Monday, November 25, 2013

A cloudy day hike in the southern section of the Sai Kung Peninsula (Photo-essay)

If you ask regular hikers where they usually hike in Hong Kong, chances are that they'll say Hong Kong Island, Lantau or the Sai Kung Peninsula.  And if pushed to say why people find them particularly attractive, I'd say that Hong Kong Island has the best maintained trails, Lantau Island has mountains and hills (particularly Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak) that attract those looking for the most difficult challenges -- and Sai Kung has the most beautiful scenery.

To put things in context: the cobbled-together Sai Kung Peninsula trail route that two friends and I went on one cloudy day would be considered one of the least visually attractive for many people.  And yet as I hope to show via the previous photo-essay and this one, it still yielded many scenic vistas along with other interesting sights...

Green land, blue water and cloud filled skies
combine to make for a pleasant sight
 View looking southwards to Kau Sai Chau (with its
public golf course) and Sai Kung town in the distance
 The Splash of White is a plant that's well named :)

In the shadow of High Island Reservoir's West Dam

My hiking buddies that afternoon pause for a breather
and to take in the splendid views :)
Incidentally, that day's hiking exertions combined 
with the high humidity got me sweating buckets! ;b
 In all honesty though, I feel that getting to behold 
vistas like this one is fair compensation 
for all that effort and perspiration ;D

In addition, near the end of the hike came 
this bonus spotting of a pretty butterfly whose 
patterns got me thinking of batik prints! :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hiking revelations along Maclehose Trail Stage 3

Maclehose Trail Section 3 begins with a long pull up a hill
but the sights from the trail make for a great reward

The trail passed through landscapes that I almost have
a hard time believing are actually in Hong Kong!
 And the clouds in the sky really added to the
overall natural beauty on display this afternoon ;)

Every year since 1986, the Oxfam Trailwalker has seen its participants attempting to complete the entire 100km Maclehose Trail in 48 hours or less.  At this year's event, the winning team took only 10 hours and 58 minutes to go the entire distance, one that also involved going up and down several hills and mountains.
I personally know at least three people who have taken part in the Oxfam Trailwalker and have a couple of other friends who have talked about taking part in the event one of these days.  But I have to say that however admirable its fundraising component, I simply cannot envision myself ever taking part -- because I truly would find the going way too arduous for my liking.
This fact was hammered home this afternoon when a friend and I hiked along a section of Maclehose Trail Stage 3.  More specifically, our route took in the first seven kilometers or so of it but detoured down to Pak Tam village and the Lady Maclehose Holiday Village rather than also include the ascent up Kai Kung Shan (that's made more challenging than it otherwise would be because the trail descends down a valley before necessitating a haul up a few hundred vertical meters up again) and then down it that comprises the final portion of this stage of the Maclehose Trail -- and even so, it took us some four hours to complete.
And it's not just that the first couple of kilometers of straight uphill climbing were on the challenging side.  For the truth of the matter is that, like many other sections of the Maclehose Trail, this portion passed through some landscapes so beautiful that I couldn't help but pause every once in a while to admire and plain enjoy them -- and of course take plenty of photos along the way!
Put another way: I hike to exercise and I often do get a sense of accomplishment upon completing certain hikes -- but those are far from the only reasons that I love hiking so much.  For I really do love how hiking allows me to see so much more of Hong Kong -- and appreciate its natural beauty -- than I would be able to if I only stuck to sections of the territory accessible to motorized vehicles.  And, as was the case this afternoon, it truly is amazing to temporarily remove oneself to a place where the loudest sounds are made by birds chirping and one can behold vistas with not a single building in sight! :)  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Over and Something Rusty (This week's Photo Hunt themes)


As regular visitors to my blog know, Hong Kong has a number of photogenic abandoned villages.  For the most part, they tend to be visited only by passing hikers and, on certain religiously significant days of the year, by folks who used to live there and/or their descendants. 

In recent years, however, certain people have got to realizing their tourism potential -- with such as the not easily accessible Lai Chi Wo making an appearance on the Hong Kong Tourism Board website.  And while there's no information on it on the Hong Kong Tourism Board's website (at the time of writing), the likes of CNN have already devoted coverage to Yim Tin Tsai, an abandoned island as well as village that's easily accessible via a 15 minute boat ride from Sai Kung pier.

As one approaches Yim Tin Tsai on the kaido on a weekend, the scene looks pretty lively.  But walk around the village and island, and you will come across ample evidence that Yim Tin Tsai's days as a living community clearly were over some years ago.  

Sure there are a few stalls set up near the main waterfront but they just are there to serve day trippers and the impressive looking chapel on the hill was closed when we visited even though it was a Sunday.  Instead, my friends and I contented ourselves with exploring areas of the village and island that had been given up to nature (witness the moss covered steps along one of the village's paths in the middle photo at the top of this blog entry) and taking photos of sights that we found eye-catching (e.g., the walls of rusty paint inside one of the village's long vacated buildings).  

Having read positive reports of the place, my friends and I were surprised to find that we didn't need to spend as much time to check out Yim Tin Tsai as we had budgeted that we'd need to do.  In retrospect, I think we've probably explored more parts of Hong Kong already than many of those who enthuse about it.  Still, it's an interesting enough place -- and, if nothing else, I reckon that it makes for a good subject for both Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts this week! :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Carp streamers at Carp Channel

Carp streamers galore fly about in the wind in a part 
of Hong Kong known in Cantonese as Carp Channel
 When viewed up close, the colorful streamers look to 
have been individually hand painted! :O

Long before I visited Lei Yue Mun, I had heard about it and also seen it from the other side of Victoria Harbour -- more specifically, the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence.  But while I had long yearned to check it out, on the two occasions that I've actually been in the area, it was post-hike, so I ended up spending less time exploring the place than I feel it's actually due.
Adding to my haste in going through Lei Yue Mun this past Sunday was my needing to having a barbecue party to go to later that afternoon.  Thus it was that I walked very quickly past an area where hundreds of eye-catching carp streamers (or windsocks) were hanging, pausing only to take a few photos but not to look for signs explaining why they were there (where on my previous visit, there had been none).
If anyone who comes by this blog post can enlighten me, please do so in the comments thread.  In the meantime, I'll take a guess that it's related to Lei Yue Mun meaning Carp Channel in Cantonese -- as opposed to their having been there to celebrate Children's Day, as would be the case in Japan! ;b   

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Sai Kung hike whose route was cobbled together from different official trails (Photo-essay)

Sometimes, I just have to hike.  Thus it was that despite there having been thunderstorms in the morning, two friends and I took a chance that the weather would improve later in the day -- and fortunately were rewarded by a rainless and actually pretty pleasant afternoon of hiking!

Adding to the enjoyment was it being so that although the route we opted for was one I had been on with a different hiking companion a few years earlier, I saw new sights, cultural as well as natural, on this second hike along a combination of the Pak Tam Chung Nature Trail, Sheung Yiu Country Trail and a portion of Section 1 of the Maclehose Trail... ;b

It's amazing where people choose to have their
wedding photographs taken...

... and I have to admit to also thinking that the side 
of a stream flowing through a country park also 
is not where I'd expect to see a cafe!
 A sign alerting people to the existence of wild turtles
in Hong Kong as well as it being illegal to trap them!

The Sheung Yiu Folk Museum also lies
along the Pak Tam Chung Nature Trail

A type of super hairy caterpillar I've now spotted
in more than one part of Hong Kong! 
 Yes, I did take some landscape photos along this hike... ;b

Spot the orange magpie moths in this picture!

I loved that I was able to take a clear, close up shot
of one of these pretty moths :b

To be continued... :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The scenic area that lies under the shadow of Devil's Peak

Up until today, I had never set foot in this
scenic part of Hong Kong

Once there, the shutterbug part of me 
couldn't help but go a little crazy!
 One of the more amazing aspects to this space
is how close it actually is from far denser and 
more well trodden sections of Hong Kong

Earlier today, I hiked up Devil's Peak for the third time ever.  As well, I followed the path that leads one down to Lei Yue Mun, ending near its Tin Hau Temple.  On my first visit to Lei Yue Mun, I also had checked out that temple and also the section of beach with interesting shaped rocks.   But until today, I hadn't ventured far beyond that area.

After my hiking friend expressed an interest in checking out what he thought were ruined buildings to the east of Lei Yue Mun's Tin Hau Temple, we decided to do a bit more exploration of that area.  This involved finding our way along narrow lanes to go through what appeared to be a squatter village located at the water's edge and under the shadow of Devil's Peak.

The squatter village itself was an interesting place -- the kind that looks like it belongs to another era of Hong Kong history -- but the real bonus came from discovering that the more or less vacant land on the eastern side of the village really is extremely scenic, and varied too -- in that its landscape includes ruined buildings, a beach area where we saw people fishing and at least one person looking to collect oysters from the rocks, a cliff edge with multicolored rocks, and a meadow of sorts where grew some weeds that actually were pretty beautiful!
While we weren't ever completely alone while in that area (which appears equally attractive to fishing enthusiasts, hikers and fairly wild/neighborhood dogs), it was rather amazing how the place felt so off the beaten path -- not least on account of its looking like it hasn't been built on for decades.  
Adding to the wonder of it all is that it doesn't appear to have been mapped out in detail on either the relevant official country or urban map of the area -- and I'd wager that very few people indeed know if its existence, never mind have been to that section of Hong Kong which really isn't all that far away from majorly built up areas like Heng Fa Chuen (across Victoria Harbour) and Yau Tong (which, like it, is over on Kowloon-side).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Neat and Your Favorite Fruit (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

Shortly before my 10th birthday, two friends asked me what were my favorite fruits.  I named a bunch of tropical fruits, including durians (a couple of which are pictured hanging from a tree above) and mangoes.  For some reason that I couldn't understand at the time, my answer displeased my friends, who then proceeded to rephrase their question to "What are your favorites of the fruits we can get here?", with "here" at the time being England.  

After some thought, I told them "strawberries and bananas".  This answer satisfied them and the subject was then promptly dropped, something which puzzled me further... until the day of my birthday when their family brought a pretty neat birthday cake to the house that was filled with... strawberries and bananas! 

Many years on, I still remember that birthday and cake.  And I still love strawberries, bananas, durians and mangos -- but also have added a whole bunch of other fruits to my favorites list. Put another way: I love a whole range of fruits -- and I like them fresh, candied (like the sticks of hawthorn berries in the top most photo on this blog entry), in drinks and many other ways!

At the same time though, I have to admit to being unwilling to pay exorbitant sums for unusual sized, shaped, etc. fruits (like the extra big watermelon in the middle photo above) the way that the Japanese are famously willing to do!  Still, I do find those fruit interesting and neat enough to want to take photos of.  (And, all in all, it's been kinda amusing -- as well as neat -- for me to find out how many fruit photos I have when rooting through my photo archive for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunt this week! ;b )

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Goodbye to summer (at least for this year!)

Hong Kongers bundle up whenever it gets cool,
never mind really cold!

Another sure sign that it's no longer summer comes from
spotting the portable stalls that sell roasted chestnuts, 
sweet potatoes and quails' eggs :)

Each year that I've been in Hong Kong, it can feel like the summers are getting hotter and hotter, and also longer and longer.  But when I got into the MTR this morning, I received a sure sign that the summer of 2013's finally over -- in that pretty much everyone in the carriage I was in (except for me, actually!) had on at least two layers of clothing, the outer most layer of which tended to be dark colored.

Granted that I haven't seen any one clad in a fur coat or down jacket just yet -- so it's not quite winter yet.  But quite a few people are wearing woolen clothing already, and/or wearing scarves around their necks -- despite the highest temperature this week still being as high as 25 degrees Celsius (i.e., 77 degrees Fahrenheit)!

While I have yet to do that, I will concede that last night, I started taking some of my cold winter wear from the storage boxes that they've been in since around May of this year, and decided to pack a slipover (British English for what Americans call vests) into the bag I take to work.  In addition, I have been happy to once again catch the whiff of chestnuts roasting in charcoal on the streets -- and to find traditional Hong Kong cold weather dishes such as lor mai fan and ingredients such as lap yuk (preserved pork belly) back on restaurant menus!

The availability once more of Hong Kong's traditional cold weather eats and the drop in temperature to a level that's quite a bit nicer than the over 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit) days of summer we regularly get here makes up for my having to temporarily say goodbye to one aspect of the Big Lychee's summers that I love: the higher frequency (compared to other seasons of the year) of bright blue sky and clear air days.  For like that of England, Hong Kong's cooler months are ones I tend to associate with gray, even misty and foggy, days.

In contrast, I remember many Wisconsin winter days with bright blue skies along with super cold weather.  More than once while there, I'd look out of my window and end up under-dressing because I had been fooled by the blue sky into thinking that it was warmer than it in fact was! 

Thus it was in the state that's been dubbed the "Siberia of America" as well as "America's Dairyland" that I began a ritual of listening to the weather forecast on the radio before I hopped into the shower in the morning -- a habit that I subsequently abandoned upon returning to Malaysia, where the temperature stays pretty much the same all year round and the seasons of the year are "dry" and "rainy" (or, really, "rainy" and "even more rainy"!) rather than spring, summer, autumn/fall and winter!

And although I have been known to complain about Hong Kong summers being too hot and long, I have to say that I do like being back in a part of a world with four seasons once more.  In addition, there's the bonus of there being no snow in Hong Kong -- because, as I've told more than one person, I honestly do feel like I've already seen more than my share of snow after living in Wisconsin, where, as the proverbial "they" say, winter comes with the Halloween ghost and only leaves with the Easter bunny! ;b

Monday, November 11, 2013

Human-made and natural sights on a hike along Wilson Trail Section 2 (Photo-essay)

In the first year of hiking in Hong Kong, an experienced hiker friend told me that the most challenging Hong Kong Island trail is way less difficult than many trails in other parts of Hong Kong.  At the time, I had yet to go up The Twins, Jardine's Lookout and Mount Butler.

Nowadays, however, I look at these Hong Kong Island hills as familiar territory.  But while I still do find a hike up and down The Twins to be pretty formidable and consequently have not yet trekked Section 1 of the Wilson Trail (which takes in The Twins and also Violet Hill) in one go, I've happily gone along the entirety of the lengthier Section 2 in a single afternoon --and more than once, and including on a summer's day (that offered up plenty of bug spottings) too! ;b

The trigonometrical station on Jardine's Lookout

Some people look upon stone quarries as scars on the landscape
but I feel that they have a beauty of their own

Water and different rocks and minerals combine
to form a (temporary) natural work of art

An impressively large kite flew overhead 
as we hiked along the trail that day 
 The kind of landscape many people find hard to believe
can be found in Hong Kong, never mind Hong Kong Island :)

Yes, I really did spot this exotic looking flora
growing in the wild of Tai Tam Country Park :b

An even more surreal sight along the trail is this
shrine area that some dedicated soul has set up

Another unexpected sight along this scenic hiking trail:
when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong during World War II, 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oi, Oi!

The Fortress Hill area of Hong Kong Island is not known
for its interesting architecture -- but the bricked building
in the foreground is an exception (even while the big blue
AIA Tower's a more easily noticeable landmark)

A few months ago, the Grade II historic building
was opened to the public as an art space named Oi!
 Oi!'s inaugural Embark! Beyond the Horizon exhibition
included France-born, Hong Kong-based Cedric Maridet's 

Upon returning to visit recently, a friend of mine who had moved back to Toronto a couple of years back remarked on how Hong Kong's physically landscape look to have changed more in just two years than Toronto had in about ten years.  While I can't say much about the pace of change in Canada's largest city, I'd agree that Hong Kong is a place where it can often seem like there's more change than continuity -- and a place where far more buildings get torn down and radically renovated as well as built than carefully conserved or preserved.
Consequently, when I saw what appeared to be some building work going on at 12 Oil Street earlier this year, I worried that the building whose architectural style reminded me of some at my old school in England would soon be no more.  So imagine my delight upon my discovering some time later that not only was it not torn down but that the arts and crafts architectural style building now was open to the public as the Oi! art space!
Earlier today, I checked out a second exhibition at Oi!  If truth be told, I found the inaugural exhibition more impressive.  Continuing with the truth telling: I actually was more impressed by the building -- which was originally home to the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (that's kept the "Royal" part of its title but moved its headquarters to Causeway Bay -- and its grounds than any of the contemporary artwork that has been displayed at this art space that appears to have been set aside to showcase the work of the younger and more experimental members of the Hong Kong artistic community.
As much as I'm happy to see the building still in existence and now open to the public, I really hope that it won't be(come) a white elephant any time soon.  This would be terrible in Hong Kong, where good buildings are scarcer than one would like -- and quite a few people would love to be given an excuse to tear down (or at least drastically "renovate") a nice old building in order to make "more efficient" use of its land and such.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sale and Cutlery (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

Looking at the themes chosen by Sandi and Gattina this week for their Photo Hunts, the easiest thing would have been to go and take photos of cutlery on sale in various stores.  In the end, however, I only took one photo especially for today's blog entry -- that of the Winkipinki-themed fork and spoon set that I spotted on sale some time back and promptly snapped up because items bearing the visage of my absolutely favorite Sanrio character really are very hard to find these days... (And for those who're wondering: yeah, I've never used this cute cutlery set -- I just display them, packaging and all, in my living room!)

With regards to the two other photos on this blog post: I'm offering them up to show that Western-style cutlery can be found in Hong Kong, including at certain dai pai dong, no frills -- and very local -- food stalls where food is usually cheap and also pretty good -- but that it's far more usual here to eat with plastic  chopsticks and porcelain spoons whose shape is unlike the metal spoons found in Western cutlery sets. 

More than incidentally: while going through my photo archive to find suitable images for this week's Photo Hunt, it really hit home how infrequently I eat meals using Western-style cutlery here in Hong Kong -- and also how rare it is to take photos in eateries where there's no food on my table!  But the scenic surroundings of the Mui Wo waterside eatery that's Wah Kee, and the atmospheric dai pai dong I went to after a hike that ended in the greater Sha Tin area were ones that this shutterbug decided would be worth capturing, and the photos have come in handy this week! :)