Leaving Hong Kong

Some final images of Hong Kong – a place that mixes & celebrates its British trading roots with its historic Chinese character. A place where modern business & banking & commerce look over the street life from their lofty abodes. The buses have advertising on their rooves as the whole world looks down from their apartment blocks. Eagles & kites soar through the highrisers playing the thermals between floors, balconies & windows. Views of the harbour show the wakes of countless vessels with their own specialist trade. In amongst it the locals carry on unaware of the thousands of eyes that might be watching20141218053700_IMG_7620 20141218053510_IMG_7612 20141218044854_IMG_7544 20141218032642_IMG_7494 20141218041138_IMG_7517 20141215075440_IMG_6327 20141217061641_IMG_7430 20141215102030_IMG_6458 20141217055228_IMG_7368 20141216075922_IMG_7024 20141217033627_IMG_7156 20141216075139_IMG_7011 20141216053631_IMG_6762 20141215052851_IMG_6193 20141218115503_IMG_7723.

80% of Hong Kong is forested & wild. Beautiful empty beaches can be found on a bus route within 30 minutes of the centre. Monasteries & temples share the spiritual space of these wild areas. The surrounding seas are fished in the traditional way & working families have to graft to make a living. I have so enjoyed my short time here & seen so much.

Now I must move on to warmer climes. Vietnam & Thailand beckon. Till the next time.

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Stanley for my last dinner

From pier 5 I get a taxi & head over to the south of Hong Kong Island and to Stanley. The dual carriageway goes straight under the central mountains before curving around the coast through the well heeled districts of Discovery Bay. This is where the big shiney cars are. The expats, the rich & famous, the businessmen & the bankers live here. At the end of the road is Stanley.

Stanley feels like an oriental Bournemouth with a wide esplanade to wander along, a harbour to gaze at, lights to set the mood & a Pizza Hut to dine at.

 

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This very English feeling place still has some contrasting images.20141218090946_IMG_7682 20141218090343_IMG_7679 20141218092308_IMG_7696 20141218091122_IMG_7688 20141218095616_IMG_7707

 

 

The high speed ferry to Cheung Chau Isuland

This morning I take the high speed ferry to Cheung Chau Island, a small island off the western shore. The ferry gently eases back into the harbour, sets its sights around the west edge of Hong Kong Island, growls to the world & attacks the waves. Up it goes on its triplanes, tonnes of vessel leaning as it charges through the harbour traffic like a motor cyclist on the Isle of Man moto GP course.

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The harbour is a mess of fishing vessels of all shapes & sizes from large trawlers to small squid boats to junks to coracles to palettes, yes wooden palettes to go between shore & ship. A real working fishing island. The quayside is noisey & crowded with locals, school children, fishermen & sellers. The best purchase is the fresh custard tarts – absolutely gobsmackingly gorgeous.

The busy working shore is a facade to a maze of small narrow streets where normal life takes place on a micro scale. Streets are a few metres across so any deliveries are by cart, builders’ vehicles & rubbish cards are on a mini scale as is the local ambulance – just like micro cart city.

 

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.

 

 

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.