I think I first noticed the swimmers of Tolo Harbor from the window of our Hong Kong apartment in Ma On Shan not long after we moved there. It was about 5:30 in the morning and far out in the distance I could see what looked like hundreds of little water bugs swimming out towards the harbor entrance.
Taking a walk a few mornings later in the direction where I spotted the ‘water bugs’ I discovered they were in fact early morning swimmers out to get their exercise in the harbor waters. Most of the swimmers were elderly people who had walked or driven their bikes down to the ocean and armed with various kinds of floatation devices had plunged in for an early morning water workout. People carried their life belts over their shoulder or found a more ingenious way to travel.
One woman had loaded all her swimming gear onto her wheel chair to push it down to the water. They hung their towels on the pier and parked their bikes there if they’d brought them and then they’d head down the stairs into the water.
There was quite a bit of variety in the fashion parade of bathing outfits worn by the various swimmers. From fashionable wet suits to head coverings fashioned from towels to shorts and tank tops. I never saw anyone with a life jacket. They all seemed to prefer kick boards or donut life saving rings or even water bottles filled with water.
Some brought along their dogs for the swim and others brought bread to feed the pigeons. The early morning swim routine was obviously a social event. People swam in groups or pairs and chatted animatedly with one another as they swam. One morning I decided to do a rough count of the swimmers and easily reached a hundred before I stopped. The whole time I was doing my tally new people were entering and leaving the water. I’m sure in one morning several hundred people swam in Tolo Harbor despite the fact that an article I read online said “the bacterial levels in Tolo Harbor well exceed various international standards for bathing waters.”
One of Hong Kong’ s nicest and largest swimming pools was right in Ma On Shan. I could see the pool from the window of my apartment too, but obviously people, especially seniors preferred to swim in the ocean.
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