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.





Walking up the waterfall

12 10 2014

I have mentioned before on the blog the surprisingly impressive waterfall, hidden away virtually unnoticed behind a freeway in Aberdeen. This week, as a sunny Autumn blossomed over the city, I noticed that the construction at its base seems to be over and the pathway has now been clearly to a narrow flight of stairs and a pathway leading up by the waterfall, leading…where? All the way to the Peak? I can’t wait to find out this week.





The weekend that was

4 05 2014

As Summer settled over Hong Kong and work hit a (very) temporary lull, I noticed myself unwinding this week, feeling contented and relaxed. It was a weekend of cooking (well, I didn’t do much to be honest but Louis did), swimming, hiking, philosophical discussions about Taoism, catching up on Game of Thrones, listening to the new Khalil Fong album and  podcasts on oxytocins, and reading Fahrenheit 451.

 

On Friday night I found myself in the obscure Caroline Hill Road backstreet of Causeway Bay. It felt almost like a wandering Sukhumvit side-soi with the heavy tropical sunset gathering, little traffic and 1960s concrete schools and sports buildings among all kinds of other interesting little surprises – a Chinese mansion backed by a towering condo, an “Indian recreation club”, sports fields where boys in white shorts played against a backdrop of jungly hills and lights shining out from expansive, expensive windows in the midlevel apartments above. I passed the “Confucius Hall School of Rugby” (culture clash in action), an outdoors Thai restaurant, piles of discarded Gundam boxes and a cute piece of street art before arriving at my destination, the gloriously 1970s South China Athletics Association sport centre where we sat on the terrace to drink beer, eat peanuts and talk about cinema, overlooking the plinking and plonking of endless white balls at a golf range.

The next day we went hiking along winding trails through the forested hillsides of the peak from Pok Fu Lam, down to Aberdeen and on again to the Wanchai Gap, on paths that looked out sometimes over the sea, sometimes over cemeteries or reservoirs or the concrete towers of my own (adopted) hometown of Aberdeen below, weaving between rocky streams and towering electricity pylons.

Afterwards we went swimming under humid clouds in a nearly empty public swimming pool, hearing the birds sing while we splashed, and caught an exhibition of Japanese erotic art in the Aishonanzuka gallery hidden away in a nearby Wong Chuk Hang office building.

In other words, a little bit of everything 🙂

 





lake of love

17 02 2014

The perfect Valentines backdrop – the “Red Lotus Sea” lily pond in Udon Thani, Thailand, is blooming through February.