High ridges, sparkling waterfalls, lush fung shui woods and ancient fishing communities nestled in rocky harbours. Your mind refreshed, your limbs exercised, and your senses intoxicated, you wonder at the fact that only a few miles separate all this from one of the world’s most crowded cities.
The Serious Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong — the bestselling guidebook to the SAR’s four long-distance hiking trails — is back in the shops in its sixth edition, with a new cover. Describing the Lantau Trail, Wilson Trail, MacLehose Trail and Hong Kong Trail, it’s been updated for 2010 and is profusely illustrated with maps and photographs. Available in all local bookshops.
Further to last month’s post about the Danxiashan national park in Guangdong, it’s worth mentioning that many of the rock formations bear uncanny resemblances to human sexual organs. (I have no photos of those, but Wikipedia does). Ancient Confucians probably avoided the area for these reasons, and it’s still very much off the beaten track, but modern China has few sex taboos and the local authorities have now erected — ahem — noticeboards explaining these interpretations of the sandstone monoliths.
“From a distance, it looks very much like a male genital!” exclaims a sign near the 28-metre Yangyuan Stone, abandoning the euphemistic language we have come to expect from Chinese literature. But it does, and there’s a complementary Yinyuan Cave nearby which does a good impression of the female anatomy.
Outside the park’s main entrance, then, there’s some logic to the existence of the China Sex Museum, which displays a collection of Chinese kama sutra texts, herbal aphrodisiacs, erotic jade carvings, Qing-dynasty sex toys and so on. The tittering girls at reception wouldn’t let me take photos of their explicit exhibits, but here are some pictures of the sculpture outside the museum. You get the idea.
Chongqing’s “Love Land” sex theme park was demolished earlier this year, so if you want to learn more about Chinese attitudes to sex throughout the ages, just take the train up to Shaoguan.
Hiking recently in Shaoguan, in northern Guangdong, I was grateful for the handy suggestions offered by the local authorities, and I fell down the hillside paying the proper attention to health and safety.
The Danxiashan region of the province is a weird landscape of forest punctuated by dramatic red sandstone formations and divided by meandering rivers. Some of the hilltops are dotted with shrines, fountains and old Zen Buddhist temples. It’s been declared a national nature reserve but has not received the fame accorded to Guilin — a good thing probably, since you can enjoy the peace and natural beauty without the nuisance of tour groups.
There is a cable car up to the peak with the best view, but it’s relatively expensive and all the locals choose to take the steps. And why not? As long as they all slip with care, of course.
It’s hot and sticky but we’re going through a period of unusually clear skies in Hong Kong, so the heat doesn’t deter us from hiking. This week we followed a trail from Tseng Lan Shue on Clearwater Bay Road south across Black Hill and Devil’s Peak to Lei Yue Mun.
Standing on the high points of this ridge, you can look westwards directly down the length of Victoria Harbour. Click on the photo to view it at full size. Kowloon is on the right, and Hong Kong Island on the left. You may be able to pick out IFC Two, the Peak Tower, the Wanchai Convention Centre, Green Island, and the North Point ferry pier. Behind Kowloon, the twin summits of Lantau Island are just hidden in cloud. There are some days when you cannot even see Lantau from Kowloon, so this is exceptional.
We started walking through a lush green valley crossed by farmers’ aqueducts and full of dragonflies. Then, in the forest above Ma Yau Tong, we passed a tiny temple to Kwun Yam which is guarded by an army of garish cement statues — Chinese gods, Japanese soldiers, dancing girls, monkeys and tigers. I learnt from Phil at Oriental Sweetlips (a blog, not a Wanchai curtain bar) that these were made by an 84-year-old local gent a decade ago in his spare time. The Trumpton-like statues are crumbling now but the shrine is still tended. Continue reading Hong Kong hiking: Victoria Harbour from Devil’s Peak→
I head to Victoria Road in leafy Pokfulam, with a dozen members of the Royal Asiatic Society’s heritage volunteers group, to investigate an overgrown compound of white buildings stretching down the hillside towards the harbour. These abandoned buildings have no name, and no street number. What are they?
The answer may come as a surprise even to people who live nearby. In 1967, Hong Kong was seized by a burst of pro-Mao agitation as a knock-on effect of the Cultural Revolution taking place over the border. Chanting rioters confronted the police and picketed the gates of Government House, bombs were planted on the streets, and transport networks were paralyzed. Fearing chaos, and even invasion by China, the colonial government went on the offensive. The Hong Kong police force’s Special Branch (the unit responsible for gathering intelligence) rounded up prominent leftists, and these buildings were used as a secret detention centre for them. Choi Wei-hung, the secretary of the Chinese Reform Association, was incarcerated in a tiny cell here for 18 months. Continue reading Victoria’s Secret: the Pokfulam prison with no name→