This is one of the loneliest days. I was hoping that KK might have been able to make some time at the weekend, but there are no messages. I don’t feel like doing much, but can’t sit indoors. I decide to see what’s at the western end of the tram line in Kennedy Town. Victoria Park is empty. It is cordoned off as preparations are being made for an event for the Spring Festival. The Filipino maids who usually gather there on their day off are clustered on the pavement and under the flyover. Admiralty looks busy with shoppers. Kennedy town is definitely an end of the line place. Quiet, seems to be home to quite a lot of Gweilos and full of western restaurants, with western prices. I have a late breakfast of various breads sitting on a bench looking over the harbour. Feeling a bit empty and listless. There is nothing to see here and so I walk East along the great named Belcher’s Street then Queens Rd West. Here I come across a trestle table stall where members of the Democratic Party are writing pithy new year’s wishes on slips of red paper. Passers-by queue up to get their carefully calligraphed slogans to hang on their doors.
In getting off the main road I end up under the dramatic sweeping flyover that carves a swathe over Hill Street.
I climb some steps which take me up to Pok Fu Lam Rd. Ahead of me is an impressive collection of towers and sky bridges: this is HKU. Curious I cross a bridge and am among the university buildings under one of the towers. It’s a ghost town, but everywhere seems accessible and no security guards, barriers etc. A small group of men are practising some form of self defence.
I pass them and climb 10 (?) flights of steps on the outside of the Biological Science Building. I’m very high up as the tower is pierced on the flank of a hill. The view looks over the northern towers of Sai Wan and beyond to Kowloon. Beneath me are several smaller, older, colonial-era buildings. One of these is the main building of HKU, which I visit later. It has the feel of a museum with its inner cloistered courtyard. Students have come here to take pictures of each other in graduation robes.
On Bonham street I enter Sai Ying Pun MTR by means of a lift which takes me down through the hill to underground level. I am taking the MTR to Tsim She Tsui and ISQUARE. Here I visit and Indian restaurant and sit on the terrace above Kowloon Park Drive as the sun goes down with a really good thali and lassi.
I’m tired. I can’t remember much more.
I’ve decided to do a hike today. I get the MTR to the eastern end point of the HK island line to Chai Wan. Here Lonely Cows lets me down as the place I’m looking for for lunch can’t be found. My back up is a stall in the multi-level market next to the mall. Here a get a bag of snacks and buns for my picnic and head for the starting point of the walk, which is gradual climb along a steep road to Cape Collinson, the slopes of which are covered with extensive cemeteries, both Chinese and Catholic. I climb up the terraced steps of the Catholic cemetery for about 20 minutes and the view of Shau Kai Wan and the narrow channel into Junk Bay appears in the haze behind the tower blocks. I carry on up a path through some woodland that opens out on a picnic area. I turn right and carry along a paved road for another 20 minutes before turning up a steep winding path which climbs up to the ridge known as Dragon’s Back. Up here you have views both east looking across the bay to Tung Lung Chau island (though hidden in the haze) and down over the curious promintory town of Shek O; and west over the shelters narrow inlet of Tai Tam harbour.
The path along the ridge climbs to a series of peaks with rocky out-crops, at each of which I take a break and admire the view. It’s a bright overcast day, and not at all cold. It’s funny how the HK guide describes this as a level 8 hike (the hardest). It’s a good work-out but not really strenuous. I take the west-bound path down off the ridge which descends rapidly to the Shek O rd. Here I wait for the bust to Shek O, but a mini-bus arrives first and I inadvertently end up further along the peninsular, as far as the road goes, in the car park above Big Wave Bay. This sandy cove is full of surfers, but the waves are not big. The path that leads around the headland north of the bay is steep and should take me to the signposted prehistoric rock paintings, but I soon realise I have missed them and have gone so far it’s poinless to go back. I’m not sure where the path will go, only that it’s north and in the direction of Cape Collison. Steeper and steeper. I have to climb 312 m Pottinger Peak to get back to the Cape. Feeling tired. At a split in the pathos, where I should have turned left I hear a tuneless song approaching. Hallelluya. At the top of her voice, headphones on ears’ a lone hiking woman remains within earshot for the rest of my hike. When I finally descend, the path so steep, that steps have been cut in the mountainside, I am passed by joggers running UP. The path empties out onto a road, and am amazed to discover I am several miles from Chai Wan still. No public transport at all, dusk falling, I walk a very long descending road flanked by the vast sprawl of the cemetery.
I’m a bit pushed for time and rush to Sai Wan Ho. Golden Veg again, and once again great food. Then I’m off back to the HK Film Archive to watch a fascinating film called Enclave, directed by Li Wei. A documentary in remote Sichuan: a community disregarded by Central Govt, where schooling is in the hands of outsider volunteers who struggle with the primitive conditions and harsh weather. The kids are covered in shit, are using school books from the 1970s, believe Mao is the president, and have no need for any learning as they have no prospects. The people burn fires in their huts for warmth and to cook by; no chimneys, huts full of smoke. Squalid and medieval.The central character is an interesting study in the brainwashed. The village has only very recently got TV, and Yibu (an illiterate adult) watches it eagerly, lapping up what he sees and then praising the virtues of the Chinese army, party and leadership. China is great and I love my country. What he fails to see is that his village has been forgotten by China and is wallowing in a dark age. I wonder how many other places are like this. Do my students who have silver spoons and espouse positivity about progress in China have any awareness of the stark inequalities in this so-called developed country? There is a Q&A afterwards. One of the girl volunteers comes to find me and so kindly offers to translate the conversation with the 22-year old director. There are interesting issues to discuss: communication problems, the diallect of this place being so localised; the unpredictability of the occasionally unhinged alcohol Yibu; the extent to which the film crew’s presence may have exposed the community more to the “developed outside world”; the difficulties in coping with being embedded in such harse and filthy conditions. I’m impressed and inspired by this provocative work.
Director: Li Wei
There is a remote village in Sichuan Daliangshan, the people here lead a life that the same as animals. Electricity became available in the village in 2012, many volunteer teachers came here. Yibu Sugan lost his father when he was young and now lives with his mother. Through television, he has a new way to learn more about the outside world. With the arrival of volunteer teachers, he is praised about leader’s policies and pleased to talk politics, economies, education and other deep opinions with teachers, it reveals the concern about civilisation and un-development.
A journey with no rest. I hate those A380 airbuses. They pack in so many people that it takes 2 hours for the cabin crew (all women on Emirates: why is that?) to serve dinner. Thankfully a special meal as in my case arrives early. The carnivores next to me were still waiting long after I had finished.
Oh, I’ve just been told that the hostel will be turning off the wi- fi in 10 mins..why I don’t know. So, I’ll carry on offline and publish later tomorrow.
Meanwhile I will let the pics from the beach at mount lavinia do the talking.
So, it’s goodbye to to the chill and bustle of Xmas in UK to coconut curries, beaches, mountains, temples and dramatic train rides….and a land of obscured recent pasts and humanitarian controversy. Wondering how it will all turn out in Sri Lanka.
To all of you left behind…wishing you a Happy Christmas time!