Monday, December 31, 2012

Hong Kong movies now showing and coming soon

Back to the future?  New movies starring Jackie Chan 
and Chow Yun Fat playing in Hong Kong cinemas

Consider this cinematic line-up: a movie starring and directed by Jackie Chan; an offering directed by Wong Jing and starring Chow Yun Fat; a work directed by Andrew Lau -- and produced by Peter Chan Ho Sun -- with a cast that includes Shawn Yue and Jimmy Wang Yu; and a film directed by Wong Kar Wai and starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

With the exception of the Andrew Lau-Peter Chan Ho Sun-Shawn Yue-Jimmy Wang Yu collaboration, it'd sound like I was announcing a line-up of 1990s Hong Kong movies.  But, in fact, I'm actually referring to two films that have opened in the past few weeks and another two that are due to open in the next fortnight -- more specifically, CZ12, The Last Tycoon, The Guillotines and The Grandmaster.

At the time of writing, I've viewed three out of these four films -- with only Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster thus far proving elusive.  (It's due to open in Hong Kong on January 10th but even now I'm not sure that it won't end up having its world premiere in Berlin instead!)

My favorite of the three is The Guillotines -- but judging from the largely negative reviews it has received (including from Stefan S. over at A Nutshell Review), it would seem that I'm in a minority for liking it -- and as much as I do.  For those who have yet to view it but still are planning to: I think it would help if you were to go into the movie expecting less of a straightforward period actioner in which the weapons known as flying guillotines prominently feature and, instead, a film that has more drama than action (in the vein of the Peter Chan produced Bodyguards and Assassins) and a dark take on brotherhood (in the vein of Peter Chan's The Warlords).  And if you are a fan of both those movies that Peter Chan has been involved in making.

With regards to The Last Tycoon: I don't expect it to win many critical accolades but I don't think the people who made it are expecting any.  At the same time, I'd wager that they also are pretty confident that they've made a movie that will please fans of Chow Yun Fat -- and that there (still) are enough for this film to make a tidy sum at box offices in Hong Kong and those other parts of the world where there remain ample numbers of people who love watching Chow Yun Fat doing the kind of things that made them consider him the coolest man on Earth.

And then there's CZ12. To put it mildly, I was not impressed by the trailer I saw for it -- and I initially wasn't planning to view the work, being content instead to scratch my Jackie Chan movie itch by re-watching Police Story III: Supercop for the first time in years just a few days ago. But upon reading that CZ12 had beaten out The Hobbit at the Mainland box office but also topped Hong Kong's Christmas box office chart, and topped The Hobbit as well as broken Chinese film weekly box office records in Malaysia and Singapore, curiosity got the better of me -- and I went and checked out the movie earlier this evening.

My verdict: it's actually not half bad and pretty entertaining!  To be sure, there are some preachy pro-China moments but, to be fair, Jackie Chan movies have featured messages about Chinese treasures belonging to the Chinese for some years now -- with exhibit A being Drunken Master II, the 1994 offering that some people (including myself) consider to have been Jackie's last great film.  Also, the film actually is considerably more fun and funny than its trailer made me think that it would be. 

And while I understand some people being angry enough about his latest controversial comments about Hong Kong and free speech to call for boycotts of CZ12, I also want to support the Hong Kong movie industry that, more than incidentally, appears on intent showing this holiday season that it still has its stars and some fight in it after all.  (And yes, some might consider it stretching a bit to call CZ12 a Hong Kong film but, at the end of the day, it still does have some Hong Kong movie elements in it -- including a certain Hong Kong-born man called Jackie Chan!)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cool critter spottings along Stage 4 of the Wilson Trail

Scenic views of land, sea and sky abounded 
on the hike I went on earlier today

Closer to the ground, I spotted this small grasshopper
clinging on to a blade of high grass

Also out and about this afternoon was this skink
whose tiny legs are not as easy to spot as the rest of it! ;b

When I checked the weather forecast for today this morning, I saw that the cold weather warning was in effect along with a strong monsoon signal.  But no rain was predicted -- and it looked like the ground had (mostly) dried after yesterday's rain.  So my hiking buddy and I happily went ahead with our planned hike for this afternoon -- one that took us along Stage 4 of the Wilson Trail.

Stage 4 of the Wilson Trail involves a fairly lengthy climb up 533 meter high Tung Yeung Shan (Hong Kong's 39th highest peak) to Tate's Pass (AKA Tai Lo Au) and 544 meter high Tung Shan (Hong Kong's 34th highest peak) nearby that feels satisfying to complete and also worth it for the scenic views to be had along the way and after that westwards to Sha Tin Pass.  The earlier part of the trail isn't replete with vistas but still is pretty interesting since it passes through a village, former farming areas and woodland -- and an uncompleted white building with stained glass, construction on which looks to have been halted for some reason or other. 

Adding to the visual interest this afternoon were two creatures that I was surprised to see moving around since I thought that the cold weather would have sent them into hibernation or hiding with the rest of their cold blooded ilk.  (One of my reasons for loving hiking in cooler weather is because there's much less chance of coming across snakes even while I do miss seeing such as butterflies since they tend to become inactive when temperatures drop below 22 degrees Celsius.)

I have to admit to feeling a sense of achievement in having managed to spot the brown grasshopper and skink -- especially since my hiking buddy wasn't able to do so even after I tried to point them out to him.  To be sure, they were on the small side and fairly well camouflaged.  It's also amazing how still they can become after they realize that they might have attracted one's attention.  In any case, I trust that they can be pretty clearly seen in the photos of them at the top of this blog entry -- and that they will get people marveling at how cool nature can be. :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

End and Gathering (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

As the end of the year draws near, thoughts often turn to one's mortality but also as to what lies ahead in the coming year. Alternatively put, the kind of thoughts that are so well expressed in the poem by Robert Herrick whose opening line many of us were introduced to by Mr. Keating, the inspirational English teacher essayed by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.  (No, not "Carpe diem, seize the day" -- but the similar in message "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may...")

A few weeks ago when a couple of friends (including the blogger behind The Fragrant Harbour) and I went to check out Takashi Murakami's Flowers and Skulls exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, I also got to thinking of Herrick's poem.  I'm not sure if Murakami's familiar with and even inspired by the 17th century Englishman's writings.  But check out the following lines (especially the ones that make up the first stanza) and then consider Murakami's decision to paint flowers and skulls -- sometimes together in the same work:-
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.
On a more prosaic note: if you like the images at the top of this entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts, be sure to check out the Gagosian Gallery's image page for the show (that runs through to February 9, 2013 here in Hong Kong). And yes, I do wish I had better shots from my gallery visit but, as I mentioned on the comments thread for The Fragrant Harbour's entry about the Murakami exhibition and more, I was rather unnerved by the men in black (suits) gathering around in the gallery presumably to make sure that the art on display didn't get stolen or vandalized (but who turned out to be okay with photo-taking)! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tasty tofu dishes

Tofu served with pork floss and century egg

Tofu sprinkled with shrimp roe and served with Yunnan ham 
and abalone sauce, and a green vegetable on the side

At dinner tonight, my uber foodie friend was asked by another friend about sharks fin.  She, who has eaten it, explained that it actually has no special taste.  Rather, people eat it for its texture and ability to absorb other tastes -- and for its prestige.  The issue of prestige aside, the same could be said for the much more humble tofu -- a type of food that's got bad press in much of the West but is the main ingredient of many a savory and sweet dish in Asia.

Years ago when I worked for bc magazine, I wrote an article on tofu that turned out out to be the most popular of the many pieces I wrote for that fortnightly magazine -- more read, searched and commented upon even than my feature article on Hello Kitty in Hong Kong.  In it, I wrote about a few of my favorite places for tofu in Hong Kong.  But since that article came out, I've discovered still other favorite tofu places -- and, also, that a couple of the restaurants that I like to go to for dim sum have pretty tasty tofu dishes on offer.

I was introduced to one of these, Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (particularly its Wan Chai branch), by the same uber foodie friend who was in my dinner party earlier this evening.  And she it was who ordered the tofu dish there that comes with pork floss and century egg -- with the idea being that you combine these three disparate elements into a single mouthful.

The combination may seem weird but it actually works.  But if truth be told, I prefer the really delicious combination offered up at dim sum at Tsui Hang Village of helpings of smooth tofu sprinkled with shrimp roe, Yunnan ham and abalone sauce with some stalks of green vegetable on the side.

And should there be any doubt: many an Asian tofu dish is not entirely vegetarian.  Instead, it often is the case that tofu is combined with a meat -- with the famous as well as traditional mapo doufu being a prime example!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Along Hong Kong Trail Stage 8 and more (Photo-essay)

Before anything else: hope everyone -- whether you live in a part of a world where Christmas Day is a public holiday or not -- have had good days.  Although it's been 15 years since the British handed Hong Kong back to the Chinese, Christmas Day remains a public holiday in the Fragrant Harbour.  And as has become a tradition of sorts for me, I went out hiking today.

But rather than put up pictures of that hike today, I'm opting to offer up photos from a hike I went on one windy as well as cloudy September day last year -- one that took me along the Dragon's Back and the rest of Hong Kong Trail Stage 8 up until Pottinger Gap, where my hiking buddy and I opted to follow the Pottinger Peak Country Trail until a turn off that brought us down to Big Wave Bay via a path that ends close to a prehistoric rock carving in the area.

Alternatively put, the hike we went on that day covered some ground that I had not previously been on as well as trails that I had been on before.  And yes, I do consider a sign of my growing confidence and familiarity with Hong Kong's hiking trails that I now feel able to cobble together a hike route from different official trails. :)

  As this view from early on the hike shows, it was cloudy
but visibility was not too bad at all that day
 Of course I had to take a photo of yet another
trigonometrical station that encountered on a hike! ;b

 The view from the top of the ridge takes in Shek O 

 View from the Dragon's Back of Big Wave Bay
and the section of trail that we ended our hike on

Yes, there are indeed parts of Hong Kong Trail Stage 8
which are not up on the ridge

Spot the grasshopper? :)

A more close-up view of the path that could be seen
three photos above this one

A big sign warning of big waves was a sign
that we had made it to hike's end at Big Wave Bay :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tin Hau's Tai Miu in Joss House Bay

is pleasantly quiet and peaceful most days

The well maintained temple appears to have more
than one figure of Tin Hau that it gives pride of place to

So many figures are there that some -- like this pair --
have been put in the wing rather than main hall

Earlier today, a friend and I hiked the High Junk Peak Country Trail -- he for the first time, and I for the second.  As on my first time, we added a visit to the Joss House Bay and the Tin Hau temple there that is the oldest and largest in Hong Kong.

Built in 1266, it has been extensively renovated -- so if truth be told, it really doesn't look all that old and all.  Indeed, the first time I visited it some years back, there was scaffolding pretty much all around and obscuring it -- so I ended up not bothering to put up any photos of the temple until after my second visit to it.  At the same time, I wasn't so put off that when I had the opportunity to visit the temple once more on Tin Hau's Birthday in 2010, I actually took a day off from work in order to do so.

As with the Lin Fa Kung Temple in Tai Hang though, it was only on this most recent visit that I discovered that the Chinese Temples Committee had relaxed its stance towards photography and now allows photography inside the temples it administers so long as photographers don't use a flash or tripod.  Put another way: I finally was able today to take photos of the impressive interior of the temple alternatively known as Tai Miu (i.e., Great Temple in Cantonese)!

Given its out of the way location, I'm sure that that the temple and Joss House Bay in general gets few casual visitors besides hikers and amateur anglers (quite a few of whom appear to favor the pier in front of the temple as a fishing spot).  At the same time, as was witnessed when we visited today, there are devotees to Tin Hau who do make the effort to go out to this particular location to pray to the Goddess of the Sea on "regular" days as well as on her birthday.  Considering that there are some 70 temples dedicated to Tin Hau in Hong Kong alone, I find that pretty impressive and interesting.  

Incidentally, when looking at the list of temples on Wikipedia, I'm surprised to see how many of the temples I've been inside!  More specifically, I've come to realize that I've been to Tin Hau temples in the Tin Hau area east of Causeway Bay, Shau Kei Wan, Cheung Chau (two, in fact), Pui O and Tai O (on Lantau), Sok Kwu Wan (on Lamma), Peng Chau, Po Toi, Lei Yue Mun, Lung Yeuk Tau, Sai Kung town, Aberdeen, Stanley, Shek O, Tap Mun, Tung Ping Chau and Yau Ma Tei's Temple Street -- and yes, many of them I've come across thanks to my hiking as much as I've done in the territory! ;b

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kindness and Looking In (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

At lunch one day some months back, a colleague told the story of his being asked which part of Hong Kong he was from while dining at a Chinese restaurant in London's Chinatown. Turns out that the waiter had immigrated to London from Hong Kong some decades ago.  More precisely, he had been one of thousands of individuals who had left their villages in the New Territories in the 1960s and 1970s in search of fortune and a better as well as different life.

From the conversation they had, my colleague surmised that the waiter had never returned even once to Hong Kong since he left it.  Consequently, there was so much about the new Hong Kong that the older man didn't know about -- including the area where my colleague now lived, since it is built on reclaimed land and didn't exist at the time that the older man had waved goodbye to the Fragrant Harbour.

Hearing the tale got me thinking that the fact of many former New Territories villagers having moved far away to London -- rather than just to another part of Hong Kong -- may help explain how it was that they had elected to leave so much of their home furnishings and personal effects behind when making their move.  Put another way: it makes what one sees when looking into still largely physically intact dwellings in abandoned villages such as Kau Tam Tso less mysterious and puzzling.

At the same time, the idea that many of these former residents have not returned in decades, not just mere years, also got me thinking about the kindness of strangers here in the Big Lychee -- or, at least, their law-abiding nature.  For I don't see much signs of theft of people's belongings -- quite the contrary in fact, since so much remains in those long abandoned premises that those of us who come upon then when out hiking in the Hong Kong countryside often still can get a pretty good picture of how those people lived.  

(Indeed, through such as photos -- many of them still framed and hanging on the walls (as can be seen in one of the photos in this week's entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts) -- we even can get a pretty good idea of what the former residents of those homes and their family members looked like before they moved away!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Birdwatching in the vicinity of Kwun Tong Pier

spotted hanging out near Kwun Tong Pier

Is this some kind of egret that I see in front of me?

I could be wrong but I think the bird in this picture
 is a representative of another species of heron

When many people (particularly in Asia) think of Hong Kong, they think of a concrete jungle.  So it can come as a shock to them to find that about three quarters of the Big Lychee is actually countryside rather than urban.  Even more surprising is the idea and fact that nature's representatives can be known to "intrude" into high density urban areas.  But this really does happen -- and I don't just mean weeds growing out of cracks of cement sidewalks and such as flies, cockroaches and geckos invading people's homes.

Rather, I mean such as butterflies and dragonflies straying and ending up flying into shopping malls, public buses and such. Or even bigger creatures like wild boars and feral cows finding their way into obviously urban parts of Hong Kong.  And various migratory birds deciding to make their homes on sections of land bordering Victoria Harbour, including in the areas close to Kwun Tong Pier.

When my mother was in town recently, she and I happily whiled away one afternoon doing such as taking the  ferry from North Point to Kwun Tong and another from Kwun Tong to Sai Wan Ho. While waiting at Kwun Tong Pier for our ride, I got some amusement out of taking photos of some of the birds that were hanging out there.

My mother fixated on the bird shit on the ground and remarked that they would appear in the photos with the birds themselves.  While not aesthetically ideal, I have to admit to thinking that all that shit's good evidence for there being many birds in the area -- so it's not too terrible a thing for it to also be in the images!

Even more pertinently as far as I was concerned was how interesting looking were the birds hanging out in the vicinity of Kwun Tong Pier.  And for the record: since these herons and egrets appear to be migratory creatures, it's not like one gets to see them all the time there.  So as far as I'm concerned, their presence really is worth capturing on camera! :b

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sights on a hike from Shek Pik Reservoir to Shui Hau (Photo-essay)

A few years back, a friend and I hiked Section 9 of the Lantau Trail in reverse: i.e., we went from Shui Hau to Shek Pik Reservoir rather than the other way around.  I enjoyed the hike (that produced enough photos to have three photo essays (here, here and here) devoted to it) so much that I decided that it'd be worth going on again.  

So when another friend decided to go on his first hike in Hong Kong, I picked this trail to take him on -- only this time around, the route I went for would take us from Shek Pik Reservoir to Shui Hau (followed by a walk along the road to Tong Fuk where The Gallery dishes out what I consider to be the best pizzas in the Big Lychee!):-
A Lantau Trail marker on the road 
by the dam of Shek Pik Reservoir

Bamboo trees line one side of the path
early on during the hike
 At various points in the trail, views get offered up
of the coastal areas, and waters and islands off it
 At one stage, we also passed by land where
there looked to have recently been a fire

Not much camouflage for a green grasshopper
on brown earth!
 Another grasshopper finds better camouflage
among the green leaves and brown branches

This reclining rock gets me thinking of
Easter Island figures and baboon faces!

Near Shui Hau, we were greeted by the sight of 
kite sailors galore looking like they were having great fun! :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dim sum at Luk Yu Tea House

The dim sum menu at Luk Yu Tea House --
and yes, it's only in Chinese

 On the dim sum menu are some old school dishes that aren't 
normally seen at many other restaurants these days

My favorite dish at Luk Yu Tea House

Pretty much every time my mother visits me in Hong Kong, we end up having a meal or two (sometimes even more) with a family friend I refer to the tai tai aunt.  For those who know about these things: I think it says much about her tai tai-ness that on this latest visit of my mother, we had a Shanghai crab feast at her house one evening and dim sum (or yum cha -- as Hong Kongers more often refer to it) at Luk Yu Tea House late yesterday morning.

In operation since 1933 (which is a very long time by Hong Kong standards), Luk Yu Tea House is the kind of old school dining establishment that you'd expect to see in movies more than reality (though, ironically, I don't recall a single movie in which the place has appeared).  And although it now takes credit cards and also is (more) accepting of non-Chinese customers, it still is the kind of place where regulars not only have their favorite waiters but also favorite floors and tables at the restaurant.

Put another way: Luk Yu Tea House can be an intimidating place to dine in for many people -- but if you're a regular (or even just dine with a regular), you can get treatment whose quality verges on the royal.  Also, it's taken as a given that you can order items from "off the menu" -- and you can get them to do things for you like read out every single line of the (Chinese language only) menu to a table whose members include a number of non-Chinese readers, and with good grace too!

One of the main draws of Luk Yu Tea House is that, like the even older Lin Heung Tea House, there are many "old school" items on its menu.  And yesterday, we sampled quite a few of these -- including one of the largest chicken buns I've ever seen (see the middle photo), a baked pastry filled with goose liver pate, and another pastry with the most amazing date paste filling I've ever had. 

Additionally, even though it wasn't on the dim sum menu, we also had an order of my favorite dish at the place -- stir fried pigeon with Yunnan ham.  Sometimes, I think that I would be happy to just have a meal that consisted solely of slices of Yunnan ham.  At other times, I think that stir fried pigeon really does make for a very tasty combination with these rich umami tasting bits of pig -- and think that you need both ingredients to make a truly delicious dish.

On a movie fan note: the meal was made even more memorable by a celebrity spotting -- specifically, of Alfred Cheung also being there to yum cha that day.  My surreal life in Hong Kong being what it is, here's reporting that it's actually the third time I've seen the actor-director-producer "in the flesh": with one previous other time being at a preview of Echoes of a Rainbow, and another time also involving my happening to be eating at the same restaurant that he happened to be dining at! ;b

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bells and Trees (This week's Photo Hunt entry)


Back in the fall of 2009, I visited South Korea. Among the highlights of my week long vacation in the Land of the Morning Calm was a day spent in the city of Suwon that included time spent walking along atop the walls of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Hwaseong Fortress.

My trek around the 5.5 kilometer long wall of the Hwaseong Fortress began at its east gate, located close to the city's Hwaseong Haeng-gung Palace (which, incidentally, has a tree in its grounds whose photo was one I used for a previous Trees-themed Photo Hunt organized by tnchick (as opposed to either Sandi or Gattina)!), and involved a steep ascent up the hill along a stretch that was flanked on one side by trees galore. Shortly after ascending to the top of Mount Paldalsan (as the hill is called), I came across a large bell that, even if it was not exactly the mother of all bells, still was mighty impressive as far as I was concerned.

A sign near the bell (on which was engraved a beautiful representation of portions of Hwaseong Fortress) informed me that it was known as the Bell of Filial Piety and, among other things, "expresses the best wishes of the citizens of Suwon for your family and the nation. We hope you meditate upon the meaning of each toll..."  More specifically, one can pay a nominal fee -- as I did -- to strike this large bell three times, with: the first toll of the bell being "to show gratitude and respect to your parents"; the second toll being "to wish for your family's health and harmony"; and the third toll being "to wish for the realization of your [own] dreams".

In all honesty, I can't remember what I actually wished for myself in Suwon that day -- so can't say if those dreams got realized.  However, thanks to at least one photo I took of that bell, I can recall not only its existence but also its prime location atop a hill and flanked by trees in a setting that was pretty attractive indeed. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The House of Dancing Water at Macau's City of Dreams

Before the curtains rise...

Early on in the show, we were given a taste
of the spectacle about to unfold

 Look at the orange speck near the top 
-- it's actually a man about to dive down
into the pool of water several meters below

For those of you amused by the account of my stay at the Venetian Macao over the weekend and are curious what else I did when in Macau last weekend, wonder no more!  For here's letting you know that my mother and I also went and finally checked out The House of Dancing Water show  -- something that I've wanted to do for a while now but had previously felt that it just was too difficult to get tickets for.

A HK$2 billion production created by Las Vegas showman Franco Dragone, The House of Dancing Water opened in Macau back in September 2010.  Going strong (unlike the Cirque du Soleil's Zaia -- which opened in August 2008 but closed in February 2012 because it didn't attract the audience that was hoped and envisioned for it) into the last week of 2012, it boasts a storyline that involves Asians along with exotic foreigners in the form of white and black people alike -- and includes in its cast former Hong Kong Ballet senior principal dancer Faye Leung.

If truth be told though, I found the entertainment spectacle's plot to be on the lame side -- not least because of the Orientalism on display in the form of a white man spending a large percentage of the story attempting to rescue a beautiful Asian princess.  But while I can imagine that the major attraction of the show for many people actually are the often pretty breathtaking stunts on display -- notably those performed by the acrobatic (high) divers and also the motorcycle stunt jumping team, I truly was most impressed by the main stage/theater space that multiply transforms from a deep pool (which, at its largest, is bigger in size than five Olympic-sized swimming pools combined) -- sometimes (but not always) with shallow sides -- to a solid surface on which people can walk, dance, run and even ride motorcycles -- and thus constitutes a super special effect in and of itself.

Housed in a large complex called the City of Dreams (that is located across the street and consequently within walking distance of the Venetian Macao), The House of Dancing Water actually is one of those shows where you can see how the money was spent.  The world's newest, largest and most spectacular water-based show, it most definitely aims to be a major crowd pleaser.

My mother and I enjoyed the show for the most part.  However, there are two elements that we both would love to see improved. Firstly, we are agreed that the music was on the repetitive side -- so much so that it contributed to our nodding off for a few minutes during the performance! Secondly (and possibly relatedly), even while we understand the need for the auditorium to not be too cold since many of the show's performers spend a significant amount of time in the water, we do wish that it wasn't so hot -- and, more importantly, stuffy inside.  

Indeed, we wonder if lack of oxygen was the major reason why we fell asleep -- or, rather, lost consciousness! -- at certain points during the show!  At the very least, we both are sure that it's not coincidental that we perked up considerably during the section of The House of Dancing Water during which motorbike stunts were performed.  Put another way: even while the stunts were really cool and fun to watch, we're convinced that what got us to feel very much awake then was the fact that the doors were opened and much welcome (relatively) "fresh" as well as cooler air was allowed to waft into the space!! ;O

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Lantau hike that offered views of spiders, monasteries and more (Photo-essay)

A few years ago when hiking from Ngong Ping down to Pak Kung Au, I came across a big spider that was about to devour a creature it had trapped in its web.  Several hikes later, while going on a trail that overlapped for the first half or so with that earlier one, I spotted a few more spiders -- though, strangely enough, none of them were Giant Golden Orb Weavers.

Other sights along the hike from Ngong Ping down to Shek Mun Kap included a number of monasteries and religious retreats -- and not just Po Lin Monastery, home to the Big Buddha either.  I'm not sure how many religious establishments there currently are on Lantau but in the 1970s, there were as many as 135 Buddhist monasteries on Hong Kong's largest island

To this day, the majority don't attract visitors the way that Po Lin Monastery does.  Still even if they are not tourist attractions, the denizens of the monasteries located near hiking trails appear to have become well used to seeing their share of people passing by.  And at the very least, I hope that they don't mind too much hearing the sound of occasional chatter from hikers as I am indeed one of those hikers who enjoys talking on hikes (as well as drinking in sights, snapping photos, etc.)! ;b

One more spider photo from the hike --
and ain't this one cute looking? ;)

The view from the trail on a clear day stretches 
as far north as Castle Peak and Tuen Mun

A mountain in the background, and a monastery 
and part of its farmed garden in the foreground

I love it when the (Hong Kong) sky is this blue and clear

A dog content to rest on a roof rather than bark at strangers

 An abandoned building whose isolated location
gets me thinking that it was formerly
used as a retreat rather than home

 I love the wings of this damselfly -- and also that it
stayed on the branch long enough for me to photograph it :)

Hike's end at Shek Mun Kap village -- from where 
one can take a bus down to Tung Chung :)