A Travellerspoint blog

My funny Valentine.

Sweet Comic Valentine.

sunny

The Year of the Dragon.

The Year of the Dragon.

Valentine's Day and ironically Peter and I have been fighting all week, even more so than normal, and that is really saying something. I put it down to the fact that we are getting ready to travel and since Covid, whenever we do that, I seem to get stressed out of my brain.

There's been finding clothes, washing clothes, drying clothes, ironing clothes and packing clothes. Then there's been finding all the other stuff we need to take. Then buying all the stuff we need, but don't have. Also trying to book a transfer on arrival to make the journey easier for Peter and needing to fill in all the details online around twenty times before the booking actually worked. Fingers crossed the transfer actually turns up.

Even reserving seats on the plane was hell. Peter's seat no problem. Mine - impossible. We ended up on an artificial intelligence chat line that just kept going round and round in circles. It kept explaining "Hi, I'm Elsa, your artificial intelligence helper. I'm being trialled. Please simplify your query." By the end we had removed nearly all the words from our query except the word 'seat'. Finally, as we had no intention of giving up, a human being called Stanley entered the chat and the problem was solved in seconds. So much for bloody technology.

Fortunately we discovered in time that we have to fill in our landing cards online within three days of arrival. I don't know if this is common now in Europe, but it is in South East Asia. That actually worked first time. Yippee!!

Then today I had to go out and pick up the currency we had reserved online. I went to Travelex, Tung Chung. Tung Chung was a nightmare due to the Chinese New Year holiday. The queues for the cable car to the Big Buddha had taken over the entire centre of town. The bus station had endless queues for buses to Mui Wo and Tai O. Again I realised how fortunate I am to be able to go to these places on weekdays.

Getting the money from Travelex was ok, except a Mainland Chinese family came in behind me and, I think they must have been from somewhere very rural, as they didn't seem to have ever seen a white person before. They surrounded me, mum on one side, dad and son on the other, and stared at me from a distance of about one centimetre, like I was from another planet. Even the woman serving me in Travelex told them off and asked them to back away. Not the best start to my day.

After getting the money, I decided to head to Tsing Yi, as I wanted to buy Peter a few things for Valentine's Day from there. His present was several cheeses from Marks and Spencer's, two big jars of cashew nuts and two boxes of chocolates. He got me wine and chocolates. We are very into the eating and drinking type of present nowadays.

I noticed that Maritime Square Shopping Mall in Tsing Yi was very nicely decorated for The Year of the Dragon, so I took some photos of the displays. In the west dragons are always depicted as ferocious, fire breathing monsters. In Chinese mythology they are gentle, benevolent and wise. Apparently even the colours of the dragons are supposed to mean something. For example a red dragon symbolises good fortune, a yellow dragon means wealth and a green dragon is connected to nature.

Pink dragon.

Pink dragon.

Purple and yellow dragons.

Purple and yellow dragons.

Purple and yellow dragons and children.

Purple and yellow dragons and children.

Close-up.

Close-up.

Close-up.

Close-up.

Dragons and blossom.

Dragons and blossom.

Then I went to the shop I had in mind for buying the cashew nuts and chocolates. Two jars of cashew nuts were on offer for HK$100, two boxes of Lindor chocolates were on offer for HK$69. I took them to the till. The lady rung them up and said: "That'll be HK$187." I said: "No, I don't think, so it's HK$169."

She looked absolutely shocked at my attitude and rung them up on a different till to check. She said: "Two cashew nuts Hk$100, two chocolates HK$69." I said: "Yes, that's right." She then went back to the first till, rung them up again and said: "Total HK$187."

Now I readily admit I am not terribly good at maths, but even I know 100 + 69 does not equal 187. I refused to pay and I refused to leave. A long, disgruntled queue was building up behind me. The manager was called. He started by trying to tell me the two jars of nuts cost HK$118. I directed him to the offer displayed on the wall of the shop. He tried to claim it must be for a different brand. I forced him to read what it actually said and he had to agree I had the right brand.

He then checked on the till that had given the correct prices and said: "It's two for a hundred". I said: "I know." He then took over the sale by putting my items through the original till and said: "That'll be HK$187." Now it must surely be a great token of my love for my husband that I didn't just pick up my items, hurl them against the wall and walk out. Instead I bullied the manager into actually using his brain and doing the maths in his head, not on his bloody useless machine and he eventually agreed to charge me HK$169, as if he were doing me a favour.

We live in a world where people think if a machine tells you something it must be right, even when the machine is quite clearly spouting a load of crap.

To recover from the day, I took myself for a quick calming walk in Tsing Yi Park. Here it was back to autumn again with several lovely autumnal trees in the process of shedding their leaves.

Autumnal trees.

Autumnal trees.

The last of autumn.

The last of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

The last remnants of autumn.

Pond in Tsing Yi Park.

Pond in Tsing Yi Park.

Autumn colours.

Autumn colours.

Statue and flowers.

Statue and flowers.

Flowers and waterfall.

Flowers and waterfall.

Colourful flowers.

Colourful flowers.

Then I headed back home where Peter had a good laugh when I told him about all my irritating experiences of the day. Happy Valentine's Day.

Posted by irenevt 07:34 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (8)

Ringing In The New Year.

Climbing Violet Hill in search of Chinese New Year flowers.

sunny

Ringing In the Year of the Dragon.

Ringing In the Year of the Dragon.

Last Friday Peter and I met up with our friend Agnes in Discovery Bay. We had a lovely set lunch in Figo's. I had carrot soup, Steak Diane and chocolate cake. Peter had carrot soup, fish burger and vanilla ice-cream. Agnes had chickpea salad, chicken saltimbocca and vanilla ice-cream. Later we went to Coffee Academics for coffee, hot chocolate and ice-cream (between us, not each). I forgot to take any photos. I think we just got too busy chatting.

Agnes and I decided that we would also meet up again on Monday 12th for a hike. Our friend Ivy later decided to join us as well. I suggested that we should climb up Violet Hill on Hong Kong Island, because it is well-known for its Chinese New Year flowers which blossom in January and February each year. Chinese New Year flowers are dark pink, or pale pink and may even have some white parts. They are shaped like bells, so their blossoming coincides with people ringing in the new year.

On the day of our hike, I left home early. It was a public holiday and when I got to Sunny Bay, there was an enormous queue. At first, I panicked and thought people were queuing to get into the MTR. Then I realised the queue stretched from the bus-stop to the MTR, then back to the bus-stop, then back to the MTR, then right round one side of the bus station, ending up at the stop for the feeder bus to Macau. Honestly, there must have been around a thousand people in line waiting to go to Macau, just from that one stop. I can only imagine how crowded immigration must have been!!! I love Macau, but thank God I wasn't going there that day.

When Agnes, Ivy and I all finally met up, we boarded the number 6 bus which goes all the way to Stanley. On the journey I noticed that the Sikh Temple in Happy Valley was no longer covered in scaffolding. It has been undergoing renovation for ages and now looks really good.

Sikh Temple, Happy Valley.

Sikh Temple, Happy Valley.

I took a couple of views over Happy Valley as our bus climbed up the hill. It looked like it was going to be a lovely, sunny day.

Looking down on Happy Valley.

Looking down on Happy Valley.

Looking down on Happy Valley.

Looking down on Happy Valley.

We got off the bus at the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir stop and then headed up the steps to our right to get onto Tai Tam Reservoir Road. I think around half of the passengers on our bus got off at this stop, as so many walks start from this area.

We headed first to Wong Nai Chung Reservoir where there are public washrooms, then walked around part of the reservoir to find our path. There was a race going on and almost every competitor wished us: "Good morning!" as they ran by. They are friendly people - these trail runners, though they may just all have known Ivy as she does trail racing, too!!!

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Us at the reservoir.

Us at the reservoir.

To get on the correct path for our hike, we came down the stairs at the end of the reservoir and headed left. As soon as we saw the sign for the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path, we turned around and took the path going the other way up to Violet Hill. ( I have walked the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path before. It's beautiful.)

Sign for Violet Hill.

Sign for Violet Hill.

The path starts with stairs, stairs and more stairs. Agnes and Ivy are both very fit, but I must admit I found the stairs quite tiring. However they didn't go on for too long, so it wasn't that bad.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs.

Every now and again at the edges of the pathway, there were Chinese New Year flowers. After saying in my last blog, that I had worked out strategies for photographing flowers, I have to confess I found these so hard to photograph. They really did not want to get into focus. I deleted soooo many failed shots it was unbelievable. One problem with photographing these flowers is that they are often quite high up in the trees. I've also noticed when photographing them on other occasions that they often grow on the edges of steep inaccessible slopes or in the middle of areas of dense foliage.

In the beginning stages of the walk most of the photos I took were close ups of individual flowers.

Close-up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close-up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up of Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up Chinese New Year flowers.

Close up Chinese New Year flowers.

Chinese New Year flowers.

Chinese New Year flowers.

Every now and then as I climbed, I stopped and looked back the way I had come. There were beautiful views over Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

View on the climb up.

View on the climb up.

On occasions we all stopped and took one or two selfies with the flowers.

Selfie with flowers.

Selfie with flowers.

At one point Agnes pointed out a large number of fallen flowers on the path. They really are a cheerful sight in the colder winter months.

Fallen flowers.

Fallen flowers.

After we had been walking for around fifteen to twenty minutes, I saw the trigonometric marker, indicating the top of the first hill. There were fantastic views over Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour from here, but it was incredibly windy. So windy in fact that it was impossible to stand there for more than a couple of minutes. It felt like we were all about to be blown away. My hair went absolutely crazy and was literally everywhere. There was a tiny little girl called Esther walking up the hill behind us. I was actually fearful that she might be blown right off her feet. Fortunately, she wasn't; she must have had a big breakfast to weigh herself down.

Trigonometric marker.

Trigonometric marker.

Windy selfie.

Windy selfie.

Windy selfie.

Windy selfie.

Looking towards Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards Hong Kong Island.

We continued our walk and the wind continued blowing with all its might. At certain points there were spectacular views over the Tai Tam Reservoirs.

Tai Tam Reservoirs.

Tai Tam Reservoirs.

Tai Tam Reservoirs.

Tai Tam Reservoirs.

Soon we came to a sign post showing a route down to Park View, a residential estate that is right next to the start of many different trails. It's also possible to start this walk from there. We walked away from Park View and followed the route for Tsin Shui Wan Au.

Sign post.

Sign post.

Looking down at Parkview.

Looking down at Parkview.

The next hill we climbed, actually was Violet Hill. We passed some clusters of Chinese New Year flowers growing on the trees here.

Second trig

Second trig

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

Clusters of Chinese New Year flowers.

These colourful bell-shaped flowers looked especially beautiful against the bright blue sky.

Chinese New Year flowers against a blue sky.

Chinese New Year flowers against a blue sky.

We took a few photos near the top of the mountain. Our route was actually part of the Wilson Trail Section One though if we had done the whole of that trail, we would have had to climb two more mountains, known as The Twins. These are famous for having thousands of steps.

Agnes and Ivy.

Agnes and Ivy.

Agnes and Ivy.

Agnes and Ivy.

Agnes and Ivy.

Agnes and Ivy.

Me.

Me.

Agnes and I.

Agnes and I.

Mountain paths.

Mountain paths.

Wilson Trail marker.

Wilson Trail marker.

For a while the path was very open with great views of the Tai Tam Reservoirs from a different angle.

This open path had great views.

This open path had great views.

Reservoir views.

Reservoir views.

Further on we could see the south side of Hong Kong Island where Ocean Park, Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay are. There were lots of hikers on the trail, because it was a public holiday.

Descent with great views.

Descent with great views.

Looking towards Ocean Park and the sea.

Looking towards Ocean Park and the sea.

Looking towards the residential areas on the south of Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards the residential areas on the south of Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards the residential areas on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

Looking towards the residential areas on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

I saw lots of colourful foliage and some fried egg flowers. These are usually easy to photograph, but here they tended to be on unreachable edges.

Colourful leaves.

Colourful leaves.

Colourful leaves.

Colourful leaves.

Colourful leaves.

Colourful leaves.

Fried egg flower.

Fried egg flower.

Fried egg flower.

Fried egg flower.

We got down to a level where we had several choices of walk. We could have gone back to our starting point by following the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path to our right. This would have been the easiest option. Or we could have finished the Wilson Trail Stage One by climbing The Twins. This would have been the hardest option. We went for the middle option which was to continue on down the hill to a bridge, cross it, then head to the left to walk to the Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir. This was the option I wanted to do for several reasons. One - I knew I would be able to do it, two - the Tai Tam Reservoirs are gorgeous and although I have been there many times, I really love them. I told the two fitter members of our group that if they wanted to do The Twins that was fine and I'd see them another time. My knees were quivering just at the thought of a thousand stairs. Anyway, in the end, we all agreed to the reservoirs.

This bridge is a popular spot for taking photos.

This bridge is a popular spot for taking photos.

The path to the reservoirs starts out as a dirt track. In parts it's smooth and in parts it's rocky. It is crisscrossed by many streams. These contain very little water at this time of year, but would be torrents In the summer rains. There are signs telling people not to cross them when they are in full spate.

The path.

The path.

Agnes and Ivy navigating the rocky path.

Agnes and Ivy navigating the rocky path.

Dried up stream bed.

Dried up stream bed.

Me crossing one of the dried up streams.

Me crossing one of the dried up streams.

Me crossing one of the dried up streams.

Me crossing one of the dried up streams.

Agnes and Ivy on a bridge.

Agnes and Ivy on a bridge.

Agnes and Ivy on a bridge.

Agnes and Ivy on a bridge.

There were lots of butterflies fluttering around us as we walked. At one point we passed two sitting happily drinking nectar from a fallen flower. Ex-journalist Agnes told me if I put the photo of them on my blog I should caption it 'Table For Two.' I rather liked that.

Table for two.

Table for two.

At one point a red based Jezebel butterfly landed on my arm and stayed there for ages. When it went, more butterflies gathered around me. I joked that I had smeared myself in nectar before leaving the house.

Me and my butterfly.

Me and my butterfly.

Every so often a dog walker and their canine child passed us by. Every time that happened the dogs went past so fast and so quietly we nearly tripped over them. They really took us by surprise.

Eventually we reached the Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir Dam and went onto it to enjoy the view and take some photos.

First glimpse of the reservoirs.

First glimpse of the reservoirs.

Looking towards Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir Dam.

Looking towards Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir Dam.

Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir Dam.

Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir Dam.

Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir.

Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir.

Agnes and I on the dam of the intermediate reservoir.

Agnes and I on the dam of the intermediate reservoir.

All of us on the intermediate reservoir dam.

All of us on the intermediate reservoir dam.

Then we continued on down to the main path. I've been here lots of times and I know there is a beautiful arched bridge here. It's part of the Tai Tam Heritage Trail. I'm always trying to photograph it, but it's difficult due to all the trees that block the view. Well, this time, there were no trees. When we had a terrible black rain storm back in the autumn that caused masses of damage, there was a landslide here and all the trees and the riverbank fell down. It's still possible to see all the trees in the water down below. The view of the bridge nowadays is fantastic. I just hope the path doesn't fall down during a storm, too.

The arched bridge.

The arched bridge.

The arched bridge.

The arched bridge.

We were a bit worried about Ivy, as she had hurt her eye on a branch, but then she managed to spot two turtles from miles away near the arched bridge, so we decided her eyes must still be ok.

Ivy spotted these from afar.

Ivy spotted these from afar.

We walked along the main Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir. It was actually breathtakingly beautiful with the blue skies and clear blue waters.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.

Looking towards Tai Tam Tuk Main Dam.

Looking towards Tai Tam Tuk Main Dam.

We passed another couple of masonry bridges on route and took more photos.

Masonry bridge.

Masonry bridge.

All of us on a masonry bridge.

All of us on a masonry bridge.

When we got to the bus-stop, there was quite a big queue. I began to realise how spoilt I am being normally able to walk on weekdays and non-public holidays. However, as it turned out, we didn't have to wait too long till we were able to get on a minibus going to Chai Wan.

We were heading to Admiralty for lunch and Agnes and Ivy's former maths teacher was going to join us. Agnes and Ivy met in secondary school and one day when they were hiking from Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan they bumped into a fellow hiker and realised he used to be their maths teacher. They got chatting and discovered he had relocated to Britain, but returns to Hong Kong regularly to hike. He had apparently been hiking every day of his most recent stay and has been aiming at climbing a hundred mountains here. What a fantastic way to spend your retirement.

We went for a Thai meal in a restaurant called Kin Kao Two. We had Thai green curry with pork, Hainan chicken, Pad Thai, papaya salad, steamed rice and lime soda. The food was excellent and we had all certainly worked up an appetite after our hike.

Thai green curry with pork.

Thai green curry with pork.

Hainan chicken.

Hainan chicken.

Pad Thai.

Pad Thai.

Papaya Salad.

Papaya Salad.

After the meal, we all went out own separate ways. Before I went home, I took the opportunity to nip into Pacific Place as I was right next to it. I wanted to see it's Chinese New Year displays there, which were supposed to be very pretty. Actually they were really lovely.

Chinese New Year display in Pacific Place Shopping Mall.

Chinese New Year display in Pacific Place Shopping Mall.

Chinese New Year display.

Chinese New Year display.

Chinese New Year display.

Chinese New Year display.

Chinese New Year display.

Chinese New Year display.

After taking some pictures, I headed back home. It had been a very enjoyable day.

Posted by irenevt 12:40 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (4)

I'll Be With You In Cherry Blossom Time.

Cherry Tree Garden Tung Chung.

sunny

Cherry Blossom on Chek Lap Kok Road, Hong Kong.

Cherry Blossom on Chek Lap Kok Road, Hong Kong.

Last week I was off looking at autumn leaves; this week I've been looking at spring blossom.

On Tuesday I decided to go to the cherry tree garden on Chek Lap Kok Road. This is the road that leads from Tung Chung to Hong Kong International Airport. In an attempt to beautify the area hundreds of cherry trees have been planted here and when they blossom in January and February, people come from all over Hong Kong to see them.

To get there I took a bus to Tung Chung then crossed the road to the old bus station. The path to Tung Chung Waterfront is between the old bus station and the cable car.

I noticed there was a Chinese New Year market here so stopped to have a wander around that first. It sold mainly flowers and plants, but also some Chinese New Year decorations.

2024 will be The Year of the Dragon.

2024 will be The Year of the Dragon.

Orchids on the flower stall.

Orchids on the flower stall.

Flower stall.

Flower stall.

Flower stall.

Flower stall.

Kumquat trees.

Kumquat trees.

Stall selling Chinese New Year decorations.

Stall selling Chinese New Year decorations.

Stall selling Chinese New Year decorations.

Stall selling Chinese New Year decorations.

After looking at the market, I headed across the nearby pedestrian bridge. From here I could have got to the cherry trees, by turning left, then walking along the road that runs parallel to the waterfront.

However, before I did that, I stopped to photograph a beautiful bauhinia tree with white flowers. I had just focused my camera when a butterfly flew directly into my shot and stayed still drinking nectar for several minutes, allowing me to get a good photograph of it. I love it when animals pose for you and it certainly doesn't happen often.

Bauhinia flower and Red based Jezebel butterfly.

Bauhinia flower and Red based Jezebel butterfly.

Bauhinia flower and Red based Jezebel butterfly.

Bauhinia flower and Red based Jezebel butterfly.

I then headed back to the correct road and crossed over a bridge. There are good views from here and there were lots of cable cars trundling by overhead on their way to and from the Big Buddha.

Crossing the bridge.

Crossing the bridge.

Funnily enough the weather has been cold, grey and foggy almost every day recently. I have been avoiding going to the blossoms in the hope that a day with blue skies might finally turn up. I finally gave up on the weather and decided just to go anyway or all the blossom would be gone and surprisingly the day I chose turned out to be really hot and sunny. I ended up carrying my jacket and sweater and wandering around in a T-shirt.

I soon saw a sign for the cherry tree garden. There were lots of people going to see the trees. Just like last year it was going to be really crowded.

Cherry tree garden sign.

Cherry tree garden sign.

Last year I photographed the crowds and took some closeup shots of the blossom and a selfie or two.

This year I became fascinated by the fact there was so much wildlife flying around the blossoms, and by wildlife I mean: butterflies, insects and tiny birds that darted around so fast they were almost impossible to photograph. Instead of wandering all over, I found myself a spot where I could stand completely still and focus my zoom lens onto the blossom laden branches above my head. I was so fascinated by all the creatures fluttering around up there that I was soon totally oblivious to the crowds.

After taking many photos I headed off into the shade and sat down and scrolled through all my shots. I had to discard lots of blurry failed efforts. I realised that the problem was that the camera was unsure what to focus on due to the layer upon layer of blossom. If it focused on a background layer, there were big blurry patches in the foreground and the photo just looked rubbish. I decided to work out some solutions and have another go.

The simplest solution seemed to be to take photos of bits of blossom that stuck out from the tree and had a background that was just sky.

Blossom with sky background.

Blossom with sky background.

Blossom with sky background.

Blossom with sky background.

Or to take the blossom with some other neutral background such as branches, leaves, but not other layers of blossom.

Blossom with a neutral background.

Blossom with a neutral background.



Blossom with a neutral background.

Blossom with a neutral background.

Blossom with a neutral background.

Blossom with a neutral background.

Or to ensure that the blossom in the foreground of the photo was in focus. This actually looks good against a blurred blossomy background.

Blossom focused in the foreground.

Blossom focused in the foreground.

Blossom focused in the foreground.

Blossom focused in the foreground.

Blossom focused in foreground.

Blossom focused in foreground.

Or, if possible, getting so close to the blossom that there isn't really any background.

Cherry blossom with no background.

Cherry blossom with no background.

I've no idea if these techniques are what you are meant to do or not, but they seemed to work for me.

In some shots the blossom in layers just seemed to work out without blurring. I may just not have used such a strong zoom for these.

Beautiful cherry blossom.

Beautiful cherry blossom.

Beautiful cherry blossom.

Beautiful cherry blossom.

Next, I had a go at getting a shot of blossom with butterflies on it. Here they weren't as helpful as the butterfly I had encountered on the bauhinia tree. I frequently just managed to finally get the butterfly into focus and it was off, but I persevered. After all, the butterflies did occasionally settle on a flower and stay there. I suppose these are also shots with a clear foreground and blurred background.

Butterfly and blossom.

Butterfly and blossom.

Butterfly and blossom.

Butterfly and blossom.

Butterfly and blossom.

Butterfly and blossom.

Then, the hardest task. I tried to get a photo of one of the tiny birds that were zooming around. This was a bit of a nightmare. For a start they were really fast and they never seemed to settle anywhere or on anything. I was beginning to think my task was impossible unless I had the kind of camera birdwatchers use. After many failed attempts. I finally got the bird in focus and took the shot, only to find that most of its head was missing. I came close to throwing my camera on the ground and leaping up and down on it for a while, but I managed to restrain myself. I kept trying and trying and finally got a shot of bird with blossom. I only got one successful photo but I will put up that photo and a cropped version of the same shot. According to Google lens the bird belongs to the white eye family. It was one of the smallest birds I have ever seen.

Bird, blossom, blood, sweat and tears.

Bird, blossom, blood, sweat and tears.

Bird and blossom cropped.

Bird and blossom cropped.

I took one very easy shot of the cable car passing by overhead.

Cable cars trundling by above the blossom.

Cable cars trundling by above the blossom.

Anyway by this stage my eyes were beginning to water and hurt from desperately trying to see what I was photographing. I decided to head back, but go via the Tung Chung Waterfront Promenade as it usually gets nicely decorated for festival times.

Looking back at the bridge I crossed from the Tung Chung Waterfront Promenade.

Looking back at the bridge I crossed from the Tung Chung Waterfront Promenade.

Tung Chung Waterfront Promenade.

Tung Chung Waterfront Promenade.

I saw a beautiful tree on the waterfront with lots of little fruits growing on its branches.

Tree.

Tree.

Close-up of tree

Close-up of tree

There were several people fishing on the waterfront. It looked like quite a peaceful place to sit and think while gazing out across the water.

Gone fishing.

Gone fishing.

There's plenty more fish under the bridge.

There's plenty more fish under the bridge.

There's always been a lot of artwork along the edges of the promenade, but there seemed to be even more than usual. It definitely adds a lot of colour. Most of it shows the things you can visit in and around Tung Chung.

Art along the promenade.

Art along the promenade.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Cherry trees.

Cherry trees.

Big Buddha and water buffalo.

Big Buddha and water buffalo.

Discovery Bay.

Discovery Bay.

Art and bridge.

Art and bridge.

Chinese opera.

Chinese opera.

I continued onwards and came to a display featuring lucky golden carp leaping through the air.

Golden carp display.

Golden carp display.

Golden carp display.

Golden carp display.

Further on and I was surrounded by lanterns lining the bright pink walls of one of the buildings here.

Colourful lanterns.

Colourful lanterns.

Colourful lanterns.

Colourful lanterns.

Close-up.

Close-up.

Rows of lanterns.

Rows of lanterns.

There are some very colourful buildings along here. One seems to contain a cafe, another could be an exhibition space. To be honest I haven't investigated them yet. There were beautiful cherry trees here last year, but this year they were completely bare. Maybe I was too early for them. There was a huge flower display outside the buildings.

Colourful building.

Colourful building.

Colourful building.

Colourful building.

Staircase.

Staircase.

Staircase.

Staircase.

Plant outside the colourful buildings.

Plant outside the colourful buildings.

Flower display.

Flower display.

Further on and there were passageways with row after row of lanterns overhead.

Passageway and lanterns.

Passageway and lanterns.

Passageway and lanterns.

Passageway and lanterns.

Lanterns.

Lanterns.

Lanterns.

Lanterns.

Continuing along there were more decorations and some fake cherry trees, after all the real ones don't blossom for long.

More decorations on the waterfront.

More decorations on the waterfront.

Fake cherry trees.

Fake cherry trees.

Fake cherry trees.

Fake cherry trees.

At this point I began to head back. I passed one final beautiful blossoming tree on my way home.

Blossoming rosy trumpet tree.

Blossoming rosy trumpet tree.

Posted by irenevt 05:24 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (10)

Double Birthday Celebrations

and Getting Ready for Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year Displays.

Chinese New Year Displays.

It's nearly the end of The Year of the Rabbit and the start of The Year of The Dragon. I've been looking at some of the displays for Chinese New Year.

On Thursday Peter and I went to Citygate Shopping Mall, Tung Chung to visit Fortress and look for a new gas oven. While there, I had a look at the decorations. The Chinese New Year displays here are themed around 'Wings in Blossom' and consist of flowers and butterflies. They were really beautiful, but quite difficult to photograph, because everywhere was just so busy.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

'Wings in Blossom' Tung Chung.

On Friday I was going out for an Indian meal to celebrate Sarah and Lai's birthdays. We were meeting in Central and I went across a bit early and wandered around the Chinese New Year displays in The IFC Mall. These were also largely floral. The largest display I saw here was called 'Path of Blossoms.' It had one gigantic flower, smaller flowers and blossoming peach trees. The whole display was placed on a flower shaped base.

'Path of Blossoms' from above.

'Path of Blossoms' from above.

'Path of Blossoms' from above.

'Path of Blossoms' from above.

'Path of Blossoms'.

'Path of Blossoms'.

Other displays in the IFC.

Other displays in the IFC.

Other displays in the IFC.

Other displays in the IFC.

I also went for a quick walk along the waterfront. The sky was quite dark and it was threatening rain. There was a strange display of large white egg shaped objects in the water. I wasn't sure what they were. Later I discovered they are an art display and they are lit up in changing colours at night. They looked great in the pictures I saw online, so I'll need to return in the dark at some point.

Art display. I'll come back to see it lit up at night.

Art display. I'll come back to see it lit up at night.

Many of the people on the waterfront seemed to be heading to the AIA Carnival which has several different rides and lasts until February 25th.

Crowds going to the carnival.

Crowds going to the carnival.

I noticed a junk gliding by with a man's face on its sail. It was hard to make out who it was until I used my zoom lens and realised it was Lionel Messi who is in Hong Kong for a football match between Inter Miami and Hong Kong. The match will take place in Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

Junk with Lionel Messi.

It was time to head to the restaurant. We were going for an Indian meal in Bombay Dreams to celebrate Lai and Sarah's birthdays. Their birthdays were actually in January, but it's taken a while to find a date that suited everyone. Bombay Dreams is an Indian restaurant located at the top of Wyndham Street, not far from The Fringe Club. I was first to arrive, closely followed by Linda, then Lai, who was in a very good mood as she had just had some very good news. Maggie arrived soon after and then Sarah.

Bombay Dreams.

Bombay Dreams.

Our group.

Our group.

Our group.

Our group.

We missed Yang and Elizabeth who unfortunately couldn't join us. Yang is always our official event photographer and we only just remembered to take pictures of the food before hungrily devouring it. Yang would never have let that happen. We need her back.

We were given a complimentary vegetarian dish to start with.

Complimentary vegetarian starter.

Complimentary vegetarian starter.

Same dish in a more abstract shot.

Same dish in a more abstract shot.

Then we had poppadoms. I got carried away and ordered five plates of these when I actually only meant five poppadoms i.e. one each. Fortunately, the waitress brought two portions of poppadoms, then checked to see if we really did want five plates. We stuck with just the two. Oops, silly me!!!!

Poppadoms. That counts as one.

Poppadoms. That counts as one.

We had vegetable samosas and this time we really did eat them all without remembering to take a photograph, which just proves they must have been appetising.

For mains we had a creamy butter chicken:

Butter chicken.

Butter chicken.

a tasty tandoori chicken tikka:

Chicken tikka.

Chicken tikka.

bhindi bhaji, a delicious okra dish I have never tried before:

Bhindi Bhaji.

Bhindi Bhaji.

and my personal favourite tandoori fish tikka, which I also don't think I have tried before.

Fish tikka.

Fish tikka.

We accidentally forgot to order rice, but made up for it with a mountain of plain, butter and garlic naan bread.

Naan.

Naan.

The food was excellent. We all had lots of news to catch up on and lots to chat about. Everyone was happy to be together again. The restaurant was soon very busy and lively.

Linda is a great organiser. She had sorted out a lovely birthday cake, groaning under masses of sliced mango. Not sure what we would do without her. We sang Happy Birthday, which didn't draw too much attention, as the restaurant was so noisy by then. People joked that I should cut the cake as I had pretty much flattened my cake while trying to cut it at my birthday meal. I was secretly hoping Sarah and Lai would mess up cutting their cake, too, then I wouldn't look like the only idiot, but they didn't. ( I'm now secretly hoping Maggie will mess up hers, as it's her birthday next. Haha, I am evil.)

Mango birthday cake.

Mango birthday cake.

We gave Lai and Sarah beautiful potted orchids which are very in keeping with the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities. It was a lovely evening and great to see everyone again.

Orchids.

Orchids.

Orchids.

Orchids.

Posted by irenevt 09:49 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (10)

Changing Seasons

And Wetlands.

overcast

Autumn trees at Wetlands Park.

Autumn trees at Wetlands Park.

I have always loved the changing of the seasons. When I was a child growing up in Scotland, I had a special fondness for spring when things start coming back to life after the long, cold, dark winter.

Here in Hong Kong, the seasons are really quite different. Take yesterday, for example, it was a really cold drab dull day. We've had some very cold weather here recently, by Hong Kong standards, and it's January, so, without a doubt it is winter. Yet when I was deciding what to do yesterday, I had to choose between going to see autumnal trees, as the short autumn foliage season will soon be over, or go and see spring blossoms, as the short spring season has arrived. So basically that's autumn, winter and spring all taking place at the same time. The only season missing is summer and it's actually the season that lasts the longest here.

Anyway I decided to go and see some autumnal colours before they are all gone. For the last two years I have enjoyed seeing the autumn colours in the woods in Tai Tong, at the Lau Shui Heung Reservoir and in Tsing Yi Park. This year I wanted to see them somewhere new, so I decided to go to Wetlands Park.

To get there I took the MTR to Tin Shui Wai Station, then followed the signs for the 705 light rail, which I took to Wetlands Park Station. From the station it's just a case of going up on the overhead walkway and following the signs. It costs HK$30 for an adult to go into the park, that's about three pounds in British money.

A lot of areas in the Northern New Territories are wetlands. They probably started out as flat marshy areas on the floodplains of several rivers. Then as people settled here and began to farm, these areas were deliberately flooded to form paddy fields for the cultivation of rice. When the farmers couldn't compete with overseas competition, they stopped growing rice and converted their fields into fishponds. This was successful for a while, but as Hong Kong became more industrialised, many people turned their backs on farming and went to work in factories instead.

Now many areas of wetlands are being built on and some are being made into nature parks in an attempt to conserve them. Wetlands Park is a sixty-one hectare area of conserved wetlands in northern Tin Sui Wai. It was first opened to the public in May 2006 and aims at providing a habitat for wildlife and educating the public about wetlands. Most of the park is actually wetlands, but there's also a visitor centre with exhibition galleries.

I think this was probably my third visit to Wetlands Park. I've been here before on school trips, accompanied by around ninety overexcited, noisy children. Hmmm, wonder why I haven't actually seen that much wildlife here. My earlier trips were in hot weather, but on this trip it was pretty cold.

Anyway yesterday was the first time I visited on my own. There are actually quite a few things to look at outside the park. There's an eco-maze to the left of the entrance. It's possible to walk right up to the top of the roof from here to get an overall view of the wetlands. Coming back down on the other side there was a beautiful blossoming rosy trumpet tree.

The eco-maze.

The eco-maze.

Overlooking the park.

Overlooking the park.

Overlooking the park.

Overlooking the park.

Rosy trumpet tree.

Rosy trumpet tree.

Rosy trumpet tree.

Rosy trumpet tree.

Around the entrance area there are sculptures and paintings and models of the animals it's possible to see inside.

Bird sculpture at the entrance to the park.

Bird sculpture at the entrance to the park.

Bird sculpture and school group.

Bird sculpture and school group.

Painting at the entrance.

Painting at the entrance.

Frog model.

Frog model.

Blackfaced spoonbill model.

Blackfaced spoonbill model.

I decided to start my explorations at Pui Pui's house. Pui Pui is a female saltwater crocodile. Presumably someone had her as an illegal pet, then when she got rather big for their bathtub, released her into a river here. She was sighted several times and many attempts were made to capture her. These attempts involved bringing in experts from Australia and Mainland China, but Pui Pui always managed to escape until one fateful day in 2004, she was finally captured as she swam in the Shan Pui River. She now lives in Wetlands Park.

At first I couldn't find her in her tank at all, later I realised she was up the back right-hand side of her enclosure, lying completely still and looking exactly like a fallen tree trunk. It was impossible to photograph her due to the reflection from the glass. I must admit I really don't like crocodiles. They are so furtive and sneaky. Just thinking of Pui Pui out in the wilds of Hong Kong made me shudder.

Pui Pui's home.

Pui Pui's home.

I couldn't get a decent photo of the real thing, so I had to settle for this.

I couldn't get a decent photo of the real thing, so I had to settle for this.

Then I set off on the stream walk. I found an area devoted to showing off the kinds of crops that can be grown in the wetlands. It mentioned that they grow rice, which can be harvested twice a year; water spinach, which is ready to eat in the summer; taro, which can be harvested in the winter; watercress which can be harvested all year round and Indian lotus.

Watercress growing in the pond.

Watercress growing in the pond.

Water spinach growing in the pond

Water spinach growing in the pond

Other crops growing in the pond.

Other crops growing in the pond.

Tall grasses.

Tall grasses.

This area also had a lilypond which in summer would be filled with dragonflies. There were a couple of waterlilies in bud, but it's too early for them to be opened up.

Waterlilies.

Waterlilies.

Waterlilies.

Waterlilies.

Waterlilies.

Waterlilies.

Dead lily pads.

Dead lily pads.

I wandered over the bridge that crosses the pond.

View across the pond.

View across the pond.

Waterlilies and bridge.

Waterlilies and bridge.

Bridge over the pond.

Bridge over the pond.

I then found the area with the autumnal trees. Actually there are not a lot of autumnal trees in Hong Kong, so people go crazy for visiting them and get quite excited about them. They were beautiful here, but the area they are situated in is out of bounds, so I couldn't get too close.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Closer up view.

Closer up view.

Reflections in the pond.

Reflections in the pond.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees.

Autumn trees along the river.

Autumn trees along the river.

It felt like being out in the wilderness, yet if I looked the other way, I could see the high-rises of Tin Shui Wai.

Cityscape.

Cityscape.

Urban and nature.

Urban and nature.

Next I wandered through the mangrove swamps with their tidal mudflats. It's possible to see mudskippers and fiddler crabs here at certain times. I guess it depends on the tide. Mud skippers are amphibious fish that can swim across on top of the mud flats at low tide. Male fiddler crabs have one huge claw and one small one, whereas the females have two claws that are the same size. I did see some fish in the water that may or may not have been mud skippers. I didn't see any fiddler crabs, so I had to rely on the models in the display rooms for my photos.

Mangrove boardwalk.

Mangrove boardwalk.

Mangroves.

Mangroves.

Mangroves.

Mangroves.

Pandanus tree by the water.

Pandanus tree by the water.

Pandanus.

Pandanus.

Fish, maybe these are mudskippers at high tide.

Fish, maybe these are mudskippers at high tide.

Fish.

Fish.

Shells.

Shells.

Fiddler crabs.

Fiddler crabs.

Mud skippers.

Mud skippers.

After that I had a look in the bird hides. There are signs outside reminding people to keep quiet and displays to show the birds that can be found here.

Sign outside a bird hide.

Sign outside a bird hide.

One of the bird hides.

One of the bird hides.

A second bird hide.

A second bird hide.

I did see blackfaced spoonbills.

I did see blackfaced spoonbills.

I didn't see the kingfisher.

I didn't see the kingfisher.

I did see ducks.

I did see ducks.

There are three different bird hides in Wetlands Park: Riverside Hide, Fishpond Hide and Mudflat Hide. It's possible to go inside these buildings, which are two or three stories high, and observe the wild birds through binoculars. I was able to see a black-winged stilt, which looks really funny when reflected in the water due to the perceived length of its legs and a pied avocet, which was hard to photograph as it constantly bent down looking for food.

Black-winged stilt.

Black-winged stilt.

Black-winged stilt.

Black-winged stilt.

Pied avocet.

Pied avocet.

Black-winged stilt and pied avocet.

Black-winged stilt and pied avocet.

I also had a wander around the Wildside Walk that crosses ponds and passes through woodlands. There are some lovely trees in the woodlands with tangled roots and aerial branches. There was also an area of flowers to attract butterflies.

Wildside Walk.

Wildside Walk.

Wildside Walk.

Wildside Walk.

Tall grasses.

Tall grasses.

Chiku tree.

Chiku tree.

Seed pods.

Seed pods.

Seed pods.

Seed pods.

Palm trees.

Palm trees.

Trees.

Trees.

Trees.

Trees.

Flowers to attract butterflies.

Flowers to attract butterflies.

Flowers in the butterfly section.

Flowers in the butterfly section.

I wandered back to the main building where I took some photos of cormorants airing their huge black wings and blackfaced spoonbills searching for food.

Black faced spoonbills, though you can't really see their faces.

Black faced spoonbills, though you can't really see their faces.

Cormorants.

Cormorants.

Cormorants.

Cormorants.

Cormorants and black-faced spoonbills.

Cormorants and black-faced spoonbills.

There's a cafe and a play area for kids here. There were lots of kids around as several schools were visiting. I took a wander through the galleries. There were models of animals.

Tiger.

Tiger.

Caribou.

Caribou.

Then there were some fish swimming around sunken tree trunks.

These fish are real.

These fish are real.

These fish are real.

These fish are real.

There was also a swamp area to walk around with the sounds of the forest all around you.

Swampy forest.

Swampy forest.

Swampy forest.

Swampy forest.

Swampy forest.

Swampy forest.

Carnivorous plants.

Carnivorous plants.

I had intended to take the airport bus home, but I just missed one and they only run about once every thirty minutes so I took the light rail and MTR, going via Tung Chung to do some shopping.

Posted by irenevt 08:46 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (8)

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