There are no days and nights–just you and me…and Bruce Lee

22 May

(A more obscure song today… any guesses?)

HK Skyline (20)

Well, I set to exploring Hong Kong – so much to do, so little time to do it in! I started off with a wander round Sheung Wan???  the older part of Hong Kong Island itself – easily accessible by MTR (metro). Exploring the streets brings me face to face with the Hong Kong tram system, which reminds me of the transporter that C3PO and R2D2 were taken to after being kidnapped in Star Wars Episode 4.

Trams (3)

The streets are filled with ginseng sellers and dried seafood specialists.. I recognise the shark’s fin and sea cucumber, although there are things I wouldn’t eat without a far better understanding of Chinese….

Sheung Wen (1)Sheung Wen (12)

This is where the British landed originally, although apart from the Possession Road street sign and a plaque, there’s not much to mark the event. But I did agree with the sign I found…

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I take the Central – Mid-Levels escalator, the longest in the world.. it’s actually a bit of a cheat, as it’s the longest series of escalators. At over 800m it does seem to go on for ever – just as you think it must be over, there’s another one just round the corner.

Central - Mid -Levels Escalator (6)Central - Mid -Levels Escalator (3)Central - Mid -Levels Escalator (1)

That takes me up to Victoria Peak.. most of Hong Kong is hills, so there are some quite spectacular sky scrapers embedded in the hillside.

From Botanical Gardens (1)

And then off up the gravity defying Peak Tram to the summit of Victoria Peak. In true Hong Kong style, they have built a multi story shopping mall at the top. The views are stupendous, though – being higher than the skyscrapers is slightly dizzying – although it’s soon a bit cloudy and then rain sets in. Time to head down hill.

Victoria Peak (3)Victoria Peak (6)Victoria Peak (9)

 

Once I have made my way back down the hill and back across the harbour, looking back across the harbour to Hong Kong island from Kowloon is incredible – the skyline is dramatic and high tech, putting the older Star Ferry boats and the occasional Chinese junk into a surreal perspective. Perhaps it’s time for an evening out on the town.

HK Skyline (17)HK Skyline (19)

Oh, yes, dancing. I’d been wanting to dance for ages – if only to remind myself how! Ceroc Hong Kong meet a couple of times a week under the tender care of ???. I managed their regular class night and a special monthly evening class in Central Hong Kong, which was great fun and very reassuring to know I could still dance (although the intermediate class on the Tuesday was tough tango style, as they were reviewing the week before). Arriving early meant I was on furniture moving duties, but did give me a much better chance to chat to the teachers. (Memo to me, turn up earlier for stuff in future).

I have to say that Hong Kong and New Zealand have more advanced stuff in many of their classes – even the beginners. Quite odd to see the different cultures though – the beginners class was almost 100% Chinese students, while the intermediates were mostly westerners. That might well balance out over time, but they do have some lovely dancers there. And some crazy ones.

It was the Buddha’s birthday recently, so I thought I had better go and wish the old chap a Happy Birthday. In this case, I went up to see the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau. Lantau is connected by MTR (metro) from Hong Kong, so a nice easy day out. I took the cable car up, although, to be honest, I wish I had decided to walk (I couldn’t see a route until I got on the cable car – at which point it became completely obvious). Mind you, it would have been a bit of a trek in 66% humidity and 30 degree heat!

Lantau (7)Big Buddha (1)

The views, though, are spectacular. The Buddha statue is recent, and quite a climb up the hill to reach it. The original plan was to make it in concrete, but that proved technically challenging, so it’s cast in bronze – and, honestly, so much the better for it.

Big Buddha (20)Big Buddha (18)Big Buddha (11)Big Buddha (22)

A little walk from the base is the original temple of the Po Lin monastery…

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… and further on some incredible views across the mountains, making me wish I had got there earlier and been able to walk the trail some more – and the wonderful sculpture that is the Wisdom Trail. This beautiful and inspiring work of art contains the Buddhist Heart Sutra on 24 wooden posts in Chinese calligraphic writing. It’s arranged on the mountainside in a figure eight ‘infinity’ symbol, and proved to be a lovely place to just stop, and sit, and contemplate. A real surprise, and a real joy to find something so lovely in such a gorgeous setting.

Heart Sutra (4)Heart Sutra (5)Heart Sutra (9)Heart Sutra (14)

I’ve noticed something, though – unlike Mexico, where the ancient Mayan ruins still seem alive with power, and even the spiritual locations in Australia and Hawai’i sing with something vibrant and deep, the Asian temples seem old, without power (although the Big Buddha did have a certain presence, peace and tranquillity to it – perhaps simply because it is a modern declaration of faith rather than an old traditional religious icon) .

And as I observe them, it seems like the faithful have a quiet air of desperation about them as they bring their offering. It’s even more confusing in China, where the temples are often a mixture of Buddhism, Taoist philosophy, Chinese gods and a liberal sprinkling of folk myth. And maybe the reason is that there is a search for something outside of the seeker – when the truth is that all power is within.

And while I am musing, t seems a long, long time since the UK. Hong Kong has brought it back – although Hong Kong has been Chinese for nearly 15 years, the colonial legacy remains. Electric sockets are British, and the cars drive on the left (a fact that’s shared with neighbouring Portuguese colony Macau). Sterling, though, as a currency, is a long way behind me. I don’t even convert to sterling anymore – it’s all dollars of one form or another – Hong Kong dollars, Australian dollars, New Zealand dollars – or the local currency (although the days of millionaire status in Laos and Vietnam are over). As it happens, it’s around US$8 to the HK$ – although it was still a bit of a heart stopping moment to pay $150 to go dancing for the evening.

More on Hong Kong to come – because I really didn’t like being in my room much, I didn’t do a lot of blog updates while I was in Hong Kong… so this is all getting typed on the train to Shanghai!

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