Tuesday, November 30, 2010

High Junk Peak Country Trail Part II (Photo-essay)

The way I remember it, the High Junk Peak Country Trail hike that my regular hiking companion and I went on close to the beginning of this year (yes, I'm that way behind in terms of putting up photo-essays of hikes I've gone on!) was one of the best I've been on in Hong Kong. But while selecting photos for last week's photo-essay, I got to realizing that the air was not as clear on the day of the hike as I would have liked. Consequently, I not only wish I saw more than I actually did but, also, that the camera could have captured the distant vistas that the naked eye could see but the camera could not.

Nonetheless, I hope that both last week and this week's photo-essays will be able to give a good sense of the sights that could be gleaned over the course of this hike -- one that I'd definitely deem good enough to go on again; only next time, I know to do it when the air is clearer...

Even when viewed from a distance on a not optimally
clear day, I reckon that High Junk Peak's summit
looks formidable and uninviting to most folks

The kind of vista (and trail) that I didn't realize
existed in Hong Kong prior to moving to the Big Lychee

Hiking on a mountain but overlooking the sea

An optical illusion creates the impression that part of
the road below is actually on higher ground
than where I stood when I took this photo!

On the other hand, it alas is all too real that land so close
to the trail and Clear Water Bay Country Park
is being majorly cleared and "developed"

It's not just me who sees a stone pig atop the rock, right?!

Also, if I were to let my imagination loose,
I kinda see a figure lying on the slope... ;b

Alternatively, no imagination is needed to tell you
that this photo shows that we haven't gotten to
the end of the trail by a long shot yet!!!

So, yes, to be continued (and hopefully to the approval of at least a few of this blog's visitors)!!! ;b

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's the difference?!

Warning sign spotted in Tai Lam Country Park
last Sunday

Another sign seen in the same country park
earlier today bearing a different English end word
but all the same Chinese characters! :O

When my regular hiking companion (the fuzzyflyingbunny) and I were in Tai Lam Country Park last week, we spotted a sign that got us laughing as it caused us to have visions of caves jumping out from some hidden space in a bid to waylay us. This Sunday, if a sign we saw in the same country park was to be believed, we were being threatened by "hidden holes" rather than "hidden caves".

After chuckling over this other sign (that is one of those official "beware" signs found in Hong Kong that -- sorry, but 'tis true! -- I have problems taking seriously), we spotted a cave-like hole behind it that wasn't particularly hidden but we agreed we wouldn't want to go into... and got to wondering why that particular dark space -- which, as far as we could see, looked like it went back quite a distance from its opening -- was considered a mere hole as opposed to a cave.

At this point, we had hitherto focused on the English wording of the signs but now our attention turned to the Chinese characters on the signs. What if, one of us mused, they are the same on the two signs? And after checking them each other again, this is something I can confirm to be the case! (See the two photos above for proof!!)

So... is the Chinese word for "cave" the same as for "hole"? And sorry, I can't answer this question because my Hokkien vocabulary -- never mind my Cantonese one -- does not extend to caves! (What can I say besides say "yes, I really am an urbanite!")

At the same time, what I do know is that there are several instances of there being but a single Chinese word for which there are two different words in English. For example, there is only one equivalent word in each Chinese dialect for what in English are separate species of animals -- "rabbit"/"hare", "mouse"/"rat", and "goat"/"sheep". In addition, like many other languages, the Chinese language does not have masculine and feminine personal pronouns; consequently, the English "he", "she" and "it" would translate into the same Chinese word.

Less it be thought, though, that this kind of thing only works one way, here's pointing out that whereas the English "rice" can be used for both uncooked and cooked rice, there are separate words (not just adjectives) for those kinds of rice in Chinese (and, for that matter, Bahasa Malaysia too).

But back to cave and hole: some illumination on this matter would be much appreciated. This especially since the sign asking us to beware of hidden caves was near to a hole in the ground whereas that asking us to beware of hidden holes was right in front of a hole in what amounted to a vertical earth wall! Put another way: the not so hidden hole in question looked more like a cave than the not so hidden "cave" we saw last week!

EM Tuzky dizzy (Tuzki demonstrates how thinking about this linguistic conundrum has made me feel!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Written (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

On picturesque Po Toi, Hong Kong's southern-most island, there lies a Tin Hau Temple that is neither the oldest nor largest in the Big Lychee. But this particular temple built to honor and worship the southern Chinese goddess of the sea has become known to many people who have never set foot in this part of the world due to it having been mentioned in The Honourable Schoolboy, a best-selling thriller written by British author John Le Carre.

Like many other Taoist temples in Hong Kong, the main building of this Po Toi temple has lots of Chinese writing on it. For starters, there's writing on a sign bearing the name of Tin Hau placed directly above its central entrance and there also are columns of Chinese characters emblazoned on either side of the doorway. In addition, a peek inside the nicely-maintained temple shows that more writing is to be found on columns inside the building and on the beams close to the ceiling.

Those who can read what has been written on different sections of the subject of this week's Photo Hunt entry will undoubtedly derive much from being able to do so. Those who cannot may at least appreciate their aesthetics -- and how it is that Chinese script often can be decorative as well as informative. (Hence it sometimes being used to adorn flags, lanterns and more besides the usual surfaces and suspects!) ;b

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feathered beauties in Hong Kong

Spotted (even though almost camouflaged by its surroundings)
on rocks along a hill stream in Chuen Lung

Spotted in the mangrove swamps on the edge of Tai O

Spotted on a tree near Amah Rock
(Might this be a Masked Laughing Thrush?!)

Today is Thanksgiving Day for Americans. Since I'm not an American, I don't celebrate it. At the same time, due to such as my having lived in the US for close to a decade and half (and the main calendar in my abode being that which was given to me by my American alma mater), I tend to have a good idea when Thanksgiving Day falls each year.

During my time in the US, I ended up spending Thanksgiving on a number of occasions with American friends and their families. Invariably, Thanksgiving Dinner would involve our eating far too much turkey and lots of other things in the bargain. (And this despite turkey actually being among my least favorite birds to eat!)

What with this Thanksgiving Day being spent in Hong Kong, I've not felt obliged to go out and have a turkey dinner this evening. At the same time though, I can't seem to get birds out of my mind! Consequently, I figured that today would be as good as any to put up a trio of bird pics that I've snapped this past month -- all of which I like very much and feel quite lucky to have managed to take (especially since I have no telephoto lens to call my own, and definitely nothing in terms of camera equipment that approaches the size and sophistication of many a dedicated birding enthusiast that I've seen here in the Big Lychee!).

If nothing else, my bird photos should help provide evidence that feathered beauties abound in Asia's World City. Furthermore, as a birdwatcher who came all the way from Cornwall, England, to Hong Kong noted, the territory may be small but it is geographically diverse and consequently possesses a range of habitats (e.g., wetlands, forests, shrublands and grasslands) that attract a great variety of birds -- some of them migratory, others of which stay in Hong Kong all year round.

So, sometimes with not much more than a little bit of luck, one truly will be able to spot the kind of bird that makes for an eye-catching sight... and get a photographic capture worth celebrating (or, at least, taking some joy out of having done so) in the bargain! :)

Addendum: It's not about Hong Kong birds or birdwatchers but I'd like to use the opportunity provided by this blog entry to give a shout out to Nicholas Drayson's A Guide to the Birds of East Africa. A book that, despite its title possibly leading you to think otherwise, is a novel set in Nairobi, Kenya, rather than an ornithological field guide, it is a charming tome filled with interesting characters -- many of whom I would be happy to meet again in a follow-up work.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clear Water Bay Country Park's High Junk Peak Country Trail (Photo-essay)

Should one go in search of areas of natural beauty in Hong Kong, one could do much worse than head eastwards to the Clear Water Bay Peninsula. Those looking for sand and sea can make for the prosaically named Clear Water Bay First and Second Beaches (or -- just as unimaginatively -- Beach Numbers One and Two). Those looking to do some kite-flying along with taking in some fresh air can do so at Tai Hang Tun. And for hikers, there are two scenic official routes to follow inside the 615 hectares of Clear Water Bay Country Park.

I hiked Lung Ha Wan Country Trail that leads up and then down the 291 meter high Tai Leng Tun with a friend back in 2009. But it was only earlier this year that I went with another friend on the lengthier High Junk Peak Country Trail that remains delightfully unpaved throughout its route that goes up one peak (the 260 meter high Sheung Yeung Shan), around another (the 344 meter high High Junk Peak whose shape has got it labelled one of Hong Kong's top "treacherous peaks") and further up to a glorious plateau close to the top of 273 meter high Tin Ha Shan (trans. Heaven's Mountain), then down a series of intimidating stone steps down to the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay.

If truth be told, I had been put off going on this 6.6 kilometer trail for some time because its final section involves a pretty steep ascent and even steeper descent. (And for those of you who haven't been hiking, let me assure you that many hikers I know prefer steep ascents to descents as the former only requires hard work whereas the latter can scare!) But as I hope the following photos (and more to come in at least one more photo-essay) will show, this hike turned out to yield a number of visual treats that make the effort feel very worth while:-

Right from the start of the trail, one gets provided
with evidence that this hike will be pretty hilly in nature

So it might be good to pause from time to time to
admire some flowers (as well as catch one's breath!)

Yes, there's far to go still -- but already
it's looking pretty scenic, don't you think?

One good thing about the sky being somewhat overcast
on the day of the hike is that this flower's purple color
could get properly captured by my camera

Yes, it's a cool feeling to be higher up as well as
some distance away from those high-rise buildings
that lie on the edge of the country park

For those who wondered what the "treacherous"
High Junk Peak looks like, wonder no more ;S

Flower "break" time once more!

And yes, this really is Hong Kong! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Macau's Mandarin's House

Go through this moon gate to enter into the Sedan Way
that leads to the rest of Macau's Mandarin's House

The historic house is now open to the public after being
closed for 8 years -- during which extensive conservation
work was carried out on the 4,000 square meter locale

A view of the idyllic inner courtyard and cloister
that I can imagine being a favorite space for many
of the folks who lived in the house over the years

Close to ten years ago now, I visited Macau for the first time with my mother and a group of her Hong Konger friends whose primary reason for heading to "the other SAR" was to embark on an almost non-stop eating tour that included at least one milk dessert and a delicious dinner at O Manel -- and whose only non-culinary concession was to go for a quick look the iconic Ruins of St Paul's (Church).

In the intervening years, I've been to the former Portuguese enclave a few other times for work (one published outcome of which can be seen here) as well as pleasure. And while I have to admit that I generally do go to Macau primarily for its food, I've also definitely devoted some time since to checking out some of the its other attractions, notably those within its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Historic Center.

Indeed, ever since I came across a New York Times article giving a heads up to the Mandarin's House's re-opening after 8 years of being closed for conservation work, the culture vulture part of me has been hankering to check out the 60-room, 19th-century dwelling that remains the territory's largest space devoted to private residence. And earlier this week, I finally paid a visit to the cultural heritage attraction that recommends advance reservation as there's a system in place that commendably allows a maximum of 100 visitors into the complex -- and a maximum of 60 people into the main building -- at any one time.

Located near the heart of Portuguese Macau that is Lilau Square, the Mandarin's House is an interesting architectural blend of traditional Guangdong style and western architectural detailing. Additionally, like with Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, its designers and builders look to have taken into account local weather conditions and created a residence that wasn't only physically luxurious but also impressively comfortable -- with such as lots of windows and vents to let the air in, and open spaces within the buildings to allow the air to circulate.

Unfortunately, however, the individuals who initiated and saw to the completion of the building (Zheng Wenrui and his revered son, Zheng Guangying, a merchant who also is credited with having authored an influential tome entitled Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity), could not prevent the mansion's views of the Inner Harbour and the hills across the river to over the years becoming obstructed by other edifices over the years. Neither could they have probably foreseen their beautiful residence getting divided into multiple dwellings and rented out by their descendants to up to sixty other families at a time.

Even after eight years of conservation work, the Mandarin's House does not look to be in pristine condition, with stains still evident on white-washed walls and a ruined and overgrown area visible through the wall erected to prevent the public from entering that space. As was evident during my visit though, work is continuing on and at the place that I am happy to have been able to finally visit after all these years.

Something else that gladdens my heart is to know the powers that be appreciate that it is worthy of being restored, looked after and treasured -- as opposed to declared a lost cause that would be easier to just knock down and replace with something newer and probably far less beautiful. Put another way: old isn't necessarily mold and can, infact, be gold and good! :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Juicy (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Feast your eyes on the first photo in this week's Photo Hunt entry -- for sometimes, a picture can indeed say a thousand words! Alternatively put: I may have excluded mention of it from my most recent post on Penang eats but if truth be told, no food pilgrimage to, and around, my home state would be complete without a visit to the Swatow Lane ais kacang stall that now plies its trade indoors in the New World Park hawker complex on the former site of the same-named amusement park (which, at times, featured attractions such as a floor show by Rose Chan).

Although ais kacang literally translates from Bahasa Malaysia into English as "ice bean(s)", the dish is actually composed of far more than just shaved ice and (sweet red) bean(s). For starters, a sweet syrup (usually rose-flavored, but you can also opt for that which is sarsi (AKA sasparilla) flavored) is poured onto the shaved ice. And underneath the shaved ice, you'll usually find creamed corn, textured atapchi (aka pine-nut) and smooth strips of black grass jelly mixed with the red beans.

(Hmmm, upon reading the above description, I think a lot of people who have never tasted ais kacang might think it all sounds like quite an unpleasant mix -- but if you're ever in Penang, give it a go, and you might just like it! Oh, and for the record, I also like this cool concoction with an extra topping of bananas!! :D)

Additionally, although it's popularly known as the Swatow Lane ais kacang stall, that particular establishment also offers other eats -- including rojak (a fruit salad that sometimes also has cuttlefish in the mix and is always slathered with a thick concoction composed mainly of prawn paste) and a selection of fresh fruits for a bargain price (i.e., look at the prices and bear in mind that 1 Malaysian ringgit is about 32 American cents or 23 Euro cents!).

On my most recent visit there, I had a bowl of their ais kacang (but of course!) but also a plate of fruits served with ice shavings on top to nicely chill them. And yes, I grant that persimmons and nona (aka custard apple) may not have been the most juicy of the available fruity options -- so, yes, I may be stretching things a little this week -- but I am trusting that you'll agree that they make for an interesting as well as appetizing picture that's worth sharing. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In the Realm of the Senses (movie review)

Butterflies doing the equivalent of what
In the Realm of the Senses' two human leads
infamously enact for real (as opposed to just act out)

In the Realm of the Senses
(Japan, 1976)

- Starring Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji
- Nagisa Oshima, director

Back in the conservative 1980s, I attended a liberal arts college in Wisconsin that was actively liberal in many ways. A case in point: as part of its orientation program for my class, Beloit College offered up free screenings of a range of movies that included both Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest and Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

In the intervening years, I've had the privilege of attending big screen viewings of quite a few more films by the Japanese auteur (including Gohatto (1999), The Ceremony (1971) and his feature film debut, A Street of Love and Hope (1959)). But it was only last week that a big screen screening of the work he is most famed for came by my way.

Considering its notorious reputation (and mine as someone who tends to shirk away from viewing on-screen nudity), however, I have to admit to hesitating somewhat before going ahead and purchasing my ticket to a screening of the infamous In the Realm of the Senses. Put another way: I knew full well that viewing a cinematic work that, to this day, cannot be shown uncut and digital masking in Japan in that particular setting would involve having to watch two people having real -- as opposed to simulating having -- sex on a large screen in a big, even if darkened, room filled with other people in it!

Still, there is no question that In the Realm of the Senses is considered a cinematic masterpiece by many people. And my previous experience of viewing works by Oshima -- some of which were not exactly sex scene-less -- had me coming away very impressed by his film-making and also feeling that I had been sucked (no pun intended -- really!) into the often very culturally alien worlds depicted in those works. Consequently, I decided to trust my instincts and check out the historical drama about a prostitute turned maid named Sada who falls hard for Kichizo, the charming master of the inn that she goes to work in.

Since the film's story is derived from a real-life incident that took place in 1936, it would seem that (spoiler warning) many of its intended audience would have known that Sada and Kichizo's affair ended with her erotically strangling him to death, then bobbiting him before being found wandering about and carrying his reproductive organs on her (end of spoiler warning). However, I have to admit to having only known about this through viewing the movie -- though it also has to be said that I definitely could see this development taking place from fairly early on in the work (when Sada tells Kichizo that she so likes the feeling of his male member inside of her that she would want to cut it off after he were dead).

In addition, I actually hadn't realized -- and thus was close to overwhelmed upon discovering -- how much of In the Realm of the Senses consisted only of sex scenes! All told, I'd conservatively estimate that fully 85 percent of the film depicts its main couple engaged in sex acts! And while a few of the scenes are shot in ways that got me thinking that perhaps they were simulated, many others were shot from angles and in ways that made it patently clear that those acts were most definitely not being faked!! (And I have to point out that these included one involving the insertion of a whole chicken's egg into a certain orifice of the human female body that such objects really should not be inserted into!!!)

Unexpectedly though, the sheer amount of screen time devoted to showing the protagonists engaged in sex actually caused my senses to dull somewhat during the middle part of the movie -- and I actually found myself yawning a couple of times during the film! At the same time, this is not to say that I found the depiction of sex in the work to be sense-less -- and, indeed, it actually got me to think and compare and contrast how sex, the human body and such is depicted in this unquestionably thought-provoking work vis a vis most other movies I've seen.

All in all, if one could cast aside the fact of the sex on display being real (rather than simulated) and that there's so much of it in the work (and yes, I know that these are two big "asks" indeed!), the truth of the matter is that what is depicted is actually much more natural, less glamorous and even less exciting (even if by no means uncreative) than much of the "sex" in many a commercial as well as art-house film I've seen. Something else that I felt impressed by was how I was being shown a female enjoying sex very much -- and more so than the man (who was noticeably getting physically tired by the female's uncommon sexual appetite).

Nonetheless, I don't think it would be fair to label Sada an out and out (sexual) predator since, among other things, it was Kichizo who actually made the first move to initiate a relationship between the two of them. Alternatively, neither is she a victim as she had been active in a relationship whose actual length I had some difficulty figuring out. (This particularly since they were cocooned indoors so much that one hardly ever can tell whether it's day or night out in the rest of the world.)

Made half a century after the incident that inspired it, In the Realm of the Senses is a film that continues to strongly impress close to 35 years on after its original year of release. And lest it be unclear: if I were asked where I stand on the "is it porn?" question, my answer would be an emphatic "no"; this not least since this work -- whose viewing I consider to be an experience akin in some ways to running a marathon! -- didn't titillate even one tenth as much as it got me contemplating and musing a whole host of subjects, including the nature of human relations but also film-making techniques!

My rating for the film: 7.5

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From Shek Kong to Ma On Kong Part II (photo-essay)

How long would it take you to complete a hike along a largely even 11 kilometer trail? The official estimates for that from Shek Kong to Ma On Kong is 3 1/2 hours but when my regular hiking companion and I went along it, we took closer to 4 1/2 hours to complete the hike -- and I have to say that we've become used to having to add one extra hour to official hike estimates here in Hong Kong.

The major reason for this being so isn't that our walking pace per se is slow but, rather, because we tend to stop so often to take photographs along the way! To be sure though, this state of affairs is not something that we're all that upset about. And in point of fact, we have come to gauge our hikes together by how many photos we take while on them -- with a higher number of shots pointing to the hike being one in which we came across many more interesting things and/or scenic vistas than those treks which yielded a smaller number of snaps...

Looking out to the northwest from near the middle of the hike,
one sees countryside with major transportation lines

(for trains and cars) prominently running through it

Closer to the trail, ground covering that I am assuming
actually has a practical, protective reason for being there

(also) looks to have turned the space into something
akin to a modern art installation! ;b

Nature too shows its artistic side -- in particular,
I really like how the drops of water look

when they're on thin blades of green grass/foliage

Near Ho Pui Reservoir (which I consider to be
one of the more
beautiful of Hong Kong's reservoirs)
can be found
this small but pretty waterfall

Also nearby is Ho Pui village, one of whose households
rears goats -- including this pair -- in the area

The northern entrance to/southern exit of
Tai Lam Tunnel, one of Hong Kong's many major tunnels
that go through hills
and under Victoria Harbour

With slightly less than 1 kilometer of the trail to go,
it suddenly goes behind a tunnel and leave the catch water
(necessitating a sign alerting people to that fact)

Before the trail led us downhill towards its conclusion,
I took this photo looking eastwards towards the Kwun Yam Shan
that is not
on Lantau and mist-covered Tai Mo Shan,
and back to the area (now some 10 kilometers away)
where we had begun our hike

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Clear Water Talk

A beautiful view of clear water, sand and more
from Stanley Main Beach

Another pleasing view of similarly clear water from
nearby (but far pebblier) Hairpin Beach

In what can seem like a different lifetime, I lived in Zanzibar, the storied part of the United Republic of Tanzania that once was the capital of Oman. Among the things I loved about the place was how beautifully blue the waters of the surrounding Indian Ocean was -- and I would happily spend hours gazing out at it (and the eye-catching dhows that sailed about the sea).

One day, while I was in the middle of doing just that, a Zanzibari friend interrupted my reverie to enquire why I was so enthralled by the ocean views from his homeland; and this especially since he knew that I also hailed from an island -- albeit one located on a different continent from his. "What's so special about the views from Zanzibar?", he wanted to know. "How blue and clear the ocean is", was my answer. "Aren't the waters surrounding your homeland the same way?", he enquired. "Not at all", I scoffed. "Why was this so?", a puzzled he wanted to know. "Because it (the Strait of Malacca) is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world -- and its waters thus pretty polluted", I told him.

My answer caused my friend to think a while and then tell me something that made me feel so very sad as well as gave me great pause: "I'd happily have the waters off Zanzibar be polluted if it meant that Zanzibar could have the kind of economic development and success that Malaysia has". (To put things in context, the year that I lived in Zanzibar, Tanzania was ranked as the second poorest country in the world.)

Some fifteen years after that conversation which I still vividly remember, I was strolling about on a couple of beaches of the Big Lychee and found myself marveling at how clear the waters off shore were. For how is it that despite Hong Kong being a major international port, its surrounding waters can be so very clear and apparently cleaner than one might imagine?

To be sure, there are days after rains when the seas and rivers can contain far more rubbish than one would like to see. But I actually think that Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department deserves some credit for cleaning up the territory's waters (even while it often seems to be the case that they could and should do more about the air quality of Asia's World City).

In any case, it does seem that Hong Kong really manages to have this cake and eat it: that is, have a healthy economy but also a physical environment that can be very pleasing to the eye (and help make for some great days at the beach)! :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Itchy (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Near the entrance to Chung Hom Kok Beach (which, like 40 other public beaches in Hong Kong, is managed by the territory's Leisure and Cultural Services Department), there is a sign which lists a large number of what's not allowed on it (including dogs, motorcycles and ball games). Since all I wanted to do there was wander about the beach, admire the scenery, take photos and just generally hang out and chill, that actually was okay by me. So in I strolled and after looking around a bit, I thought I had found a nice shady place where I would be able to lie down undisturbed for a time to enjoy the sun, breeze, sand and overall scene.

For about 10 minutes there, I felt a sense of sheer bliss and got to thinking "This is the life". But then I started getting an itchy feeling around my ankles and calves and got to noticing little dots appearing on my skin. In other words, I belatedly discovered that I had unwittingly sent out an open invitation to some sandflies to come and feast on my blood. :(

So if there's a lesson to learn from this Photo Hunt entry, it's that pretty pictures may not tell the whole story. Put another way: Chung Hom Kok Beach may have a visually pleasing location but my experience that afternoon there means that it's not one that I've got completely great memories of and, in fact, is really low on my list of Hong Kong beaches to return to -- this especially when my other options include such as the sandfly-less (in my experience at least!) and frankly way more beautiful beaches at Cheung Sha and Sai Kung's Tai Long Wan!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sha Lo Tung: Back to Nature?

You'd think that a place with a tofu fa stall
(albeit one that's only open on weekends)
would be buzzing with life...

But, really, much of Sha Lo Tung is not only
abandoned but now also very overgrown

Two springs ago, two friends and I went on a hike that took us to Sha Lo Tung, a largely abandoned village nestled in a valley bordered by Cloudy Hill to the west, the Pat Sin Leng mountain range to the east and Hok Tau Reservoir to the north. Because it was late in the afternoon when we got there and we didn't want to end up hiking in the dark, we didn't spend as much time exploring the scenic area as we would have liked to. So I resolved to go back again some day.

A few days ago, I fulfilled my wish to go back -- this time with a different friend along for the hike. As we neared Sha Lo Tung, I got to noticing that the path there from Hok Tau Reservoir was way more overgrown than the last time I was on it but was not unduly bothered by that -- and, in fact, thought that this state of affairs made things even more scenic than previously. In addition, the preponderance of natural growth (in what used to be farm land) looked to have attracted a large number of dragonflies and butterflies -- since we could see a number of them flitting about and flying overhead as we made our way into the center of the village area.

However, the nearer we got to the center of Sha Lo Tung, the more we discovered that ants happened to have been another species of insects whose population had sizeably increased -- and that they seemed uncommonly attracted to my friend (who, not incidentally, had not sprayed any insect repellant onto her feet, legs and other extremities before the hike). And even though I had put on quite a bit of bug spray on me, it still was hard to ignore the large numbers of ants crawling about the place -- and that seemed to like to congregate in areas where I would have liked to have been left unbothered to leisurely compose and take my photos.

But although my camera may not have recorded it as well as I would have liked, my eyes definitely observed that buildings that less than a year and half ago I could get near and peer into now were so surrounded and covered by vegetation that I couldn't easily get to them any more. Indeed, even the temple that looked to have still been looked after in the village now looked to have been abandoned like much of the rest of the place.

All of which left me wondering: has Sha Lo Tung been reclaimed by nature or is this a seasonal differentiation that I'm noticing? Alternatively put: does or will winter wither the overgrowth or is it the case that in a few more years, if not more months, there will be still less visible trace of it having been the case not so long ago that this was a part of Hong Kong where families actually used to have their homes?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From Shek Kong to Ma On Kong (photo-essay)

It's not common in Hong Kong -- or, I'd wager, anywhere else for that matter -- for a hike to begin near the entrance of a military base. But such was the case earlier this year when my regular hiking companion (i.e., the self-described fuzzyflyingbunny) and I went from Shek Kong to Ma On Kong along an 11 kilometer long trail that began near the People's Liberation Army's Shek Kong Barracks one grayish but pleasantly cool day.

For the most part though, the sights on view during the hike I've been in Hong Kong were largely civilian or actually non-man-made in nature. But considering that the trail followed a catch-water for much of the way, and thus was over generally flat terrain, the hike yielded a nice variety of visuals that caught our eye and that we decided were worthy of capturing on camera -- such as the following images:-

Sentry duty must be pretty uneventful in this area
-- after all, I don't think hikers are that difficult
to keep
at bay from the restricted area! :D

Morning glory flowers may be a relatively
common sight
in Hong Kong but I often
find them
glorious to behold all the same :)

Considering the view from that grave, I am inclined
to believe that this is the final resting place
of an influential elder of a village in the plain below

Area vista including Shek Kong Airfield

I like this photo for the tree in it but also the two people
who stopped to admire the view the way
my regular hiking companion and I are apt to do ;b

Yes, we could see high buildings - but only
in the distance for we were in an area

closer to nature and lower-rise rural dwellings

The day's hike also took us past
two irrigation reservoirs at Tsing Tam

The water was so still that day
it reflected the sky beautifully

To be continued (since the above batch of photos only take one to about the halfway point of the hike)... :b