Bee eaters and barracuda

18 06 2017

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Above, the blue-throated bee catcher, apparently a fairly common species in Hong Kong. I’ll have to keep my eyes open. An unlucky swimmer had a rather more traumatic brush with the island’s wild side this week, with a shark or barracuda attack at Deep Water Bay, the nearby beach where I sometimes jog and (in the Summer) swim. The attack occurred inside the protective shark net installed around the beach’s bathing area. ( Surprisingly, Hong Kong in the nineties was a hotspot for shark attacks on humans, leading to the installation of nets around many popular beaches after a spate of three fatalities in two weeks.) Although the species of fish involved has not been positively identified, and how it breached the net is a mystery, experts have speculated that it was either a member of one of the smaller shark species or a barracuda. The unlucky swimmer who called out in agony and was rescued by lifesavers saw nothing, but was left with a deep gash in his leg, complete with one of the fish’s embedded teeth.

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The interlopers

28 05 2017

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On my way home from work one day this week I heard a raucous, strident noise and looked up to the skies above the Aberdeen harbour where a flock of feral cockatoos were screeching across the straits from Ap Lei Chau, five or six of them. As with the parrots of Kowloon park they are an exotic species, presumably a band of escapees, who have now made themselves firmly at home in Hong Kong.

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I also noticed another exotic species this week. The city’s “Cotton trees” dropped their seedpods to disperse clouds of snow-like white fluffy material over streets like “Cotton Drive” and “Cotton Tree Road.” Although firmly entrenched in the city, the species (also known as ‘kapok’) is originally from Central America.





Cloud walking

7 05 2017

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A misty morning on the Peak when we ascended from Pok Fu Lam and somehow took a wrong turn, coming down the mountain into Soho!

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25 09 2016

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Nattura!

30 05 2016

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Yuen Long

5 05 2015

Yuen Long is one of Hong Kong’s outlying sleeper towns, a commuter belt hub rarely visited by those from the “centre”. But thats a shame – the mini-city has a lot going for it, as I discovered this weekend. I arrived on a forty-minute train trip from Central, stepping out under looming grey skies on the first real Saturday of Summer – the air was thick and heavy, and I felt like I was arriving in a different city rather than just a suburb.

The main street, Castle Peak Road, bustled with pedestrians and stores, feeling something like Shenzhen, which looms visibly closer than Hong Kong proper just on the horizon. On backstreets, men lay sleeping under trees on dusty river banks and the tropical foliage was filled with chirping birds of species I never see on the island. Yuen Long felt different – somehow more Asian.  In the town itself, amid a cluster of aromatic Thai restaurants and an Indian supermarket, I found a bicycle hire store and rented a bike, riding through the placid, sweltering backstreets to the banks of the river Shan Pui River.

I was shocked to see the scene opening up in front of me ; wild green fields ran down to the water and Southeast Asian-style stilt houses, built of rickety wood, were balancing precariously over mangroves.  Was this still Hong Kong?

I cycled by the river, past deserted-looking huts and ruins in thickets of tropical flowers while fish splashed below – or at least I hoped they were fish; it was near here in 2004 that locals had discovered a 1.6 meter long crocodile.  In places the path was broken up and almost impassable so I had to carry my bike. Soon though, I reached the first landmark of the trip, the little landing at Nam Sang Wai where a boatman rows across in a rickety wooden boat to take visitors across to the other side.

There, the path continued around a large swamp, something like the Florida Everglades, where tall green grass lay interspersed with muddy pools of water, trees and occasionally, an abandoned house. Suddenly, this surreal landscape filled up with groups of teenagers, day-tripping families and even more bizarrely, couples taking wedding pictures. I soon discovered there was a carpark nearby for easy car access to this side of the river, allowing me to ride on over smooth asphalt past fish farms, one where terracotta warriors peered out over a pond amid the white smoke of piles of burning leaves, and by mudflats and mangroves where egrets roosted. By the river, Shenzhen glimmered – its thrusting towers looking unfamiliar, rich and powerful – under the moody darkening skies.

I decided to loop back into town before the rain hit, already plotting my return to explore more of the Yuen Long hinterland.





To the Golden Mountain!

24 11 2014

Hiking on Lantau’s stunning Tai Tung Shan (大東山) mountain.