Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Monday May 30 and Sunday May 29 Twice Lived – Home to Canada

And this brings us to the end of our almost five months of travel.  We caught a flight out of Hong Kong departing at 0:30 a.m. Monday May 30, and then we got to live Sunday May 29 all over again!!! 

The flight was fairly bumpy all the way, but the approach coming into Vancouver was absolutely beautiful; flying low over the snow capped mountains and rivers, then the coast line, then we did a complete circuit over Vancouver, LionsGate Bridge, Stanley Park, Second Narrows, etc. Truly stunning. We arrived before nine pm so flight time was just over 11 hours. Pretty good going!! The fact that we sat in the airplane for about 30-45 mins waiting for the corridor to the deload platform to join to the plane (there was a functioning problem) made it that we disembarked at the estimated time for arrival!!

During the flight, apart from “snoozing”, I watched two movies and thoroughly enjoyed them both: Fathers and Daughters - a very moving film about a widowed father bringing up a daughter, and Brooklyn which was a great story written by Nick Hornby and based on Colm Toibin's novel "Brooklyn".

Alanna came to the airport to meet us, and it was the best feeling in the world to see her smiling face and hold her in my arms!! How I missed those hugs!!! Her Dad did too!!

And now, we are adjusting to the time difference, washing clothes, and, of course, finishing up my blog!! The best part about coming home? Sleeping in my own bed, not having to fiddle with adapters to get chargers, hairdryer and straightening irons working, and not having the atmosphere filled with exhaust fumes and smoke from burning the rice fields!!

It was an amazing trip. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and did a lot. There was no best part. It was all the best with a few major highlights such as: getting to be a “roomie” all over again with Sue and Jim; swimming with the sea lions and dolphins at Baird Bay; sand boarding on the dunes in Fowler’s Bay; sharing the beach in Cape la Grande with the kangaroos;  hiking up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo; seeing all the monkeys in Sabbah; the consistently beautiful weather in Bali; the amazing aesthetic pleasure of the temples, countryside, villages, art work, and rice fields in Bali; all the special moments we had connecting with friends from previous trips and Canada along the way; and finally Rumah Sawah Kita and the pleasure of sharing that with goods friends from Canada and Hong Kong.  Namaste!

Thursday May 26, Friday May 27, Saturday May 28, Sunday May 29 – Three Days in Hong Kong Guided by a Resident’s Perspective

Our day on Thursday started around 7:30 a.m. waking up to the sound of the Bali birds all around us. After a leisurely breakfast I sat and finished the novel I was reading (Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu) so that I could return the book to Geoffrey and take one last peek at the villa. We packed up our stuff, checked out, and headed up to the restaurant at the Bali Dream Café for one last coffee late. This is where Made found us. We made our way slowly up the lane one last time, waving to the people we knew and saying “goodbye”. Our luggage followed on the golf cart.

We drove back down through all the little villages to Denpasar and then across the Mandara Bridge to the airport. We checked our flight and found it had been delayed by 2 hours so we had 4 hours to pass at the airport! We went through Indonesian immigration and security and found a restaurant where we ate lunch as a guest of Cathay Pacific. After lunch I shopped, spending most of my time looking over the books in the Periplus book store and writing down the titles that interested me! We charged our phones; Ray listened to his audio book; we people watched. It is amazing how quickly the time passes and around 6:00 p.m. we made our way to the gate. Flight delayed an extra hour. So, instead of 4:00 p.m. departure, we left at 7:00 p.m.

It was a good flight, on a Boeing 777 with 79 seat rows! Cathay Pacific must have apologized about 45 times for being late. We had a great dinner and I watched “Spotlight”, the movie about the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Roman Catholic clergy in Boston. Superbly acted, and quite disturbing to watch.  I listened to my audio book for a little while, and then we were landing in Hong Kong. It took us quite a while to get through Immigration and claim our baggage, and Catherine was there, walking towards us, to meet us!  We sped along the deserted, modern, Hong Kong highways and I think we arrived at her place somewhere around 2:45 p.m. We all went straight to bed!!

Friday morning we slept in till about 9:00 a.m. and after a leisurely breakfast we set off with Catherine to see the sights in Hong Kong.

We took a cab to the subway station then the MTR  to Yuen Po Streeet – Bird Garden. We walked slowly through the various vendors looking at the bird cages and the different species of birds that they house. The birds were colourful, noisy, and ranged in sizes from the tiniest little bird about 3 inches long to a full grown parrot. We were conflicted in our thoughts when we saw them. On the one hand we just wanted to open all the doors on the cages and let the birds fly away. On the other hand their cuteness, bird songs, and beauty captured us.

We found the Mong Kok flower market and wound our way through bunches, and bunches of yellow, pink, purple, white, among other colours, flowers. Their floral perfume masked the street smells of Hong Kong. I wanted to buy them all and take them home, but of course, we had a long day ahead of us and they wouldn’t have survived the heat or the flight home! So, I took pictures instead!

We got back on the subway and headed to the Nan Lian Garden, Kowloon, a classical Chinese garden in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the 33rd largest city in the world with a population of 7,208,600 people. The gardens surrounded the Chi Lin Monastery, an exquisite wooden Buddhist monastery.

After the monastery we headed over to the Kowloon Cricket Club where we grabbed a late snack, before heading out to an evening sail on the Aqua Luna, a converted Chinese junk with a bright red sail. We circled the harbour several times and were dazzled by the stunning skylines of Kowloon and Hong Kong.  After the cruise we met Jamie and Deborah at the Cricket Club for a delicious meal and a glass of wine. We headed home around 9 or 10 o’clock and were in bed just before midnight. A full day filled with the colour of Hong Kong, birds, flowers, gardens, and monasteries.

On Saturday morning Catherine made pancakes for breakfast and then we set off by car to the Sai Kung Country park in the southern part of the Sai Kung Peninsula. We did a great hike through the Pak Tam Chung Nature Trail – about 4k partly along a civilized concrete path, and partly a scramble through the bushes along a stoney trail that resembled the bottom of a river with stunning views over the many islands in Port Shelter, Sai Kung, and the High Island Reservoir. At the start of the walk came across a collection of restored cottages which had originally been Sheung Yiu Village which was founded by members of the Wong clan of the Hakka ethnic origin who moved there in the late 19th century. The buildings had been in ruin but are restored to show the dwellings as they were when the family lived there.

After the walk we drove straight to Sai Kung and ate in one of the Chinese restaurants, then strolled along the front of Sai Kung harbour watching the fish marketers (the Tankas), the dragon boat racing, and investigating all the little lanes and shops of every description. Sai Kung was originally  a  fishing harbour and today although the town is predominantly a typhoon shelter for motorized junks used in the tourist business, there are still a collection of fishermen who bring their boats up to the harbour wall and display their fish for sale. Amongst the little lanes in the town we came across a temporary bamboo structure that would put the Green School to shame. This is for the Chinese Opera which is held in June and devoted to the Tin Hau Goddess and the Tin Hau temple where the fishermen go to worship the Goddess of the Sea. The temple is dwarfed by the temporary Opera House.

We had no sooner reached the car to head back home than we were deluged with rain. It was great timing!! Once home we enjoyed Jamie’s delicious pulled pork for dinner, made some notes for my blog, chatted with Deborah and Rachel, and went to bed around 11.

Did I mention that there was aTyphoon Level 3 warning when we arrived in Hong Kong which was later downgraded to Typhoon Level 1.  No doubt the rain we experienced had something to do with the typhoon. The next warning level is Typhoon Level 8. When this is reached Catherine tells us Hong Kong literally shuts down. Guess we missed the bullet on that one!!

By Sunday morning the rain had disappeared. We had Hong Kong style bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. Yummy!!  We set off around 10:30 and drove into Central – the business district on Hong Kong Island. We had a quick look at the Peak tram but the queue was unfortunately too long so Jamie drove us up – or so he claims, we claim we walked half way!!! Very steep! Before reaching the car we stopped off in the Hong Kong Botanical Garden. We passed through the entrance arch built to commemorate the Chinese who died loyal to the allied cause in the 1914-1919 and 1939-1945 wars. We met a lovely woman there who made some suggestions for our visit….all of which Catherine and Jamie had covered…but very sweet of her to stop and talk to us. We continued on around the gardens and visited the bird aviaries admiring the brilliant orange ibis, the flamingoes and various other beautiful birds. Then back into the car and drove up to the Peak School where we parked and where Jamie works, and started on the 3.2 k Pok Fu Lam Tree Walk. It was an easy walk on paving and through the gently drifting haar, we passed palm trees, fig trees, camphor trees, and an Indian Rubber tree with a hundred roots above the ground. When the sea-fog cleared we had spectacular views over Hong Kong, Kowloon, Pok Fu Lam and Lamma Island. We arrived back at the start, and stopped in to a restaurant for dim sum.

Next on the itinerary was a trip down to Stanley, a quaint little village at the southernmost peak of Hong Kong. Japan invaded Hong Kong in 1941 and Stanley Village was one of the last battlefields. The British surrendered on Christmas Day, 1941. Now populated by mainly expats the houses and apartments are expensive and gorgeous. First we stopped in Repulse Bay at the lovely Verandah Restaurant where they serve a delicious English Tea. The original Repulse Bay Hotel (colloquially referred to as The Riviera of the Orient) was built in 1920 but was pulled down in two stages in the 1970s and 1980s. The current building is built on part of the old hotel grounds and is a replica of the old Repulse Bay Hotel. The old hotel saw many famous guests: King Edward VIII, Ernest Hemingway, and Clark Gable to name a few. After dreaming of an elegant dinner at the restaurant, we headed to Stanley Military Cemetery. The cemetery was opened in the early days of the Colony for the burial of the Garrison and their families. It was closed for 70 years then it was re-opened in 1942 to bury those who fell in defence of Hong Kong, as well as civilian internees and prisoners of war. The grave stones are simple and the small cemetery peaceful in an otherwise city-cacophony.

It was time to head back home and our route took us across the main dam of the four Tai Tam Reservoirs. The reservoir is surrounded by the lushly vegetated Mount Butler, Violet Hill, and Mount Barker which provide another peaceful spot probably not often visited by the casual tourist in Hong Kong.

Where Ubud is beautiful, Hong Kong is organization. What was special about being shown over the city by residents of Hong Kong was that we got to see beyond the organization and into the quiet spots and the real beauty of the location behind the rapid pace and concrete structures of the commercial face. There are many things that please the aesthetic senses such as the birds, the flowers, the monastery, the temples, and the hills. For the rest it is order and organization over creativity. Where the air in Ubud is scented with lily flowers, burning incense, and sweet grasses, Hong Kong’s air is filled with a mixture of sewer smells, mothballs, and the smell of rotten things…. and … thankfully – no exhaust!! The emission controls here are very strict. But that is the business centre, once again out in the hills and on the city’s trails, fresh flower and vegetation aromas abound. In short, like Vancouver and Rio, Hong Kong is a stunning city.

We arrived back at Catherine and Jamie’s flat and ate dinner – Chow Fan, or stir fried rice with barbecued pork and chicken, Chinese style!! Delicious.