When I arrived panting and perspiring at the meeting point, only to find Derek Hinden waiting with a cold coconut water, I knew it was going to be a good day. We were soon on our way to Hinden’s newly-opened Sai Kung yoga and wellness retreat, 53 Hoi Ha, for some much-anticipated rest and relaxation.
Hong Kong born and raised, Hinden had previously been a real estate investor before a series of life changes motivated him to find a career he was passionate about. Fortuitously, at the same time he discovered the benefits of yoga and meditation.
“I thought about doing yoga overseas,” he explains, “But then I thought, ‘why isn’t there anything in Hong Kong? Why do you have to go to Thailand or Bali for a yoga retreat?’” Thus, 53 Hoi Ha was born.
The retreat is aptly named for its location on the shore of Hoi Ha Wan. The multi-level house is hard to miss; its bright pink walls rise above the leafy foliage, striking amidst the surrounding village houses.
Once visitors wander through the pink gate on pink floor tiles and up pink stairs, they are greeted by airy (non-pink) interiors. With bamboo pendant lights, dark wood furnishings and miniature Buddhas on the windowsill, it feels like a cross between a Balinese villa and a Californian beach house.
“People should be leaving content, relaxed and happy,” Hinden tells me as he hands out chips and guacamole. “The point is really to reconnect with nature, to not be stimulated or on-the-go the whole time.” His day-retreat package is designed accordingly, with 90 minutes of morning yoga, lunch and water sports as well as down time for guests to kick back and socialise.
On sunny days, visitors can do yoga on the rooftop, which boasts sweeping ocean views and lounge chairs. We stretch out on cork mats which, like most other products in the house, are sustainably sourced and eco-friendly.
I am quickly reminded of my inflexibility, but try to keep up as everybody else gracefully twists themselves into pretzels. Finishing with a meditation session, we troop downstairs to find a feast waiting: vegetable rolls, potato biryani, chickpea curry, homemade chutneys, and the final cherry on top – sponge cake.
Stuffed full, we waddle down to Hoi Ha’s main attraction – the bay. A WWF-protected reserve, the 260-hectare marine park is home to various species of mangroves, coral and other marine life, making it popular for snorkeling. “This could be Thailand, right here,” says Hinden, and looking out at the skyscraper-free scenery, I have to agree.
We pick up paddleboards from Mrs. Yung, a local resident whose Hakka ancestors first settled the village in 1811. “I always rent the boards and paddles from her because I want to support other small businesses,” Hinden explains as we head down to the water. Equipment ready, we spend several hours splashing about and basking in the sun.
After paddling back to shore, I luxuriate in the spacious shower before reconvening in the dining room. Hospitable to the end, Hinden serves us one last slice of cake before we leave. “I want to create positive memories and experiences for visitors, and introduce people to a beautiful part of Hong Kong,” he says. I’d say he succeeded; the entire day was designed for maximum comfort, from arranged transportation and coconut water to the delicious lunch and facilities.
Waving goodbye, I step back into the cacophony of city bustle, mind still on peaceful Hoi Ha.
Core package day retreat ($1,500) requires a minimum of 4 people. Packages can be customized with additional services upon request. Bookings can be made for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and alternate Saturday and Sundays – contact Hinden for more information. firstname.lastname@example.org, 9163 9563