs, a cat and a snake) and move over the mountains to a new home in South Lantau.

Goodbye DB

I agree, it might not seem like such a big deal. DB is, after all, quite a transient community and our move was within Lantau. It wasn’t a case of crossing continents, not even of crossing Hong Kong. But saying goodbye to DB was not an easy decision, and for several reasons.

Our family as it is now, began in DB. When my husband and I moved there back in 2004 we were not yet married, our wedding came later, as did our three children, who have called DB home since they were tiny newborns. I still remember the days each of them first came home on the ferry from Central.

Our children loved DB, and for good reason. Their best friends all lived in the same building as us. They lived in each other’s apartments. Parks, their school, the Club Siena pool were all within walking distance of our apartment, as were their football and gymnastics classes. My children also had their grandma living just three buildings away.

So how our children would react to the prospect of a move, and to the fact that we would, shock horror, be leaving DB was something that made my husband and I somewhat apprehensive. But as far as we were concerned, it was definitely time for a change. For a start, our growing family needed more space. Three children, two helpers and our menagerie just didn’t fit into a 900-square-foot apartment anymore.

In 10 years of living in DB our rent had trebled, but our apartments had shrunk in size. And when our then landlord proposed yet another seemingly ridiculous rent increase, we decided it was time to look elsewhere.

Hello Tong Fuk

South Lantau seemed a natural fit. We love the area, and were already regular visitors to its beaches. After several trips out with an estate agent, it was the house we found that eventually made up our minds for us. And by house I mean a proper house, complete with stairs and a garden. For the first two months that we lived in our new house, our children refused to be alone upstairs. Only Hong Kong children could be scared by the size of their own home.

Home is now a village not far from Tong Fuk. Very few people outside of South Lantau have heard of it, and we love that. Mosquitoes and the occasional snake aside, we love our new garden and we are pretty sure the novelty will never wear off. We eat almost all of our meals outside, and we have a new, above-ground swimming pool to help us beat the summer heat. A 6.30am swim before school is now a regular feature of our daily routine.

Indoors, we have so much space, there’s not enough furniture to fill it. We just have so much space. I say that a lot, just because it’s true and we continue to marvel at it. We love being able to host friends and family for barbecues and parties. Our house is now a go-to venue for large-scale gatherings.

We also really love living in a rural setting. We have found real peace and quiet (barking village dogs aside). Without buses and hire cars thundering past, we can sit in the garden, serenaded by a symphony of wood pigeons, croaking toads and the occasional moo of a cow. We are still constantly amused, amazed and delighted by the South Lantau buffalos, and our electricity metre is home to a nest of bats that fly in and out at night.

We love that we have some of the cleanest beaches in Hong Kong on our doorstep and with our two youngest children now at school in South Lantau, a swim in the sea after school is our new favourite activity. Lying on the beach, as the children splash in the surf, it’s difficult to doubt the decision we’ve made.

Irreplaceable memories

But all of that aside – what do we miss about DB? Definitely its convenience. The fact that DB has almost anything you could need, all within walking distance – the bank, the post office, the large supermarkets. Near our new house, we have a small village shop that sells only basic supplies. Running out of something at 9pm and dashing down to DB Plaza to replace it, is no longer an option.

DB is also closer to pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong than where we live now. From our village to Tung Chung is a 30-minute bus ride (although my early morning bus driver seems intent on doing it in less than 20), and my commute to work is now a good 30 minutes longer. We are more reliant on our car than ever before, which makes me worry about our carbon footprint. That said, being able to drive straight to our door is great. We don’t miss parking at Sunny Bay and dragging our children on to the bus.

One thing our move has taught us, is that it is possible to leave the comfort and security of DB and survive. As we got ready to move, we had a lot of people comfort us with, “Well if it doesn’t work out, you can always move back”. But for now we are happy to have said goodbye to DB, because of what we have managed to find outside of it. DB will always occupy a special place in our hearts and our memories. But it was time to move on.

Photos courtesy of Rebecca Tomasis.