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Horsing around Hong Kong

Salted duck eggs in Tai O, Lantau

“Is there anything worth seeing on the other side?”

Map unfurled, the two visitors gestured at the skyline as the city lights flickered on across the harbour. It was a valid question but also a remarkably silly one, and I listened intently as a solo traveller tried his best to answer their query. Had they asked me, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. What were they interested in? What kind of sights did they want to see? Aspects of traditional culture? Street markets? Or the island’s less-trumpeted beaches and hiking trails?

Eventually the three exchanged names and trooped off, leaving me wondering if they would get a true picture of Hong Kong. Perhaps they would catch a glimpse, huddling over dinner on plastic stools at Temple Street Night Market. Or maybe they would see the unexpected natural beauty from a double decker bus, travelling the winding coast road to Stanley. But nothing could match what Bama and I had experienced during the past 14 days.

Soon after our joint trip to Bali, my parents kindly offered to host Bama over the Chinese New Year holidays. Our friendship was forged two years ago on his first visit to the territory, and this time I took Bama to many of my favourite places around Hong Kong, while discovering some new gems along the way. Together we hiked to the secluded beaches of Tai Long Wan, ate fresh seafood on Lamma Island, watched the Chinese New Year fireworks, and explored historical villages in the New Territories.

What has made Bama’s visit even more special is the timing – so far he’s enjoyed an inside look at the traditions of this festive season: tasting dishes prepared only for Chinese New Year, wandering the annual flower markets in Victoria Park, and receiving his first packets of “lucky money”, or lai see (also known as angpao in Indonesia). For me, it’s been a real joy to usher in the Year of the Horse with my close friend and travel companion; to show Bama the four corners of Hong Kong at their very best.

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Kowloon Walled City Park

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Sedan chair detail, Kowloon Walled City Park

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Moon gate, Kowloon Walled City Park

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Lotus pond, Chi Lin Nunnery

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Navigating at low tide, Tai O

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Stilt houses, Tai O

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New Year decorations, Tai O

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Sunbather, Tai O

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Fireworks over Victoria Harbour

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Dandelions of fire

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Thunder and gunpowder smoke

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Neon paradise

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. James, what are they – those golden orange orbs?

    Terrific post that does show a couple of new faces of Hong Kong for our enjoyment! 🙂

    February 10, 2014
    • Thank you Meredith! Those are salted duck eggs drying under the sun – I have no idea how long it takes. 🙂

      February 10, 2014
  2. Love the night colors on the water!

    February 10, 2014
    • I did too, Sue! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      February 10, 2014
  3. Beautiful photos James. I particularly like the detail of the sedan chair and neon paradise. Gorgeous! ~Terri

    February 10, 2014
    • Thank you, Terri. We’ve enjoyed a spell of unseasonably warm weather – eight days straight of sun and clear blue skies. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions myself!

      February 10, 2014
  4. Two years ago when I first came to HK it was foggy throughout my short stay in the territory. However I’m really glad the weather was perfect last week when we went hiking to all those four corners of HK. Thanks a lot for the great trip, James, and next time it’s your turn to enjoy Semarang! Prepare your stomach for some very spicy dishes! 🙂

    February 10, 2014
    • Bama, the pleasure is all mine. 🙂 My family (especially my mom!) loved having you over and it gave me the perfect excuse to take a few days off work. I can’t wait to visit your hometown next summer – in the meantime I’ll have to build up my tolerance for chilli!

      February 10, 2014
  5. Wonderful photos James. I love HK, but must get to Tai-O next time. Everybody seems to recommend it in one way or another. My experiences of HK so far have been quite touristy. http://backpackerlee.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/sailing-the-star-ferry/

    February 10, 2014
    • Tai O is wonderful – it gets packed on weekends but for good reason! We went on the eve of Chinese New Year and it was very atmospheric… even more so in the late afternoon light. Next time you come I would also recommend a hike in Sai Kung; not many visitors make the effort.

      February 10, 2014
  6. Beautiful post, James. The firework shots are just superb 🙂

    February 11, 2014
    • Thank you, Sreejith – those were the few that didn’t turn out too blurry. 🙂

      February 11, 2014
  7. Reblogged this on Just Go Places.

    February 11, 2014
  8. Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey, and gifting us with a sneak-peak through this beautiful time of year in HK. Beautiful!

    February 11, 2014
    • You’re welcome! This has been the warmest Chinese New Year I’ve ever experienced here… sadly we’re now back to cold, rainy weather.

      February 11, 2014
  9. I love especially the pictures of Tai O. Wonderful post as usual James.

    February 11, 2014
    • Thank you, Alison – I have so much to catch up on with your blog!

      February 11, 2014
  10. I’ve never been too sure whether I wanted to someday visit Hong Kong or not. Your photos and eloquent writing on the city have convinced me to go someday. Thank you.

    February 12, 2014
    • I’m glad you were convinced, Leah. Hong Kong is far more than skyscrapers and shopping malls… I would even say that most people miss the best parts.

      February 12, 2014
  11. Great that you & Bama are able to get together as often as you do. Reading this has doubled my resolve to return James, hopefully timed for one of your festivals. Enjoyed your photos and your wonderful writing.

    February 14, 2014
    • Thank you, Madhu. There are many more photos to come – Bama and I made the most of the beautiful weather! in the event that you do make a return visit, I’d be thrilled to take you and R off the beaten track.

      February 15, 2014
      • Oh thank you so much for the offer James. I hope I can take you up on it sooner than later.

        February 15, 2014
  12. lomogal #

    Great pictures, I’m looking forward to getting to Tai-O myself.

    February 23, 2014
    • Thanks! Hope you get there soon enough.

      February 24, 2014
  13. Kamila #

    Hi there! It is amazingly written, honestly. I took my brother to exactly same places during New Chinese Year in addition to that Shek O, Lantau hills, Sai Kung, some of the outlining islands and there would be much more to discover, but time didn’t allow it due to Vietnam trip.

    I personally prefer old hidden Hong Kong because of its story hidden behind and deep values that are worth to reveal and retell for better understanding and appreciation of land, its beauty and power of nature.

    I still remember myself sitting on the bed after arrival to HK, staring out of the window on the fog and not seeing blue sky for three days by the end of July. I haven’t expected that I would find such beauty here. I would say this especially about Lantau that has become my HK home where mighty hills, deep jungle and powerful ocean speak to me and reflect my mind, give me space to be and breath going up the hill, under the water or just wandering in the woods. There is always something I am curious about , new path, place, turning, different monastery, new species, giant trees, as well as I feel accepted and accept this island. No matter I don’t know the whole story, I have grown in. What only worries me is how much from this place is going to be sacrificed and destroyed in the future.

    Many thanks for this blog and good inspiration for next travels. I should have given more attention to who was sitting next to me in Spanish classes.)))

    February 25, 2014
    • Kamila! What a nice surprise to see you here! Shame I couldn’t make it to the final month of Spanish class – I was going to ask you all about your trip to Vietnam. The weather over Chinese New Year was something special, we’ve never had it so warm and I imagine your brother loved seeing HK’s great outdoors.

      I too am worried about Lantau; so much has already been taken away with the new airport, Tung Chung and Disneyland. There is so much pressure for development there and I would hate to see it being ruined.

      Also, I was going to search for you on Facebook but it looks like you have found me already. Maybe we should catch up over a coffee sometime… hope the job hunt is going well!

      February 25, 2014
  14. beautiful photos as usual….you reside in hkg?

    March 2, 2014
    • Makasih, Alex – I live in HK but am hopelessly addicted to Indonesia. 😉

      March 2, 2014
      • oww….lets meet up sometimes in hkg……even better when bama is around too hahahah

        March 2, 2014
      • Pasti, that would be great! Depends when you’re on the ground though, haha.

        March 2, 2014
      • haha normally i have 10-12 days in hkg per month 🙂 just gimme a buzz when u r free! 🙂

        March 2, 2014

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