Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A walk in the park

Monday 7 January

We were getting ready to burn the CDs of Yuk Tim's photos, when Alan Richardson, Eddie's school friend, rang to invite us on a walk. He said it was an easy walk, mostly on the flat, so I envisioned something like a walk along Tamaki Drive . We agreed, but warned him that we had to be in Kowloon for a dinner engagement with Alex Ip at 7 pm.

We met them at Sha Tin New Town Plaza, from where we took a 299 bus to Sai Kung, a picturesque fishing village surrounded by country parks. The next bus (94) took us to Pak Sha Wan or Hebe Haven The area is very rural and quiet on the weekdays - on the weekends it is filled with trampers and picnickers.

We headed off uphill past a pretty barbecue area among trees (with a nice clean toilet), and then towards the coast through a village (that was the easy bit) on to a walking track similar to the one we took last year round the Tai Tam reservoir. Tamaki Drive it isn't! Narrow paths are set with boulders and rocks which can be hard on the ankles, but we are grateful for steps when the going gets steep. Alan said the map indicated a climb of 160 metres, but I reckoned I could feel the air getting thin.

The air and water in the area is quite clean - we stopped for a rest at a very quiet and beautiful beach where there was very little rubbish washed up. It was a pleasure to sit and bask in the sun, thinking if this is winter, we could have more of it. The lack of humidity made the exercise enjoyable. We met very few people during the day, although on the weekends it is more crowded. Some cyclists passed us - I wondered how they negotiated the steps and narrow passes, but obviously they didn't find them major obstacles. Hong Kong's country parks are all well-kept and well-used - a major asset to the territory.

We hadn't had much breakfast, and forgot to pack provisions apart from our water bottles, so we were feeling quite hungry by the time we stopped for lunch at Hoi Ha Village at 2.30ish. The meal was disappointing, perhaps because it wasn't a busy day or tourist season, The main attractions at Hoi Ha are the remains of an old lime kiln, which was the area's industry along with fishing, and the beach, where we spent a few moments. Once refueled, we were able to carry on to the next village Alan wanted to show us.

[I thought the meal of 2 small oval plates of fried rice and noodles, a bottle of Qingdao beer, a can of coke for Weiming and a cup of tea each for Annette and myself for HK$140 was grossly excessive. Assuming the beer was $30 and the coke was $15, and the tea @ $5 /cup it would have been $85 for the food.-Tourist trap ripoff!. Maybe they charged me $50 for going to the toilet. They should have paid me for watering their garden. E.H]

Pak Sha O is a restored and renovated village (there is a good description of it at the link), with ex-pats making it a haven, almost English in its gardens and neat houses, though the one pictured isn't really typical as it is more traditional in style. An old chapel is also a feature. There are many other tumble-down buildings around - but Eddie felt it a bit far from civilisation to set up house there.

After our tour of the village, we caught a mini-bus to Sai Kung then immediately caught another to Choi Hung, from where we took the MTR to TST.

We arrived in plenty of time to meet Alex and his family, who are longstanding friends. Unfortunately, his first choice of restaurant had been booked out for a wedding, so he settled for a Chiu Chow meal instead, which we enjoyed, although I think we agreed Cantonese cuisine is best.

After dinner, we had a short walk around the waterfront before catching our respective trains home.

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