Monday, 2 August 2010

Hong Kong: July 2010

Yay, we’ve moved into our new apartment and it is truly amazing – such a nice space with fantastic views – we both feel very lucky! We’ve been here for 3 weeks and have settled in nicely. The lions-share of the furniture is rented by Matt’s work, so was already in place. We’ve finally been re-united with all of our paintings and ornaments that we had shipped over from England. We hadn’t seen most of the stuff for over a year due to our travels, so it felt a bit like Christmas unwrapping everything!

We’ve also been shopping to buy some new furniture – an antique cupboard from Tibet as well as a couple of Chinese style reproduction pieces. I’ve also been back to the flower market and bought plants for both terraces, which now look super!

The weather is still very humid, although we’re both coping better now – we’ve definitely acclimatized! There have also been a couple of typhoon warnings which have been a bit scary – being 35 floors up and half way up a mountain is not ideal for a typhoon - fortunately both passed by several hundred kilometers away so we were unscathed!

Other than settling in to the new pad highlights for July have included:
A Sunday trip to Lamma Island – this is just to the South of Hong Kong Island, and like Cheung Chau, which we visited last month, Lamma has no roads or cars, but a couple of nice beaches. It’s bigger than Chung Chau and is well known for its great hiking routes – unfortunately we found it just too hot to take a hike, so we just walked along the waterfront, checked out a small temple and then sat in the shade in a harbor-front cafĂ©!

I spent a Monday afternoon with Khim and Nita from my photography course looking at the famous ‘Lovers Rock’ which protrudes from the jungle half way up the mountain over Wan Chai – with spectacular views of the city below.

The rock is famous for its ‘phallic’ shape, which the locals treat as a fertility symbol – apparently it has magic powers! On the 6th, 16th and 26th day of each lunar month, the local women come from all over Hong Kong to light incense and receive blessings at the various small alters dotted around the hillside – in the hope they’ll meet the man of their dreams or solve their boyfriend/marital issue – sweet!

We also had a visit from our friend Shirley whom we met in Siem Riep, Cambodia last year. She’s currently living in the Philippines and was attending the dive show as part of her job. She and I went out for drinks in Wan Chai on the Thursday and then she came round on Saturday night for dinner and She, Matt and I ended up clubbing which was much fun – especially the pole dancing!

I met up with Khim and Nita again to photograph the sunset from Pokfulum, on the Eastern side of Hong Kong Island, where Nita lives – this was followed by an amazing Indian meal at Nita’s, cooked by her 2 helpers. Nita has lived in HK all her life but is of Indian origin and knows how to put on a feast!

One of the main highlights of the month was our Junk boat party in Clearwater bay and Victoria Harbour.

We were invited by Kate, who is the sister of Bianca, an old colleague of mine and we were celebrating the upcoming birthdays of her friends Tessa and Paul – we had an absolute blast drinking cocktails, eating yummy food, jumping off the boat and dancing…lots of dancing! We made some great new friends too!

After the trip several people came back to ours where we had more drinks and dancing on the terrace – the perfect end to a perfect day!!!

Hong Kong: June 2010

So Matt and I have now been here for 2 months. We’re still in our temporary apartment next door to the botanical gardens but luckily we move to the new place in a few days – we can’t wait! I’ll post some pics here next month. We’ve managed to get ourselves into a nice routine, going out for dinner 2 or three times a week, shopping and mooching around Central on Saturdays (Matt has had 2 new suits tailor made!) and exploring new areas on Sundays.

We’ve also started to make new friends, although obviously we miss all of our great friends and family in London. We’ve even been out clubbing a couple of times – for the first time in ages!

Matt has fully settled into his new job now and is in need of a holiday again. I’m working on music, having bought myself a keyboard and now a guitar. I start the guitar lessons next week which should be fun!

Earlier in the month Matt bought me a new Digital SLR camera – so I went on a three day photography course to learn how to use it properly.

It was fab – the teacher taught us all about apertures, ISOs and shutter speeds – and we practiced on a field trip around town as well as studio portraits. I have well and truly learned how to ‘drive’ the new camera! The rest of the people on the course were great fun, and some of us have met up a few times since to practice our skills.

A few highlights of the month include:
Matt and I visiting Cheung Chau, a small Island, 45 minutes ferry ride from Central. It’s very charming in an odd, slightly scruffy way. The Island doesn’t have any roads, so no cars and the local population are mainly fishermen and the odd hippy.

It’s known for its harbour, which is really quite pretty and home to hundreds of traditional fishing boats and house boats. Along the sea wall are dozens of outdoor cafes selling the daily catch of fish, crabs, squid and other things I’ve never seen before. It also has some great beaches with golden sand and blue seas – at the end of one is a rock carving thought to be 3,500 years old!

The Island is also home to the Pak Tai temple – one of the oldest in Hong Kong and beautifully restored 15 years ago.

Every year it plays host to the ‘famous‘ Cheung Chau bun festival, where huge towers of bread buns are arranged in front of it on big frames – up to 20 metres high, and the local young men fight their way to the top trying to get the most buns on the way. Very odd!

Another Sunday visit was to Ocean Park, a huge theme park on the other side of Hong Kong Island – it was the biggest theme park in Hong Kong until Disneyland opened a few years ago. It’s famous not just for its roller coasters and thrill rides, but also for its animal exhibits.

I’m not a big fan of zoos – during our travels Matt and I have seen so many amazing animals in the wild that we find it sad to see them in captivity – however Ocean Park does have a good record for animal welfare and research.

We went to visit the panda enclosures and one was totally mad (in a good way) having a great time! He’d literally run up his slope, look at the crowd below and then launch himself, turning somersaults rolling back down the hill – hang around for a bit of applause and do it again for another bit of the audience. It was so surreal, he clearly loved it but at one point I though it must be a midget in a suit - he was practically dancing for the crowd – very funny!

We also saw the dolphin show, which we both found sad – the dolphins were amazing jumping out of the water in co-ordination, but it just didn’t really feel right. There’s no way there can be enough room for them in that pool!

The highlight of our visit though (aside from a trip on the log flume) was a visit to the aquarium which was simply spectacular – it was massive, full of all sorts of animals and you could see it from three different levels. We only saw 2 huge aquariums but have since found out there is another one, even better – must go back!

We’ve visited Stanley, on the South of the island a couple more times. There’s a big old colonial building there called ‘Murray House’ This used to stand in Central, on the site of the bank of china tower. When they decided to build the tower they transported the building brick by brick to Stanley and re-assembled it – it’s currently home to a maritime museum and loads of restaurants, where we’ve enjoyed nice long Sunday lunches.

With my friends Tom, Khim and Nita from my photography course I’ve visited several markets, parks and gardens to take photos.

These included Cat Street Market, famous for its antiques. It was really odd as it had lots of statues of Chairman Mao everywhere – he really was deified in China – his image was in every home and they’re now sold on as kitsch to Western tourists – I think it’s in very bad taste myself – almost like selling statuettes of Hitler (although you can’t say that out loud as HK is part of China, where Mao’s ideology is still to a great extent revered). We also visited the Man Mo temple, which was amazing – and the aviary at Hong Kong park again to ‘shoot’ the birds – in a nice way of course!

So all in all a busy month – the one negative is it’s getting VERY hot and humid – almost too hot to be out for more than a couple of hours at a time. Luckily all shops and restaurants are air conditioned, but it does prevent long walks in the countryside – there’s some excellent hiking around HK, but that will have to wait for now! July and August are the hottest months – September can also be uncomfortable, but then it’s plain sailing, warm and sunny from October through to May – phew!