I’ve Peaked

I finally made it to Victoria Peak.

Wow.  It is stunning!

I read about the best way to get there, and just opted for a taxi, because I didn’t want to be stuck in a huge line for an hour waiting for the tram.  It was a little confusing to find where the actual viewpoint is when the taxi drops you off under the shopping mall.  But I found the observation tower.  I didn’t go up it, as I could see from below that there was a long line just to stand at the railing to take a picture.  So I got some shots from the lower platform.  Time to go home?  Nope!  I had also read about the best way to see the Peak.  There is a road that was built in 1913, called “Lugard Road”, which circles right around the top of the peak.  As I walked along it, I was a bit confused because all I could see to my right was trees.  I just caught glimpses of the view through the thick forest.  Eventually the trees opened up, and, well, as I said before, stunning.

The other really nice thing about walking along Lugard road, is that it’s very much a paved nature trail.  The trees were beautiful, the sounds of birds pleasant, and it was uncrowded enough that at times I was the only person on my little curve of the road.  Surely want to go back, maybe next time for the night views!!

This Place Smells!

I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way.  There are so many smells in this city.  Tropical florals, usually only encountered in my body wash.  The familiar smell of exhaust of cars and buses, ingrained in my olfactory pathways from years of living in cities.  New weird smells that I have yet to identify–some fruity, some fishy, some downright stinky (I’d be happy never again encountering whatever that one was, grocery store).  But you know what smell I haven’t encountered?  Eau du Metro.  That pungent rotting piss smell that wafts over you when changing trains in the Paris metro.  …You might want to take care of that, Paris.

UPDATE:  So that smell I’d like to avoid forever is Durian.  The so-called “king of fruit”.  Well the king might want to change his socks, ’cause DAMN!  When you walk into a grocery store, you naturally enter through the produce section.  Which means you walk by, or rather, are assaulted by the pungent smell of rotting fresh Durian.  I sort of lose my appetite for shopping after that.  Although it certainly curbs any junk-food cravings I might have had before walking into the store.

Here be dragons. …in Aberdeen

I went with my HK buddy, Kim to Aberdeen.  Aberdeen is on the south side of Hong Kong island, and was where foreigners in the 19th century first arrived.  The name Hong Kong was actually just the name of this village, but foreigners mistook it for the name of the entire island, and well…that’s how these things go I suppose.  The reason this area was named “Hong Kong”–meaning “Fragrant Harbor”–is because it is here that the incense trees were sent for export to other parts of China.

Now Aberdeen is famous for it’s floating fishing village, and it’s HUGE floating restaurants.  We strolled along the promenade, fended off Sampan ride peddlers, and made our way past the many many boats and their inhabitants to the free ferry.  Really incredible to pass by the lives of people which are so much different than your own; fish hanging out to dry on your “front porch”, tending nets and dropping a line in the water off your boat.

We took the free ferry to Jumbo.  Fitting name for the huge boat, one of a group of boats which are floating restaurants in the harbor.  Maybe barge is a better word than boat.   Every inch of the outside was hyper-decorated.  And I loved it 🙂  Especially the dragons!!  We had a really good meal of lo mein and dim sum.  Super good food on this jumbo boat!  After taking the ferry back to the promenade, we looked for the fish market. Well, we smelled our way there, I suppose would be more accurate.  It was late though, so was already closed.  I can just imagine all the big tanks filled with the early morning catches, waiting for the restaurants to come purchase the day’s menu items.

After our Aberdeen experience, we decided chocolate was needed.  Kim had been to Mandarin Oriental and seen their beautiful pastries, so we headed there to finish off the afternoon.

All in all a well spent day!

Mid-Autumn Festival and Fire Dragons

This past week saw two holidays in Hong Kong.  Wednesday was National Day celebrating the founding of China.  I was too sick to go watch the fireworks that day, but Sunday was the Mid-Autumn Festival and it was a public holiday on Monday 🙂

The Mid-Autumn Festival also known as the Lantern Festival (and many other names) is well celebrated in Hong Kong.  Victoria Park, which is a 10 minute walk from my apartment, is decorated with lanterns and lights and it’s reminds me of a winter wonderland…in 90 degree heat.  The lanterns and lights strung above were really beautiful.  And more impressively, there are dozens of figurative lanterns around the park as well.  A colleague of mine invited me to join her and her family on Sunday for dinner, then a walk through the park.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  Also, here is a wikipedia article on the festival:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Autumn_Festival

One of the special attractions in my area of Hong Kong is the “Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance”!!  This is not something everyone gets to see, as it’s local to the Tai Hang area of Hong Kong, south of Victoria Park.  You can read about the legend of the Fire Dragon Dance here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_Hang#Tai_Hang_Fire_Dragon_Dance  I signed up for an Internations event to see this event on Monday. I wasn’t even sure what this was, and I didn’t realize it was a special thing, but I was eager to start meeting people, and hey, culture!  On Sunday, after parting ways with my colleague, I was winding back through the crowd heading home, and I saw a sign that the FDD would be in the park.  Not only that, it was starting in about 45 minutes!  So hey, why not see it twice!!  I found a spot near the barrier of where the dragon would perform.  It was definitely worth the wait and the crowd!!  It’s hard to get great pictures of it, but I managed to snap one or two keepers!

The next night I met up with the event group in a restaurant in Tai Hang.  We had a nice meet and greet before heading out to the street to see the Dragon.  This setting was much more what I pictured.  We were packed into the sidewalk of a little street among the older buildings of HK.  We ended up standing just near the stage, which meant that the dragon would be performing right in front of us for a while!  …however we were slightly behind it.  It was totally ok to see the dragon, but to our complete surprise, Hugh Jackman was the special guest and he was on that stage!!  Craziness!!  I saw him a few times as he popped around to wave to the crowd, but sadly didn’t catch a photo.  Anyway, I was able to get some video of the dragon dance this time! https://youtu.be/a28EvNMHY-Q Right at the 1:27 mark, you can catch a glimpse of Hugh 😉