Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Wong Shek Pier to Chek Keng (Photo-essay)

Two summers ago now, Alejna of Collecting Tokens came over to Hong Kong for a conference. On the Saturday of her visit, we met up for a little hiking excursion that would take us from Wong Shek Pier to Chek Keng via To Kwa Peng.

That same day weekend, I wrote up a blog entry about that weekend's hiking (and) weather but it's only now that I'm going ahead and putting up a whole photo-essay about that hike which I think Alejna will agree was very enjoyable, even if undertaken on a day that was hotter and more humid than either of us would have wished for it to have been... ;b

The stone marker that tells us that we are in Wong Shek
(i.e., "Yellow Rock" in Cantonese)
 The windsurfers were out in earnest in the vicinity of
Wong Shek that beautiful afternoon

Both Alejna and I got excited at the sight of some crabs

A view that takes in a couple of isolated and now also 
abandoned and ruined -- but still largely standing 
-- structures at To Kwa Peng

Beautiful natural Hong Kong! :)

The green approach to To Kwa Peng

Land, water and sky makes for a pleasing combination
and composition to my mind :)

Who's going to yield -- man or cow? ;b

I usually have just eight photos in a photo-essay
but I can't resist throwing in this bonus shot here :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hiking on a (mainly) rainy day

It rained for much of today -- but some hardy 
(or insane) souls didn't care and went hiking anyway
 Late in the hike, the sun 
did finally come out though :)

We even spotted bits of blue sky along with 
the sunlight (but, alas, no rainbows!)

As the oft-quoted saying by Noel Coward has it, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday son..."  But although the song that contains this line also maintains that "the Chinese wouldn't dare to", I've actually seen a fair number of Chinese out at noon in Hong Kong and elsewhere.  
Instead, from what I've observed, Hong Kongers seem more afraid of rain than the midday son.  And I state this not only on the basis of Hong Kongers taking rain so seriously that there's a rainstorm warning system in place that includes distinct amber, red and black rainstorm warnings along with the even more serious thunderstorm warning, strong monsoon signal, and various typhoon grades and signals.  Rather, it's that some locals I know are so loathe to be out in the rain that they are likely to cancel such as dinner dates or concert and theater excursions if a rainstorm is forecast to occur that evening!

So I can well imagine many a Hong Konger thinking that people who are willing to go out hiking even during rainy weather are people who are bordering on insanity.  But while I definitely would draw the line at going out hiking on a cold rainy day (because to be cold and wet really would be miserable!), I have to admit to being occasionally willing to go hiking on a warm(ish) rainy day -- like today.

One reason for this is I now know of routes that one can fairly comfortably hike on such days: that is, ones with trails that are on the flattish side and/or are largely paved or concreted and consequently not too slippery and/or muddy.  (And yes, I know that there are people who profess to hate concreted hiking trails -- but for me, these trails have their purpose, or at least come in handy on wet days like today.)  
As it turned out, things worked out quiet well for my two hiking buddies and me today, in that our approximately 10 kilometer trek from Tuen Mun to Siu Lam -- which largely followed Section 10 of the Maclehose Trail (albeit in reverse) but then diverted to Siu Lam from the southwest edge of Tai Lam Chung Reservoir -- began in the rain but the sun came out a few kilometers before hike's end. And not only was there enough time to dry my t-shirt before I boarded the bus to Tsuen Wan, where we had dinner and then caught the MTR home but it also meant that we got to enjoy the sight -- and take photographs -- of beautiful skies and more along at least part of the actually generally enjoyable afternoon's hike. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall and Colors (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is one of my favorite classical musical works -- this despite my having been born in a part of the world where we officially only have two seasons: rainy and dry (although, if truth be told, it's been known to rain during the "dry" season too -- so, really, Malaysia's seasons should be called heavy rainy and rainy ones).  

And yes, I do reckon it helps me to appreciate the Italian Baroque composer's set of violin concertos (more) that I have spent time in countries (notably Britain -- where I first set my eyes on beautiful autumn leaves and found out how fun and pleasurable it can be to walk through thick piles of fallen autumn leaves! -- and the USA) that do indeed have spring, summer, autumn (or fall, as the Americans call it) and winter.

Sub-tropical Hong Kong also has four distinct seasons of the year -- and each year, I find myself most eagerly awaiting the arrival of autumn (or fall).  What with the territory's summers being on the long as well as hot and super humid side, the cooler and drier weather that signals that the onset of fall really comes as a wonderfully refreshing relief.

Of course, it'd be even more lovely if the fall here in Hong Kong also offered up the sight of fall foliage with resplendent colors like those found in places like Vermont. Instead, I "just" have to content myself with enjoying the colors of the golden hour and sunsets that can seem especially beautiful in the fall. (Put another way: surely it's not coincidental that I took all the photos in this week's entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts over three consecutive weeks last fall? ;b)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hard to eat but delicious if you put your mind to it?!

Mantis shrimp may look on the buggy side 
but really can be very delicious indeed!

I don't know what kind of fish this is but can tell you that 
when steamed with ginger, scallions and soy sauce in the 
classic Cantonese style, it does taste pretty good  :b

In recent weeks, I've had two friends whom I've known for more than a decade now separately come over from the US for a visit.  I got to know them through passionate discussions about Hong Kong cinema over on the once very lively Mobius Home Video Forum's Asian Cinema discussion board and knew that they are people with an interest in many facets of Hong Kong culture and society, including its food as well as movies.
So I didn't think too much of sitting down two Sundays with one of them and another friend -- who I also met via the Mobius Home Video Forum(!) but who has lived in Hong Kong for over seven years now -- for a post-hike dinner at Wah Kee, and ordering dishes that included a steamed whole fish (in the classic Cantonese style) and a large plate of mantis shrimp deep fried with garlic and chili peppers.  
But as we got started on the meal, I started wondering if I had ordered the wrong things as my visiting friend was looking to be having a bit of a problem dealing with the fish bones and the mantis shrimp shells, etc.  Alternatively put, I felt like I was having a Fuschia Dunlop moment -- particularly the one she recounted in her Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of China that involved her introducing her visiting parents to her favorite local food when she was living in Sichuan, and suddenly realizing that they comprised what most Westerners would consider "hard to eat" stuff!
Fortunately, my visiting friend assured me, when I asked, that he was okay eating the food -- even though he might be on the slow side eating them since he was experiencing a bit of difficulty picking out the bits that could be eaten (and guarding to make sure that he wouldn't be eating bits he shouldn't!).  And since he did end up eating a pretty large number of mantis shrimp over the course of the meal, I figured it was safe to assume that he was indeed telling the truth!
Still, the experience of watching him struggle a bit with the food had me asking my other visiting friend what he was prepared to eat before I placed the order at the Cheung Chau seafood restaurant I took him to the following Saturday.  Happily for me, the website master of The Illuminated Lantern told me he was game for pretty much anything.  So I felt able once more to order a plate of whole steamed fish -- which I love but don't often eat since I have difficulty finishing one by myself! -- for the second weekend running along with other dishes I love while eating at Hong Kee "Respaurant" and figured he would too.
Incidentally, my two "must have" dishes at Hong Kee are the steamed garlic squid which is absolutely divine -- and what appears to be the restaurant's own invention: fried seafood rolls that come up with a huge dollop of mayonnaise to dip them in.  My friend was a bit shocked when I told him beforehand about the mayonnaise but he appeared to enjoy the decadence of the dish as much as I did -- and every other person I've introduced to it, including a local Cantonese friend who pointed out that this particular dish is not listed on the restaurant's Chinese language menu! ;b

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mount Davis hiking sights (Photo-essay)

There's no two ways about it: the Mount Davis hike that we went on more than a year ago now will forever live in the memory of my hiking companion and I as the amazing dragonfly sex hike (for good reason as a click on this link will show!). But in all honesty, it's all special for other reasons -- including it being my 100th hike in Hong Kong.

And yes, Hong Kong Island's westernmost hill is only 269 meters high.  But on a hot summer's day, a trek up and down it makes for a satisfying afternoon excursion -- and not least because it yields some pretty cool sights along the way! :b

On the way up Mount Davis, we were treated to 
clear views like this one of Lamma Island and another 
of Hong Kong's outlying islands further in the distance

Closer up, we spotted this bug on a wire fence

A look at the same bug from a different angle
reveals its very interesting looking body!

The remains of an old gun battery dating back 
to the Second World War
Up at the top of Mount Davis are more extensive 
and better preserved military ruins -- which,  judging 
from the amount of pellets lying about on the ground, 
attract a fair amount of war gamers to the area

Speaking of war gamers -- there was a very serious
looking and acting group of them about that afternoon

Also up on Mount Davis that day was
an interesting looking grasshopper (see it? ;b)

All too soon, we reached hike's end -- but of course we did
pause to enjoy (and photograph!) the sight of this beautiful scene 
before getting on the bus that would take us back home

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Clouds and dewdrops on a Cloudy Hill hike

Cloudy Hill's cloudy summit on a cloudy day

They may look like ice but are actually dewdrops
on the thin stalks of a small plant growing 
in the vicinity of Hok Tau Irrigation Reservoir

Dew on leaves make for a pretty picture to me :)

Earlier today, two friends and I went on a hike that took us from the area near Hok Tau Irrigation Reservoir up 440 meter high Cloudy Hill then down to Sha Lo Tung before dropping further down to -- and ending our hike at -- Fung Yuen (famed for its butterfly preserve -- which we did not visit this afternoon but definitely plan to at some point in the future). 

I had trekked up Cloudy Hill along a different route back in January with one of the other members of today's party and another hiking buddy -- and had visited Hok Tau and Sha Lo Tung twice before with different friends from the two in my company this afternoon.  But it was fun and satisfying to get to the same places via different routes -- often because there's the promise of literally getting different views and perspectives of the places one's come to know this way.

Due to this afternoon being on the cloudy side up on the well-named Cloudy Hill though, I actually didn't get the panoramic vistas that I was hoping to get from its summit.  And if truth be told, the trail from Hok Tau Irrigation Reservoir up Cloudy Hill (essentially the first few kilometers of Wilson Trail Stage 9, but in reverse) is on the wooded side, with few openings from which to get scenic views.  But after getting down to the point where we were below the clouds, the trail down Cloudy Hill to Sha Lo Tung and Fung Yuen yielded some cool sights -- of the scenes down below but, also, the cloudy summit from where we had descended.    

At the same time, it's also true enough that some of my favorite sights of today's hike were such as the close-up views of dewdrops on spiderwebs, blades of grass, and leaves and other bits of plants.  For because this afternoon's weather was on the cloudy and humid -- as well as cool (considerably more so, in fact, than the previous Sunday) -- side, those dewdrops hadn't evaporated this late in the day.

Granted that I wished that there had been less moisture on the steps down to Sha Lo Tung -- not least because they caused me to slip and fall down a few of them this afternoon!  Fortunately, the outcome was just a few scratches and scrapes on one arm and dusty/muddy patches on the butt area of my trousers -- so no major harm done, and I'm still left with far more positive than negative memories of today's excursion! :) 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mural and New (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

How new are the murals in the above photographs?  To be honest, I'm not too sure re the Delay No More one on the wall of the Sai Kung branch of G.O.D. (as Goods of Desire is usually called -- and no, it's not pronounced "God" but "Gee Oh Dee"!) since I'm not a resident of Sai Kung and usually only go to that seaside town before and after hikes.

But since its website has a page talking about the "recent opening of our Sai Kung store" in October of this year, I figure that it's relatively new --and definitely newer than the two other murals that I'm featuring in this week's entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts; what with my having the photo of the paintings on the sides and underside of an overhead bridge in Tin Hau back in April, and the close-up shot of two footballers in action being part of a mural created to commemorate the 2008 Beijing Olympics

More than incidentally, those interested in language issues may be interested to learn that "delay no more" sounds very much like "f--- your mother" in Cantonese.  Thus it was that some years back, when a discussion ensued between one of my British colleagues and my English boss about whether a then new mall that had opened by the G.O.D. people was known as just Delay No More or as the Delay No More Mall, resulting in that phrase getting repeated several times over a few minutes, the local Cantonese colleagues in the vicinity nearly succumbed to fits of hysteria at the sound and sight of it all! ;D

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Hello Kitty likes and dislikes

and have used at more than one Hong Kong beach since :)

A while back, a friend who occasionally reads my blog told me that I should write an entry about the Hello Kitty products I like/want and those that I don't.  It would help your friends to figure out what to buy for you (and what not to), she told me.  Since we were back on this subject at lunch today, I've decided to finally oblige her -- so that, if nothing else, she no longer will have an excuse for buying me the wrong Hello Kitty products!

First, what I like/love: wonderfully soft Hello Kitty plushies (and blankets and beach towels), and useful items like Hello Kitty handkerchiefs, and Hello Kitty clocks and watches.  Hello Kitty attired in overalls, shorts or trousers -- rather than skirts or dresses -- but I'm also okay with Hello Kitty dressed in ethnic garb such as kimonos and hanbok. Hello Kitty not dressed in pink and/or posed in front of a non-pink background.  (Those unfamiliar with Hello Kitty's design history should check out this video on Youtube to see that Hello Kitty really isn't always to be associated with the color pink!)

Conversely, I really dislike: Hello Kitty-shaped edibles -- because, come on, I don't want to eat her!  Also, items like Hello Kitty floor mats -- because, you know, I don't want to wipe my feet on her!! -- and Hello Kitty toilet paper and pantyliners -- and yes, I do find it absolutely horrifying that such items actually exist!!!

Additionally, since Eva Air relaunched their Hello Kitty-themed aeroplanes at the tail end of last year (and with one of the routes being between Hong Kong and Taipei), I've been asked by several people whether I'd fancy going on one of the Taiwanese airline's Hello Kitty Jet flights.  After some thought, I have decided that I actually wouldn't -- for a number of reasons.  

One reason is that I'm not sure I could prevent myself squealing out loud -- and frequently -- during the approximately two hour flight.  A related reason is that I'm not sure I could deal with the sound of multiple Hello Kitty fans squealing loudly over the course of the flight!  Also, have you seen the food served on board those flights?  For yep, you guessed it -- quite a few of the items that the passengers are expected to consume are Hello Kitty shaped!!! ;(

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tai Po Kau hike sights (Photo-essay)

I'm not sure if many other people do this... but I don't usually decide on my hike route until one or two days before the hike -- with my choices often being dictated by the weather (cool, hot, wet, dry, humid, etc.) and visibility (i.e., great, good or less so).  Thus it was that on a day where it was predicted to be hot and not great in terms of visibility, I opted to head to the Tai Po Kau Special Area -- where there's 440 hectares of thick forest (so lots of tree cover and the promise of lots to look at up close rather than in terms of views) -- for a 7.5 kilometer circular trek with my hiking companion.

The spotting highlight of the day were the many lizards (particularly skinks) that we encountered over the course of our hike.  But as the following photo-essay will hopefully show, we did enjoy catching a number of other interesting sights that afternoon too... :b

A pretty butterfly spotted resting right on the path 
we were going along that, if one didn't look closely, 
could easily mistaken for an autumnal leaf!

Surely not deliberately confusing but potentially so
just the same?
With so many tree roots on the ground, one did have to 
keep one's eye firmly on the ground while making one's way 
through Tai Po Kau (or risk tripping over at least one of them!)

A spider web made out of impressively 
dense and shiny threads

Is this a Harvestman I see before me?  
(I.e., an arachnid that's actually not a spider! :O)

Alternatively, this black creature seems to be a spider alright 
-- albeit one that lives in a hole in the earth!

 So bright orange was this particular toadstool
that it looked like it'd glow in the dark!

And for those who're wondering, this is the macro-view
of the forest that we got for much of this particular hike :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lantau vegetable patch carers -- human and otherwise!

Elderly she may be but this woman still was working hard
in her vegetable garden this afternoon
At a nearby plot, no one was out and about
-- but this scarecrow was on duty there

A close up shot of the top of this scarecrow reveals 
that some imagination was involved in its creation ;b

Farming is an activity that one doesn't associate with Hong Kong -- for good reason.  In statistical terms, only 18 square kilometers out of the Big Lychee's total landmass -- which measures 1,104 square kilometers -- is being actively farmed.  And while there is a "city farming" movement among some Hong Kong residents who fear that the food products that the territory largely gets from Mainland China is too likely to be tainted, the fact of the matter is that agriculture is a sunset industry in Hong Kong.

Often while out hiking, I've passed by now overgrown as well as disused farm land.  This was the case once more earlier today when two friends and I hiked from Tung Chung to Mui Wo via Pak Mong, Ngau Kwu Long and A Po Long.  

At a few points of the trek though (notably Pak Mong and Pak Ngan Heung -- two villages famed for their fung shui woods), we also saw cultivated farm land and also a few people out working on their vegetable plots though.  A visible sign of farming being a sunset industry in Hong Kong was that all the people I saw cultivating their land this afternoon were elderly -- and, interestingly, elderly women at that.  At the same time, at least one vegetable patch's scarecrows got me thinking that its cultivator was from a younger generation because, well, it just looked too "hip" to be otherwise! ;b 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kite and Breakfast (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

Talk about serendipity -- as I headed for the bus that would take me back to Sai Kung town for dinner after an enjoyable day of hiking last Sunday, I spotted two people with a kite nearby.  After I boarded the bus and got a seat in its upper deck, I looked through the window and saw that their kite was now in flight.  So I quickly fished out my camera and viola, got the photo at the top of today's entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts!

And should anyone wonder: yes, there are indeed quite a few kite-flying enthusiasts here in Hong Kong.  From what I've personally observed, among the favored kite-flying places in Hong Kong are the Plover Cove Reservoir's main dam and Shing Mun Reservoir's east dam.  But I've also seen at least one official kite-flying site at Tai Hang Tun in Clear Water Bay Country Park.

Some time back, a friend and I decided to go on a hike whose main course was the Lung Ha Wan Country Trail. First though, we decided to warm up with a stroll along the considerably easier and shorter Clear Water Bay Tree Walk. Over the course of that walk, we encountered a number of what seemed to be trees that were intent on gobbling up kites for breakfast, lunch and tea (and in-between snacks).  Put another way: we saw an initially puzzling number of kites stuck up in trees, looking much the worse for wear -- but, of course, all got revealed after we rounded a corner and discovered the existence of the very popular kite-flying site!

And speaking of breakfasts: here's including a photo of the kind of pre-hiking morning meal that I favor.  And yes, the pictured noodles are indeed instant noodles -- but they work at filling me up, giving me a bit of energy, and really do taste so good when topped with such as slices of Cantonese-style fish cakes and Chinese pickled vegetables mixed with a slice or two of red chili pepper! :b