Late lunch on the beach on Lantau Island

Leaving Tai O I get back on the bus & drop down across the island. On the other side I get off & wander down a track to an empty beach with a marvellous Art Deco life savers’ station. Its golden sands are absolutely empty. I share the shade with a handful of lazing dogs. I have a choice of three restaurants. I choose the Thai & opt for the curried prawns. Wonderful.

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Back to the bus stop & on my return journey to Kennedy Town on Hong Kong Island. This leg I go by the plodding ferry to Pier 5 & then take a taxi home.

This whole day just emphasises the many different sides of this fascinating place – deserted beaches alongside towering forested peaks, spiritual calmness beside historic fishing villages beside modern building projects, highrisers & bridges. Cable cars, fishing vessels, ultra modern transport systems mixed in with carts, buggies & human backs. I love it

Oh yes. Happy new year everyone. I hope it’s a good one for all of you.

 

 

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No 21 bus to Tai O fishing village

Back through Buddhaland to the bus terminal & the number 21 to Tai O – a working village where families live in stilt houses & fish the waters around the shore & up the estuaries.

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In amongst the narrow streets & walkways & bridges a living is made. Wafer thin dried fish are sold from every second shop & on every street corner. Waffles are the main fast food & the favourite of school kids, tourists & locals alike. The old men gather in smokey rooms to play chequers, mahjong & a game using hundreds of thin cards with unrecognisable Chinese characters printed on.

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Squeezed in amongst the houses are small cafes & bars, little shops & crowded restaurants serving, you guessed it – fish in one form or another. Little temples & small squares provide spaces for worship or contemplation.

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I take a short trip on the water to explore the shallow estuary & then out beyond the harbour wall. No sign of the pink dolphins, sadly. Amazingly, the fisherman points out in the distance the snaking limbs of a bridge under construction. This will connect Hong Kong to Macau, a pimple on the chin of main land China, originally settled by Portuguese traders in the late 1500s and which is over 40 miles away across open ocean – a truely amazing feat of construction.

Po Lin Monastery

Big Buddha is guarded by the monks who live in Po Lin Monastery just yards from the bottom of the steps that lead up to the big man himself. The monastery attracts families & priests to its grounds & temple high up in the hills of Landau Island. Offerings & incense are made throughout this peaceful enclave where people wander & find peace with the spirituality around them.

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Up close the temple is glorious. Mosaics & richly coloured tiles cascade over & down roof lines, hiding  exquisitely sculptured birds & animals  amongst their lines & outlines.

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You can buy a ticket to eat with the monks if you wish.

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Yes, this is as much part of Hong Kong as is Kennedy Town or Central or Kowloon. Hard to believe that such spiritual calmness can be found next door to all that crowdiness activity & that peaks & mountains & forests & islands are as much part of the place as are the highrisers.

 

 

Big Buddha beckons

Today it is bus to the MTR & a rapid journey under the sea to Landau Island. We could have travelled by ferry or over the long bridge that spans the harbour to the island which lies to the south west of Hong Kong Island. At Tung Chung it’s off the tube & onto the cable car up & over the mountain to Ngong Ping where Big Buddha awaits.

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At the cable car terminal a Disney Buddha Park of tacky Buddha gifts, T shirts, hats & Starbucks & fast food outlets channels visitors to the bottom of the 250 or so steps that lead up to the great man.

As I climb & leave the material tackiness below, I can feel my spirit rise with every step I take until I am exposed to the heavens as it flies to another plane.

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Others worship by placing coins on the figures, chanting together as they process around the base platform at his feet, kneel in private meditation, bring bouquets to leave as offerings or light joss sticks to surround him with wonderful aromas.

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Then it’s down the steps & over to the monastery next door. Next time.

 

The Bird Market in Yuen Po Street Gardens

Just around the corner from the flower shops I climb some steps to the tranquility of the Bird Market. Here enthusiasts, all men, bring their singing birds to show off to each other & anyone passing. Captured in beautiful lacquered cages these minute bejewelled creatures sing out to the world under the gaze of their proud owners.

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Some come to buy a new addition to their choral menagerie. So many factors need to be taken into account that any decision seems to take an age.

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Some are here to buy cages or perches or cage hoods or feed – large plastic bags which hold egg cartons & hundreds of large juicy crickets.

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My favourite place so far.

A merry Hong Kong Christmas

Am breaking off from the events of the blog to share some Yuletide images from Hong Kong. I hope you all have a wonderful festive day with whoever you are with. Thank you for following me & I look forward to sharing more of my travels with you in 2015.

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Flower shops on Flowermarket Street

It’s just what it says on the map – a block of 3/4 streets that house, side by side, flower shops of every size, type & description. Shops overflow with crates & pots, with cut flowers & potted plants. The clusters of pink & red & white roses compete with the tall elegance of purple orchids & 20141216071638_IMG_6888 20141216071819_IMG_6895 20141216071054_IMG_6870 20141216071333_IMG_6880 20141216071854_IMG_6897 20141216072254_IMG_6906

with a thousand bright red poinsettia ready for Christmas displayed within & outside a fair number. Some offer bouquets already assembled & displayed whilst others house sellers cutting & arranging floral tributes for every occasion. Each shop specialises not only in the type of plant but in a certain colour of the spectrum & artists’ palette.

The customers search through the hundreds of seemingly similar plants or bunches or bouquets to find that one perfect bloom or arrangement for that special person or that special place in their home or that special festival or occasion. Their faces reflect the concentration they bring to their quest.

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