Friday, February 27, 2009

Macau: Guia Lighthouse

I enjoyed the details of the fort and lighthouse, from the weather beaten and fading paint of the doors and windows to the cool plaster of the walls.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Laissez les bon temps roulez; let the good times roll!

I have celebrated Mardi Gras four times in New Orleans, three times because I had a rugby tournament to participate in (thank you N.O. Halfmoons!) and once when I was doing post-Katrina community work. There is so much about New Orleans to love. Due to the more lenient French occupation, there was some fabulous cultural mingling going on that led to an abundant Creole and Cajun (Acadian descended) population. In honor of Fat Tuesday I made some jambalaya.

There are a few basic things to Creole and Cajun cooking. First, they usually involve a roux base (we won't use one here) and rice. Cajun cooking often occurs while using a single pot. Another staple of Louisiana cooking is use of the "trinity," which consists of bell peppers, onions, and celery. The ingredients are finely diced and added to almost all dishes, similar to a French

1/2 cup cooking oil
3 cups onions, chopped
1 cup bell peppers, chopped
3-5 crushed garlic cloves
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 lb smoked sausage (such as andouille), in 1/4" slices
1 1/2 lb chicken, in 1" cubes
3 bay leaves
3 cups medium-grain rice
6 cups water
1 cup green onions, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven on medium. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, 2 teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of cayenne, and the paprika. Brown the vegetables, stirring often until they are caramelized, about 20 min. Scrape pot to loosen and add the sausage. Cook for about 15 minutes, making sure to stir often and scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Remove the contents to a bowl.

Season the chicken with the remaining salt and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken and bay leaves to the pot. Brown the chicken for about 10 minutes, still scraping the pot to loosen any brown parts. Add the cooked sausage, onions, and bell peppers back to the pot.

Add the rice and stir to incorporate the ingredients fora couple of minutes. Add the water, stir, and cover. Cook over medium heat for 30 to 35 minutes, without stirring,until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the green onions and serve.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Macau: spaces in between

Four months ago, when I first went to Macau, I was taken by the vibrant patterns that demarcated the city streets. This time I went back to do more of the tourist things such as visiting the fortress and lighthouse on Guia Hill. I have to admit that I was mostly excited to ride in the small cable car. I have shared my feelings about being suspended in the air so this was a splendidly fearful treat.

As the gondola swayed and slowly ascended the hill I was able to look down and see the paths and secluded areas below. I forced myself to remove my sweaty hands from their death grip on the seat and reached for my camera.

What struck me about the unfolding hillside was how the patterns of the city that captured my interest were slowly winding up the hill. Hardness gave way to softness, a hedge replaced an edge. I was consciously applying the patterns of structure, environment and their relationships to Macau's historic setting. A great read on this is Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silberstein's A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. It was written in the 1970's but is still as relevant today. A main point of the book is that various public spaces are needed to support institutions for a neighborhood or public setting.

The spaces that I concentrated on that day were the enclosures and intimate spaces along paths and datums that drew the user in. In English there is no real word for this, though it is sometimes described as "emptiness." More accurate perhaps is the Japanese word, "ma," which refers to negative space, or space in between. This is to say that the emptiness is not a void, but has a quality that draws one in.

The various niches that I came across did just that: they provided a very private experience in a public setting. In the words of Johannes Itten of the Bauhaus: matter represents the usefulness, nonmatter the essence of things.

Can you understand the emptiness I described?

Architecture utilizes psychology is spatial design. In the most basic and ancient structures we see how humans seemed to understand our interactions with the environment. A structure that is recessed appears to be more intimate, a descent into what is familiar and known.

A space above is unfamiliar and open. I enjoy hiking to peaks because I feel as though the space around me is unfolding and opening; I can feel my spirit swelling to fill the space.

Other tools include softness and blending of an edge to open up a space so that other areas seem to be an extension of inhabited space...

...or placing a hard edge to signify a border or limit.

Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.

-Lao Tse

Sunday, February 22, 2009

wholesale consumption of fiber

I understand that my friends find it to be strange that I cannot make it to the end of most movies without having to take a break but I can stay up all night to finish reading a book. What can I say? I have always loved books. I enjoy letting my imagination run wild and most (perhaps all) movie adaptations fall far short of what I conjured in my imagination for the book.

One of my favorite components to my graduate degree in architecture was the analysis portion. I devoured the articles in our overwhelming reader that was put together by a wonderful instructor with too much theory on the brain and time on the hands. Every time I came across a name or theory that I was unfamiliar with, I had to mark it down in my notebook and go look for it later. I went on a James Burke style journey of loose relationships that moved from Bob Somol to the diagram to string theory to rhizomes to Koolhaas to the New York grid. For those who don't speak architalk, basically I was reading an article by UCLA's Bob Somol about the ease and recognition in logos being applied to architecture versus the intricate and more meaningful process in architecture. With such a fast and surface oriented society, why bother with all the critical work when the public is looking for a brand? From this, I needed to read more about digrams to understand the concept of an easy but loaded message. This led me to studying the idea behind the formation of a rhizome, and the theory in acrhitecture to do with rhizomes. Then I looked up Koolhaas' work and compared the finished building to the diagram of it. On a completely different tangent I found myself reading Koolhaas' Delirious New York, which became one of my favorite books and explained a lot about his way to thinking to me. On an even bigger tangent, it all came back to me at grad school at Cornell because the designer of the New York Grid was Simeon De Witt, who moved to Ithaca, New York (location of Cornell University) in his later years and thought of it as an ideal town. Koolhaas came to Ithaca in the early 1970's and hated it. He has written some terrible things about it although his idol loved it there. Koolhaas loved the grid. And I loved Koolhaas until I met him but that is another story.

But anyway, back to books. Can you now understand how I cannot sit still through a movie?

I once had a boyfriend who said that he would never read another book once he had finished his required readings for his undergraduate degree. I thought that maybe he had been burned out.

I understood being burned out because I did it to myself once. In the first week of high school I was given the College Bound Reading List by my English teacher. Lists were my kryptonite, probably still are. There I was, a 14 year old girl who was just starting to wonder about her future, given a list of books that supposedly were most cited as having been read by college students. Well, I wanted to go to college so I felt pressure to read those books. For the next year I read EVERY book on that damn list. For the record, this wholesale attack of reading did almost nothing for me. I can only briefly recall what went on in a couple of the books and all the rest are hazy memories of pages and book covers. Nobody in university admissions ever asked me about reading any of the books on the list. And I wasted a lot of time that could have been used for enjoyment of reading. I guess the positive part is that without the College Bound Reading List I would never have read the Bible from front to back. Do you have any idea of how many times someone is begotten in the Bible? I do! Sadly, even though I learned the error of my ways back then, I have recently gotten a hold of a list of Classics that Harvard feels compelled to put into a collection and I will probably be furrowing my brow over some dead French guys in the near future. Kryptonite.

The boyfriend never did pick up another book after university. After too many dull conversations I took my books and shoes, and left. My SB- he is many things but never dull. He reads.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Plugged in


SB and I are plugged in! Okay, actually we are almost plugged in. SB won a neat, little flat screen television at his firm's Chinese New Year celebration over one month ago. We got around to unwrapping it finally and oohed and aahed at it.

We thought of how our lives would change with this brand new piece of technology that firmly places us in the 20th century. Outside of the home I am firmly ensconced in the 21st century, plugged into the Internet almost nonstop, and very comfortable and capable navigating through data clearinghouses or working in 3D. Back in the little shoebox in the Valley, we are well behind the curve. I have not owned a television in six years; SB last had access to one in 2004. I can count on one hand how many times I have played with a Nintendo/Sega/Wii/whatever they call it now, since I first tried my hand at jumping over mushrooms with Mario at my neighbor's flat in Braemar Hill in 1988. Our family also bought our first microwave in that year.

One could say that my family wasn't the most up to date. But we also never spent much time at home being sedentary. My father grew up in a farming community, and he never let go of the work ethic and general activity. Things that became household items during my formative years that never entered my home included: the VCR, CD players, laptop computers, Ataris, playstations, mobile phones, and pretty much any electronic introduced after 1985. We did have a record player, cassette tape player, television (which I could watch for one hour per week), and the aforementioned microwave oven.

SB likes to make fun of me and look upon me with mock pity when he mentions a movie (that I had no access to) or music (that was not one of my father's records or mother's cassettes) or anything involving fun with electronics because 90% of the time I have never seen/heard/done it. But I can kick/hit/throw many varieties of objects, including him.

So here I was with this flat screen television. I was very excited, possibly more excited than the normal response to seeing a small television. We had previously purchased Steve and Shoil's DVD player (my first) and surround sound system (my first) when they renovated their place and now I had something that output visual images to hook up to! I had lots of plans for all the movies I was going to catch up on. I was going to see what the big deal over The Godfather was.

Of course that was over a week ago. And the television still sits in its box on the floor, waiting for me to take it out some time this century. I guess I am more like my parents than I thought.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fahrenheit 1985

Hey Americans- are you familiar with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer? No? Well, maybe you should be. It was passed after the lead in in children's toys scare from China. As the enlightened representatives that members of Congress are, they surely would be circumspect about passing a new law...right?

What you (and I) may not have realized with this new safety law that was passed is that along with provisions that limit lead and all that bad stuff, the law also states that products created before the law went into effect cannot be resold in the used market. No Ebay, no thrift stores. If you cannot afford the price of that brand new toy, well tough.

Even more worrisome to me is the provision that it is unlawful to sell or distribute children's books published before 1985. Wait, what?!

Unless the books are subjected to testing at prohibitive costs, it is verboten.

Funny, some of us would kill for an earlier edition, illustrated Beatrix Potter book, but now in the States if it is older that from 1985 we might as well burn it. What else are the thrift stores going to do with all their books?

In other news- if you have an illegal stash of Winnie-the-Pooh, Baden-Powell’s scouting guides, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Jean De Brunhoff, Hans Christian Andersen, or Brothers Grimm (I am rehashing my favorite childhood reading) and you want to unload it, let me know immediately.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sai Kung East Country Park

We did this hike a few weeks ago and it was wonderful. Getting to the park is not particularly easy, but worth it. We seemed to do our hike in reverse of how everyone else was doing it, but we did not want to bet that there would be a taxi waiting at the end to whisk us back to civilization if we had done it the other way.

We took the MTR to Choi Hung and then the minibus (1M or 1S) to Sai Kung. From there we took a cab out to the country park, asking the driver to take us to the end of Sai Kung Sai Wan Rd, on the Tai Long Wan side of the reservoir. We got out to the North of the High Island Reservoir and walked to the first of three beaches.

The first two beaches were calm and the tide ebbed and flowed from the shore. In between the beaches, the paths climbed up along cliffs and then back down to water. The third beach, Tai Wan beach, had fair sized waves pounding the shore and a small group of French surfers bobbing in the ocean. We lounged along this beach and watched the waves crash. We struck up conversation with the surfers and they told us that they used to take a boat from Wong Shek to further along the trail (where we were heading) but now they rent a home in the tiny village near the beach and surf all weekend without having to lug their gear around.

At this point it was growing dark and SB and I decided to start back instead of continuing to Sharp Peak, like he had done before. We followed the trail, and instead of going in to Wong Shek, we did what the surfers used to do and paid $60 HKD each to ride back in a speeding boat. It was a very fun decision. Then we caught the bus back to Sai Kung.

very pregnant bovine

the first beach

the second beach

SB built a fort and took a stand...until the tide came in

the third beach

Monday, February 16, 2009

Project Complete!

I finally finished the new website for our rugby team. It took three tries because the first time around I forgot that my computer, being perfect for an architect and graphic designer, had 1920 x 1200 screen resolution while most computers are set at around 1280 x 1024. The result was a spectacular site on my monitor but it had to be scrolled through on everyone else's computers. Then on the second try, I reduced the size but some of the members with even lower settings (1024 x 800) told me that the background image was too far out of their screens. Aargh!

This time around I am happy to report that I have sorted everything out and it is up and running. The women, being female and all, sent in their profile information when I asked for it. The men, being male, have not. If you looked at their page, one would think that there were only twenty or so members of the team. I have threatened to make up my own profiles for them if I receive no responses. I personally am quite fond of the idea of Simpsonizing everyone.

Here's my simpsonization of SB

And here's the new website

Saturday, February 14, 2009

He always thinks about me

SB, in response to my complaint that I was cold: I know what will warm you up- carrying the laundry up and down the stairs to the laundromat!

SB had all day on Saturday to spend with me since his team forfeited their match. It was a sorry thing to do but I guess that they didn't have any options when only two members of the back line showed up for training.

He still has not done anything for my birthday, which was in the beginning of this month, so I was not expecting anything for V day. His presence was the most I could hope for, and it was nice to have him with the team for all our matches.

The day started with me waking up early to ice the cupcakes that I had baked for our coach's birthday. Then SB made french toast and I got ready for the match. He attempted to make some moves on me but I did not want to be late to the pitch as I was the captain of the first match. When I got to the Happy Valley pitch it was very muddy so I phoned him, begging for him to dig out my big girl cleats. Then the girls in charge of bringing the balls were late so I asked him to walk over with three of our balls. Next, one of the girls did not have a jersey so I phoned again and he was still at home (he is slow moving) so he was able to also bring along an extra jersey.

We won both of our matches and are going to compete in the finals against Valley, who won their match against Football Club again today. We will have to train very, very hard to make sure that we execute our plays at pace and aggressively.

At the end of our second victory we gathered to sing happy birthday to our coach and SB appeared with the cupcakes that he had run home to gather. We went for a romantic dinner with the rest of the team and finished out the night watching Six Nations. Actually, he only made it to halftime of the Wales/England match and went home while I stayed at the bar alone. But I did give him a big smooch when I got home. He rolled over and commenced snoring.

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

The next big stock tip

Now I am in no way educated or even knowledgeable about the stock market but when has that stopped anyone? If 40% of Playboy bunnies can deliver better returns than the S&P 500, why shouldn't I get in on this?

So here is my take on the next most valuable commodity: dinner napkins. Actually, lets add any form of tissue to this. I have been noticing a trend here in Hong Kong: the careful hoarding and limited release of napkins. I can order the messiest, spiciest, most eye watering, sneeze inspiring Sichuan dish and yet spend the most painful part of my meal wrestling with the server for a small square of tissue. Clearly these members of the food service industry are in on some insider information and are carefully amassing tissue packets for when they will be the only form of currency in the future. If I were smart I would snatch the tissues in our house from under SB's nose before he literally blows all of their value away.

As much as you should be investing your future into tissues, you should steer clear of the plastics market. There is no value whatsoever there. In fact people are doing everything possible to give away their plastic and make room for tissue hoarding. Every time I enter a grocery store the clerk practically throws plastic grocery bags at me and I have had to bring out my bright orange, super sized grocery tote to hide behind as bags fly at me. The very clever bakery workers are even better at releasing the bags, attempting to wrap each and every one of the rolls I purchase in it's own individual bag when I am not looking. And then each bag is gathered into a larger bag, thus completing the wild bag giveaway. It leaves me burdened with bags, but don't worry, I have a backup plan: there is a small corner of hilltop behind my home that I can release all the bags back into the wild, thus eliminating my supply and making room in my purse for tissues.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Things that catch your attention

When I was little I used to have a recurring nightmare about running from a huge fire, but being the slowest person in the mass of people trying to escape. I forgot about this nightmare but perhaps it subconsciously affected me because I went on to run cross country and track in high school.

The fires that were reported in Australia fixated me. I read in horror as the death toll has gone from 30 to 84 to over 100, to now over 170. But it is not just me, with my nightmares, that is paying attention. SB also came home from work and asked me if I had heard about the fires. It makes me so sad, and also very much more aware about the power of forces of nature. In this day and age I sometimes think that humans have found ways to control just about anything.

SB and I are unfamiliar with Australia, and this news caused us to pull up Google Earth and look over the maps of Victoria. We are aware of the fires that overtake homes in areas of Southern California, fueled by the changing winds, and wonder if this is also true with the fires in Victoria.

Most of all, we are saddened for the families that have lost precious lives quite suddenly.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to survive self awareness

Very recently I was immersed in AP stories about the abuse of power in Zimbabwe, human rights violations, corruption, threats, lies, violence; all surrounding one man: Robert Mugabe. He was a charismatic leader, once revered as a champion of Zimbabwe, but now revealed as a wealthy and brutal dictator. Oh, I was disgusted and appalled by him; I seethed at the staggering inflation and dire conditions of his people as his wife was seen on a luxury shopping spree in Hong Kong. I couldn't understand how such a man was allowed to exist and boggled at what a backward country Zimbabwe must be to have allowed such atrocity.

Then I opened up my news compiler one morning and read the headlines that were taking America by storm. The Illinois Governor had been arrested for attempting to sell the seat vacated by some low profile senator named Obama. Surely this kind of this just doesn't happen in America! In the next few months the sneers I gave when reading Mugabe's incredible and incoherent sound bites came back to haunt me. How did we let this clown run the state of Illinois?!

At his impeachment trial Blagojevich was charged with abuse of power for engaging in a plot to "obtain a personal benefit in exchange for his appointment to fill the vacant seat in the United States Senate." Blagojevich was recorded on a tirade, saying that the Senate seat "is a %$# valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." He also was charged for plotting to divert casino gambling revenues to the horse racing industry in exchange for campaign contributions, and trying to have a Chicago Tribune writer and certain members of the editorial board who had been critical of the governor fired by withholding state financing for a stadium project that would help the newspaper's parent company, which filed for bankruptcy. Even more absurd and comical was the revelation that he threatened to withhold $8 million in Medicaid reimbursements to a children's hospital if an executive failed to make a $50,000 campaign contribution. And he kicks puppies.

He is also accused of suggesting corporate boards his wife could be appointed to, for which she would receive $150,000 a year compensation. HIs wife apparently had a lot of gains from his position in office. Back in 2006 his wife, Patricia Blagojevich, who is a real estate broker, earned $113,700 in commissions from Anita and Amrish Mahajan. Mrs. Mahajan owns a company that received a no-bid contract with the state, while Mr. Mahajan is president of a bank that has two requests pending before state regulators to acquire two out-of-state banks.

Oh, but the best was yet to come...

Rather than resigning or even attending his impeachment trial, Blagojevich launched a media blitz, rushing from one TV studio to another, and likening himself to the hero of a Frank Capra movie and to a cowboy in the hands of a Wild West lynch mob.

He compared his arrest to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. “Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States,” he declared pitifully.

Next, Blagojevich compared himself to human rights heroes Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, telling news station NBC, "I thought about Mandela, Dr. King and Gandhi and tried to put some perspective to all this and that is what I am doing now."

And recently, he revealed that he was considering nationally beloved talk show host Oprah Winfrey for the seat. Riiight. See, if those horrid people hadn't arrested him, Oprah would have been senator. But then he got arrested and he couldn't do it. It's all the government's fault.

And in fact, the government is tricking us with these lies and accusations in a bid to remove Balgojevich so that they can raise taxes. No, I am not kidding. That was his defense.

Ah, Blagojevich, there is much to be learned from Mugabe. Just like I am learning self awareness from you. And it is quite a pill to swallow. It is bitter - bitter. But I like it. Because it is bitter. And because it is mine.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Whoa Whoa Whoa

Yes, another rugby post. I watched probably the best match I have seen for the Pirates (the 4th Div Causeway Bay team). They were very similar to the Gai Wu team that they took on, and it was a fast moving, high points match that they won, but it could easily have gone the other way had it not been for some flying tackles made out near the wing. The support play was incredible and the ball was quick and passed from one set of hands to another down the pitch as Gai Wu scrambled to make all their tackles. It was back and forth with such pace that it almost seemed like an ice hockey match with the hits and constant attacking from both teams. I was racing up and down the far side of the pitch as I scrambled to find a front row seat to the action.

Then I was off to watch the Valley women take on Football Club/Gai Wu. Most of the Causeway Bay Phoenix had come to the match. We were curious to see what the two teams looked like from a viewer standpoint, and we also were heavily invested in the match. If Football Club/Gai Wu gained bonus points with their win, then they would take over number one in the rankings. The number two team would have a steep uphill battle to the finals while the first place team had an easier time. To our shock and delight Valley won the match! Whoa whoa whoa!

It was the best women's game I have seen played on Hong Kong soil, including national team play. Valley, which I have regarded as deep in individual talent (and the biggest of all players) but lacking in cohesion got their acts together and it was a sight to behold. They supported each other the way that they needed to, and seemed more confident than I have ever seen them. Club, on the other hand, seemed unsure, which I have never experienced. I have seen smug, confident, even condescending behavior, but the nervousness was new. Their scrum half, who is usually strong in leadership and nasty to opposition, felt pressured to resort to more than just nasty behavior and received a yellow card. She evened this out by faking a trip by the Valley captain later on, during a penalty quick tap, and having her sent off. It was a very convincing dive, especially since the referee did not see her swerving to run straight into the other girl on the ground and then sprawl over at his feet. This was very costly to Valley because it led to a FC/GW try that took the game to seven points after a considerable lead by Valley. Valley was slowly letting up while FC/GW were keeping it together like the well drilled team they were, adding to the tension on the sidelines.

When the final whistle blew, the crowd erupted. More Valley men were there to support the women than Football Club, despite the venue being held at FC. Coupled with the Phoenix women, the crowd was decidedly for the away team, which must have stung. I felt a bit sorry for the FC/GW women. It stings to lose, but they all played very well. Well enough to make me take notice and write down a few thoughts on how they played and what we need to make sure to do.

So now we are number one thanks to Valley. This means that we will play Aberdeen/Kowloon next week while FC/GW and Valley have a rematch, as they are two and three. Our team is split down the middle on who will meet us in the finals (if we win). I think we will see FC/GW make it through. They are just too well drilled to not make the needed dramatic changes, while Valley is still developing and will be a huge threat in the future.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My First Waitangi Day

On Feb 6, SB and I made a journey out to Tung Chung, where our friends Semi and Liz live, to celebrate Waitangi Day. For my fellow Americans, I will briefly describe what I learned about it:

Waitangi Day celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, that was signed on Feb 6, 1840. It is a day similar to our Fourth of July. The Treaty of Waitangi was important because it made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, but also guaranteed Māori rights to their land and rights of British citizens. Of course, similarly to treaties made with native inhabitants in the Americas, it was ignored by a lot of the white settlers and has very little legal standing today. However, in NZ it is celebrated now as a national holiday and is a good opportunity to educate us about New Zealand history and Māori culture.

It was a fun filled celebration, with lots of eating, drinking, and singing. Coming from undergrad in Texas, I love love love to gather around a guitar with people who can sing over my tone deafness. We also had the various rugby teams represented (Valley, DEA, Causeway Bay) come up and sing a silly song to everyone. The Causeway Bay team hit a hiccup because SB and I did not know the songs that the NZ members proposed, and none of us understood the newer songs proposed by the younger members. The only thing most of us knew was John Denver's Country Roads.

In the end Keith and Jarrod, who are from the same small town, went up and did their haka. I had never heard it before and felt chills listening to Keith's voice ringing out. I noticed that patrons from other parts of the restaurant stopped their meals and were standing up, watching the two of them. After this, the whole group of men got together to do the Ka Mate haka that we often hear the All Blacks performing.

The evening finished out with a lot of folk singing. A Samoan man, Malama, took over the guitar for the last part, and I was able to sing along to a Hawaiian song that I recognized, as well as learn the words to a popular Samoan song that everyone else seemed to know (I think it is taught in New Zealand schools).

I guess that time really does fly when you are having fun because before we knew it, the clock had struck 4 AM and SB and I were scrambling home. I can't remember such a late night in quite a long time, and especially a late night where the two of us were not exhausted.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bushwhacking the Dragon's Back

The Dragon's Back is a ridge stretching from Wan Cham Shan to Shek O Peak, within Shek O Country Park. It has beautiful views of the craggy shorelines below and is not as tough to hike as the name hints at. It is part of the Hong Kong Trail, which stretches for 50 km in 8 stages. SB and I chose to do a short hike, as it was afternoon when we set out. We took a bus to an entrance to Shek O Park, which is the half way point of our hike from Quarry Bay to Shek O, located at the Tai Tam Gap. We walked past Mount Collinson, up the Dragon's Back, and to Shek O Peak, which is always very windy. SB went up there during the last blustery Typhoon, hoping to experience more nature than I care to.

What do you think of the bicycle trail on the right?

So far the walk was pleasantly uneventful but it quickly took a turn when we passed the peak and saw a small trail heading up into the brush. We found that it led to another marker like the one at Shek O Peak. Then SB noticed that there was a white cloth tied to a branch further down among some boulders. "It looks like a marker," he remarked. I did not budge so he said (mostly to himself), "let's go check it out."

I remained firmly on my rock but then he came back to excitedly share that it was indeed some sort of marker for a path leading down into the abyss. Against my will, I was coaxed into following my beloved down onto the rocks below. So much for a leisurely walk.

SB: Here, just put your leg on this rock and ease yourself down.

me: uh... I'm too short. I can't reach.
SB: nonsense. Really, just place your foot there.

me: I hate my life!

Finally, SB and I made it down the "trail." He mostly walked and jumped from ledge to ledge while I gracelessly scrambled, slipped, slid, and stretched my short little legs in hot pursuit of him. I wanted to be close to him so that in case I lost my footing I would take him out with me. He deserved no less. He later admitted that it was steeper than it seemed.

The best part was when we got to the road below and discovered that we had to climb down a ladder that had a sheet of metal welded to the bottom (probably to deter people like us). SB was able to hold onto the lower rungs and swing his legs onto the concrete edge of the water container down below. I was too short and had to dangle uncomfortably as I lowered myself. I also was not too happy that there was no sidewalk below, and if I fell I would be sprawled out on the road.

We hurried to the other side of the street and walked to a stairway that we had seen on our way down. I expected it to be a proper trail but was disheartened to find out that it was just a stairway leading down to the stream below, with no pedestrian easement. Again, SB went ahead to check it out while I sulked in the bushes.

The good great news was that the stream we were following was much, much less steep, and indeed, this path was downright pleasant. We followed the stream right into a small village, and then to Shek O beach.

Looking back on where we had started from (the rock on top of the peak)

Yay! End of trail!

In the end, I admitted to SB that I had a wonderful time. Getting to a beautiful destination makes one forget the hardship incurred on the way. If I had proper shoes on, and not the trainers I wore for the "easy" hike on Dragon's Back, I probably would have navigated the terrain with a bit more grace than I displayed. I would actually recommend this to anyone who wants a bit more of a challenge than the Hong Kong Trail. Just be careful when dangling over the road!