ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Hong Kong

YUEN TSUEN ANCIENT TRAIL (元荃古道), Tseun Wan (荃灣), Hong Kong

Linking the village of Yuen Long (元朗) and Tseun Wan (荃灣), the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail was once a major route for farmers from Yuen Long to bring out their produces to the market in Tseun Wan.  Today, it is a pleasant hiking trail that leads visitors to enjoy the scenery of Tai Lam Country Park (大欖郊野公園), former villages such as Tsing Fai Tong (清快塘) and two of the city’s longest bridges: Ting Kau Bridge (汀九橋) and Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋).

DSC_6198Our hike began from Tsuen Wan West Station and passed by Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital to reach the trailhead.

DSC_6220Soon the trail led us up the hill of Ha Fa Shan (下花山).  The path was well paved with stones.

DSC_6222The narrow Rambler Channel (藍巴勒海峽) between the island of Tsing Yi (青衣) and Tsuen Wan (荃灣)/ Kwai Chung (葵涌).

DSC_6216Known as one of the world’s busiest port, Hong Kong’s container port is located right at the channel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFurther down the road the trail led us further west where we were treated with great views of Ting Kau Bridge (汀九橋) and Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋), two of the city’s most important bridges connecting the metropolis with its international airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother highlight of the trail came as we arrived at the former village of Tsing Fai Tong (清快塘).  The village used to be a 200-year old Hakka village of the Fu clan.  Today, most villagers had moved to the new village at Sham Tseng (深井), about 45 minutes form their former home.

DSC_6252In 2002, a family of former villagers returned and set up a farm called Parent Farm (喜香農莊) at Tsing Fai Tong.  Many hikers stopped at the farm to enjoy their seasonal flowers and beautiful lily pond.

DSC_6272We came at the perfect moment of the year to enjoy the waterlilies.

DSC_6280While hikers enjoyed the waterlilies, their pets got a chance to have some fun at the farm.

DSC_6289From Tsing Fai Tong, we chose to end our hike at Sham Tseng (深井) right in front of Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋).

DSC_6292Under the shadow of the busy highway Tuen Mun Road, the village of Sham Tseng (深井) is a well known village in Hong Kong.

DSC_6297Other than its view of Tsing Ma Bridge, Sham Tseng (深井) has been famous for roast goose for decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe couldn’t resist but to end our day with the famous Sham Tseng roast goose for dinner.


KAT HING WAI WALLED VILLAGE (吉慶圍), Kam Tin (錦田), Hong Kong

The moat, blue brick defense wall and guard towers of the 500-year-old Kat Hing Wai Walled Village (吉慶圍) remind visitors that villagers in the New Territories were once living in the danger of rival clans, bandits and the most important of all, pirates.  For self protection, many villages in the Ming and Qing Dynasties constructed defensive walls around their homes.  Walled villages mushroomed in the New Territories, creating walled compounds for specific family clans.  In the 20th century, many villages demolished their walls or had them partially removed, while most houses have been replaced with modern homes.  With a relatively well preserved moat and wall, Kat Hing Wai is actually quite a rarity.  Measured roughly 100m x 90m, Kat Hing Wai is one of the better preserved walled villages in Hong Kong.  Built during the era of Ming Cheunghua Emperor (1464 – 1487) with the 5m defensive wall constructed in the 17th century, Kat Hing Wai was a close knitted community of the Tang clan.

DSC_1890Outside Kat Hing Wai Walled Village, a small part of the original moat has been preserved.

DSC_1885For security reason, only a small opening serves as the entrance for the walled village.

DSC_1879Most houses in the walled village have been replaced by modern houses.

DSC_1789The central lane leads to the temple hall.

DSC_1792There were a wooden desk and a religious altar in the temple hall.

DSC_1803The altar table contained a built-in incense container.

DSC_1807Antique ritual tools could be found on the altar table.

DSC_1799The temple hall opens directly towards the only entrance of the walled village.

DSC_1817We didn’t see anyone during our brief visit of the walled village.

DSC_1821Almost all buildings have been replaced by modern buildings.  The original character of the walled village has been somewhat diminished in the modern era.

DSC_1837Some older houses still had traditional banners on their outer walls.  These banners usually advocate good fortune for the entire family.

DSC_1835“Kar”, the Chinese character for family, illustrates the importance of family bonding in a traditional walled village.

DSC_1842When looked closely, traditional touches could still be seen at certain houses in Kat Hing Wai.

DSC_1841In the past, the four cannon towers were the tallest structures in the village.

DSC_1895Today, the defensive structures of the walled village have been undermined by modern buildings.  Even the well known Kat Hing Wai Walled Village has no exception.  This is the harsh reality of contemporary Hong Kong.


DRAGON BOAT WATER PARADE (龍舟遊涌), Tai O (大澳), Hong Kong

Under the scotching sun in the summer morning of Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), former villagers and outside visitors gather along the the narrow waterways and mangrove channels of Tai O to take part in the annual Dragon Boat Water Parade and Race.  The sleepy and somewhat touristy fishing village once again fills with laughter and rhythmic drum beats, reminding elder villagers how vibrant Tai O fishing village used to be decades ago.  Now a popular sporting and recreational event that held in many cities around the world, dragon boat is actually originated right here, from the fishing communities in the Pearl River Delta where Hong Kong is located.

In the old days, young men in fishing communities in the region, like Tai O, would volunteer to join the Dragon Boat Festival.  While most would enter the boat race, a small group would participate in the religious parade, in which small statues of local deities are brought out from temples and paraded around the village in decorated dragon boats.  The dragon ritual is meant to cast away evil spirits in the village with heavy drum beats, synchronized paddling, and incense smoke.  Unlike modern dragon boats made of lightweight materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber, traditional dragon boats are constructed using teak wood.  Each 65-ft boat takes 32 paddlers, 2 drummers, 1 gong striker, and 1 steerer.   During the Dragon Boat Festival, modern dragon boat races are held in rivers, beaches and the harbour allover Hong Kong.  Yet to get a taste of century-old dragon boat tradition, there is no better place than Tai O, where old rituals are still performed every year.

DSC_3802After an hour of ferry and 40 minutes of bus, we finally arrived at Tai O where the Dragon Boat Water Parade was about to begin at 10am.  Organizers were busy putting on the last bits of decorations onto the traditional dragon boats.

DSC_3837Flanked both sides by old stilt houses, the main waterways of Tai O provide the best setting for the dragon boat parade.

DSC_3865Decorated deity boat was always led by a long traditional dragon boat.

DSC_3872The Tai Chung Bridge opened up only in the Dragon Boat Festival for the passing deity boats.

DSC_3892The busy Tai Chung Bridge often serves as the visual focus of the entire fishing village of Tai O.

DSC_3987Despite the annual parade, fishermen were still selling fresh seafood right by the waterfront.

DSC_4030Statues of deity from three different temples were brought out for the parade.

DSC_4055Behind the designated dragon boat, the colourful deity boat was led around the waterway network.

DSC_4065Many paddlers of the traditional dragon boats came from the older generation of the local Tai O villagers.

DSC_4112The river mouth served as the main venue for dragon boat races.

DSC_4124Larger fishing boats served as the base of different racing teams.

DSC_4134It was fun to watch the dragon boat race from the spectator jetty at the waterfront.

DSC_4159All paddlers gave their best effort during the dragon boat race.

DSC_4176One of the most important aspect of dragon boat paddling is the quality of their synchronized movements.

DSC_4186The exciting shouts of loyal supporters offers outside visitors a glimpse of the community spirit of Tai O.

DSC_4207At the end, an award ceremony was held at the spectator area.

DSC_4250While the dragon boat race captivated the hearts of spectators at the river mouth, the deity boats and traditional dragon boats continued to parade around Tai O’s waterways.

DSC_4221At around noontime, the dragon boat parade was coming to an end.

DSC_4225Wooden dragon boats were once again put into storage along the waterways.

DSC_4212Until next year’s Dragon Boat Festival, visitors coming to Tai O can visit the small community museum to learn more about the traditions of dragon boat.


PARADE OF FLOATS (飄色), Cheung Chau Bun Festival (長洲太平清醮), Hong Kong

In less than an hour of ferry from the commercial centre of Hong Kong lies the island of Cheung Chau, home to a former fishing community, a legendary pirate treasure trove, dozens of seafood restaurants, and the biggest annual Taoist Dajiao (打醮) festivals in Hong Kong, the Bun Festival (太平清醮).  Originated from a series of religious rituals seeking for protection from local deities after a plague broke out in the 19th century, the Bun Festival held annually on Buddha’s Birthday has been simplified and evolved into one of Hong Kong’s most famous intangible cultural heritage events, along with Tai Hang’s Fire Dragon Festival, Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade, etc.

In 2014, I came to Cheung Chau during the Bun Festival to watch the Bun Snatching Race at night.  This time, we arrived at Cheung Chau during the day to watch the afternoon parade.  Known as the Parade of Floats (飄色), the parade included a combination of religious statues of deities, lion and qilin (麒麟) dances, and children dressed in costumes raised in mid air.

DSC_3144The parade began at Pak Tai Temple, the patron god of the fishermen community of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3154In the back lanes we chanced upon a workshop making the festival’s fortune bun.  The workshop owner suggested the plaza where the parade groups would make a turn as ideal spot to watch the parade.

DSC_3208We met a local lady at the plaza and she kindly found us a chair at the front row sitting right beside her.  The first thing that caught our eyes was a qilin dance from one of the street communities on the island.

DSC_3264Basically the parade consisted of groups from different street communities of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3276Small statues of deities were taken out from temples and paraded around the main streets of the island.

DSC_3293Local children were dressed in traditional costumes and gave out souvenirs.

DSC_3301All parading groups were dressed in vivid colours.

DSC_3520.JPGBeautiful banners of the festival are taken out once a year.

DSC_3341Known as Parade of Floats (飄色), selected children are dressed in different costumes and raised with hidden metal supports.  Along with the ones in traditional costumes, each year some children would dress in costumes related to contemporary trends or current affairs.

DSC_3496This year, two were dressed like the chief executive of Hong Kong, one as Theresa May, one Buddha, one Super Mario, a group of characters from Jin Yong (金庸)’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (倚天屠龍記), etc.

IMG_7595A girl dressed in costume related to a historical TV series.

IMG_7600Another girl dressed as the chief executive of Hong Kong.

IMG_7621Two children dressed like a traditional princess.

IMG_7642Another one dressed like Super Mario.

DSC_3516.JPGThough the traditional lion dances on bamboo were even more impressive.

DSC_3565Brave lion dancer performed different moves on tall bamboo poles that were controlled and moved by his other teammates on the ground.

DSC_3578Dancing traditional large flags were also fun to watch.

DSC_3615The parade was a mixture of traditional heritage, current affairs, and community groups.

DSC_3649Parade band dressed in yellow and black performed along the street of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3659Inevitably, buns were used as a parade feature.

DSC_3733After the parade, we met the qilin dance group once again in the side street.

DSC_3748Approaching sunset, we returned to the forecourt in front of Pak Tai Temple.

DSC_3750Similar to 2014, there were three big traditional paper figures in the festival ground.

DSC_3766Some of the paper figures were moved to the waterfront for the burning rituals.

DSC_3761By the sea, offerings and lanterns were placed for all wandering ghosts.


TAI TAM COUNTRY PARK (大潭郊野公園), Hong Kong

Occupying about one fifth of area of Hong Kong Island, Tai Tam Country Park is one of the more accessible hiking destinations in the city.  The park is famous for its four reservoirs.  Built in 1888, 1904, 1907 and 1917 respectively, the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir (大潭上水塘), Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir (大潭副水塘), Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir (大潭中水塘) and Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir (大潭篤水塘) served as the major water sources for Hong Kong Island in the early 20th century.  These reservoirs are surrounded by a series of green hills, including Mount Parker (柏架山), Mount Butler (畢拿山), Violet Hill (紫羅蘭山), and Jardine’s Lookout (渣甸山).  A series of hiking trails wind through the hills and pass by the reservoirs, making the country park a popular hiking destination in Hong Kong.

DSC_8917One of the trailheads begins at Mount Parker Road, at a densely populated area of Quarry Bay and just a stone throw away from Taikoo Place, a busy business district in East Hong Kong Island.

DSC_8922 The country park provides a decent view for the adjacent residential developments.  Built in 1989, the five 34-level towers of Mount Parker Lodge (康景花園) present some of the most typical private residential developments for the city’s middle class.

DSC_8924Looking over to Taikoo Place, the 69-storey One Island East Tower rises above the densed residential neighbourhood of Quarry Bay.

DSC_8931.JPGOpposite to Quarry Bay and Taikoo Place, the second highest peak of Hong Kong Island, Mount Parker, is marked by the observatory station.

DSC_8934To the south we were treated with the scenery of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and Tai Tam Bay.

DSC_8936As we reached the lookout of Mount Butler, we were treated with the view of Quarry Bay, Taikoo Place and the distant Kai Tak runway and East Kowloon.

DSC_8941A series of four water bodies make up the group of Tai Tam Reservoirs.

DSC_8943Looking west we could see the silhouette of Wanchai and Central in the haze.

DSC_8957Completed in late 1980s, the 18-tower Hong Kong Parkview (陽明山莊) is a luxurious residential and service apartment complex right by the country park.

DSC_8958We walked from the lookout of Mount Butler down to Wong Nai Chung Gap.

DSC_8959Soon we came to a lookout over Tai Tam Reservoir.

DSC_8964Looking northwest through Wong Nai Chung Gap (黃泥涌峽), the valley in the middle of Hong Kong Island, we could see the International Commerce Centre (ICC) and East Tsim Sha Tsui across Victoria Harbour.

DSC_7192Constructed between 1883 to 1888, the Reservoir Dam and Valve House of Tai Tam Upper Reservoir (大潭上水塘) were among the first phase of reservoir construction in Tai Tam.

DSC_7169The original dam was 30.5m high and 122m long, connected to a network that brought water through tunnels and aqueducts all the way to Central.

DSC_8974On our way down to Wong Nai Chung Gap (黃泥涌峽), we passed by a former granite quarry.

DSC_8970The old quarry is now occupied by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Depot where the police deals with explosives.

DSC_8985Hong Kong Parkview (陽明山莊) is famous of its surrounding scenic views, and also its occasional break-ins.

DSC_8992We exited the country park near Wong Nai Chung Gap.  So we came to the historic Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (黃泥涌水塘).  Built in 1889 as Hong Kong’s third reservoir, Wong Nai Chung Reservoir has been used as a boat park for 30 years from 1986 to 2017.

DSC_8997Wong Nai Chung Reservoir is one of the six pre-war reservoir groups in the city.


SHARP PEAK (蚺蛇尖), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

One thing truly amazing about Hong Kong is the proximity of untouched nature from its bustling commercial downtown and the ease of access by means of public transportation.  At the northeast of Hong Kong, the lush green hills, turquoise water and sandy beaches of Sai Kung is popular for hikers, beachgoers, bikers, kayakers, and all kinds of nature lovers.  The tallest of the three steepest peaks in Sai Kung, Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖, literally translates to Python Snake Peak in Chinese) is often considered the Holy Grail for hikers in Hong Kong.  At 468m, Sharp Peak is not the highest peak in the city, but its steep slopes, prominent existence in the area, and the fantastic views of East Sai Kung’s subtropical coastline from the peak makes it a unique hiking destination.  During weekends, the area can get a little crowded, including the trail that heads up the Sharp Peak.  Though the scenic views from the peak and the reward of chilling out on the pristine beaches below make all the efforts of scrambling up the steep rocky slope of Sharp Peak among groups after groups of fellow hikers more than worthwhile.

DSC_6774Bus 94 from Sai Kung City to Wong Shek Pier dropped us off at the trailhead at Pak Tam Au (北潭凹).

DSC_6776After about an hour on the MacLehose Trail, we passed by the tranquil village of Chek Keng (赤徑) and deviated from the main trail at Tai Long Au (大浪坳), we reached the small trail heading towards Nam She Au (蚺蛇坳), where the ascend of the Sharp Peak officially began.  A few signs were erected between Tai Long Au and Nam She Au to warn against anyone who wished to reach the summit of Sharp Peak due to the treacherous conditions of the mountain trail.

DSC_6782Along the way we could see traces of rain erosion due to recent downpours.

DSC_6783Soon we were on our way walking up the first steep section of the ascend.

DSC_6791The trail was exposed with hardly any shade.  Despite its difficulty and relatively remoteness, the trail up the Sharp Peak was far from peaceful because of the crowds.

DSC_6824It was exciting to see that the summit was get closer.

DSC_6829Looking back down the route we came up, views of the beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) were quite amazing despite the haze.

DSC_6832There were several sections of the trail that we needed to scramble up the slope using our hands.

DSC_6857After about two and a half hours from the trailhead, we finally reached the summit of the Sharp Peak.  The small summit area was filled with hikers of all sort.

DSC_6835 From the summit of Sharp Peak, the view of Nam She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣) below, and the Peninsula of Ko Lau Wan Tsui (高流灣咀) and Grass Island (塔門) beyond was incredible despite the haze.

DSC_6841Looking east to the four beaches of Tai Long Wan (大浪灣) from left to right: Tung Wan (東灣), Tai Wan (大灣), Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), and Sai Wan (西灣).

DSC_6875Some hikers prefer to climb the north ridge of Sharp Peak from She Wan beach (蚺蛇灣).  The north ridge is well known for its steepness, especially the last part of the trail where grabbing onto the metal ribbon was essential.

DSC_6850.JPGThe descend down towards Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) is not a walk in the park either, especially when one is already tired from the ascend.

DSC_6892The route of Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂) was slippery at parts due to loose gravel.

DSC_6894Tung Wan (東灣) appeared much closer when we reached Mei Fan Ten (米粉頂).

DSC_6895The summit of Sharp Peak already appeared like distant memory.

DSC_6912Ahead of us was Tung Wan Shan (東灣山),  a saddle shape hill overlooking Tung Wan.

DSC_6925After about an hour of descend we were approaching the pristine beach of Tung Wan.

DSC_6938The four beaches of Tai Long Wan, literally means Big Wave Bay, are famous for their turquoise water and fine sand.

DSC_6942Due to its remoteness, there are no lifeguards and shower facilities at Tung Wan.

DSC_6969There were hardly anyone on the beach too except hikers.

DSC_6987Swimmers who make the effort to Tung Wan (by hiking or private yacht) may enjoy the beautiful water of South China Sea without the crowds commonly found in other beaches in Hong Kong.

DSC_6996The second beach Tai Wan (大灣) is the biggest of the four beaches.

DSC_6998Few more visitors showed up on Tai Wan (大灣).

DSC_6999At Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣), we finally had a chance to sit down at a beach eatery and washed down a plate of fried rice with beer.

DSC_7009Lying lazily on the sand of Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) and looking back at the majestic Sharp Peak, it was hard to imagine that we were standing on the summit just a few hours prior.

DSC_7022Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣) is the beach in Sai Kung that we visit the most.  The beach is accessed via a narrow wooden bridge.

DSC_7040In the evening, we were too lazy to walk another hour over to Sai Wan for the village bus.  We decided to jump onto a motor boat for an exciting but bumpy 45-minutes journey back to Sai Kung city.


AUTUMN FOG, SILVER GRASS AND STONE HUTS, Sunset Peak (大東山), Lantau Island (大嶼山), Hong Kong

At 869m above sea level, Sunset Peak (大東山) on Lantau Island (大嶼山) is the third tallest mountain in Hong Kong.  Situated east of Lantau Peak (鳳凰山, 2nd tallest), and west of Lin Fa Shan (蓮花山, 6th tallest) and Yi Tung Shan (二東山, 7th tallest), Sunset Peak is at the centre of the mountainous area on the island.  Sunset Peak is very popular with hikers in the autumn, when much of the mountain would be covered with golden miscanthus, or silver grass.  Other than the golden grass, the mysterious stone cabins dated to the 1920’s near the summit area between Yi Tung shan and Sunset Peak also draw the attention of visitors.  Probably built by foreign missionary in Southern China who came to Lantau for the annual summer retreat, the two dozen or so stone cabins known as Lantau Mountain Camp (爛頭營) reveal the once thriving retreat community on the remote mountain on Lantau.

DSC_8195There are numerous ways to hike up Sunset Peak.  We chose to begin our walk from Nam Shan (南山) Campsite near Mui Wo (梅窩).  The trail gradually went upwards with uneven stone steps.

DSC_8250The miscanthus, or silver grass (芒草), started to dominate the landscape at half way up the mountain.  Soon we were embraced by fog.  The higher we went, the foggier it became.

DSC_8251It became quite wet and misty as we approached Yi Tung Shan (二東山).

DSC_8257On the route from Yi Tung Shan (二東山) to Sunset Peak (大東山), the stone cabins known as Lantau Mountain Camp (爛頭營) emerged from the fog.  In the fog, it was difficult to tell how many stone cabins were actually there.

DSC_8286Silver grass (芒草) was so dense in the summit area.  We followed some of the narrow paths in the sea of grass to reach a few of the stone cabins.

DSC_8297Some said the stone cabins were summer retreat camps of foreigners who lived in Southern China.  Originally built in 1925, the cabins were damaged during the Second War World and were subsequently repaired after the war.

DSC_8304After the war, the stone cabins were managed by missionary organizations and the Lantau Mountain Camp Resident’s Associations.  These historical cabins are now under a new threat from the overwhelming numbers of visitors and campers who would climb on the roof for photos or leave behind piles of rubbish.

DSC_8309On Sunset Peak, third tallest mountain in Hong Kong, there were no golden sunset as the name suggested.  Instead, it was a unique imagery of autumn fog, silver grass and historical stone cabins.

DSC_8327Surrounded by the taller-than-human silver grass (芒草), it was easy to lose one’s bearings and walk in circles.

DSC_8367Time was getting late.  We decided to move on the trail downhill towards Pak Kung Au (伯公坳), the mountain pass between Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.

DSC_8377From then on it was all uneven steps downwards.

DSC_8419It was a tiring descend until our legs started to shake a bit from time to time.

DSC_8435The sky was dark and we could briefly see the coastline of Cheung Sha Beach.

DSC_8439The downhill walk was dominated by the view of Lantau Peak (鳳凰山) to the west.

DSC_8477A little sun break as we went for the final descend to Pak Kung Au (伯公坳).

DSC_8497Despite the sun break, the summit of Lantau Peak was still concealed in thick clouds.

DSC_8484Bidding farewell to the Sunset Peak, we passed by the last patch of silver grass (芒草) near Pak Kung Au (伯公坳).  At Pak Kung Au, it wasn’t easy to get on a bus as most were already full.  After a few packed one, we managed to hop on a bus heading to Tung Chung (東涌).

 

 


CLEAR WATER AND SEAFOOD COVE, Clear Water Bay (清水灣) and Po Toi O (布袋澳), Hong Kong

South of Sai Kung and east of Tseung Kwan O, the lush green Clear Water Bay Peninsula (清水灣半島) separates Junk Bay (將軍澳) and Port Shelter (牛尾海).  With its natural and relaxed setting, uncounted opportunities for outdoor activities, and a number of low dense residential neighborhoods, Clear Water Bay ( is popular among expats and anyone who loves nature.  Clear Water Bay (‘s two beaches, High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) country trail, the cove of Po Toi O, sleepy villages and the surrounding turquoise water make it a great alternative for outdoor adventures to the more popular Sai Kung.  With just a bus ride away from Kowloon, Clear Water Bay offers the opportunity for a quick dose of nature for Hong Kong’s city dwellers.  It was rather late by the time I get off the bus at the second beach of Clear Water Bay.  I chose to enter the High Junk Peak country trail at Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) and do a short hike to the fishing village of Po Toi O (布袋澳).

 

DSC_1884I entered Clear Water Bay’s High Junk Peak Country Trail at the Tai O Mun Road (大坳門路) entrance.  The Chinese name of High Junk Peak is 釣魚翁, which means “Fisherman” or a Common Kingfisher (釣魚翁鳥).  In reference to the Kingfisher bird, a sculpture is erected at the trail entrance.

DSC_1889On the slope of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤), a visitor was having fun with his remote controlled mini-plane against the scenic backdrop of Clear Water Bay.

DSC_1896To the west of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) is South East New Territories Landfill (新界東南堆填區) and the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城) and Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳).  Completed in 1993, the South East New Territories Landfill is pretty much filled up.  Waste disposal and running out of landfills is one of the city’s toughest and most urgent issues needed to resolve.

DSC_1900Looking east, the view opened up to Clear Water Bay Club and Steep Island beyond.

DSC_1903Atop the hill above Po Toi O lies the golf course of Clear Water Bay Country Club.

DSC_1904Eastwards beyond Clear Water Bay stand a number of islands close to the shore.  Beyond that is the vast open sea until Taiwan.

DSC_1910Because of There are many fish farms in the area.

DSC_1920In a distance, the mighty High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) stands proudly over Clear Water Bay.  It is one of the three treacherous Peaks (the others are Sai Kung’s Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tuen Mun’s Castle Peak (青山).  It is also considered to be one of the three sharp peaks of Sai Kung, with the other two being Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tai Yue Ngam Teng (睇魚岩頂).

DSC_1929From above, the tranquil Po Toi O (布袋澳) is a lovely fishing village.  Referring to its physical appearance, Po Toi O’s name literally means a fabric sack.

DSC_1949The fish farms and the village of Po Toi O (布袋澳) look neat below the Clear Water Bay  Country Club.

DSC_1956.JPGFounded in 1266 by Lam Tao Yi  (林道義), the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay (佛堂門天后古廟) is Hong Kong’s oldest Tin Hau temple.

DSC_1968Fish farms are still in operations at Po Toi O, a popular village for seafood meals.

DSC_1972The village of Po Toi O is one of the places in Hong Kong where a laid back atmosphere dominates.

DSC_1976In Po Toi O, two heritage buildings stand out from the rest: the Hung Shing Temple (1663) and Kung So (公所) in 1740.

DSC_1979There are two seafood restaurants in Po Toi O.

DSC_1988The village homes at Po Toi O are simple houses made of bamboos, timber, and metal sheets.

DSC_1997At the village exit, a large neon sign of “Seafood Island Restaurant” is erected near the minibus station.


MULTIFACETED URBAN LIVING, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

Thanks to various influxes of immigrants from Mainland China in the 20th century, North Point (北角) was listed on the Guinness Book of Records as the most densely populated place in the world at the end of the 1960’s .  Today this may not be the case anymore, but this old neighborhood in northeast Hong Kong Island remains complex and bustling with life.  While many urban spaces in the area have gone through dramatic transformations in recent years, a number of vintage buildings and old streets remain.  From the foot of Braemar Hill (寶馬山) to the Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) along Victoria Harbour, and from the 100-feet-wide thoroughfare of King’s Road (英皇道) to the narrow market street of Chun Yeung Street (春秧街), North Point is always teeming with life.  Take a stroll through its old neighborhoods is like meandering through traces of Hong Kong’s urban and social evolution from the early 20th century to the contemporary moment.

DSC_6683The Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) marks the northern boundary of North Point along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour.  Opened in various phases during the 1980’s, the Island Eastern Corridor is a viaduct expressway built along the Victoria Harbour from Causeway Bay to Chai Wan.

DSC_6682Many dislike the idea of having an elevated expressway along the waterfront.  Proposals are being made to enhance the pedestrian experience along the harbour by introducing a seaside promenade.

DSC_6664Many people walk out to the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor to take in the panoramic view of Victoria Harbour, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Kowloon Bay.

IMG_0447Quite often during the week, the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor serve as ideal platforms for leisure fishing.

DSC_6686Perched above the sloped street of Kai Yuen Street (繼園街) is a peaceful neighborhood of old tenement houses, or tong lau (唐樓).

DSC_6691Isolated from the bustling life of North Point below, the tranquility of the Kai Yuen Street neighborhood is a rarity in the area.  Like most of Hong Kong, this hidden neighborhood is changing fast with several 30+ storey apartments are under construction at lower Kai Yuen Street.

DSC_6693Throughout the years, the peaceful ambience of Kai Yuen Street has attracted a number of celebrities, including author Eileen Chang (張愛玲) and painter Zhang Daqian (張大千).

DSC_6697Down at King’s Road (英皇道) in the heart of North Point, the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) has been around since 1972 as the primary venue for Cantonese opera.  It was established by the Shanghainese emigrants who came to Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

DSC_6702The protruding signage of the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is an iconic feature on the King’s Road (英皇道), a 100 ft wide vehicular road built in honour of  the Silver Jubilee of King George V of Britain in 1935.  Another feature on the King’s Road is undoubtedly the Hong Kong tramway, one of the earliest public transportation in the city since 1904.

DSC_6748A few blocks away from Sunbeam stands another historical building, the State Theatre (皇都戲院).  Its original functions are long gone.  In recent months, the State Theater is caught between the controversy of demolition/ preservation.

DSC_6750Converted from a former Clubhouse of the Royal Yacht Club, the Oil Art Space (油街實現) is a community art centre.

DSC_6751Built in 1908, the building served as the Clubhouse of Royal Yacht Club until 1938, when the building lost its waterfront location after numerous land reclamation.

DSC_6709There are a number of street markets remain in Hong Kong.  The one in North Point stretches along two narrow streets: stalls selling dry merchandises on Marble Road Market (馬寶道), and fresh produces, meat and seafood on Chun Yeung Street (春秧街).

DSC_6885Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街) is the most interesting street in North Point.  Also known as Little Shanghai and Little Fujian, the street market has a high concentration of immigrants from the Mainland since the mid 20th century.

DSC_6889In late afternoon and early evening, Chun Yeung Street is full of life.

DSC_6891DSC_6897There is so much going on on Chun Yeung Street. While one side of the street is busy with grocery shoppers, the other side is packed with stalls selling clothing and toys.

DSC_6912The most iconic scenery of Chun Yeung Street Market is the moving tram along the street centre.  Since 1953, trams have been running through the Chun Yeung Street Market.  To remind pedestrians of the approaching tram, the tram drivers often make the iconic “ding ding” horn whiling driving through the market.

DSC_6926The tram terminus “North Point” is located at the end of the Chun Yeung Street Market.  Despite slower than other means of transportation, taking the tram remains one of the best ways to explore North Point.

 


A REMOTE LEISURE PARADISE, Grass Island (塔門), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has over 200 outlying islands, and only a handful are inhabited.  North of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢), at the intersection of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Long Harbour (大灘海), the small Grass Island or Tap Mun (塔門) lies across the South Channel from Ko Lau Wan (高流灣) Village in northeast Sai Kung.  At its peak, about 2000 inhabitants lived on the Grass Island.  They were mainly farmers or fishermen.  Today, only about 100 residents stay on the Grass Island, mainly as shopper or restaurant keepers to serve the influx of tourists during weekends and holiday, when the island would turn into a large camp ground for leisure seekers from all around the city.  Simple seafood eateries, a ferry pier, a Tin Hau Temple, an abandoned school, unique rock formations, old village homes, and a few stores catered for weekend tourists, Grass Island is a getaway destination for anyone who is willing to venture this far out from the city.

DSC_4461From Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, we took a local ferry out to the Long Harbour (赤徑海) heading towards Grass Island.

DSC_4484Other than a newer cluster of buildings built in 1964 with a charity aid from New Zealand, most village homes on the Grass Island are located near the pier.

DSC_4507Near the pier, we stopped by a simple eatery for lunch.  The local squid is really fresh and delicious.

DSC_4508Sea urchin fried rice is a popular dish in many fishing villages in Hong Kong.

DSC_4511We also ordered the fresh catch-of-the-day: two small sea bream caught in the morning.

DSC_4531A few dragon boats were lying around a small waterfront area.

DSC_4539During Tuen Ng Festival, there would be a dragon boat race at the Grass Island.

DSC_4548A small trail off the main street of the Grass Island led us to a popular open area above the eastern shore of the island.  The space is crowded with camping tents, kite-playing visitors and feral cattle.

DSC_4567The sloped open lawn seemed had endured heavy foot traffic throughout the years.  The silhouette of the iconic Sharp Peak on the Sai Kung mainland provided the best backdrop for Grass Island.  In a clear day, the water should have been blue and Sharp Peak lush green.

DSC_4601From the hilltop overlooking the open lawn, we followed a off the beaten trail that winded through dense woods for half an hour and eventually arrived at the rocky beach of Che Wan (車灣).  This was probably the most difficult hike on the island.  Our aim was to seek for a seaside rock called the Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋).

DSC_4628The Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋) is one of Grass Island most famous natural feature.  It is frequented by hikers as well as visitors who come for fishing.

DSC_4639Back to the top of the lawn, we followed another footpath down the east coast of the island.  Along the path, some visitors set up tents and picnic areas, some went for fishing at the rock beaches, some braved the cliffs for rock climbing, some continued to fly their kites on the windy slopes.  The Grass Island is truly a small leisure paradise for all.

DSC_4640Another well known rock feature was the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石).  Two similar stone cubes, one sitting on top of the other, resemble the Chinese character of the surname “Lui”.

DSC_4671Looking at the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石) from afar, it was hard to imagine how the stacking rocks were formed in the first place.

DSC_4688The entire day was cool and grey while we were on the Grass Island.  The wind was a little strong, and so as the waves.

DSC_4706Ko Lau Wan(高流灣) at Sai Kung Peninsula seemed pretty close from the southern tip of the Grass Island.  The sea was a little rough in between, in the 400m wide channel of Tap Mun Mouth (塔門口).

DSC_4716The utilitarian New Village of Tap Mun was erected in 1964 by a charity from New Zealand.  The houses are still occupied today.

DSC_4722After the New Village, we were getting close to the pier again.

DSC_4723We could see the incoming ferry while on our way walking to the pier.

DSC_4731As we boarded the ferry, the sea and the fish farming areas seemed calm and relaxing.

DSC_4782After half a day on the small and remote Grass Island, it was time for us to return to Wong Shek Ferry Pier in Sai Kung.


BRIEF TASTE OF MOUNTAIN AND SEA, Pottinger Peak (砵甸乍山) to Shek O (石澳), Hong Kong

When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳).  The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach.  No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2899The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2917Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.

DSC_2919Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.

DSC_2924 croppedWatching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.

DSC_2931Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.

DSC_2933A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.

DSC_2934It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.

DSC_2936Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.

DSC_2944On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail. 

DSC_2947The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay.  The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.

DSC_2948.JPGBig Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2949The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.

DSC_2955Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends.  For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.

DSC_2967Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.

DSC_2985For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.

DSC_7696About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo.  On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau.  The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.

DSC_8048At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror.  The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.

DSC_7698The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.

DSC_7740Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.

DSC_7816The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.

DSC_7885Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.

DSC_8856Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.

 


THE BYGONE SILVER COUNTRY, Mui Wo (梅窩), Lantau Island (大嶼山), Hong Kong

Prior to the opening of Tsing Ma Bridge in 1997 and the MTR Lantau Line in 1998, the busy ferry pier of Mui Wo (梅窩) was one of the only two gateways to Lantau Island (大嶼山) from the city centre.  Before the establishment of Disneyland, Tian Tan Buddha, and Ngong Ping tourist area on the island, the resort hotels and bike rental shops at Mui Wo’s Silvermine Beach (銀礦灣) offered one of the island’s most popular getaway experience during weekends.  Those days were long gone.  Today, the MTR brings most Lantau visitors to the new town of Tung Chung (東涌).  In comparison, Mui Wo is much more laid back and sparsely populated.  In fact, for hundreds of years Mui Wo had always been an isolated rural area until 1950 when the pier was established, receiving first boats from Cheung Chau (長洲) and then soon from Central (中環).  Today, Mui Wo has returned to its peaceful old self, and its charm lies exactly in its sleepy ambience.

Sandwiched between the foot of Sunset Peak (大東山) to the west and Silvermine Beach to the east, the area of Mui Wo hosts half a dozen or so rural villages.  Near the village of Pak Ngan Heung (白銀鄉), or White Silver Country, few tourists would venture this far inland from the beach and pier to visit the Silvermine Waterfalls and the nearby Silvermine Cave, where silver mining operated briefly from 1886 to 1898.  South of Mui Wo, a narrow seaside trail connects to another sleep rural area at Chi Ma Wan (芝麻灣).  A short hike westwards from Chi Ma Wan would take visitors to the popular beach of Pui O (貝澳), where visitors of all ages come and dig into the wet sand in search of edible clams.  Seeing bucket after bucket of clams have been taken in one Saturday afternoon made me wonder if there would be any left for the next weekend.

DSC_0037From Mui Wo town centre, a footbridge leads visitors into the farming villages at the foot of Sunset Peak.  A small shrine dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, is set up right by the bridge.

DSC_0047Organic farming in Mui Wo have been gaining popularity in recent years.

DSC_0048Many farms in the area, like this one in Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘), are small in scale and offer prearranged interpretative tours or family activities.

DSC_0056On our way into Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘), a small cat greeted us at the village’s entrance.

DSC_0064Another delightful feature at the path leading to Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘) was a row of vivid flags.

DSC_0068Back against the lush green slope of Sunset Peak (大東山), Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘) is a quiet farming village with a dramatic setting.

DSC_0072Originally there were six guard towers in the area of Mui Wo.  Today only two remain intact and standing.  Built in the early 1940’s, the Luk Tei Tong Guard Tower (鹿地塘更樓) is one of them.  In the old days, these guard towers were used to defend against pirates.

DSC_0082Chinese New Year has just past.  Celebratory banners still remain on the doors and walls of village homes.

DSC_0073Despite prohibited by law, the loud noise of firecrackers can still be heard in some rural areas in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year.

DSC_0074Other than traditional firecrackers, modern ornaments and lights are also used to decorate the small courtyard in front of a ancestral hall in Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘).

DSC_0080Somehow these colourful incandescent bulbs in Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘) reveal a sense of nostalgia.

DSC_0084From Heading north from Luk Tei Tong (鹿地塘), we soon reached the Mui Wo Primary School.  Founded in 1939, the Mui Wo Primary School is located in the village of Tai Tei Tong (大地塘).  Throughout the years, the school had gone through a few phases of expansion.

DSC_0099Continued north from Tai Tei Tong (大地塘) would lead to Pak Ngan Heung (白銀鄉), or White Silver Country, the village close to the former silver mine.

DSC_0107 Just a few minutes walk from Pak Ngan Heung (白銀鄉) leads to Silvermine Waterfall (銀鑛瀑布), a natural feature popular with visitors.

DSC_0122The once busy Silvermine Bay Beach has became relatively quiet as visitors to Mui Wo declined significantly after the opening of Tsing Ma Bridge and MTR Lantau Line.

DSC_0130The Silvermine Bay Resort Hotel has became a collective memory for many.

DSC_0171Silver River (銀河) flows through the central area of Mui Wo and enters the sea at Silvermine Bay.

DSC_2081Walking along the coastal trail from Mui Wo Ferry Pier Road would bring one to Chi Ma Wan (芝麻灣), a serene coastal area south of Mui Wo.

DSC_2085During the hike, I was the only visitor on the trail, except the flying crows.

DSC_2088Feral buffalo is a common sight on Lantau Island.

DSC_2098Walking inland westwards from Chi Ma Wan, one would arrive in the old village of Shap Long(十塱)

DSC_2104There is hardly any other visitos in Chi Ma Wan (芝麻灣)

DSC_2113Before reaching Pui O (貝澳), the path wind along a series of curving slopes.

DSC_2116At the beach of Pui O (貝澳), some enjoy swimming in the sea, while others are busy digging the sand for clams.

DSC_2117Pui O Beach was shaped by the water of South China Sea and the river streams.

DSC_2122The persistent clam diggers dig the sand of Pui O till the last twilight fades.


PIONEER OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND NATURE CONSERVATION, Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場), Hong Kong

On the northern slope of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) at a place called Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) in the area of Lam Tsuen (林村), 148 hectare of organic farms, botanical gardens and mature forests terracing up to the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) reveal over half a century of efforts by the Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場).  Established in 1956, Kadoorie Farm has always stood at the forefront of Hong Kong’s agriculture, experimenting on new techniques and providing agricultural aid to farmers in need of support.  In 1951, the Kadoorie brothers (Horace and Lawrence) established the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) in an attempt to help the sudden influx of Mainland farmers into Hong Kong during the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940’s.  They picked Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) near Lam Tsuen (林村) to establish an agricultural facility engaging in experiments on profitable and effecting farming and animal breeding, and training the new farmers with their developed techniques.  Today, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (嘉道理農場暨植物園) diversifies their effort to promote organic farming, sustainable living, nature conservation and education.  They also run extensive rehabilitation program for wild animals in Hong Kong.

DSC_8597Linked by 9 km of roads and 8 km of trails, various highlights of the Kadoorie Farm spread over the slope of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山).

DSC_8603One of the big highlights at the lower section of Kadoorie Farm is the “Eco Garden” (生機園), exhibiting different types of self sufficient and compact farming in a community scale.

DSC_8607The garden presents natural and organic ways to maintain soil’s nutrients and insect control, and the best combination of vegetables for each season.

DSC_8611Other than its freshness and taste, the organic vegetables such as the purple cabbages are also beautiful.

DSC_8618Spherical bird scarers are hung over a cluster of rainbow chards in the Eco Garden.

DSC_8658A wavy fence separates the Eco Garden with the other terraced farms and botanic gardens.

DSC_8599Other than organic farming, more innovative planting techniques are also examined at the Eco Garden.  Some farming techniques that requires less space or soil may suit urban living well.

DSC_8631At the Piers Jacobs Wildlife Sanctuary, native mammals such as a Barking Deer or Muntjac (麂) have been rescued as an orphan and raised in the sanctuary.

DSC_8641The wild boar is also another rescued orphan at the sanctuary.  Both wild boars and barking deer can be found in the forests in and around Kadoorie Farm.

DSC_8659In the old days, pig breeding was an important work at the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA).  Today a few Da Hua Bai Pigs (大花白豬) are kept at the farm for educational purposes.

DSC_8671Amphibians and reptiles are both vulnerable groups of wildlife in Hong Kong due to habitat loss.  Kadoorie Farm has a few of the native species at the Amphibian and Reptile House and Reptile Garden.

DSC_8674Interesting pavilions and artworks are all over the farm, including a dragon boat pigeon house.

DSC_8687And also the fish mosaic at the Cascade Garden near the Chicken House.

DSC_8709As the farm terraces up the hillside of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), the view to the surrounding landscape becomes more spectacular.

DSC_8721The Butterfly Path winds up the hill through dense forests and open terraces, following part of an old trail which led the locals up the hill of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) for a religious blessing.

DSC_8700In order to preserve the natural feel, there is minimal modern safety infrastructure provided at the Butterfly Path.

DSC_87329 km of roads circulate up and down the Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), going through some densely forested areas, the habitat for some native species in Hong Kong, such as the barking deer.

DSC_8714… and the wild boar.

DSC_8750At 550m above sea level, the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is the highest point in Kadoorie Farm.  For centuries, farmers came up to the summit to seek blessings from the goddess of Kwun Yum.

DSC_8752The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) allows visitors to have fine view of the New Territories and even Shenzhen on a fine and clear day.

DSC_8757The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is at 1812 ft, or 550 m.

DSC_8759Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is sandwiched between Tai To Yan (大刀屻) to the north and Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) to the south.

DSC_8767Heading downhill, visitors can either take a shuttle bus or walk down a winding road.

DSC_8829Along the downhill road, sounds of monkeys can often be heard.  Occasionally visitors may spot monkeys jumping from one tree to another.


AN UNDISTURBED WATER WORLD, Nam Sang Wai (南生圍), Hong Kong

Known as the “backyard” of Hong Kong, Nam Sang Wai (南生圍) is an area of tranquil wetlands north of Yuen Long (元朗).  The “Wai” in “Nam Sang Wai” refers to “gei wai” (基圍), an old method mainly for shrimp culture introduced to Hong Kong in the 1940’s. Bounded by man made embankments, gei wai is a shallow pool in a mangrove wetland with 10 to 30 cm of water collected from the Deep Bay (后海灣).   The shrimp farmer would use a water gate to control the amount of incoming water from Deep Bay.  The sea water would also bring in juvenile fish and shrimps.  The shrimps would  then feed on the organic matters from the mangroves.  Gei wai shrimps (基圍蝦), usually steamed, has became a local delicacy throughout the years.  The gei wai method has been mostly phased out nowadays.   The former gei wai pools and fish ponds of Nam Sang Wai have became a semi-manmade wetland where visitors enjoy the serene waterways, reed clusters and pockets of grasslands, and learn more the wetland ecosystem.  It also offers a network of pleasant footpaths winding through waterways and pools, providing the perfect venue for an afternoon stroll, wedding photos, and even filming set for movies, TV shows and music videos.

DSC_1900The passenger boat at Shan Pui River (山貝河) is the last public passenger boat service in Hong Kong operated entirely by hand.

DSC_1902The first impression of Nam Sang Wai for most visitors is its overwhelming serenity of water networks.

DSC_1908The footpaths at Nam Sang Wai are lined with beautiful Red Gum Trees (赤桉樹).

DSC_1911Some old houses in Nam Sang Wai are abandoned, and are sometimes used for filming local movies.

DSC_1918The boardwalk by the old fish ponds are popular spots for photos.

DSC_1937The large lawn at Nam Sang Wai is equally popular for couples, families and pets to hang out.

DSC_1944Nam Sang Wai is a hotspot for both migrating birds and local waterfowls.

DSC_1956Beyond Shan Pui River (山貝河), the urban and industrial developments of Yuan Long seem like they may one day encroach into the wetland territories.

DSC_1981The peaceful water of Nam Sang Wai remains like a flawless mirror.

DSC_1987As a natural system to purify the surface runoff of the city, wetlands are essential in the entire water cycle of the city.

DSC_2002As villagers move out of the rural areas, some old stores and houses in Nam Sang Wai are gradually crumbling into ruins.

DSC_2009A handful of occupied houses remain in Nam Sang Wai.

DSC_2010Though most of them are in need of restoration.

DSC_2020Like pets in other rural areas of Hong Kong, the cats and dogs in Nam Sang Wai also lead peaceful lives.

DSC_2033_01A number of village homes built on stilts can be founded along Shan Pui River (山貝河).

DSC_2031Such serene and picturesque setting are great for photography and sketches.

DSC_2027After a long and relaxing stroll in Nam Sang Wai, the small man-powered boat at Nam Sang Wai Pier is always around to bring visitors back to the city’s side.


ROMANTIC SUNSET AND SEASIDE RUINS, Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門), Hong Kong

Known as the eastern gateway of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港), the sea channel of Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) is the narrowest point of the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  During the British colonial era, defending the channel of Lei Yue Mun was seen vital for the protection of Hong Kong Island.  Military defense had been set up on the hills at both sides of Lei Yue Mun, many of which can still be seen today as historical sites.  The area in East Kowloon around the Lei Yue Mun Channel is also called Lei Yue Mun.  One of the most important villages at Lei Yue Mun is Sam Ka Village (三家村) .  Since the opening of Yau Tong (油塘) MTR Station in 2002, visiting the once remote Lei Yue Mun has became just a half an hour metro ride from Central Hong Kong.  While in the old days Lei Yue Mun was well known for its typhoon shelter and villagers were mainly engaged in the industries of fishery, farming and mining, today when people thinks about Lei Yue Mun the first thing comes to mind is definitely the seafood.  With its picturesque seaside village setting, fantastic lookouts for the sunset, and romantic ruins of the former quarry buildings, Lei Yue Mun has much more to offer than steamed prawns and broiled lobsters.

DSC_5429In the afternoon, seafood restaurant staff were busy preparing for their evening business.

DSC_5431The Main Street at Sam Ka Village of Lei Yue Mun has dozens of seafood restaurants.  Most restaurants install large glass tanks at their shopfront to display their catches of the day.

DSC_5440Beyond the cluster of seafood restaurant, Sam Ka Village is a tranquil village by the sea.

DSC_5451The Lei Yue Mun Lighthouse has been standing at the waterfront for over half a century to guide the sea traffic at the eastern gateway if the Victoria Harbour between Sau Kee Wan (筲箕灣) on Hong Kong Island and Sam Ka Village in Kowloon.

DSC_5454Living by the Victoria Harbour has became a luxury feature for Hong Kong’s real estate.  At Lei Yue Mun, living by the sea literally means having a house exposed to the wind and waves at a few feet above the sea.

DSC_5456Fishing is one of the most popular hobbies for local villagers.

DSC_5497Like many other villages by the sea in Hong Kong there is a Tin Hau Temple in Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5504The semi open forecourt of Lei Yue Mun’s Tin Hau Temple is full of hanging incense.

DSC_5506Behind the Tin Hau Temple, there is a popular fortune teller.

DSC_5517Founded for nearly 150 years, Lei Yue Mun was a village known for agriculture, fishery and mining until the 1960’s.  After gradual decline of the three industries, today’s Lei Yue Mun is best known for its seafood restaurants.

DSC_5532The stone quarry site at the southern tip of Lei Yue Mun has been abandoned since the 1960’s.

DSC_5536Mining has been around in Lei Yue Mun since the 19th century.  In the British era, Hong Kong is well known for its fine grained granite stones.  The ruins at Lei Yue Mun are the remnants of Wong Yin Quarry (旺賢石廠), which was abandoned in 1968 after explosives were banned for mining. 

DSC_5538Ruins of the old jetty, sea walls, stone houses and concrete foundations of the former quarry have became a romantic ruin for all to enjoy.

DSC_5570Young people love to come here to take photos, or just chilled out by the sea.

DSC_5545Some visitors like to climb onto the alcoves on the seaside stone cliffs to have some sober moments by the sea.  Beyond Lei Yue Mun and across the Junk Bay or Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳) stand the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城).

DSC_5583While most were enjoying the sunset or taking selfies at the ruins, a young lady came to one of the stone beaches to collect garbage.

DSC_5603In the late afternoon, even the dogs look truly relaxed at Lei Yue Mun.

DSC_5612While Hong Kong has been known for its materialistic way of living, villagers in Lei Yue Mun seem to maintain a relatively simple lifestyle.

DSC_5621Under the western sun, a swimmer enjoys himself swimming in the Victoria Harbour.  Given the amount of boat traffic in the harbour, swimming in Lei Yue Mun is in fact a dangerous act.

DSC_5633Late afternoon or early evening is definitely the best time to visit Lei Yue Mun’s Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5643Watching the sunset is so popular in Lei Yue Mun, especially for photography enthusiasts.  Most would gather near the lighthouse to witness the sun moving behind the skyline of Sai Wan Ho (西灣河).

DSC_5645The super tall residential developments Grand Promenade (嘉亨灣) look absolutely out of proportion.

DSC_5664As the day’s last twilight fades, a distinct ambiance emerges as the neon signs of the seafood restaurants are being lit up.

DSC_5682In the relaxing atmosphere of Lei Yue Mun, even a dog would wear a bow tie to pose for visitors.

DSC_5691The once vibrant typhoon shelter of Sam Ka Village has became a leisure place for busy Hong Kongers to escape from their daily hassles.

DSC_5705Half an hour after sunset, the neon signs of the restaurants have taken over the night at Lei Yue Mun.  Leaving Lei Yue Mun by boat at Sam Ka Village Pier is the best way to bid farewell.

 

 


PILGRIMAGE JOURNEY ON LANTAU, Lantau Peak (鳳凰山) and Ngong Ping (昂坪), Lantau Island (大嶼山), Hong Kong

Not a particular fine day in Mid-December, but our souls yearned for a brief departure from the crowded streets and densely built-up neighborhoods of Central Hong Kong.  We picked the Lantau Peak (鳳凰山) on Lantau Island.  At 934m above sea level, Lantau Peak is the second highest peak in Hong Kong, and we expected there would be a considerable amount of steps to climb.  After less than an hour of ferry and a bus ride, we arrived at the trailhead at Pak Kung Au (伯公坳).  Known as Section 3 of the Lantau Trail (鳳凰徑), the 5.5km hike from Pak Kung Au up to Lantau Peak and then down to the Big Buddha of Ngong Ping would take about 4 hours.

DSC_4247With our back facing Hong Kong’s 3rd highest peak, the Sunset Peak (大東山, 869m), we followed the signs to begin the climb of Lantau Peak.

DSC_4250The climb took us less than two hours, on a mostly exposed mountain trail winding on mountain ridges until reaching the final portion of the hike which was largely uneven steps.

DSC_4254Camellia (茶花) is quite a common sight when hiking in during the winter months in Hong Kong.

DSC_4280The air of Hong Kong during the winter months could be quite hazy.

DSC_4284On our way up, despite the haze and smog from China, we could still faintly see the beaches, Tung Chung New Town and Hong Kong International Airport below.

DSC_4287The steps seemed never ended, but we pushed ourselves to go for the final assault for the summit.

DSC_4290The air was much cooler as we approached the last bit of the uphill climb.

DSC_4301The mountainous landscape down below was quite scenic.

DSC_4316Up on the summit it was foggy, windy and cool.

DSC_4317At the top platform, there was a simple shelter for wind protection, a wooden plague stating the height of the mountain, and lots of visitors taking pictures.

DSC_4321_01The wooden plague stating the summit of Lantau Peak at 934m.

DSC_4332It was windy up there and we didn’t stay for long on the summit.

DSC_4347The downhill hike towards Ngong Ping (昂坪) was uneven steps all the way down.  Facing Shek Pik Reservoir (石壁水塘) in a distance, we took our time for the descend.

DSC_4354The stepped trail then switched north towards Ngong Ping.  We could recognize the silhouette of Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛), Po Lin Buddhist Monastery (寶蓮禪寺), and the sea beyond where construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge was almost completed.

DSC_4359Although we could see our destination, there was still quite a long way of steep steps to go before reaching Ngong Ping.

DSC_4370The Buddha was getting bigger as we gradually walked closer to Ngong Ping.

DSC_4391Reaching the gateway of “Sunrise on Lantau Peak” signified that we had reached Ngong Ping.

DSC_4388After about 3 hours on the trail and just a stone throw away from Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, we reached a unique landscape feature known as the Wisdom Path (心經簡林).

DSC_4393The Wisdom Path is consisted of large wooden columns set up in the pattern of an infinity symbol (8).  On each column, text from the Heart Sutra (心經) or Mahayana Sutraare inscribed onto the wood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally we reached Tian Tan Buddha.  Up on the upper platform where the Buddha sat, here were six angle-like statues handing offerings to the Buddha known as “The Offering of the Six Devas”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstalled in 1993, Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) is a large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelow the Buddha, Ngong Ping (昂坪) has been developed by the government as a tourist corridor with retail, restaurants, and entertainment businesses.  We didn’t check out any of the shops.  All we wanted was to catch a bus for Tung Chung, where where we could switch to the MTR (Hong Kong’s reliable metro system) for our journey home.


280 MILLION-YEAR-OLD GEOLOGICAL PARADISE, Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), Hong Kong

Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), which literally means “horse excrement island”, is a tidal island off a traditional fishing village Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) at the northeastern New Territories near Tai Po (大埔).  Facing the Tolo Channel opposite from the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖), Ma Shi Chau belongs to the UNESCO Geopark network in Hong Kong.  The remote tidal island is famous for its unique rock formation and outcropped strata dated back to the Permian Period (280 million years ago).

Ma Shi Chau is accessible via Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡).  A short hike on known as Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail will bring visitors to walk along the southeast coast of the island.  Along the coastal areas, unique and colourful rock formations are visible everywhere.  Millions of years ago, Ma Shi Chau was a basin in which surrounding waters continuously to deposit sediments such as sand and gravel.  Over the years as water level changed and so as the kinds of sediments accumulated.   Sedimentary rocks were formed after the process of lithification.  Vaults and folds are also visible on Ma Shi Chau as tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities transformed the rock surface.  Like many parts of Hong Kong, granite is also present at Ma Shi Chau as a result of magma intrusion during the Jurassic Period.  Other than rocks, views of the Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) to the north, and the new town of Ma On Shan to the southeast across the Tolo Harbour (吐露港) are equally impressive.

DSC_3191Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) is a small fishing village inhabited mainly by former boat people (fishermen families who lived on their boats in typhoon shelter).

DSC_3195From Sam Mun Tsai, a short walk brought me up to a hill dotted with graves.  On the high point, fish farming nets in the waters of Plover Cove.

DSC_3197The trail continued to wind through the ridge of a hill dotted with graves.

DSC_3202The trail then went downhill to the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡), a natural sand bar that originally would be submerged in water during during high tide.  Over the years, villagers put boulders and sediments on the sand bar, so that it would be exposed above water even during high tide.

DSC_3205Today, the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is a convenient venue for a leisure stroll and water activities such as sea kayaking.

DSC_3204The Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is also the gateway to the Ma Shi Chau Special Area, part of the Hong Kong Geopark.

DSC_3247On Ma Shi Chau Island, there is a short trail called Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) bringing visitors to a number of coastal woods and rock beaches.  Giant Golden Orb Weaver, one of the largest kinds of spiders in the world, are quite common in the woods.  Some of these are about the size of a human palm.

DSC_3267Visitors are usually fascinated by the rock formations when arriving at the first open coastal area.

DSC_3295Vaults and folds are visible at Ma Shi Chau due to prehistoric tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities.

DSC_3299Many of the outcropped strata and rock formations are colourful and eye catching.

DSC_3310Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3319Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3331Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3347To the northeast of Ma Shi Chau across the Plover Cove (船灣海), the 2km dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) is only a few hundred metres away.

DSC_3352To the southeast across Tolo Harbour (吐露港), the new residential developments below Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) look like a bunch of toy blocks.

DSC_3359Construction of the new town of Ma On Shan began in 1980s, including private residential developments and public housing estates.

DSC_3363

DSC_3366Fishermen may still test their luck in the Tolo Harbour.

DSC_3371In late afternoon, Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) north of Ma Shi Chau looks gorgeous.

DSC_3374Under the shadow of Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺), the tiny island of Yeung Chau and the fish farms in the Plover Cove (船灣海) look like a peaceful picture.


Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園), Tin Shui Wai (天水圍), Hong Kong

Just a stone throw away from Lau Fau Shan, to the north of Tin Shui Wai New Town (天水圍) stands the 61-hectare Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園).  Created as an ecological mitigation area to compensate for the loss of wetland in the new town construction, the Wetland Park is doubled as a tourist attraction with facilities including recreated wetland reserve for waterbirds and other wildlife, boardwalk circuits over the mudflats to offer a close encounter with the wetland habitats, and a visitor centre hosting exhibitions on wetland’s biodiversity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnown as the “Succession Walk”, an elevated winding boardwalk takes visitors out to the water pond to closely appreciate various types of aquatic plants.

DSC_5245Different types of waterlilies are some of the highlights of “Succession Walk”.

DSC_5234At “Wetland at Work”, visitors can learn more about the crops produced from wetlands, such as the rice from rice paddies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFollowing the boardwalk deeper into the park, visitor arrives at the “Mangrove Boardwalk”.

DSC_5317At “Mangrove Boardwalk”, there is a good chance to have close encounter with some of the inhabitants of the wetland mudflats, such as the Bluespotted Mudskipper and Common Mudskipper.

DSC_5316Able to breathe through their skin, these amphibious fish are quite active on the mud, actively skipping around to defend their territories.  Staying in mud burrows allow them to keep moist and maintain their body temperature.

DSC_5378-2Another type of common inhabitant at the mudflats is the Fiddler Crab.  The male uses its small claw to feed and the big claw to defend.

DSC_5398Little Egret are common in Hong Kong, and can be seen in all seasons at the Wetland Park.

DSC_5418The boardwalk of Wildside Walk takes visitors to the far end of the park, where a few types of tranquil pools await both the visitors and dragonflies.

DSC_5433At some pools, algae completely covers the water like a soft green carpet.

DSC_5444The pattern on the algae looks like an abstract painting.

DSC_5458After a loop of the wetland reserve, one can return to the modernist Visitor Centre for further information.  The building is one of the few in Hong Kong extensively using exposed architectural concrete.

IMG_0842The lobby where visitors arrive is always busy.

DSC_5460One of the exhibit highlights is Pui Pui, a Salt Water Crocodile caught at Shan Pui River in 2003 when it was a juvenile.  It is believes that Pui Pui was an abandoned illegal pet from the area that had grown too big to handle.  Hong Kong Wetland Park became Pui Pui’s permanent home in 2006.

DSC_5503Other wetland wildlife on display includes freshwater fish.

DSC_5515Looking out of the Visitor Centre, one can fully appreciate the extent of the wetland reserve, a common type of ecosystem that once dominated large areas of Northern New Territories.

DSC_5522The modernist concrete architecture matches well with the peaceful landscape of the wetlands.

DSC_5525It is pleasant to appreciate the serene wetlands from the upper level of the Visitor Centre before leaving.

 


SUNSET OVER OYSTER WATERS, Lau Fau Shan (流浮山), Hong Kong

For 700 years, oysters have been farmed in the water of Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay (后海灣) near the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan (流浮山).  Situated in the Pearl River Estuary where fresh water constantly enters the bay, Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay is a perfect site for oyster farming.  Today, Lau Fau Shan is the last remaining site in Hong Kong that oyster cultivation still exists.  Generations of oysters and oyster sauce consumption have put these molluscs an important part of cultural heritage of, not just Lau Fau Shan villagers, but Hong Kong citizens in general.  In fact, the oyster species cultivated in Lau Fau Shan is known as Crassostrea hongkongensis, which is named after the city itself.  Oyster farming has gone through a gradual decline since 1980’s, partly due to climate change, ocean acidification and deterioration of local water quality, and partly due to stronger competition of foreign oysters in the local market in recent years.  Apart from oysters, Lau Fau Shan is also best known for its seafood restaurants and the romantic sunset over the tidal flats.  Standing by the waterfront, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge and the myriad of highrise constructions over at the Shenzhen side stretch along the horizon, while on the Deep Bay’s southern shore in the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan, time seems to have stood still in the past few decades.

DSC_0442Coming all the way to the northwest corner of Hong Kong, we entered the village of Lau Fau Shan and immediately stopped by a small eatery by the main street.  Trying the fried or grilled oyster at one of the several simple eateries offers a pleasant alternative to the more upscale seafood restaurants along Lau Fau Shan Main Street.

DSC_0451The special attraction of Lau Fau Shan is indisputably the oysters.

DSC_0454Similar to Sai Kung and Lei Yue Mun, Lau Fau Shan is also well known of its seafood restaurants.

DSC_0456Some seafood restaurants look quite traditional and casual.

DSC_0463There are a few shops in Lau Fau Shan specialized in making oyster sauce.  Inevitably oyster sauce has became one of the most popular souvenir of the village.

DSC_0467Along the main street, two workers were busy opening the harvested oysters for sale.

DSC_0481Along the main street, different types of dried seafood were sold.

DSC_0477Near the waterfront, containers and air tubes for live seafood lie all over a temporary covered area.

DSC_0510The waterfront of Lau Fau Shan was covered with oyster shells.

DSC_0501Many boats just lay on mud flats during low tide.

DSC_0490At the waterfront, the shallow water over the mud flats looked like a peaceful mirror.  Beyond the Deep Bay stood the silhouette of another metropolis of Southern China, Shenzhen.

DSC_0587From a fishing village before 1980 to today’s metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants, the emergence of Shenzhen is a miracle to many.

DSC_0593While we took pictures of mud flats and Deep Bay, a cyclist emerged from nowhere and stopped for a moment at the waterfront.  Beyond lay the 5.5km Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道), or the Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) linking the two cities at the Deep Bay since 2007.

DSC_0614The sun finally appeared behind the clouds, casting an orange tint to the drying seafood by the shore.

DSC_0621In late afternoon, more boats returned from Deep Bay.  Some boats arrived at the pier and offloaded passengers who might have spent the entire day fishing in the bay.

DSC_0695The silhouette of Hong Kong Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) stood out along the western horizon under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_0744Soon enough, the sun made its daily routine down to the horizon beyond the bridge.

DSC_0759As the sun lowered to the horizon, the tide had also quietly returned to the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan.

DSC_0784_01The moon was already up above Lau Fau Shan.  Most tourists had left except a few passionate photographers refusing to leave the waterfront despite the sun was fading fast.

DSC_0794As we left the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan, the lights from the opposite shore began to lit up one by one.


THE BEAUTY OF CHAOS, Street Markets, Old eateries, Heritage Buildings and Calligraphy Signage of Sham Shui Po (深水埗), Kowloon (九龍), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has its charm as a vibrant metropolis and financial hub in the Far East, but it also has its issues of insanely expensive housing and tremendous gap between the rich and poor.  New immigrants, elderly and young people living in bunkers about the size of coffins (known as “coffin homes”) have made the headlines in recent years while at the same time government’s land sales and housing prices have skyrocketed to record levels.   Because of its concentration of inexpensive tiny bunkers and decades-old apartments, Sham Shui Po (深水埗), an old neighborhood in West Kowloon, has often been associated with issues of poverty and urban decay.

With its vibrant street markets selling everything from cheap electronics, second hand appliances, clothing, toys, and a wide range of DIY parts, from buttons and fabrics, to cables and motors, Sham Shui Po seems like one huge flea market.  Beyond the chaotic appearance, however, visitors may find a special nostalgic charm in this neighborhood, with traces of the beautiful old Hong Kong that have been mercilessly replaced by cold and glassy highrises, luxurious malls, and uninspiring chain-stores throughout the city.  A walk in Sham Shui Po is a diverse journey full of chaotic street markets, affordable and unpretentious food, lovely heritage buildings and much more.

01Compared with many upscale residential neighbourhoods and the city’s commercial heart, the streets of the relatively less affluent Sham Shui Po are much more human and pedestrian oriented.

02Sham Shui Po still has a variety of traditional businesses from Old Hong Kong, such as a high concentration of pawnshops.

03Some old apartment flats in the area have been converted to subdivided rental bunkers.  The worst type is called “coffin homes” due to their tiny size similar to real coffins.

04Every view in Sham Shui Po seems layered, chaotic and complicated.

05Quite a number of streets in Sham Shui Po are famous for street markets. Catering for different clientele, each market zone is more or less designated for a distinct type of merchandises.

06Looking from above, the streets of Sham Shui Po seem like an abstract painting composed of rows of colour swatches.

07While the streets are vibrant and chaotic, the rooftop level seems like a totally different world.

08Ki Lung Street (基隆街) is popular with customers looking for DIY supplies for clothing, including fabrics, buttons, ribbons, trims, zippers, you name it.

09Nicknamed Street of Beads, Yu Chau Street (汝州街) is another street in the area famous for DIY clothing accessories.

10Known as the miniature of Sham Shui Po, Pei Ho Street (北河街) is a market street famed for its fine clothing in really affordable prices.

12Another well known market street is Apliu Street (鴨寮街), a large flea market specialized in electronic parts and second-hand electronics.

13There are many stalls at Apliu Street (鴨寮街) specialized in electronic repair.

14Other than shopping, food lovers also have their reasons to visit Sham Shui Po for some of its more small, traditional and down-to-earth eateries that are disappearing fast in other areas of the city.  Sun Heung Yeung (新香園 (堅記)) on Kweilin Street (桂林街) is one of the most popular Hong Kong style cafe in Sham Shui Po, famous for its beef and egg sandwiches.

IMG_0888Established in 1957, another renounced eatery in Sham Shui Po is Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) on Fuk Wing Street (福榮街).

15Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) is famous for their beef and pork liver noddles (豬潤牛肉麵) and Coconut Jam French Toast (咖央西多士).

16Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) or Kung Wo Soybean Product Factory is another major attraction for food lovers.

17With over a century of experience, Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) sell all kinds of bean curd or tofu products.

18Even the interior of Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) is full of nostalgic ambience.

19.JPGApart from shopping and eating, Sham Shui Po is also a great place to admire Hong Kong’s old architecture.  The government proposes a series of urban renewal.

20Sham Shui Po still has a considerable amount of tong lau (唐樓) or old tenement buildings with a covered colonnade on street level.  The ground floor was usually occupied by a small shop, such as a pawnshop or food vendor.  This type of architecture once dominated much of Hong Kong before 1960’s.

21The 5-storey Nam Cheong Pawn Shop at 117-125 Nam Cheong Street was built in the 1920’s.  Even the iconic cantilevered pawnshop signage have becoming rarer nowadays.

2258 Pei Ho Street is probably one of the most famous heritage buildings in the area.  Built in 1920’s and served as a pawnshop until the 1970’s, it was then converted into a shop selling dried seafood until present days.

23The curved balcony of 58 Pei Ho Street is quite unique.  The amazing feature window a level above the street is such a lovely design gesture back in the old days when there was less vehicular traffic.

24Old Chinese calligraphy signage can be seen all over the streets of Sham Shui Po.  Before graphics design being computerized, most Chinese signage came from the hands of a professional calligrapher.  Each neighborhood allowed a few calligraphers to earn a living, and each calligrapher had his/her own style.  It’s the individual human touch that makes these calligraphy signage unique, especially in the  age of computerization and standardization.

25Built in the 1940s, Hang Jing Pawnshop is no longer in business.  The colonnaded area is now used as an outdoor workshop of a nearby shop.  On the columns, beautiful calligraphy of the former pawnshop is still visible.

26On the concrete wall of Hang Jing Pawnshop, the old calligraphy set in the plaster represents a bygone era


CLEAR WATER & FINE SAND, Long Ke Wan (浪茄灣) to Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Just twenty minutes walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Long Ke Wan is one of the favorite beaches in Hong Kong for many.  Facing east to Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) along with the four beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣), Long Ke Wan’s (浪茄灣) hexagonal stone columns, white and powdery sand and unpolluted sea water make it a popular destination for beachgoers who make the effort to the eastern edge of Sai Kung Peninsula.  It is possible to reach Long Ke Wan from two different directions, both involve some degree of hiking.  The easiest is to hop on a taxi from Sai Kung town centre to the East Dam of High Island Reservoir, from there it is only a 20 minutes walk to the beach.  The other option is to take a village bus from Sai Kung town centre to Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭).  From the pavilion, it is a two-hour scenic hike to Long Ke Wan.  This walk covers part of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), from Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) to Long Ke Wan.  Atop Sai Wan Shan, the picturesque beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) down below with the mighty Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) as backdrop is truly one of the most iconic panoramas of Hong Kong’s natural beauty.

01Much of coastal area from Long Ke Wan and High Island Reservoir East Dam all the way to the outlying islands south of the Sai Kung Peninsula are covered with polygonal stone columns.

02These surreal stone formations are evidences from an active volcanic era 140 million years ago.  The 20-minute walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam to Long Ke Wan offers great opportunity to see the coastal rock formations.

04Flanked both sides by lush green slopes and back against Tuk Ngu Shan (獨孤山), Long Ke Wan (浪茄灣) is a protected bay opened southeastwards to the South China Sea.

DSC_1369The beach of Long Ke Wan is decent in size, with fine sand and crystal clear water.

05Adjacent to Long Ke Wan, the coastal scenery of rock formations and sea caves are equally impressive.

03Many visitors come to the area by yachts or hired boats.

DSC_3162At the remote Long Ke Wan, there is no cafe or changing rooms.  All there is are natural scenery of a beautiful beach.

08Many visitors set up tents on the sand.  There is also a popular camp site at the back of the beach.

09Unlike the beaches of Big Wave Bay where the waves can become quite strong, Long Ke is usually calmer.

10During the summer months, the beach is very popular among young people.

11Tidal pools can be found at the rocky areas at the side of beach.

12A visitor comes to test his luck at the tidal pool.

13Walking north from Long Ke Wan to Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) along the MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), hikers can have another magnificent overview of Long Ke Wan from above.

14On Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the view of High Island Reservoir and the outlying islands south of Sai Kung Peninsula makes one forget this is Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated city in the world.

15Looking north from the top of Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the scenery of Big Wave Bay beaches (大浪灣) and Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) is the icon of Hong Kong’s wilderness.

16The trail then goes downhill from Sai Wan Shan to Chui Tung Au (吹筒坳), then winds along the north edge of High Island Reservoir towards Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭).

17From the trail, visitors can see the West Dam of High Island Reservoir from distance.

18The turquoise and green colours of High Island Reservoir always look refreshing.

19From Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭), there is infrequent village buses return to the pier of Sai Kung town.


NATURAL vs. MAN-MADE WONDER, High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume.  Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches.  Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong.  140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff.  The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock.  The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling.  Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city.  Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast.  Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons.  They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea.  To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.

01From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.

02The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea.  Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.

03The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.

04The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier.  Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.

07Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.

05We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.

06Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above.  The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.

08Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.

09At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.

10To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘).  The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.

10aOur goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

11The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular.  Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.

12Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.

13Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

14The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.

16We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.

17After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.

18.JPGInstead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus.  The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.

19Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.

20Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.

21The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.

22We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩).  Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands.  The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).

23As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking.  Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy.  By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.


FRAGRANT SEA AND PRESTIGIOUS MOUNTAIN (香海名山), Tsing Shan Monastery (青山禪院), Tuen Mun (屯門), Hong Kong

In the middle of the 5th century, Buddhist Master Pui To (杯渡禪師) from India arrived in Tuen Mun, where at that time was a military outpost where foreigners were required to go through immigration customs.  Legend has it that Pui To traveled in a “wooden cup” across the sea, and therefore was named “Pui To”, which literally means “cup sailing”.  Pui To decided to stay in Tuen Mun to host religious ceremonies and teaching sessions for the stationed soldiers.  He settled on the mountain above the military station and practiced meditation regularly in a cave.  His name was widespread across the region, and his residing place (a grotto and hut) soon became a place for pilgrimage.  In the next 1500 years, this pilgrimage site had been considered as the origin of Buddhism in Hong Kong.  In 1829, the To clan built a Taoist institution known as Tsing Wan Kwun (青雲觀) just adjacent to the pilgrim site of Pui To.  In the 1910s, Chan Chun-ting bought the adjacent land to redevelop Tsing Wan Kwun.  His plan made a big twist in 1918 when Chan was converted to Buddhism.  Instead of a Taoist temple, Chan developed the Tsing Shan Monastery (青山禪院), which encompassed Buddhist halls, Pui To’s grotto, as well as the Taoist Tsing Wan Kwun.  The monastery and Taoist temple fell into legal dispute after Chan Chun-ting died in 1932.  In 1998, the case for Tsing Shan Monastery concluded at the High Court.  The court ruled that the Monastery would become a public institution managed by a charity trust.

We arrived in Tuen Mun by bus No. 962 all the way from Causeway Bay.  It was a grey day and it seemed that rain patch might come in any minute.  In the first glance, Tuen Mun New Town appeared like another uninspiring satellite town built in the 1970s by the British government to resolve the housing issue of Hong Kong.  Adjacent to the new town, the lush green Castle Hill (青山) was partly hidden in the mist.  We came to visit what claimed to be the oldest temple in Hong Kong.  From Tsing Shan Village, the winding Tsing Shan Monastery Path was a decent uphill walk to the monastery.

01With relaxed hearts, we slowly climbed the Tsing Shan Monastery Path to the famous Pailou (牌坊).  On the Pailou, the calligraphic inscription 香海名山 or “Fragrant Sea and Prestigious Mountain” was written by Hong Kong Governor Sir Cecil Clementi (金文泰) in 1929.  Clementi was a British administrator who possessed deep knowledge of Chinese culture, fluent in Cantonese and mastered the skills of Chinese calligraphy.

02The front gate (山門) of Tsing Shan Monastery was renewed in 2009 into the current appearance.

03The first thing that caught our attention was a portrait of Maitreya (彌勒佛) displayed on the wall of the Guardian Pavilion (護法殿).

04To the right of the Guardian Pavilion (護法殿) stood the Tsing Wan Kun (青雲觀).  The original heritage building was the oldest structure in the entire Tsing Shan Monastery.  Against advise of conservationists, the old structure was controversially demolished in 2004 by the To family, the owner of the monastery.  A new building in style of the Tang Dynasty was erected in its place.

05
Despite the relatively new building, there were still a number of historical items inside the Tsing Wan Kun, such as the bronze bell in the courtyard.

06Inside the Taoist Tsing Wan Kun, there were quite a variety of deities for worship, such as the 60 Tai Sui deities (太歲), a group of deities created from the orbiting stars directly opposite to the Jupiter in Chinese astrology.  Worshipers would come each year to pay respect to a specific Tai Sui deity according to his or her birth year.  Other than the Tai Sui, the central altar was dedicated to Doumu (斗母), the mother deity of the Big Dipper.

07Other deities could be found in the upper chamber of Tsing Wan Kun.  Like many Taoist temples, Tsing Wan Kun houses a variety of traditional deities.

08The atmospheric inner hall of Tsing Wan Kun was filled with suspended incenses.

09Buddhist figures like the Guanyin was present in the inner hall of Tsing Wan Kun.  Most believe that the Chinese Guanyin originated from Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

10Back to the entrance courtyard of Tsing Shan Monastery, we followed the path to the back of the Guardian Pavilion and arrived at the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿).  Eight characters were inscribed on the front wall, “Everything on Earth Has Ties and Reaches Nirvana Together” (一切有情、同登覺地).

11The Grand Hall (大雄寶殿) was dominated by the altar of three Buddha statues.

12On the side walls of the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿), there were a series of tiny niches each with a bodhisattva figure lit up from above, many were marked with a donor’s name.

13Outside of the Grand Hall, we could clearly see the interesting roof detail of Guardian Pavilion (護法殿)

14Behind the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿) we walked up the stair to the upper section of Tsing Shan Monastery.  From the upper platform, we could have a closer look at the roof carvings of the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿), which included a pair of dragons on the ridge.

15And a ceramic lion at the side hip of the roof.

16On the upper part of Tsing Shan Monastery we reached a open platform overlooking town centre of Tuen Mun below.

17One of the highlight of the monastery’s upper platform was the shrine at what believed to the the grotto where Master Pui To (杯渡禪師) meditated.

18Near the grotto, there was a offering table and a wall of plaques with donor’s names.

19Near the grotto, a small stair led us up to another platform where a three-tier Buddhist stupa (時輪金剛佛塔) stood.

20Further up the hill stood the ruins of the old Abbot’s Chamber (方丈室).

21As we turned away from the ruined Abbot’s Chamber, we spotted the profile of two people standing at a lookout.  Soon we found out they were actually life size paper cut of passed actors Bruce Lee (李小龍) and Roy Chiao (喬宏).  In 1973, Lee, Chiao and their crew members came to Tsing Shan Monastery to film a scene of “Enter the Dragon” (龍爭虎鬥).

22Back down to the level of the grotto, we passed by a garden and the Gate of Harmony (和合山門).  On both sides of the gate, the inscriptions stated that “No sweeping is needed for pure land.  No closing is needed for empty doors” (淨土何須掃,空門不用關).   At the end of the garden stood a yellow pailou.  It was part of the original Hall of Scriptures (藏經閣).

23After a decent stroll of the monastery ground, it was time for us to head back downhill.  We passed by the Entrance Pailou once again.  Instead of “Fragrant Sea and Prestigious Mountain” ( 香海名山) at the front of the pailou, this time the back of the Pailou read as “Repentance is Salvation” (回頭是岸).

24After the descend, we soon reached a large public square and the historical Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple (后角天后廟 ).  Tin Hau was the deity that former fishermen of Tuen Mun prayed for a peaceful return from the sea.

25In the public square, a large bamboo pavilion was erected, probably as a stage and performance theatre for traditional Chinese operas.

26Adjacent to the Tin Hau Temple, there was a relatively new museum housing three enormous ceremonial backdrops.

27We walked southwards along the Tuen Mun River Channel.

28Since 1970s, Tuen Mun new town has been developed into a city with close to half a million of population.

29Boats by the shore at the mouth of Tuen Mun River reminded us that Tuen Mun was once a fishing village.

30In the evening, we walked to the mouth of Tuen Mun River and reached the Butterfly Beach (蝴蝶灣) in the dark.  The Inner River Dock (內河碼頭) where container ships to and from China’s Pearl River would stop for customs.


HONG KONG’S SOUTHERNMOST POINT, Po Toi Island (蒲台島), Hong Kong

While remote Fan Lau (分流) is the westernmost village in Hong Kong, Po Toi Island (蒲台島) is its counterpart at the southernmost point of the territory.  From 2000 inhabitants in the 1950’s down to about 10 today, like many rural communities in the city, Po Toi Island has gone through a rapid decline in population in the modern era.  The remote island with a population of merely 10 would become lively during weekends when a few boat loads of visitors arrive at the dock.  Beautiful granite formations, ancient stone carving, a lone lighthouse, a few simple houses, several fishing boats and nets, and racks of drying seafood and seaweeds, Po Toi Island is a peaceful getaway less than an hour ferry from either Aberdeen (香港仔) or Stanley (赤柱).  A day before Chinese New Year in a fine Sunday morning, we decided to take the 8:15 ferry, the only scheduled departure of the day, from Aberdeen to Po Toi.

DSC_9237There are either one to two ferries on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Aberdeen going to Po Toi Island.  On Sunday, there are more Po Toi bound ferries departing from Stanley.  For us, we opted for Aberdeen because of the unique scenery of its famous typhoon shelter, the home of Aberdeen Floating Village (香港仔水上人家).  There were once over 6000 inhabitants living on the boats in Aberdeen, one of the most significant port in Hong Kong since the 19th century.

DSC_9268Today there are still a number of boat villagers staying, and so as their fleet of fishing boats, seafood stalls, floating restaurants, and the seafood wholesale business, etc.  At 7:30am on a Chinese New Year’s Eve, local residents were busy shopping for seafood from the fishermen at Aberdeen Waterfront Promenade.  On such an important day of the year, their seafood would be sold out in less than an hour.

DSC_9296Decorations for the Chinese New Year could be seen at piers and boats along the promenade.

DSC_9329Under the soft morning sun, colourful boats of all sizes crisscrossed the waterways among the boats parked between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island.  The Ap Lei Chau Island sheltered Aberdeen from the wind and waves of the open sea, making Aberdeen Channel one of the best typhoon shelter in Hong Kong.

DSC_9346Despite most fishermen have moved onto apartments in Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, the scenery of Aberdeen is still dominated the channel and typhoon shelter.

DSC_9397The open waterway in the middle of Aberdeen Channel was like a water highway to us.

DSC_9404Our ferry also passed by one of the famous floating seafood restaurants in Aberdeen.

DSC_9433And we also passed by the Ocean Park, the iconic ocean-themed amusement park and aquarium.

DSC_9435From a distance, we also recognized the beautiful Repulse Bay.

DSC_9453Our ferry finally docked at Po Toi’s pier at Tai Wan (大灣).  There weren’t that many visitors around.  We only shared the island with a handful of tourists and the remaining Po Toi inhabitants.

DSC_9473Po Toi remains as a remote, sleepy and simple fishing village.  From the pier, we walked for a few minutes to reach the main beach in the middle of Tai Wan (大灣).  There was a seafood restaurant called Ming Kee, probably the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9480Dried seafood (fish, squid, and even octopus) were common sights.

DSC_9481There were racks on the main beach Tai Wan (大灣) where villagers dried their fishing nets and other fishing equipment.

DSC_9490Some houses on Po Toi were colourfully painted, presenting a great match to the bright blue sky.

DSC_9518On the other end of Tai Wan (大灣) stood an old Tin Hau Temple, dedicated to the sea goddess of Tin Hau for protecting the fishermen at the sea.

DSC_9506Inside the temple, we saw a number of decorations related to the fishing culture of Po Toi, such as the wooden model of a dragon boat.

DSC_9578Adjacent to the Tin Hau Temple, we followed the metal chain up the granite hill to start our day hike.

DSC_9575On two thirds the way up we could clearly see the magnificent scenery of Tai Wan (大灣) and the public pier below.

DSC_9690Looking south we saw Lighthouse no. 126 and the southern tip of the island.

DSC_9724We leisurely walked down the hill in the direction of the lighthouse.

DSC_9741On our way we passed by some graves facing the sea, quite a scenic resting place for the departed.

DSC_9755Atop another hill we encountered a well known attraction on Po Toi.  Known as the Monk Rock, this rock formation resembled a Buddhist monk when viewed from afar.

DSC_9758A few tents were set up near Lighthouse No. 126.  Po Toi is a popular spot for camping.  Far from the city’s light pollution, those who brave for the night here get a chance to admire and photographing the starry night sky.

DSC_9778We finally reached the No. 126 Lighthouse, a simple white washed structure perched on top of granite rocks, overlooking the southern shore and the vast South China Sea.

DSC_9786Reaching the No. 126 Lighthouse at the southernmost point of Hong Kong overlooking the boundless water in a day of very fine weather was emotional and satisfying.

DSC_9814We then moved on to the real southern tip of the island.  The South China Sea looked surprisingly busy with cargo ships.