ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Outlying Islands

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.

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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.


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).

 

 


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.


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.


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.

DSC_9863Heading back towards the pier, we reached another attraction of Po Toi, the interesting rock formation with large vertical stone strips known as the Buddhist Palm.

DSC_9866More graves appeared as we walked closer to the village.  Like grey boulders, the tombstones looked quite blended in with the overall natural setting.

DSC_9889There are a number of ancient stone carvings in Hong Kong and its outlying islands.  There is a mysterious one on Po Toi, simply known as Po Toi Island Stone Carvings (蒲台島石刻).

DSC_9903Back to the village, we decided to sit down at Ming Kee (明記海鮮酒家), the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9906We just ordered their set lunch with shrimps, squid, small abalone, sweet and sour pork and stir fry vegetables.

DSC_9925After lunch, we wandered along the beach at Tai Wan (大灣).

DSC_9960Po Toi is the most famous spot in Hong Kong for seaweed and kelp.  We could clearly see the seaweed above the water.

DSC_0001There were drying kelp and seaweed allover the tiny village.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few packs.

DSC_0007A dog lying beside the rack as if guarding the drying kelp.

DSC_0018Before leaving the island, we sat down at one of the simple snack shops and ordered the kelp and green bean soup (海帶綠豆沙), a sweet delight full of aroma of seaweed and herbs that every visitor should try a bowl.

 


YI O (二澳) & TAI O (大澳) AT NIGHT, Western Lantau Part 2, Hong Kong

The trail from Fan Lau to Yi O was less well maintained than the path we walked in the morning.  It took us about 40 minutes to walk from Fan Lau Sai Wan (分流西灣) to the farming village of Yi O (二澳).  This was our second visit of Yi O.  A little over two years ago, we came to Yi O and found a beautiful valley where a few farmers trying hard to reintroduce rice farming back to Lantau Island.  Yi O, a farming village with over two hundred years of history and over a thousand villagers in its heyday, became an abandoned village in the 1970s when the last of its inhabitants moved out to the city.  In 2013, a farming cooperative secured a 30-year lease after negotiations with the original four clans of villagers to re-cultivate the land of Yi-O for organic rice paddies.  Since then more lands were cultivated and more helpers were hired each year.  Over 10% of Yi-O’s land had been worked on to develop the farm-to-table business.  In the past, growing rice in a constantly lightly flooded plot in front of village homes was a self-sustainable way of living for Yi-O inhabitants.  Nowadays, the cooperative tried to revive this method, but were still experimenting with more efficient ways to yield more crops.  Under the late afternoon sun, the golden rice paddies revealed a lovely rural dream.  In the era of enormous concerns regarding food safety, the farming experiment of Yi-O might prove crucial for Hong Kong to reduce some degree of reliance on food imports.

DSC_6031Yi O lies in the embrace of lush-green mountains from both sides.

DSC_6036The golden rice paddies looked promising.  Perhaps it was almost harvest time for these fields.  Because of its small output, it isn’t easy to buy a bag of rice from Yi O.  The farming cooperative has a small shop in Tai O to promote their products.

DSC_6045We found our way to the main path in the middle of Yi O, and continued to walk north towards Yi O Bay.

DSC_6049Winding through the village of Yi O, we could still encounter a number of abandoned homes and construction equipment.

DSC_6064The sun was low and so as the tide when we reached Yi O Bay.  The tidal flat is the ideal place for mangrove trees to thrive.

DSC_6073As we left Yi O Bay and headed towards Tai O, a few dogs came the opposite direction towards Yi O.  One by one the dogs walked across the mudflat and disappear into the village of Yi O.

DSC_6075The mudflat of Yi O Bay faces north towards Pearl River Estuary.

DSC_6084Reflection of the western sun and distant mountains and the incoming tidal water on the mudflat of Yi O Bay was quite picturesque.

DSC_6116The sun was fading fast behind the silhouette of mountains adjacent to Yi O.

DSC_6140The flag of Yi O flew high at a nearby concrete pier.

DSC_6173Despite the hazy weather, the sunset over Pearl River Estuary was quite spectacular.

DSC_6188About an hour after we left Yi O, we arrived at the small village of Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘), across the bay from Tai O.

DSC_6194We walked across the Tai O Promenade from Fan Kwai Tong (番鬼塘) to Tai O (大澳).  The tide was coming in as the last twilight faded.

DSC_6205In early evening, the popular Tai O wasn’t as busy as we thought.  Without the tourist groups, it was our first time to experience the charm of Tai O as a tranquil fishing village but not a busy tourist trap with vendors trying to sell you all kinds of souvenirs and snacks.

DSC_6206Without the tourists, we could leisurely admire the beauty of the fishing community.  After a long day of hike, we decided to have dinner in Tai O before returning to the city centre.

DSC_6209As we entered Tai O, vendors selling dried seafood to tourists were about to close their stalls.

DSC_6215We soon reached the iconic suspended bridge of Tai O.  The festive lights from the Chinese New Year were still up.

DSC_6227We crossed the suspended bridge to enter the main part of the fishing village.

DSC_6231Without the noise from tourists, Tai O was quite peaceful.  Many inhabitants were preparing dinner in their stilt houses.

DSC_6233We passed by an interesting shrine dedicated to the deity of the local land.

DSC_6237Tai O Community Centre is the main venue for cultural activities at the fishing village.

DSC_6240We passed by a number of shrimp paste shops and manufacturers, an industry that Tai O has been famous for many generations.  Many of the shops were already closed for the day.

DSC_6251After wandering through Tai O, we ended up at Tai O Heritage Hotel.  The hotel was established in 2009, after extensive renovations were carried out for the historical police station built in 1902.  We dined at the glass roofed restaurant Tai O Lookout in the hotel.  The food was nothing spectacular but the historical setting of the complex and the airy atmosphere of the glassy building offered us a pleasant experience to finish the day.

DSC_6266After dinner, we strolled through the village once again heading for the bus station at the village entrance.

DSC_6282The tide was much higher than an hour or two ago, and so as the moon.

DSC_6296All the stores near the bus station were closed.  We waited for about ten minutes before boarding a Lantau bus for Tung Chung at North Lantau, where we would switch to the MTR, Hong Kong’s super efficient metro system, to return home.