There are two sides to Hong Kong: a vertical city of frenetic streets and heaving metro stations where commuters run between platforms to catch the next train, and an astonishing wonderland of hiking trails, secluded beaches, and more than 250 outlying islands. One of the highlights of my recent trip back was a half-day excursion with my father to Tung Lung Chau. Literally “East Dragon Island,” the 242-hectare outcrop of volcanic rock – about 70 percent the size of New York’s Central Park – guards the eastern approaches to Victoria Harbour. Read more
If only more Wednesday mornings began like this. Wide awake, I soak up the passing scenery and perfect blue skies from the leathered interior of a 1961 vintage jeep. I’ve temporarily swapped the traffic-clogged streets of Jakarta for quiet Balinese village roads lined with penjor – tall, drooping bamboo poles that sport decorations woven from dried coconut fronds and young palm leaves. It’s just a few days before Kuningan, the end of a major local holiday when the gods and spirits of the ancestors are believed to descend to earth. Read more
The rain starts off as a drizzle, pattering on the terracotta roof tiles directly overhead. Standing on the wooden balcony of our upstairs room at Novus Giri Puncak Resort & Spa, above a lush ravine some 1,040 meters (3,400 feet) above sea level, I take a deep breath and savor the cool mountain air. Then it hits me — an intensely familiar scent of wet earth mixed with a subtle pine-and-floral fragrance, a half-forgotten aroma from my childhood I can’t quite place. Was it the whiff of a summer’s outing in Canada? Or a foggy spring hike in the country parks of Hong Kong? Read more
The idea had been bubbling away in Bama’s mind ever since the start of the pandemic, but it only really developed as fellow Canadian blogger Caroline recounted her recent trekking trips in her home province. Eventually, a plan spontaneously surfaced one Friday at lunch break while both of us were working from home. “Why don’t we go hiking tomorrow?” Bama excitedly said. The weather forecast predicted clear blue skies; he’d already done his research on Sentul, an area south of Jakarta where tightly packed suburban subdivisions give way to a soothing landscape of fields and mountains threaded with walking trails. Read more
A brisk 45-minute walk each weekday down flat city roads is a poor substitute for exercise. I’m realizing this as I sit gasping for breath on a large rock somewhere in the mountains of Hong Kong’s Lantau island, hopelessly exposed to the midday sun and delirious with nausea. If only there was a patch of shade to lie down in, I silently lament. It is much too hot for Christmas Eve. Read more
“No,” Bart said forcefully, “Not here. The view isn’t the one I saw in my friend’s photo. We have to go further.”
On a grassy ridge at the top of Gunung Prahu, the mountain shaped like a boat’s hull, I was getting exasperated. “Close enough,” I thought. We’d pulled ourselves out of bed at one in the morning, as the rest of the village slumbered peacefully under the brightness of the full moon. Captivated by the rugged scenery around Dieng, a fertile basin in Central Java’s volcanic highlands, our group had unanimously agreed to a sunrise hike some two days earlier. By this time, on the cusp of dawn, I had grown so tired and miserable I almost didn’t care. Read more
The hike to Kawah Ijen begins with a struggle. It is most likely the sulphurous fumes rising from the depths of the volcano, combined with the effects of little sleep. Bama tells me he doesn’t feel well – he is gripped by nausea. We limp along a trail of volcanic ash, taking refuge on the gnarled, low-slung branches and tree stumps beside the route.
Running along a windswept ridge on the southeast arm of Hong Kong Island, Dragon’s Back might just be the most famous hiking trail in the territory. In recent years it has also become a major draw for tourists, especially since TIME magazine named it the ‘Best Urban Hike in Asia’ back in 2004. I had long known of its existence, but it took Bama’s third trip to Hong Kong, and a sudden spell of clear weather, for me to revisit the trail after a hiatus of six or seven years.
There is an old Chinese idiom which expresses a person’s unbreakable ties to their family, hometown, and ancestral land: “Falling leaves return to their roots”. Read more
The old man hovers over our table and grins, lowering his voice to almost a whisper. “Order the Singapore noodles,” he admonishes, “It’s the best.”
Long a staple of Hong Kong’s ubiquitous cha chaan teng – those small teahouses and diners serving generous portions of comfort food – Singapore noodles are in fact a Cantonese creation. It is something of a misnomer; gastronomes would be hard pressed to find this exact dish in the Southeast Asian city-state, so famous for its street food. Read more