Tuesday 29 October 2013

Hong Kong visit, October 2013, Tuesday (last day)

Today was the day for visiting the Housing Society, Mum's old employer, where she was a senior manager from 1957 to 1962 (when she had me, and as the habit was in those days, stopped work) and many of whose managers she then taught at the HKU extra-mural department from 1969-1974. S had got hold of Peter Kuk, the communications director, and Wong Lai Chung, a former chief executive who retired in 2008. Wong Lai Chung (she preferred to be called LC) had arranged our day, meeting us at the hotel at 1025am, with a very plush black minivan, driven by a young man with an amazing haircut. We were taken to the far western end of HK, to Kwai Lung Lau estate, which had been designed by our friend Michael Payne and built in 1967.

It was a 5 block estate housing 20,000 people in 5,000 units (approx), until 1998, when a landslide came though the middle of the estate and killed three people. The estate was then redesigned, taking out the middle block, and building two new 40 storey blocks out the front (the original ones are 20 storeys).

This is the old estate blocks, showing the hillside where the landslide came down, and the gap created when they tore down the block it had damaged. Note that the buildings are coloured. When built and in our youth they were all "fair faced concrete" which meant uncoloured and naked grey, supposed to be the perfect building material (and still defended as such by Michael Payne).

This shows where they cut the building in half, so you can still see the floors and where the corridors would have been.

The dragon mural, created in 1967 by Merilyn Payne (Lung means dragon, so it's part of the name of the estate, I didn't understand the rest of the name, something to do with view of the sea).

View inside one of the 'units' (=flat) in one of the new blocks, where the allowance is six square metres per person, meaning two people to this one room flat. The ones in the old building were a similar size, though with more facilities. When originally built they were for four adults, or two plus four children.

Kitchen area in the new block.

Roof garden in an old block. There was also a community hall on the roof, where Amy, (back to us in this picture) gave us a very informative PowerPoint presentation about the estate. The impression was of a very socially thoughtful and well managed place.

We were then taken to lunch at the Housing Society's offices in Causeway Bay, hosted by Peter Kuk, and where we were joined by four more people who had known Mum, either working with her in the late fifties/early sixties, or having been taught by her. The meal was excellent, and the conversation very interesting. We were impressed and touched by the effort they had put in, especially as tomorrow they are running or attending a seminar for the 65th anniversary of the Society.

After this lunch we were returned to the hotel, where we flaked out for the afternoon, before heading our for our final evening, aiming for the Temple Street market on Kowloon side. We got distracted on the way by eating at the YMCA, then by the famous Hong Kong Harbour sound and light show, which we viewed from the sea front in front of the HK Cultural centre.

It was fun standing in the warm dark watching the boats and lights opposite, but the sound and light show itself (lasers from the tops of some of the buildings and some plinkety plunk music) was pretty medium.
Then Temple Street night market, and back to the hotel for the last time!

Monday 28 October 2013

Hong Kong visit, October 2013, Monday

A less busy day today, though it started with quite a big thing, going to Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay). This was my favourite beach as a child, and quite remote to get to by road, so we didn't go often. As the name implies, there were always big waves, so it was exciting. And I realised that as we're staying in Quarry Bay, at the eastern end of the HK-side of the harbour, we might be quite close going that way round the island. We are, as google maps reveal. There is still no road over the island at the eastern end, but there is a path straight over the ridge 1500 feet??, (seems unlikely but it was certainly a long way and very steep!).

Anyway, I took the MTR all the way to the end at Chai Wan, then found my way through the estates to the massive cemetery that takes up most of the steep hillside here, and sure enough, the path leads straight through  and up up into the forest, over the ridge, and down the other side. From the ridge I could (1) hear the surf, and (2) Big Wave Bay was signposted. Hooray!

The beach was the same, with big climbable rocks either side, and a good continuous roar of surf. Changed were the surfers! (none of them in the 70's) and that there is now a village with a few shops behind the beach. Only my phone to take photos, as I had gone wearing what I could swim in:

I left a bit of a damp patch on the seat in the MTR on the way back, but was out of sight before feeling any embarrassment: I doubt the idea of swimming would have occurred to my fellow passengers.

Then on to the main planned thing for the day, S's arranged visit back to the LRC (Ladies' Recreation Club), kindly facilitated by a young woman in the club management. It has many more facilities than it used to, but the main pool was exactly the same

and the surroundings being jungly:

Then a visit to St John's cathedral, 

 where Joyce and Michael were married, one of the wedding photos and also our christening photos taking place here:

We then crossed Garden Road to the Peak Tram, and after a little debate decided to visit Peak 
school again, as when we went on Saturday it was dark. What a good idea that was (and well done S for being persistent and bothering to ask)! She went in just as the children were coming out at the end of the day, and asked at the office if we could look round. The office manager was entirely welcoming showed us a series of old ledgers that we found our names in, and then allowed us free reign to explore!
The playground has a rain cover and a softer floor:

The classrooms are considerably modernised (interactive white boards, air con instead of fans) but entirely recognisable

(they always were very bright)

The playing field is now all AstroTurf,but the stairs, hall, toilets etc etc seemed pretty much the same.

And finally S and J went for a walk round Harlech/Lugard Road, with its amazing views and jungle canopy effect

Though you can't tell from this picture, the same tree (a rubber tree) is all the roots/trunks on both sides of the road here.

Hong Kong Visit October 2013, Sunday

No run this morning, just a rather longer swim in the hotel pool. Once again I was the only one in it, and I find it a very good way to start the day.

Planning over breakfast (in Starbucks again, we tried Maxims next door, but no WiFi), lead to a decision for a day out on Lantau.
What a day! The rest can be told mainly in pictures.
We took the MTR to Dung Chung (30 mins, the city that used to be a tile roofed village of maybe 20 long houses) from where the cable car takes the easy way over the mighty slopes of west Lantau.

This is the view whilst queuing for the cable car.

We quickly leave Dung Chung and climb

and climb

and climb

until eventually we start to see our destination: Bo Lin Buddhist monastery at Ngong Ping.

The peak behind it is Lantau (lan=broken, tau = head, but the rather nicer name is Fung Wong Shan, firebird mountain, with one of the twin peaks being the male firebird (fung) and the other being the female (wong)). It is just over 3,000 feet. I have tried to find out the elevation of the monastery and can't, I'm guessing 1,800. 
The monastery expanded massively with the construction of the big bronze Buddha in the 1990s when it was the biggest in the world. 

In the middle of all the tourist glitz and consumerism the temple seems pretty real.

And then we caught the bus down to Tai O, the most western village on Lantau. It seems to be genuinely a fishing village still,

though catering for tourists too. As soon as we arrived we were invited on a boat ride to see the famous Pearl River pink dolphins, which was fun, though no dolphins, and they also took us up the "main street" of Tai O.

We wandered around the market (mainly dried fish) and took in the very beautiful evening. 

There is even a little bit of mangrove, that habitat beloved of geography lessons, which was so plentiful when we were children here, and now is apparently endangered.

The mighty mountain looms over all, and explains why Tai O is still so isolated: it's quite difficult to get to!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Visit HK October 2013, Saturday

What a day!

After speaking to E on Skype I went for another run in the Eastern District Country Park, further round the slope of Mount Parker, deep into the peaceful high valley above Quarry Bay. I think the path, which went along a contour, was at about 1,000 feet elevation, so quite a hike to get up, and then narrow and twisting under trees the whole way round, crossing lots of rocky ravines, each with a "Beware of flash floods" sign! Only the deepest of these had any water flowing so it must have been dry for months already.  (photo to follow, it's on my phone) The only sound was the warbling and fluting (no prolonged song) of tropical birds, and the water in the main stream at the bottom of the valley. Bit hard on the knees coming down!
Off to Starbucks for breakfast again, this time Spearmint Green tea not milky green tea! We decided to go to Cheung Chau for the day, and what a good decision!
Getting to the island piers on the MTR took only thirty minutes, we got a "fast ferry" ie a sea cat. I noticed the ferries are run by the near ubiquitous First group.

Cheung Chau harbour is very busy with boats of all sorts (pic).

We explored the narrow lanes (no cars)

for a while before coming back to the harbour front for lunch, finding somewhere perfect from the people and boat watching point of view.

See also my food!

That is of course fried egg noodle soup. With pak choi, though that wasn't mentioned in the menu.
And then in the afternoon we went swimming in the sea

Not quite as warm as the Indian Ocean, but very pleasant, and much warmer than the hotel pool.
The most spectacular bit was coming back (deliberately on the slow ferry, $12=£1!) so that we could get a good view of the harbour light show. Completely stunning, so beautiful it was quite moving. The 120 storey building on Kowloon side that shows moving pictures and words up its side was displaying "Hopeful Autumn" with a maple leaf at the top.

The best bit was the ordinary residential skyscrapers along HK side as you come close, moving in and out of each other, with the dark Peak behind,

and with the super-massive brightly lit and coloured buildings of Central coming up, 

especially the improbably tall International Finance Building, which seems to be the home of the HK financial authority, right by the ferry piers.

And back to our hotel on the MTR again, with Quarry Bay station feeling quite like home.

Friday 25 October 2013

Day 2 HK Trip 2013 - Parker

I started the day by speaking to E on Skype subscriber, from my iPad to her phone.
Almost from the beginning of the conversation the sound quality was excellent, 'like a normal phone conversation.' As we spoke my view through the hotel window of the eastern harbour brightened and ships and ferries passed. From time to time, briefly, the buildings on Kowloon-side developed a golden shade to their eastern faces which told me the sun must be looking through a gap in the clouds.

Then up and out for a run! I had noticed a few people on the street below jogging past, so I knew it wouldn't be that strange. I had in mind trying to find the bottom end of the track A and I walked four years ago that went over Jardine's lookout. King's Road and its pavements we're relatively uncrowded as I went along for a couple of streets, then off up the hill. Almost immediately (and of course this doesn't show on a map, google or otherwise) it was very steep! Of course, but I was still a bit taken aback. Past a primary and a secondary school with lots of children streaming or dreaming in, then up the beginning of the "Eastern district jogging trail" which was a long flight of steps! Worth persisting with, because at the top of the slope was a long and winding path round the side of Jardine's lookout heading towards Mount Parker.

Then back to the hotel for a swim (their pictures including of the pool are good). The notice outside the pool said Air Temperature 29 degrees, water temperature 29 degrees, which told me the pool isn't heated, so as the air temperature was probably only about 25 degrees the pool was chilly. But fine for fifteen minutes pounding up and down. No-one else using it.

Back to my room, where I started reading Daniel Siegel's book "Mindsight": so far so very  good! Good FT homework to take on holiday, thank you Jeremy! When S and L got up (I phoned them at 10 as planned)  we decided we were so hungry and starting the day relatively late that we breakfasted at Starbucks opposite. Amongst the UK conventional Starbucks offerings were Green Tea Latte (BRIGHT green and too sweet) and almond and red bean scone (fine, not exciting).
The main expedition of the day! Off into central on the tram again (tram pictures) to catch the number 15 bus up to Mount Nicholson. From where the bus starts climbing the hill after the Happy Valley stadium it starts to look familiar, and sure enough the Mount Nick stop was where it should be, and the walk up the drive all the same...

All gone.

Very disappointing.

However we continued our day, going back on the no.15 up to Wanchai Gap to walk back a mile along Black's Link to see if there was a decent view down onto Mt Mick from above (there wasn't), and finally back on the bus all the way up to the Peak. 

Back in a taxi (we were hungry and there was a LOOONG queue for the Peak Tram) to the Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant, where they welcomed us back with a window table, and a complementary pudding dish of...not sure. Something vegetably perhaps from the gourd family, braised in a sweet ginger soup. Interesting, and probably basically nice. J's choice for the evening was vegetable shrimp with lava in crispy roll.

And so back to the hotel to plan for tomorrow.

Thursday 24 October 2013

First day of the October 2013 Hong Kong trip

A brief record, mainly in pictures (taken with E's old camera) of J's trip to HK, in the company of sister S and niece L.

The first day was rather an extended one, starting in Winscombe, with my (intentionally retro, not that's not correct, because it is ACTUALLY old, not as-if old) luggage in the conservatory waiting for the off. We went from Bristo airport via Schiphol to Hong kong, leaving Bristol at 520pm, arriving at Shep Lap Kok at 330 the next day, which was 15 hours later.

(view from the hotel window)

And then explored, went out for a meal at the Three Virtues Buddhist Vegetarian  restaurant just along King's Road in Quarry Bay from our hotel, and from there in a tram along to Central to look a the big buildings and the Star ferry. Back to the hotel where it is now 1130pm.

(peach and lily bulb dish)
(Lots of people crossing the road from the top of the tram)
(The Star Ferry at night.)