It's about a 40 minute walk from Pui O, it's basic but functional and in a few years' time it will be one of the most exciting places in Hong Kong.
Pursuing your dreams; to believe in what you're doing and not stopping even when the project seems impossible is admirable and a bit bonkers...The Hong Kong Outpost is just that. I discovered the HK Outpost on a walk to Sea Ranch. Checking on the map, Google still has it down as a drug rehabilitation centre, which it was in a previous life. As I got closer I noticed a small A-frame board stood out front asking prospective customers to ring the bell for service. Intrigued, I vowed to make the (quite long) walk to find out what this place was all about.
The Hong Kong Outpost is a project on a scale that makes the sensible, level headed person in me want to hide under a blanket. Not so for the amazing Roland Buser who saw a feat so challenging he's taken it on as his 5 year plan. "We're just about coming to the end of year 1 and we're finally at the starting line" he explains. "From here on we're off and running. The initial kick-start effort is behind us, from here onward it's just gonna get better" he says as he points to the room we are currently in. The 'Shop'.
Roland describes how the 'Hong Kong Outpost used to look like all the other abandoned buildings scattered over Hong Kong. He's spent countless hours scrubbing, plastering and painting to get this little room to look inhabitable. Simply fitting a new air-con unit has been a game changer. But it's not as simple as ordering a unit from Fortress...
It's taken me an hour and a half to reach The Hong Kong Outpost. It's a 40 minute walk from Pui O through Ham Tin and into the woods of the Chi Ma Wan peninsula. There are no roads to the venue. Big supplies are delivered by boat and smaller consumables come by taxi from Tung Chung to Ham Tin, where they then also have to make a 30 minute journey to the Hong Kong Outpost.
I visited The 'Outpost on a slightly damp Wednesday morning and fully expected to see Kevin McCloud filming an episode of Grand Designs. Instead I'm greeted by 4 beautiful ladies in 'active-wear' who have booked The 'Outpost for a last minute lunch. I'm a sweaty mess after my walk here. They look untouched. A quick ask around and Roland Buser appears. Originally from Switzerland and now very much ingrained into the fabric of Hong Kong, Roland is absolutely not what I was expecting. He's about 6" tall, wearing wooden clogs, traditional carpenters pants, a scruffy polo shirt and a gilet...coming straight from some renovation works. He speaks with an accent akin to third kulture kid - a mix of everything. He references a braai - South African for a BBQ - so he's clearly spent some time there. We'll come back to the BBQ in a bit.
After seating his guests (it feels like you're Roland's guest more than his customer) on the terrace with a stunning view of the sea, Roland explains the shop on the property is self service. "Just write down what you take and pay for it all at the end" he explains, whilst handing the ladies a basic menu of what's on offer from the private kitchen. The menu varies daily as the supply chain to a location this remote is tricky. Roland is adamant that The 'Outpost use up all produce and nothing is to go to waste, therefore the changeable menu. A nod to their strong sustainable roots.
Roland runs the Outpost as a Homestead. I ask whether he'll allow camping on the land and he laughs "Tried that. The majority of wannabe campers are a nightmare, but there are always exceptions!" he jokes "It's all about a mutual match-up with like-minded people that appreciate and respect the environment and this tranquil spot". He does provide sleeping accommodation if you don't fancy the walk back to civilisation after a free-flow lunch. The rooms at The Outpost are basic but spotlessly clean, with the larger main rooms opening out onto a balcony with a view. Space is rented by the bed, as opposed to the room, with a bed costing just $350.-(weekdays) for the night. Deals are available for longer stays. Don't expect the Shangri-La and you'll be more than happy here.
The Hong Kong Outpost is at the beginning of a very exciting journey. Roland has plans for greatness that had me offering to work for him! I can see his vision and it's brilliant. The land has 5 main buildings, with the first main block nearing completion. Roland plans to add a lounge/games room to the basement and wellness activities on the roof.
Months have been spent clearing the land of the usual Hong Kong detritus and has recently uncovered a basketball court which is now again functional for among others badminton, basket-, foot- and volleyball. Clearing all the rubbish is also a logistical nightmare. But the clearing effort was worth it as there is now a large event space catering to weddings and school groups; water sports, and what I think is most exciting - opposite a refurbished temple, is another disused property that will eventually become a Sunset Bar & Lounge. Perfect.
The hillside behind the venue is lined with abandoned terraces that previously would have grown vegetables for the farming community but now are also slowly being cleared and brought back to life. Their eventual use will predominantly be for the growing of fresh produce for the Homestead, but also for outdoor activities.
All these things take time to complete, and as Roland said, we are just at the beginning of the journey. For now, the main lure is the spectacular sunset that can be enjoyed from the private Terrace & Beer Garden outside the main property, and the BBQ. All the food cooked on the BBQ is fresh and made daily. The delicious aroma of shish kebabs greeted me as I entered the shop. The BBQ area towards the back of the Beer Garden is as well equipped as any professional kitchen. There is a skewer oven, a giant barbecue, pizza oven and even a popcorn machine to keep the kids entertained. The Hong Kong Outpost prides itself on the quality of the food and that's evident without even tasting it.
What Roland is doing here is nothing short of spectacular. It's all the more impressive when you realise he's done most of it himself. When he's not making tasty skewers, he's plastering or serving guests or fitting ceiling lights or hanging curtains, or or or... There is always something that needs doing. At least he has this view, and his resident water buffalo, to remind him why he's doing it.
I've always hankered, and I'm sure you have too, to have the opportunity, concept and know-how to take an abandoned Hong Kong building and breathe new life into it; not to build new, but to save the old. That's exactly what Roland is doing and it's so cool I want to do a forward roll and punch the air.
More of this please, Hong Kong.
Reservations for private BBQ/BRAAI and accommodation are essential. Please visit http://bit.ly/3iyCNHq to book. Visit their website https://www.thehongkongoutpost.com/
Address: Mong Tung Wan, Lantau Island. A 40 minute walk from Pui O.
Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
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IslanderHK didn't receive anything for this post, although some delicious smelling soup was offered.