ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Victoria Harbour

HOW WE USED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

2020.12.24.

We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.

We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.

Separately we both had a school term in Rome. In the eternal city, both our studio and apartment were located in the lively neighbourhood of Trastevere.
Rome, December 2002
Wooden decorations for Christmas tree, festive balloons, magic shows, and many others. The Christmas market at Piazza Navona was our first experience of an European Christmas.
Rome, December 2002
I used to go to Vatican for evening walks during my stay in Rome. Vatican was relatively quiet and peaceful throughout much of December. A large Christmas tree was put up at St. Peter’s Square.
Vatican, December 2002
Another big Christmas tree was set up at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.
Rome, December 2002
After graduation, we moved to London in 2007. At Christmas, we made a short trip to the Belgian capital for Christmas break. Like many locals and tourists, we spent the night at the Grand Place for light shows and Christmas countdown.
Brussels, Christmas Eve, 2007
Back in London, the Covent Garden was particularly festive during Christmas. The Apple Market was full of delightful vendor stalls and dining patios.
London, December 2007
Elegant, sparkling, and eye catching. One thing we loved about Christmas in London were the amazing shop windows.
London, England, January 2008
Cinema became a big part of our lives in London. We often went to the BFI and Leicester Square after work. At Leicester Square, a carousel and small fair would be set up during the holiday season.
London, December 2008
We decided to stay in England at our second Christmas in London. We made a short trip to the area of Liverpool and Manchester. During that trip, we were particularly fond of the Christmas lights in Leeds.
Leeds, England, December 2008
In 2009, we returned to Toronto to do our professional licensing. In Toronto, Christmas is always cozy and homey, and so does its lights.
Toronto, December 2010
In 2011, we made a trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong. With two of our friends, we experienced one of the most noisy countdown at the bustling Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap, New Year’s Eve 2011
On our way to New Year’s countdown in Downtown Toronto, we stopped by the atmospheric Distillery District to test out my new DSLR. From then on, film camera has eventually faded out from my travel packing list.
Toronto, New Year’s Eve 2012
Before relocating to Hong Kong, we made our 90-day trip to South America. We spent the entire month of December in Patagonia and made it to Ushuaia (world’s southernmost city) in Argentina. Reaching the “End of the World” definitely deserved an early Christmas dinner at the beautiful Kaupe restaurant.
Ushuaia, December 2013
Ushuaia is the main port going to Antarctica. We didn’t take the chance to do an Antarctica Christmas trip. Perhaps we would regret it, who knows.
Ushuaia, December 2013
For almost a week we based ourselves at Argentina’s El Chalten to do day hikes near Mount Fitz Roy. At Christmas Eve, we did the longest day hike of the week to the glacier lake right below the magnificent mountain.
Mount Fitz Roy, Christmas Eve 2013
We booked the best room at Yellow House Hotel well in advance just to take in the panoramic harbour view of Chile’s Valparaiso, and enjoy the world famous New Year fireworks from the comfort of our room.
Valparaiso, New Year’s Day 2014
Getting off work at 2:30pm on Christmas Eve, talked about a short getaway trip during dinner, bought the plane ticket right away, then packed a small carryon bag and get a bit of sleep before heading off to Hong Kong International Airport at around 2:30am on Christmas Day. At 7 in the morning, we finally arrived in Taiwan. That trip remains as our quickest travel decision so far.
Main Station, Taipei, Christmas Day 2014
Thanks to the convenient public transportation network, we have been to many neighbourhoods across the city of Hong Kong. Because of Cinematheque movie centre, we often find ourselves in Yau Ma Tei, home to a wide spectrum of people from new immigrants to elderly. Christmas Carol in Yau Ma Tei has to be catered for all.
Hong Kong, Christmas Eve 2015
New Year, Chinese New Year, HKSAR Anniversary, and Chinese National Day. There were once numerous firework displays each year over the iconic Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. All shows have been scrapped for 2020.
Hong Kong, New Year’s Eve 2015
Most Hong Kongers love to visit Japan, and so do we. Their fine sense of beauty and comfortable balance between traditions and technologies go beyond just commercialized eye candy for festival decorations and celebrations.
Railway Station, Kyoto, December 2016
Famous for their lighting technologies, Christmas lights in Japan often create a coherent ambience reflecting their pursuit of romantic fantasy for the holiday season.
Kyoto, December 2016
Under the dreamy lights, the sense of community remains strong during Christmas in Japan.
Kyoto, December 2016
We didn’t expect to see Christmas celebrations in Myanmar (Burma), a Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia. Seeing such a large crowd and festive decorations in Yangon was a pleasant surprise.
Yangon, December 2017
Christmas celebration, Southeast Asian style. Street food is definitely a must.
Yangon, December 2017
I took my parents to Shanghai for a short trip. At the Bund, we passed by the historical Peace Hotel and its Christmas tree.
Shanghai, December 2018
After two trips to India, our third journeys to South Asia was a winter getaway to Sri Lanka. The trip was full of history, spices and fine tea. In a Buddhist country, we were surprised to see so many churches in Negombo, a coastal town near Colombo. A heritage since the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, Christmas is celebrated in a number of coastal towns in Sri Lanka.
Negombo, December 2019
After visiting and staying at a number of cities around the world, Hong Kong remains as our top destination to experience the festive energy and Christmas decorations in an urban setting. Political and social unrest in 2019 have taken a toll in the financial hub. Tai Kwun, a cultural and commercial complex at the former colonial police headquarters in Central, remained as the place to go for expats and the younger generation.
Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, December 2019
Due to the pandemic, most Christmas celebrations have been cancelled across the city. Christmas trees have been downsized, and lighting decorations have been scaled down. In Central District of Hong Kong, the high-end commercial complex Landmark Atrium remains as one of the few venues still maintain a relatively large Christmas installation.
Landmark, Hong Kong, December 2020
But perhaps the most representational thing for this year’s festival season is the Christmas face mask. Social distancing with a bit of festive joy, why not?
Hong Kong, December 2020

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.