Wang Tong is not a very photogenic attraction. That's the conclusion I came to after looking at the picture I took today. It appeared so gorgeous from the hilltop: our little village snuggled between the reclining elbows of the surrounding hills, with the wetland and beach behind and the ferry pier in the distance. But in photo it looks less like a cozy, picturesque little hamlet and more like some careless god tossed a handful of random, worn-out dice onto a sloppy field...which pretty accurately sums up the planning that goes into local development.
It reminds me of the Clairol coloring shampoo slogan: "The closer he gets the better you look." Too far away and it's a disorganized collection of mismatched buildings. On the other hand, get too close and you can't help noticing the blemishes: leftover construction waste, corroded external plumbing, abandoned bicycles. But if you step back the right amount, adjust your field of vision to take in Mr. Tang's house and his majestic lawn, or the white house with the Vietnamese hardwood gate, the small field of canna flowers with Ah-Po's farm as a backdrop, then this village has its share of eye candy.
Aesthetics isn't much of a concern for most local residents. That can be a danger--there are constant battles, large and small, to minimize the desecration of the landscape. Yet the lack of pretension, right outside urban Hong Kong--possibly the shallowest brand-label and face-conscious society on the planet, where new residential developments are all histrionic displays of marble and gilt--is one of the village's special attractions. Sometimes you love something only because of a beautiful heart.