Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From Boa Vista Hill to Wong Nai Chung Gap (photo-essay)

A Hong Konger friend whose main reason for checking out my blog is to see where else she might like to go and hike -- and knew that my Ho Pui Reservoir hike took place back in March recently was shocked to discover that I am so behind in my hiking photo-essays. I think I shocked her further when I told her that I'm spacing out my hiking photo-essays because some other people I know don't care much for them.

In any case, for people like her (who have yet to post a comment on this blog, mind! ;b ), here's yet another hiking photo-essay -- this time, a continuation of the last of three hikes I went on in March of this year; and, for the record (and yes, I'm counting and recording in a hiking diary!), hike #34 since I moved to Hong Kong in May 2007:-

Starting again where I left off: with some more
interesting flowers that I can't identify! ;(

Yep, you guessed it --
I have no clue what this plant's s name is

(and, before this hike, I had no idea that it existed
anywhere in this world, never mind Hong Kong!)

At least I know what's in this picture:
Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, Red Hill and Kwai Shan
on a misty afternoon

Creeper plants adorning a slope

The mist covers the tops of some of the hills
Tai Tam Upper Reservoir

No, I don't know either what that boat
was doing on Tai Tam Upper Reservoir!

Yes, landslides can happen and their after-effects
can make for quite the dramatic sight

Pretty much at hike's end: the half-obscured sight
of the luxury Parkview residential complex shows
that we never were able to completely outrun
the mist that descended midway through
this nonetheless enjoyable hike!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scary bugs!

Some of the scary bugs spotted while out hiking
in Aberdeen Country Park two Sundays ago

One of many large spiders seen on
an August hike in Tai Lam Country Park

I've seen some scary critters, including bugs as well as wild dogs, monkeys and snakes, while out hiking in Hong Kong. However, nothing is quite as scary to me as bugs that cause my precious computer to malfunction and even appear to outright cease functioning -- like it did last night.

Fortunately (and touch wood!), things seem okay again thanks to the wonders of "system restore", with a minimal amount of data lost. So this blog will return to "regular programming" soon. Still, I'd like to know -- and am scared by the lack of knowledge regarding -- what caused my computer to go (temporarily) bad on me.

Was it a glitch in the system, a virus or some other bug -- or did this summer's spate of very hot days cause my computer to overheat over time? I wish I knew so I could prevent that scary turn of events from taking place again in the future. Instead, all I know is that I actually think that computer bugs are scarier than nature's bugs -- even those whose very sight alone can cause me to feel pretty creeped out! :S

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Twisted (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I'm not sure about the rest of you but I reckon this was one of the more difficult Photo Hunt themes to contend with; and especially if one doesn't take twisted merely to be the past tense of twist. (Check out the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary's single definition of the word!)

As you can see, I've gone with more benign interpretations of the word and theme. But because of this, I worry somewhat that the bridge that I photographed at Macau's Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is more crooked than twisted, and that the Shaolin kung fu monk pictured taking part in a kung fu demonstration held here in Hong Kong has bent rather than outright twisted the metal spears thrust onto his body by others.

So... what's your verdict? At the very least, I hope you'll deem them interesting photos that you have no regret coming over to view!

Friday, September 25, 2009

B-day musings

Who knows where
one's path in life will lead?

All I know is that I currently live
in a beautiful part of the world...

...and one good way of being grateful
for this state of affairs is to go about
appreciating and enjoying it as much as I can :)

Many years ago, an uncle memorably teased me about my then being at an age whereby I was too old for pigtails but too young for cocktails. Well, I am definitely old enough for cocktails (including my favorite vodka martini -- with olives in the mix for added flavor) now, thank you very much! And, in fact, I even am getting fairly comfortable with being labeled middle-aged these days (although -- no lie! -- as late as a year ago, a friend of friend mistook me for a student still!).

Also, unlike on my 21st and 30th birthdays, I have long passed feeling upset about hitting a landmark age and not having achieved what I had wished to have done by that stage in my life. In fact, I tend to no longer set goals for myself that have to be achieved by X date or Y year. And so much so that when such as prospective employers ask me "Where do you see yourself in five years?", I tell them honestly that I tend to not so much aim to be at a certain place within that particular period of time but, instead, evaluate where I am every six months or so and if I am happy enough with where I am, I stay on the same course, and if not, go about making the adjustments and changes I think are necessary at that point in time.

Moreover, right now as I write this, I still have no idea what I am going to do in the next few hours, only that I. Will. Not. Be. Working. Today -- having taken the day off on account of it being my birthday.

(At the same time though, I do know already at this point that I'm supposed to meet some friends for Peking Duck dinner this evening, attend a dance show tomorrow evening (with a friend in tow), then watch an Arsenal game with other friends later that evening, take in a screening of Clara Law's Floating Life on Sunday and attend a preview of a much-anticipated film on Tuesday evening (with still other friends)! But beyond that... and having to return to work on Monday... ;b )

To be sure, I am not so egoistical as to think the world does or even should revolve around me. And I try to pay my dues and be tolerant to a certain extent about things (and people!) I don't like because, well, life and the world can't be perfect however much one would like it to be. Furthermore, I try to not take advantage of others even while I do go about taking advantage of what I have and has been bestowed on me by fate, family, friends and others. In other words, I seek to pursue life and the enjoyment of it -- and in such a way that my doing so doesn't mean that others aren't able to do so too!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Upside-Down (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

It seems like someone was being too clever for his or her own good. No, I'm not referring to tnchick and her choice of theme for this week's Photo Hunt! Rather, I'm referring to the bright spark who decided that the best way to indicate that the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail -- out near Fanling in the northern section of Hong Kong's New Territories -- continued on both sides of a road was to place one of the pink directional signs upside-down and another right-side-up!

Alternatively, the second photo's upside-down effect is down more to an optical illusion: that is, I took of the photo of two skyscrapers' reflections on a shiny glass surface of the side of a stairway leading up from the tramstop close to the upscale Pacific Place complex in Admiralty. (As an aside, I took that photo more than one and half years ago but never had a chance to use it until now -- one of the reasons why I enjoy Photo Hunting so -- along with getting to see what others come up for a meme theme too, of course! ;b )

Friday, September 18, 2009

From Quarry Bay to Boa Vista Hill (photo-essay)

The week after heading deep into the heart of the New Territories to Ho Pui, I went back to hiking on Hong Kong Island. Although some will assume otherwise, this hike -- that started just off King's Road, close to the Quarry Bay MTR station, and ended up in Wong Nai Chung Gap via Quarry Gap (AKA Tai Fung Au), Boa Vista Hill and other parts of Tai Tam Country Park -- actually was tougher than the one that my mother and I went on in the New Territories.

As a matter of fact, even though it really was not a supremely hard hike, our original party of five diminished to just two fairly early on when the three 20-something-year-old locals in our group experienced difficulty even ascending up to Quarry Gap along the paved but admittedly fairly steep Mount Parker Road! And while this probably says more about their lack of fitness, a general lesson to be learned from this is that hiking in Hong Kong, even on Hong Kong Island, isn't necessarily something one should do with scant preparation.

Alternatively, the flip side to this are the great vistas and natural sights to be seen even without having to go all that far away from "civilisation". And if nothing else, I hope that the following photos will help people appreciate that -- and be attracted to go on a hike in Hong Kong some time themselves!

Early on as one ascends up Mount Parker Road,
the views to be had are more urban than country

Still, one is already sufficiently among nature
to catch sights of flowers like these

Signs inform us that what are hiking paths now,
the invading Japanese army used to pursue
retreating British troops and their allies in the
Battle of Hong Kong that lasted less
than a month in total
in December, 1941

A greener view than before
from higher up along Mount Parker Road

Shortly after we got off the paved road,
it became somewhat scarily misty

For a time, there was also a bit of a worry
that the heavens would burst and rain on us

But there were so many interesting sights
to be seen along the way that my hike companion and I

soon couldn't help but enjoy the hike and moment,
and feel considerably de-stressed by it all!

Are these flowers we spotted half way along the hike
red azaleas? Whatever their name,
they sure are stunning, don't you think? :)

(And yes, you read right -- this photo-essay only takes one half way through the hike, with more beauty and photographs to come... ;b )

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the wake of Koppu

Even a shrine is not immune from nature's wrath

An even more dramatic demonstration of
Typhoon Koppu's strength

Earlier this week, Typhoon Koppu blew into Hong Kong. By the time it blew out of Hong Kong less than 24 hours later, it had left a fair amount of damage in its wake. Although the typhoon signal "only" went up to 8 with Koppu, I swear that its winds were stronger than an earlier typhoon this summer which went all the way up to 9 in the middle of the night but which I nonetheless slept right through.

This time around, however, I couldn't sleep completely easily -- not least because the glass door between my bedroom and balcony rattled quite a bit throughout the night. It also didn't help that the typhoon threatened to disrupt what usually is my busiest work day of the week -- and, in fact, when I went to work that day (yesterday), it actually still was officially Typhoon Signal Number 8 (only the Hong Kong Observatory also issued reports that the typhoon would be downgraded later in the morning -- and in fact was).

On the walk to meet my shuttle bus, I saw such sights as heavy bus stop signs strewn about like they had been knocked out by a super-strength boxer and at least one small shrine wrenched out of its place and blown several feet away. On the bus ride to work, more evidence could be found that the typhoon had had quite the effect on huge swathes of Hong Kong.

All in all, if any reminding was needed, it goes to show how powerful nature can be and how humans really should not risk its wrath. And yet people continue to live where nature can threaten and contribute to such as global warming -- which, among other things, may well have a hand in making typhoons and hurricanes that much worse. Something to think about; especially in a summer that has seen its share of Typhoon 8s and above along with lots of "very hot" days here in Hong Kong and beyond (be it Paris, Portland or elsewhere entirely)... :S

Monday, September 14, 2009

One last photo from Ho Pui

Ummm... why? ;DDD

First, I showed you the beauty of Ho Pui Irrigation Reservoir and its surroundings. Now, here's the -- if not ugly, then bad. Bad English, that is! :D

I think the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department authorities were trying to tell mountain bikers and such to be aware of pedestrians -- and maybe also hikers that they should generally be aware -- while going along the path leading up to the reservoir from Ho Pui village and back down again. Instead, the result is up there with the one about exhitbits -- which I've belatedly realised can be read as ex-hit-bits... and quite appropriate to find in a museum showing how convicts used to be punished by beating hit, among other things! ;D -- and, also, the injunction against sitting on the planter that I previously was moved to draw attention to.

So thanks, Ho Pui, for the great views, good memories and also chuckle-inducing sign which I trust that people will agree does merit a post entirely of its own! :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ho Pui Reservoir and surroundings -- again! (photo-essay)

Before anything else, thanks to the -- count them! -- two blog readers who spoke up about being happy to see more photos of Ho Pui reservoir and its surroundings. And at the risk of being overly presumptious, I'm going to assume that there are others out there besides sbk and duriandave who will appreciate checking out the following photo-essay of yet another easy but scenic hike that my mother and I went on earlier this year... ;S

Starting near where I left off in the last photo-essay:
atop the reservoir's dam wall

A refreshing breeze blew as I gaze upon this sight --
adding quite a bit to the already satisfying experience! :)

Maybe it was one of those days and places where
magic seems to be in the air --
but I found even
the silt run off
from the reservoir to be photogenic!

Also, instead of thinking it a bad thing, I reckon that it is
a great testimony to the area's
feng shui properties
that graves are to be found there (and
a great
show of respect that the deceaseds'
buried them where they did)

The unusual looking Birdwood's Mucuna --  
described in one of my Hong Kong wild flower
as "a rarity in the world of plants"

Flowers I can't identify even after perusing my books
-- so can someone out there tell me what they are?

For those thinking it's all getting too weird,
how's this for a pretty sight plain and simple?

To conclude: here's a shot of a quiet, shady
and idyllic section of the small but beautiful
irrigation reservoir
-- one that deserves to be
better known than it currently seems to be

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Electric (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Electric Road is a road on Hong Kong Island that, compared to such as King's Road, which runs parallel to it (and has supplanted it as the main thoroughfare of the areas where they both pass through), doesn't come across as having a particularly electric atmosphere.

Named for a big Hong Kong Electric power plant erected in the area early in the last century, the road's western section these days is home to an eating area -- full of Japanese restaurants, Shanghai noodle eateries, Cantonese dessert shops and more -- that I frequently patronise and there are two skyscrapers on it, inside of which thousands of white collar workers are to be found during office hours. For the most part, however, it runs through areas that are more residential than commercial. So it's not a part of Asia's World City that many visitors -- besides those who lodge at the sprinkling of tourist hotels in the area -- venture into and see.

And, frankly, much of Electric Road really isn't all that photogenic even to my eyes -- which is why I feel obliged to include two photos of a more 'electric' looking Hong Kong road in this Photo Hunt: namely, Nathan Road, Kowloon's neon-filled major avenue. This even though after all is said and done, I actually have spent more time on Electric Road than Nathan Road since moving to this part of the world which I still continue to love and regularly feel excited by.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fun in Hong Kong on the cheap

Fishing fun on the pier at Joss House Bay

Another fun suggestion: go fly a kite! ;b

Earlier this week, a local colleague shocked me by giving credence to a stereotype I've seen too much evidence to the contrary to completely believe (even when espoused by a local): i.e., that Hong Kongers are only interested in making money. Indeed, one of the things my mother and I have commented to each other more than once now is how it really looks to be the case that Hong Kongers work hard but they sure know how to play as well!

And to those to argue that it's hard to enjoy oneself in Hong Kong without (much) money, here's going ahead and suggesting seven super activities to engage in that are free (or pretty much close to it):-

1) Go hiking in one of Hong Kong's 24 country parks or other parts of its vast countryside. (And if you want to make a real adventure of it, consider camping in the 38 designated camp sites throughout the territory!)

2) Don't forget that Hong Kong has a number of urban parks and gardens -- to which entry is free. Among my favorites are the Tang Dynasty-style Nan Lian Garden and the classical Chinese style Kowloon Walled City Park while in terms of location, the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park really is hard to beat!

3) Check out one or more of Hong Kong's various -- and quite varied in terms of subject matter as well as size! -- museums whose low entry fees make them a major bargain. (N.B. Even more of a bargain, entrance to such international class establishments as the Hong Kong Museum of History and Hong Kong Heritage Museum is free on Wednesdays!)

4) Although it's admittedly not an activity I've indulged in in years (as I don't have the requisite patience it calls for), I've seen lots of people happily fishing (for leisure and pleasure, as opposed to commercially) in various sections of Hong Kong, including on both sides of Victoria Harbour along with some of the 17 reservoirs where fishing is allowed with a license.

5) Another activity I've observed quite a few Hong Kongers happily partaking in is kite-flying -- and not just at such designated kite flying sites as the one on a hill in Tai Hang Tun over in Clear Water Bay Country Park but also at other often windy locales like the Plover Cove Reservoir's main dam.

6) For entertainment in air conditioned comfort, it's hard to beat the Hong Kong Film Archive. A facility that seems under-utilised and -known, it's where I have, in the two and half years since moving to Hong Kong, got to see many cinematic gems, including Battleship Potemkin, Dancing Bull, On the Waterfront, Sorrows of the Forbidden City and The Loyal 47 Ronin --quite a few for as little as HK$30 a screening!

7) Lastly (but not least!), while it's true enough that tickets to some performing arts events can cost quite a bit, free shows and concerts also are to be regularly had at such as the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (whose offerings include free pipe organ concerts) and the University of Hong Kong.

And at the risk of sounding preachy, amazingly a lot of the above suggested activities surely also are either good for your health or intellect, and sometimes even both!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Spotting Totoro!

A Hong Kong mobile phone service
billboard advertisement from a year or so ago

Earlier this evening, I renewed acquaintance with old movie friends. Firstly, courtesy of this year's edition of the HK Summer IFF (the mini version of the Hong Kong International Film Festival that takes place around Easter each year), I got to watch Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman on a big screen for the first time.

My maiden viewing of the film took place before I became a born-again Hong Kong movie fan -- so I didn't have a clue then who, say, Sylvia Chang or Wu Chien-lien were. But although I am pretty sure that at least a couple of my subsequent re-viewings of that wonderful family-oriented dramedy took place after I also became a fan of the works of Hayao Miyazaki, it's only this time around -- undoubtedly helped by the fact that I watched it on a big screen -- that I got to noticing that the film also has quite a bit of Totoro in it: in the form of Totoro plushes in a toy store that Wu Chien Lien and Winston Chao go to along with a big Tonari na Totoro (i.e., My Neighbor Totoro) film poster and a couple of other Totoro plushes in the youngest daughter's bedroom! ;b

And yes, I realize that it's a sure sign of movie geekery that I not only love spotting movie locations and places I've previously been to in movies but also references to other movies in movies! In any event, for those who also like to do the latter, here's going ahead and pointing out that the first time I spotted a Totoro in a non-Studio Ghibli movie actually was in A Roof With a View (Hong Kong, 1993) -- specifically, in the form of an O-Totoro backpack on Tony Leung Ka Fai's back! And yes, it is indeed scary that this is something I remember well -- and even though I viewed that movie quite a few years ago too! ;b

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Orange (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

"Hong Kong is geographically compact and boasts one of the world's most efficient, safe, affordable and frequent public transport systems." The site where that statement originally was to be found is the province of the Hong Kong Tourism Board but I actually would agree 100% with it. What's more, despite what the second photo in this entry may get you thinking, public transport is the choice of the majority of the territory's population; with over 90% of daily journeys being made on various modes of public transport that, as I trust the photos do show, are pretty clean and colorful as well as efficient, safe, etc, etc.

The stations of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR)'s largely underground trains tend to have single designated colors (though the Choi Hung MTR station as well as the nearby Choi Hung Estate lives up to its name (choi hung means "rainbow" in Cantonese)). In the case of the Tin Hau MTR station that derives its name from a nearby temple to the goddess of the sea, that color is -- you guessed it! -- orange. And when that designated color is the color of that station's walls but also its ceilings, pipes and other accoutrements, I think you'd agree that it consequently makes for a good subject for this week's Photo Hunt! :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ho Pui Reservoir and surroundings (photo-essay)

As I hope a glance at this blog's many photographs taken in the territory will show, Hong Kong possesses its share of scenic spots and sites -- and I love visiting and appreciating them. So when I found out that Ho Pui Irrigation Reservoir in the northern section of Tai Lam Country Park was voted as one of the top ten scenic sites of Hong Kong, it was only a matter of time before I would head over there.

To be sure, it can be quite a trek to get there if you don't live in the northwestern New Territories. For my part, I had to first go from where I live to Yuen Long, then take a green mini bus from there to Ho Pui village. From the village, it's an uphill trek up to the reservoir. But, honestly, the hike's rated as being so easy that I felt safe to take my pre-operation mother there with me. As for whether it's worth the effort to get there, I'll leave you to judge based on the following photos:-

A rural community that appears far removed from
the urban jungle that many visitors to the HKSAR
mistakenly think is all there is to Hong Kong

No lie -- there still are working farms
and farmers in the Big Lychee! ;)

Sections of the MTR's West Rail line
viewed on the way up hill to Ho Pui reservoir

A shot of the reservoir -- at last! ;b

Be honest now -- even with all that pre-hype,
did you expect an
irrigation reservoir to look so lovely?

My mother walking through a trail by the reservoir
that's bordered on either side by bamboo plants

A more aesthetically pleasing than practical picnic spot? ;b

The physically impressive man-made reservoir wall
(and yes, that distant colorful speck is actually my mom!)

So... want more? I sure hope so since in assembling this photo-essay, I'm realizing that I have more photos taken that day that I want to share! :b