Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From High West down to Aberdeen (Photo-essay)

In the eyes of many people (including those at Time Asia who voted it the Best Urban Hike in their 2004 Best of Asia issue), the Dragon's Back is the Hong Kong Island hike to go on  While I've happily hiked the Dragon's Back not just once but thrice now (each time in the company of different friends), there are many Hong Kong Island hikes that rival that popular one over on the eastern side of the island in terms of sheer enjoyment, never mind challenge.

And as unlikely as it sounds, it really is the case that one of those other hikes begins at Victoria Peak -- though it's also true that it detours up to High West before going down that 494 meter high peak from whose summit some really great views can be had to the very Scottish-sounding town of Aberdeen -- known in Cantonese as Hong Kong Tsai (i.e., Little Hong Kong) -- over on the south side of Hong Kong Island... :b

The north side view from atop High West includes concrete jungle, 
the blue waters of Victoria Harbour and natural greenery

The view to the south and east from High West of Pok Fu Lam 
(in the foreground) and Lamma Island (in the distance)

Zoom lens view from above of old along with new
buildings in the Pok Fu Lam area

Rather than ignore the "Road Closed" sign, 
my hiking companionand I elected to safely
go back down the trail we had gone up on

After getting back on the Hong Kong Trail,
we passed by this lovely waterfall 

The kind of scene that can look like it's miles 
away from civilization -- but actually isn't so!

Some measure of the distance we covered on this hike can be
gathered from learning that the peak in the far distance in this photo 
is that of the same High West that we had been on earlier ;b

A few kilometers further and Aberdeen -- 
and that day's hike's end! -- was in sight! :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Critter spottings in the vicinity of Mui Tsz Lam

Is that a blue tiger or blue glassy tiger (butterfly) in the photo?

This looks to be the common tiger butterfly -- which,
true to its name, is one of the butterflies I spot most
frequently when out hiking in Hong Kong
 Not a butterfly but a moth -- but beyond it being
on the small side and my finding it pretty,
I can't tell you much else about it ;(
Today being a Sunday with fine weather (i.e., rain-less, cool(ish) and not too humid), no prizes for guessing what I did this afternoon.  This time around, my hiking buddy and I went along a route that took us from Sai Kung (more specifically Tai Ping Tsuen) over to Sha Tin via portions of the Ma On Shan Country Trail, Maclehose Trail Section 4 and part of of a century old path linking the villages of Mui Tsz Lam and Pak Kong whose existence I found out about by reading the blog entry in  Journey to Hong Kong about it.
Should there be any doubt, the scenery along this hike was diverse, often interesting and sometimes downright splendid.  And I also did have a number of non-butterfly and -moth critter spottings, including of a golden orb weaver spider in the process of either consuming a grasshopper or wrapping it up some more for storage -- and a couple of lizard like creatures in a stream.

But I was particularly struck today by the number and variety of butterflies and moths my hiking buddy and I caught sight of today.  Interestingly, the spottings generally occurred early into and at the tail end of our trek, with few butterflies and moths catching our eye during the relatively level middle portion of the hike -- and it was when we were in the vicinity of Mui Tsz Lam that these insects were the most willing to have their photographs taken.
On a less scientific note: I don't want to end this blog entry without asking people to click on my photo of the common tiger butterfly and check out the enlarged visual.  More specifically, I want to know: is it just me or doesn't the very top part of the insect look to you too like a man with a white face wearing dark glasses and large headphones along with antennae?! ;O

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spooky and On a Shelf (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

While out hiking in Hong Kong, one regularly passes by a grave (or more) and sometimes even through a cemetery.  But strange as it may seem, I generally don't find the final resting places of the dead that I come across in the Big Lychee to be all that spooky.  (Thinking about it, I reckon it's because they and their surroundings often are so clean!)

So I decided that for my entry for Sandi's Photo Hunt this week, it'd be better for me to go create my own "spooky" -- and, of course, all the better if I could come up with efforts that were also suitable for Gattina's different Photo Hunt theme. And with the help of reflections along with antique sculptures on display by the window of a shop on Hollywood Road (a Hong Kong public passage whose construction predates the establishment of the Hollywood district of Los Angeles!), I do believe that I came up with a couple of nifty spooky pics -- far spookier looking, in fact, that any of the Halloween-themed items on sale at a number of stalls on nearby Pottinger Street.

But guess what one of my photos of the displays of such as fuzzy black spider toys, "severed limbs" and "skulls" with eye-catching eyes has that my more creative shots lack?  Why, items on a shelf as well as in plastic trays and cardboard boxes, of course!  So dual Photo Hunt missions accomplished -- which is a relief because I did wonder for a while if this was the week when I'd finally feel obliged to choose between taking part in one and not the other... :O

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Around the northern side of Victoria Peak and up to High West (Photo-essay)

A few months after I moved to Hong Kong, I found and bought a copy of Alicia M. Kershaw and Ginger Thrash's Above the City: Hiking Hong Kong Island (HKU Press, 2005).  For a time, I followed this super helpful book's outlined hiking routes religiously -- and worried that I'd never be fit enough to complete those hikes that the book's authors rated as a 5 out of 5 in difficulty.

It's with a sense of achievement that I know that I reached a point some time back where I now feel confident enough to do such as "mix and match" the book's hiking plans and/or look upon them as "just" suggested routes.  Thus it was that one hot summer's day, my hiking companion and I elected to include an ascent up and descent down 494 meter high High West (route 1E in the book) to a hike that also included a Peak Circuit walk (route 1C) and a trek from Victoria Peak down to Aberdeen (route 1K)!

Come to think of it, it was on the challenging side to have attempted so much in a single generally breeze-less afternoon whose temperature was consistently over 30 degrees Celsius.  But when looking back at the photos I took over the course of that hike, I have no regrets at doing what we did on that hot but beautiful day... ;b

  Yes, I honestly thought this snail to be picture worthy! :)

...as snap worthy, in fact, as this decorated gate
of one of the super expensive residences on The Peak

The kind of view that can get visitors 
to Hong Kong literally gasping

...and even a resident like myself can be left in awe
by this impressive view of "Asia's World City"

Alternatively, I can tear my eyes away from those views 
to look for often overlooked sights in the area like this ;)

Thanks to the Above the City book, I also knew to get on 
the trail from High West Park that led up to High West itself

 The trail is many stepped but also
replete with grand views

And at the summit of High West is -- 
yay, yay -- a trigonometrical station! :b

To be continued... :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday hike sights (and -- yes -- critter spottings!)

Blue-tailed skink spotted on Victoria Peak! :)

Golden Orb Weaver spider spotted further along today's hike

Some of the views to be had along the hike were not bad either :)

For the first time in a long while, I didn't feel obliged to change my t-shirt before I got home from an afternoon of hiking.  This wasn't because my hiking buddy and I didn't exert ourselves all that much today -- since we did complete Sections 1 and 2 of the Hong Kong Trail and then a couple more kilometers of trail that took us down to Aberdeen.  
Rather, it was because today's weather was the most ideal for hiking (i.e., cool(ish) and dry) that it has been for ages.  Put another way: thanks to the temperature being under 30 degrees Celsius and the humidity levels not around the 90 percent mark (as they generally are during Hong Kong's summers), our approximately 11 kilometer trek -- that did have uphill along with downhill and level sections -- felt more comfortable than challenging!

Other elements that made today's hike really pleasant and enjoyable included the sighting of beautiful blue skies (particularly when we were on the southern side of Hong Kong Island), being in calming green settings part of the time and getting photogenic views at other times, and -- of course! -- our making a number of critter spottings!
The first critter spotting actually came before we had even began our hike proper.  Having stopped at a spot minutes away from the bus stop up on The Peak (so I could do such as apply sunblock), we happened to notice that a beautiful blue-tailed skink was moving about just a meter or so away from us.  For some reason, it then decided to stop for a bit -- the way that I've seen other skinks do at the Tai Po Kau Special Area; with the result being my being able to get my best blue-tailed skink picture to date!  (I've seen blue-tailed skinks a few times previously -- and even got a photograph of one before -- but never so clearly!)

With regards to Golden Orb Weaver spiders: you'd think that I'd have become blase to them after seeing so many of them, including on a Lamma hike a while back.  But the plain truth is that I really do love seeing them and they remain among my favorite bugs to photograph -- in part because they are so large and often stay pretty still even when a camera gets thrust pretty close to them!
And for those who shudder upon seeing them (even in photos rather than in the flesh): I really do hope that my photographs will help you to see how beautiful they are -- even while I do fully realize that it is a pretty much impossible task to try to convince you that there are people (like moi) who truly do think that these spiders also have really cute faces! ;b

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sassy and Parks (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

As regular visitors to this blog know, I regularly enjoy hiking in Hong Kong's country parks.  I also like visiting national parks in other countries (including Japan and my native Malaysia).  And while it's true that I don't go as often to amusement parks, I also have had good times whenever I've visited what could be described as the country and national parks' sassy cousins!

One summer day a few years back, my German friend (who I met when she lived in Hong Kong and have visited in Germany after she returned there) spent a fun day at Ocean Park.  On our visit, we did spend time checking out the aquarium attractions but, really, what we liked best were the "thrill" rides that did such as turn us upside down and splash us with water (and whose designers I imagine must be some sassy people)!   

I actually did put up a photo-essay of the visit on the evening of day that we went.  But thanks to Sandi's and Gattina's choice of themes for the Photo Hunts this week, I've got a good reason to put up other photos I took on that visit that I don't think I've put up on this blog until now! :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Drying and dried seafood

Hundreds of shrimp drying in the sun on Cheung Chau

Dried fish arrayed in an artistic manner in Macau

For many people, fresh is best when it comes to food.  But while I do feel that way with regards to such as my sushi and sashimi, I also do like my share of pickled and otherwise preserved edibles.  Still, it's only since moving to Hong Kong that I've come to like looking at -- and photographing -- dried foods; not least since they often are arrayed in eye-catching style!

One of the thing that fascinates me about Hong Kong (and neighhboring Macau) is how people can feel so secure about leaving seafood (as well as such as lime and tangering peels) out in the open in public space such as busy roadsides.  Something else I found intriguing was my learning that while dried salted fish was viewed in the past as food for the poor, dried shrimp is actually more expensive these days than fresh shrimp -- with the reason being that dried shrimp is considered to possess a more desirable intense flavor than its fresh equivalent!

If truth be told though, I generally prefer eating fresh shrimp to the dried variety -- and raw shrimp and prawns at that (particularly in sushi-ya and Thai restaurants)!  At the same time though, I also am fond of both Hong Kong-style and Malaysian-style shrimp paste (that's made from dried, fermented shrimp)!  And while I like Malaysian shrimp paste (i.e., belacan) best when mixed with other ingredients to make Penang rojak, I like the Hong Kong-style shrimp paste best as a dip for cooked squid -- something I was introduced to at the amazing Wah Kee over in Mui Wo (which I found out about via the very cool Tom Eats, Jen Cooks blog -- though Tom, if you're reading this, sorry, it's Wah, not Wai, Kee... :b ).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From Mount Parker down to Tai Tam Road (Photo-essay)

After getting up to the top of Mount Parker (as shown in my previous photo-essay), my hiking companion and I retraced our steps down to Quarry Gap, then headed southwards and then eastwards to Tai Tam Road via the southern section of Mount Parker Road and then Tai Tam Reservoir Road.  And lest there be any doubt: yes, there were plenty of critter spottings along the way to really make our day!

First though, we hung around a bit at the summit of Mount Parker to enjoy the views but also do such as take photos of a swallowtail butterfly (known as papilio bianor) -- a butterfly so big that in my early Hong Kong hiking days, I had initially mistaken it for a small bird when it flew swiftly past me!  Something else to note about this kind of butterfly is that it tends to beat its wings even while perched atop a flower, so it's really not easy or that usual for me to be able to get non-blurry photos of it -- and yet, on this particular hike, I somehow did!! :b

Although it may not look it, the butterfly in this photo...

...and the butterfly in this other photo 
are actually one and the same!

One more view from the top of Mount Parker -- this one
looking towards Shau Kei Wan (where the Hong Kong 
Victoria Harbour to Devil's Peak, Lei Yue Mun and Yau Tong

On the trunk of a tree at Quarry Gap, we spotted 

Then, on a bank of the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir, 
we caught sight of this good sized lizard!! :O

Also on the side of the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir
is this waterfall area that, if memory serves me
right, has its origins in a landslide

Water rapidly flows from the Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir

 The Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir offers up a much
calmer sight that same afternoon

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Camouflaged creatures - with a focus on a particular butterfly

See the butterfly in the photo?

The same butterfly's definitely more visible 
when it opens its wings! :b
 Far easier to spot were large mammals 
such as cows and my fellow humans... ;D

Earlier today, I went on a hike with two friends in Shing Mun Country Park -- one of a trio of Hong Kong country parks (along with Kam Shan and Lion Rock Country Parks) that's infamous for having turned in recent years into a veritable monkey land. While there actually are some people who look forward to catching sight of these Rhesus Macaques that are believed to have been introduced to the area in the early part of the 20th century, I am not among them -- not least because some of these primates can be on the aggressive side.  
So I was very glad that that they were not the only creatures that my friends and I spotted over the course of our hike.  (Also, that this was the first hike in weeks where I didn't see one of Hong Kong's many snakes!)   More specifically, we also came across a fair share of butterflies, moths, dragonflies and cows along our approximately 10 kilometer hike that took us from Shing Mun Reservoir to a village on the outskirts of Tai Po town via Lead Mine Pass.
The most exciting spot of the day for me was a medium-sized spider that initially scurried about quickly, then stopped and stayed still in the hope that its camouflaged appearance would result in my not being able to notice it.  Unfortunately, although I did notice it alright, my camera refused to focus on, and consequently take a non-blurry shot of, it.  
So I'm having to content myself instead by putting up photos at the top of this entry of my second spot of a camouflaged critter earlier today.  Even in this case, the pictures aren't as sharp as I would like but I think they're clear enough to show how amazingly different the butterfly in question's inner and outer wing surfaces look from each other, right? :b

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Empty and Water (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

On my birthday this year, I decided to go spend a few hours in a place by the water that I know is beautiful and was banking would get me away from the crowds that Hong Kong is infamous for.  And sure enough, when I went for what's only my second time to Tai Tau Chau, an island joined to the Shek O Headland by a sturdy painted bridge, I found it to be empty of people besides myself.  

No lie: I didn't see another person the whole time that I was on the admittedly small island.  And if truth be told, I actually would have welcomed seeing a few people around!  For the thing is that although Tai Tau Chau's geographically really close to civilization, it can feel like a very rugged world away -- what with it literally being such a rocky place for the most part, with intimidating-looking cliffs that are pounded pretty loudly by foam-creating, froth-churning waves.

Looking back, I should have taken advantage of how empty the island was of people to do such as further de-stress by yelling, shouting and screaming out the way that people in many a Korean movie and drama often go to the river to do (and a friend at boarding school had taught me to do -- thereby inspiring me to organize communal screams during my time at Beloit College!).  But then, that would have involved disturbing the peace and quiet of the place where the loudest sounds I heard while that made by pounding waves, the birds that have their home on the island, and my feet as they pounded along the concreted trails (some sections of which come with railings on one side) to be found on Tai Tau Chau -- and at that point in time, I didn't particularly want that to happen.

So I contented myself for the most part by enjoying the refreshing breezes that waft over much of the island, drinking in the sights and taking photos, including of scenic spots where land and water meet -- and in so doing, came away with some images that I think work pretty well for both Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts this week. :)