Thursday, May 30, 2019

Opting for seafood over gyutan (and wagyu) while in Sendai!

Oysters are still in season in May in the Sendai/Matsushima area!

Anago is another area specialty available this time of the year :)

I also noticed that katsuo were on the seasonal menu :b

Sendai is synonymous with gyutan (ox tongue) for many gourmands; so much so that when I tell them that I recently visited Tohuku's largest city, I invariably get asked if I ate any gyutan while there.  Still, although I definitely did come across my share of gyutan restaurants while there (as well as spotted gyutan on the menu of pretty much every eatery in this part of Japan), I have to confess that I actually ended up not eating any on this recent trip. 

Should anyone wonder: it's not because I don't like ox tongue.  Rather, it's actually pretty easy for me to find in Hong Kong -- which is home, among other things, to an izakaya by the name of Yi Pai Ya that actually specializes in gyutan (grilled, stewed, raw, etc.) and also has such as Sendai miso on its menu.  In addition, my favorite Japanese sake bar in Hong Kong actually has two different ox tongue dishes on its menu!

Actually, while Sendai also is famed for its wagyu, I availed myself more of the seafood on offer there on this first -- but I'm sure will not be the last -- visit to the area; this not least because the city's proximity to Matsushima Bay meant that oysters and anago (salt water eel) are readily on offer there too, and at super bargain prices compared to what they'd be in Hong Kong.  And while I found those two seafood offerings -- or, at least, oysters that could be eaten raw -- to be generally available at different times of the year from each other in the Hiroshima area (with anago being available in the warmer months but the season for oysters being during the colder months), this apparently is not the case over in the Sendai/Matsushima Bay area.

Another type of seafood I found to be in season in May there was katsuo (skipjack tuna) were in season when I was there -- and I treasure the memories of the beautifully lightly grilled katsuo dish I had my first night in the city. In addition, while I didn't read about tsubugai (Japanese whelk) being particularly associated with the Sendai area, they sure were a culinary highlight of my time there -- with my being unable to resist their allure on more than one occasion during my all too short visit to that part of Japan! ;b

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Flower spottings on my recent Japan trip

Sakura in Sendai in May!
Wisteria at Geibikei in the same month :)
Dandelion appreciation in Shiogama
Some time back an American friend of mine asked me what is Japan's biggest draw for me.  When I told him that it was the food, he was rather shocked because he's the kind of fellow that food doesn't seem to give even half the pleasure that it does me.  At the same time, I must admit to being somewhat surprised that he didn't expect my answer since pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I do enjoy eating quite a lot -- and variety -- of food!
On the other hand, I think my friend would have a good reason to be shocked if I told him that I had travelled to Japan -- or anywhere for that matter -- to go look at flowers.  Although there's one instance where I did indeed do so (back in the summer of 2013 when my mother and I travelled to the lavender paradise that is Furano and Farm Tomita), I also happen to be someone who decided some time back to never visit Japan during sakura season (for reasons that include cherry blossom viewing season also being when allergy- and hay fever-causing pollen from the sugi and hinoki trees are at their peak levels).
For all this though, I must admit that my heart skipped a beat when I came across a tree full of pink blossoms when I went up to the top of Sendai's Mount Aoba on the first day of my recent Japan trip.  While I wasn't sure if it was the case at the time, a couple of Japanese friends have since confirmed that I did indeed spot a cherry blossom tree in bloom.  And although it was the less well known Yaezakura that blooms later than the more popular and numerous Somei Yoshino, I still am happy to be able to have actually seen a sakura tree in bloom in Japan!

Another species of flower in season in Japan this month is the wisteria.  Known as Fuji in Japanese and considered to be the country's second most famous flowers, they too can make for quite the splendid sight -- and while I didn't get to see large clumps of them, the sightings of them that I made, including on a rock at Geibikei actually known as Wisteria Rock, were also pretty welcome.

To be honest though, it really doesn't take that much to get me excited as far as flowers are concerned.  A case in point: I know that dandelions aren't all that special to many people, and even considered weeds by quite a few, but it never ceases to please me to catch sight of them -- because, as a child, I had yearned to see them and blow on them to tell time the way that characters in Enid Blyton books that I loved reading had done.  And yes, when I caught sight of some dandelions by the side of a road on this recent Japan trip, I couldn't resist stopping and taking a photo of them too! ;b

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Geibikei boat ride is enjoyable even in rainy weather (Photo-essay)

When checking the weather forecast for the first full day of my recent Japan trip, I freaked out a bit upon seeing that the forecast was for rain for part of it since pretty much everything I wanted to do in Tohoku involved being outdoors for quite a bit.  After weighing my options, I ended up electing to go travel from Sendai to Iwate Prefecture for a 90 minute human-powered boat ride along Geibikei, a scenic 2-kilometer gorge formed by the Satetsu River that's surrounded by limestone cliffs that are over 50 meters high.

When the sun is shining, they dispense with the unphotogenic roof covering for the boat but I was glad to have it for at least part of the ride as it was indeed raining when I first got on.  Happily, the rain stopped midway along the ride, and I didn't get encounter that much rain again on again until the final day of this recent Japan trip (when I was in Tokyo, with plenty of indoor activity options).  Also, for the record: I was not the only person who elected to go on this boat ride that day; and the impression I got that all of us who did so did in fact enjoy the experience. :)

The Geibikei boat ride is enjoyable even when it's raining

The combination of water, rocks and greenery makes 
for quite the scenic -- dare I say gorgeous? ;b -- sight

 At the halfway point, the boat's 15 or so passengers 
had the option to get out and stretch our legs for a bit

In the area is a wishing hole into which people attempt to throw 
"lucky stones" -- something far harder to do than it looks!

All too soon, it was time to head back to the boat

Reflections on the calm water

Our jolly boatman, who was full of chatter, and even 
regaled us with a couple of songs along the way :)

And should anyone wonder: yes, Puppet Ponyo 
did go along for the ride :D

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Gokoku Jinja's bright colors and dark associations

Sendai's Gokoku Jinja
Gourd-shaped ema caught my eye at this Shinto shrine
I'm not particularly religious -- in fact, by some reckonings, I'm not at all religious -- yet on my travels, I often find myself paying a visit to a religious establishment (or much more) even on days when they actually weren't on the agenda.  Take, as an example, day one of my recent Japan trip: while I knew that I wanted to head up to Mount Aoba after arriving in Sendai, I didn't know until I got there that the 100 meter hill had a Shinto shrine atop it!  

Initially, I figured I wouldn't be missing much if I didn't go check out that not particularly big jinja.  And, in fact, I went and admired the vistas to be had from that scenic viewpoint and the equestrian statue of Date Masamune as well as had my Zunda Shake and lunch along with a leisurely stroll around the pleasantly green hilltop area before I turned my attention to the modest but colorful shrine that also occupies a section of what used to be the grounds of Aoba Castle.
Upon spying some unusual looking ema in the grounds though, I decided to go in for a closer look and saw that they were actual gourds -- which I've tended to associate with Chinese Buddhist temples (probably because I first came across them on the path leading up to the Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang) more so than Japanese Shinto shrines.  All in all, the clusters of them -- along with all the red and gold to be found on the shrine buildings -- made for a photogenic sight that helped to brighten up my day. 
I must admit though that my view of Gokoku Jinja darkened somewhat upon my learning that it's the prefectural branch shrine of Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Jinja, with a museum focusing on Japan's modern military history.  Perhaps it's just as well that I didn't actually realize what this shrine (which was only established in the early years of the 20th century) is dedicated to when I visited -- as, in all honesty, that's a part of the Japanese past that I don't care as much for as so much else about it.    
Years ago in Kyoto, I similarly stumbled across a shrine for the military dead -- only the Ryozen Kannon Temple actually had memorials to the Allied dead as well as the souls of the Japanese soldiers, pilots and sailors who perished during the Second World War.  From what I've since read though of the Gokoku Jinja (of which the one is Sendai is but one prefectural representative), they strictly enshrine Japanese souls (or those considered Japanese by officials).  And even if these are not exclusively of those people who had fought in, and perished over the course of, World War II, I actually wonder in retrospect if the lack of explanatory signage for this shrine was purely accidental.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Scenic views from -- and area history lessons at -- Sendai's Mount Aoba

Standing on the old walls and foundations 
of Aoba Castle, atop Sendai's Mount Aoba
A statue of Date Masumune, astride a horse, 
can be found where  his castle once stood
Far off in the distance, a giant Daikannon statue looms! :O
Years ago, when travelling in Germany, I got to thinking -- after spending a day that involved lunch at a castle, visiting a town with four more castles and then visiting a town with a world famous castle -- that it must be the country with the most castles in the world.  Since then, however, I've visited a number of Japanese cities and towns with castles (some of them original; others reconstructions) and got to wondering whether the Land of the Rising Sun may actually be home to even more castles than Deutschland.

In any case, I've become a bit of a Japanese castle snob over the years -- in that I have often decided to give visiting reconstructed castles a miss (however impressive they may look from the outside) even while going out of my way to check out representatives of the 12 remaining castles in the country deemed to be "original constructions" (that include Himeji-jo but also less well known ones like Bitchu-Takahashi's Matsuyama-jo).  And it's indeed unusual for me to deign to visit castle ruins rather than actual castles -- but that's what I did on the first day of my recent Japan trip.  
In truth though, I went to the site where Aobo-jo once stood more for the scenic views that I knew could be had from there rather than for its historical associations.  And on a high visibility day that allowed me to see for miles, I definitely think my decision was the right one.
At the same time, however, Mount Aobo turned out to have more sections of castle than I thought would be the case.  In particular, the massive outer stone walls are hard to miss; and the castle foundations are effectively what one walks on when strolling in the space atop the 100-meter-hill from where one can get panoramic views of Sendai. 

Atop Mount Aoba is also where an equestrian statue of the founder of Sendai, whose castle used to have this commanding location, can be found.  Robbed of sight in one eye as a result of a childhood bout of smallpox, Date Masamune (1567-1637) went on to lose that organ entirely later in life.  This didn't seem to impede his progress much to becoming a legendary warrior and leader popular known as the One-Eyed Dragon however.
The statue of this larger-than-life historical figure astride his horse atop Mount Aoba is too high up for me to see whether Date Masamune is depicted there with two eyes or just one.  His lack of an eye is visible in at least one the side panels on the plinth at its base though.  But, really, what comes across far more in the visual portrayals of this daimyo is how powerful he was. 
All in all, I can imagine that the vast majority of visitors to Sendai won't leave the city without visiting the site where Aoba-jo used to stand and, also, coming by some knowledge -- if they didn't already have some previously -- of Date Masamune.  On the other hand, the sense I get that is that most people are content to view the Sendai Daikannon from a distance (e.g., from atop Mount Aoba); with it being given scant space in local tourist literature even though, standing at over 100 meters tall, it's the sixth largest in the world!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

To, and views of, Sendai

"Welcome to Sendai!"
Sendai-themed bottles of "the real thing" ;b
Panoramic view of the "city of trees"
The first day of my recent Japan trip involved a lot of travelling.  In the first hour of the 24 hour cycle (that is, at 12.50am), the plane I was on took off from Hong Kong International Airport.  Some five hours later, I was at Narita International Airport -- which actually is located in Chiba prefecture (the home prefecture of my favorite Pear (fairy)) -- from where I boarded a train that took me a little more than an hour later to Tokyo Station, where I caught the shinkansen for a one and a half ride up north to the "city of trees" that Sendai likes to be known as. 
Despite all that travelling, I still was in the largest city in Tohoku before lunchtime that day.  Unable to check into my hotel (whose check in time is 2pm), I deposited the larger of my bags there and then, with backpack on, took a local bus from Sendai train station (which my hotel was within walking distance of) up to Mount Aoba, from where I knew I'd be able to get scenic views of the city that would be my base while I was in the region.
Before going and drinking in the scenic views though, I decided to first get an iconic Sendai drink: no, not Coke from a Sendai-themed bottle but a Zunda Shake.  I know that the idea of a milk shake made with ground edamame paste may not sound great but trust me when I say that it really is delicious (and that I ended up having it more than once in my all too short time in Sendai)!  Similarly, soba (buckwheat noodles) with mountain vegetables may sound better than you than outright tasty but a hot bowl of it was just what I wanted -- and probably also needed -- for lunch before going and doing some actual sightseeing that day!  

After quenching my thirst and filling my stomach, I finally was ready to head over to check out the views of Sendai that are to be had from this 100-meter-high hill atop which also can be found what's left of -- not much, really! -- Aoba Castle and other sights, including what turned out to be a sakura tree that was still in bloom despite the sakura season officially being over some weeks ago!  If nothing else, they confirmed that Sendai's designation as the "city of trees" is well earned -- as well as it being a truly beautiful spring day, of the sort that Hong Kong saw way fewer of this year than I liked for it to be the case.  
More than incidentally, before this recent Japan trip, one of the chief images that came to mind when I heard the name "Sendai" was of the news footage of Sendai Airport being engulfed by the tsunami that swept into Tohoku on March 11th, 2011.  I am really happy that I now have much cheerier and better associations with this city that I actually would like to visit again, and add to my already many positive memories of it.      

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A recuperative and restorative Japan trip

A quietly beautiful corner of Japan
during this recent Japan trip

My shadowy self-portrait in Matsushima

When I fell ill earlier this month, I got to thinking that it was a good thing that I did so when I did rather than later since I was due to fly off to Japan in mid May.  Because of my recovery from my cold getting complicated by my also having come down with eye and ear infections though, it turned out to be touch and go for a while there as to whether I'd be able to go on my latest Japan trip (whose flights and accomodation I had booked and paid for a couple of months back).   
Fortunately, by the day of the flight, I felt okay enough not only to travel but feel confident that the health inspectors would let me into the Land of the Rising Sun.  And even though I didn't quite feel 100 percent fit on the first couple of days of this recent trip (which saw me visit Tohoku for the first time as well as Tokyo once more), I managed to enjoy myself even while feeling obliged to take things more slowly than I usually am inclined to do.
In retrospect, I think that the plentiful amounts of fresh air, walking exercise and good food I got on this trip was just what the doctor would have ordered.  In any case, I got to realizing that my appetite had returned with a vengeance by dinner time on the second day of the trip -- and that I ended up walking over 19,900 steps that day without meaning to (and despite spending a good chunk of the day moving around by train and also a motor-less boat powered by a man with a pole with enough energy to also sing a couple of songs along the way)!    
On day four of this trip, my pedometer registered more than 24,000 steps -- a good number of which had been taken uphill while visiting a sprawling temple complex in a historic town that's a UNESCO World Heritage-Listed site -- and I figured that I was well on the road to recovery.  And while I was afflicted with a bout of nausea early on day five of the trip, it was less because of any illness I had contracted and more because I had been on a high hotel floor when an earthquake occurred and caused the building to sway for a bit (and actually less violently than when another earthquake occurred I was in a bar in Tokyo four years back but still enough for me to feel and be negatively affected by it)!
In the end, not even two days on the rainy side failed to dampen my enjoyment (or set me back health-wise); this especially when I actually experienced more days when the weather was glorious -- with the sun out but the temperatures being on the pleasantly moderate side.  On those days, I definitely made hay while the sun shown.  All told, this latest Japan trip turned out to be far more recuperative and restorative -- as well as enjoyable -- than I had hoped.  So, almost needless to say, I do plan to head back to the Land of the Rising Sun once more before too long!  

Friday, May 10, 2019

From To Tei Wan to Tai Tam Reservoir Road on a high visibility day (Photo-essay)

Among the friends I've gone hiking with in Hong Kong is one whose nature makes it so that I often am unsure if she's actually enjoying our excursion.  To be fair, she's not the complaining type; but neither is she inclined to show much enthusiasm.  So when, at one point during the hike we went on along that took us from To Tei Wan to Tai Tam Reservoir Road (i.e., Hong Kong Trail Stage 7, only in reverse), she exclaimed out loud at what was actually quite the scenic panoramic view that unfolded in front of us, I knew she must have been exaggerating her reactions as a joke!

At the same time though, I did realize that she did indeed think that particular vista was quite something -- and that she did enjoy that afternoon's excursion (not least because she's happily gone hiking with me a few more times since that day): for which I credit the beautiful scenery and cool critter spottings to be found along this Hong Kong Island hiking trail, the company (which included a second friend), and the fact that while it was pretty hot humid out there that day, with some gray clouds looking on the threatening side, we actually didn't get rained on that afternoon and were treated to much greater visibility than expected. :) 

Looking out to the southern end of the Stanley Peninsula and beyond
from Tai Tam Bay on a high visibility, even if cloudy, day
Looking over to the Redhill Peninsula and the far greener 
areas around and beyond it, including where our hike would end

A part of Hong Kong Island far from the concrete jungle 
that many people think is all that it is

Clear day view that allows one to see Hong Kong's southernmost
islands (Beaufort and Po Toi) from Tai Tam Bay

Lookit the beautiful wings on that dragonfly... and the fact
that there's another dragonfly stuck to it! ;b

On a less salacious nature note: check out the 
different colors on the rocks at the edge of the bay :)

Obelisk near the water's edge at Red Hill

One more scenic photo before hike's end near the 
Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir's 60 feet tall and 800 feet wide dam wall

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Old school dinner at Sham Shui Po's Man Fat Seafood Restaurant

An old school eatery in Sham Shui Po
Delicious brown food on the table 
Ugly (but) delicious?
First off: apologies for the lack of blog posts in recent days -- and no, it wasn't because I was out of Hong Kong but, rather, because I've been feeling so sick that I not only lost my appetite but couldn't stand to think much about food for a time!  Although I'm still not fully recovered from my latest bout of cold (or is it flu, or -- perish the thought -- sinus infection?!), I'm at least able to stand looking at photos of food and fondly recalling a good meal once more.  So here's going ahead and sharing my memories of a dinner I had two Mondays ago at a very old school, local restaurant that was heaving with people on what's usually the least busy night of the week for restaurants.
Although my host referred to it as a dai pai dong, the Man Fat Seafood Restaurant is not an open-air establishment.  Rather, its kitchen is housed in what would usually be the space for an entire eatery or single store on the ground floor of a Sham Shui Po tong lau and it has dining areas in not one but three other locations on both sides of the street on which it's situated.  (Of interest too to diners will be the fact that smoking appears to be allowed at at least one of its dining areas, which is distinguished by its doorway being open rather than having a door in it and the space looking to be un-air-conditioned, unlike those sections of the restaurants where smoking is verbotem.) 
My party of seven was thankfully allocated a table in the non-smoking sction of the restaurant and were quickly served four of the five dishes we originally ordered, with the final dish following not far behind.  As one would expect at a place with "seafood" in its title, we made sure to include some seafood into our order -- and I most definitely have no complaints about the fish head we ordered (which was chopped up into chopstickable chunks and slathered with an unrecognizable but tasty brown sauce) nor the eel with black bean sauce that all of my party (who included a couple of Americans and one Briton along with three Hong Kong-born women and myself) proceeded to consume with relish.
As it turned out though, it was a beef and glazed potato dish that turned out to be the most popular of the night; with the potatoes being the surprise star of the show more so than the beef!  Also super satisfying to my mind was the generous serving of pork belly with pickled vegetables, a classic Cantonese dish that the traditionalists among us feel has to have decadently fatty pork belly like what we were served at Man Fat Seafood Restaurant for it to qualify as the real McCoy -- and goes so very well with white rice.
About the only sub-par dish of the night for me was Man Fat's version of a dish known at Tung Po as "wind sand chicken" -- but I think I only felt disappointed by it because I've tasted better elsewhere.  And so generally happy with what we had ordered that we decided to order one more dish -- only our mixed vegetables turned out to be two dishes: one in a pot of soup; the other stir-fried with chilli; and both with seafood added to them!

After having consumed what amounted to a veritable feast, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our total bill (which included three large bottles of beer and a couple of soft drinks) ended up being a bargain HK$903 (~US$115).  With that in mind, I really am happy to traipse to Sham Shui Po again for dinner in the not so distant future; only, next time, I hope the bus I'm on won't have a couple of heavily coughing and snuffling passengers who I look upon as the prime suspects for having infected me with whatever virus (hopefully, just that for the common cold) that they were infected with! ;(

Friday, May 3, 2019

Deliciousness and surprises galore at Uehara at each and every omakase dinner I've had there

The kind of creative dish served over the course of 
an omakase dinner at Uehara
A piece of sushi that looks really beautiful to me
Your eyes are not deceiving you -- there really are 
two slices of otoro in that one piece of sushi ;b
Around five years ago this month, I set foot for the very first time in a small sushi-ya with a discreet entryway situated in the border area between busy -- and sometimes super crowded -- Causeway Bay and quiet -- except when the Fire Dragon is out and about -- Tai Hang.  Since that first visit, I've returned to Uehara for omakase dinner more than twenty-five times now according to its owner-chef, Takahiro Uehara.
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of introducing a number of friends to the purveyor of the best sushi they've declared that they have ever eaten and celebrating the birthdays of more than one person with a slap-up meal there.  I've also had a number of celebrity encounters there -- as in I've found myself seated on occasion next to or just a few seats away from such as: a two Michelin star chef -- who vouchsafed that Uehara deserves two Michelin stars too -- and his wife -- who told me that she tries to dine there at least once a week; the owner of a gourmet yakitori chain whose branches in Hong Kong and Tokyo are included in the respective cities' Michelin guides; and a Cantopop singer-actor who will forever be associated with his Young and Dangerous character!
As lovely as many of these social experiences have been though, the truth of the matter is that the star of the show on each of my visits to Uehara has always been the food -- which can be so very good that certain choice morsels there can cause me to make moany noises.  More than incidentally, I also am not exaggerating when I report that, during my most recent dinner there, my consumption of one particular piece of sushi actually cause me to literally shiver eight times in a row!  And, for the record: no, it actually wasn't that which consisted of two melt-in-your-mouth slices of otoro -- one seared, one raw -- on a "just right" sized portion of rice but, instead, a more humble but somehow incredibly ecstacy-inducing piece of kinmedai (alfonsino)!
Since I had dined at the Hong Kong outpost of Sushi Saito a couple of months prior to my most recent visit to Uehara, I had been filled with some trepidation that the fare at my favorite sushi-ya would pale in comparison with what I had at my one meal (thus far) at the two Michelin star sushi-ya in the Four Seasons.  Honestly though, I really shouldn't have worried that dining at that more flashy establishment would have made it so that I would no longer be able to enjoy my meals at Uehara: For, if anything, my experience of having been to Sushi Saito made me all the more convinced that dinner at Uehara is extremely good value (compared to such as that more heralded -- and consequently, more expensive -- sushi-ya whose lunch price is about the same as Uehara's dinner).
Based on price alone then, I'd be more willing to return to Uehara for dinner than return to Sushi Saito for lunch -- and this not just because dinner at Uehara always leaves me feeling satisfyingly full whereas I came away from my lunch at Sushi Saito feeling less satiated than I would have liked!  (In addition, I have to admit that I still can't justify paying as much for a single meal anywhere as I would have to if I were to go for dinner at Sushi Saito -- or, indeed, a number of other sushi-ya that are listed in the Hong Kong edition of the Michelin Guide.) 
Something else that makes more willing to return again and again for omakase dinner at this unassuming, yet obviously high-end, sushi-ya whose talented chef-owner never ceases to surprise and amaze me with new dishes and tastes on each visit that I make to his establishment.  To be sure, there are certain staples that he regularly offers up because he knows they are customer favorites (such as the cream cheese with shark cartilage that goes really well with sake, and the uni gunkan that signals that the savory portion of the meal has come to an end).  But it also is the case that each time I've gone to Uehara for dinner, I've been presented with at least one dish or type of sushi that I hitherto had never had before -- at the restaurant or, sometimes, anywhere else previously. 
Right from my first meal at this sushi-ya, I could tell that Uehara-san takes great pride in including seasonal fare in the omakase meals he serves up.  And time and time again now, I've been introduced to a number of fish (e.g., sakuramasu (Japanese cherry salmon) and akakamasu (red barracuda)) and other seafood -- and also sections of fish (e.g., maguro no hohoniku (i.e., tuna cheek)) -- that I hadn't previously realized was edible as sushi, and have found to be amazingly delicious in many cases.   

But even when I know to expect the unexpected when dining at Uehara, I still have been surprised by at least one dish served at each and every dinner that I've had there.  A case in point: on this most recent visit, the very first dish of the night consisted of slices of... Japanese onion topped by bonito flakes and a salad dressing-like sauce!  And while this may sound rather underwhelming and even cheap, the onion turned out to be the sweetest I've ever tasted -- and yes, it really was served raw -- and turned out to be an ideal appetizer for the feast that was to come that evening! ;b

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Scenic views and critter spottings one clear air day in the Sai Kung Peninsula (Photo-essay)

If you were to ask hiking enthusiasts in Hong Kong which is their favorite part of the Big Lychee to be out in, chances are pretty high that they'd say the Sai Kung Peninsula that's home to not one but two country parks.  It's not just that the scenery can be pretty spectacular in this section of Hong Kong but, also, that, with a combined area of some 7,494 hectares to wander about, there are whole stretches of trail that one can go along without seeing any other person for a time. 

Because of this, the Sai Kung Peninsula is a part of Hong Kong that I'm loathe to hike in by myself.  Happily though, I've had several opportunities over the years to venture there with one friend or more -- and to the extent that I've come to have a number of favorite trails in the area, including the Tai Tan Country Trail which I've now been on at least five times, and with a different hiking buddy who had hitherto never previously been on this particular route on each of these occasions! 

The kind of camouflaged creature I probably would not 
have been able to spot in my first years hiking in Hong Kong ;)
Not a spider as it only has six -- rather than eight -- legs!
A damselfly which most obligingly posed for my camera! :)
The proximity of this trail to streams makes it so that it's one 
that I've decided should be avoided during the rainy season
On an isolated beach looking across Long Harbour 
A rugged section of trail that leads one up to 
higher ground, and more stunning views
The kind of clear day vista that shows how green --
and beautiful -- much of Hong Kong really is
Time near the end of the hike to look back and appreciate 
how very pleasant much of the scenery that the Tai Tan 
Country Trail takes one through is :)