Unmasking ‘The Big Lychee’
As a nickname, it’s not nearly as popular as ‘The Big Durian’ (Jakarta) or ‘The Big Mango’ (Bangkok), but some expats have affectionately called Hong Kong ‘The Big Lychee’. Native to the rainforests of southern China, the lychee fruit is protected in a thin, brittle shell concealing a delicate pulp with an aromatic, perfume-like flavour.
Intensely sweet and dangerously “heaty” in traditional Chinese medicine, the fruit tree’s presence in the local geography is reflected in a handful of historic place names, including ‘Lychee Point’ (Lai Chi Kok), ‘Lychee Hill’ (Lai Chi Shan) and the village of ‘Lychee Nest’ (Lai Chi Wo). These names are a dramatic counterpoint to Hong Kong’s Gotham-like appearance on the silver screen.
The enduring image of narrow, gritty streets bristling with neon signs befits one of the most densely-populated cities on earth, and it’s a semi-romantic notion that is happily mined by action film directors, video game developers and artists. Though not at all inaccurate (except for presenting an explosive, crime-ridden environment ruled by the Triads), it does not give audiences the full picture.
Another Hong Kong awaits just over the hill, often a quick ferry or bus ride from the gleaming, self-important corridors of the financial district. Here, the endless din of the big city gives way to the hum of cicadas and birdsong, and the ocean surf laps audibly against a rocky coastline dotted with almost 90 beaches. Outdoors enthusiasts will take joy in the fact that 40% of Hong Kong’s land area is protected country park, and its warm waters shelter mangroves and hard coral.
In this post I’ll be presenting some of the simple joys I’ve found from Hong Kong’s four corners, in a series of unpublished photos gathered from the past year and a half. It’s a tribute to the surprising diversity and natural beauty of my hometown, and an invitation for you to go beyond its famously crowded streets.