Tag Archives: cemetery

Day 5: 12 January, HK

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.

view-from-dragons-back

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.

http://www.hkindieff.hk/without_home02.html

Enclave

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.

Kanchanaburi

Early start, for me anyway. Eggs and lemongrass tea, and oh my god Fran is already moving into my guesthouse and planning to follow me…..

The minibus to kanchanaburi is rapid, too air-conditioned and a bit bumpy. Only 3 passengers, so lots of space. It’s easy to get a room, and I soon discover there is a long farang stretch of pars and guesthouses. This one ain’t so bad, and I’ll keep the name hidden for the time being. I have the option of a bungalow on stilts on the river but take the cheaper option, online, which is free. Renting a bike is full of issues. They are all knackered in some way and the one I take in the end, going for something with gears rather than the usual rickety basket at the from number. Typically it’s too small and the seat is stuck so can’t be raised….

I cycle up to the fabled ridge over the river Kwai. On the way I look at a Japanese obelisk monument and enter the front yard of the kitschy war museum, a rusty steam locomotive with a car on its roof…for some reason. The bridge is a tourist magnet you can walk over it, and I attempt to cycle over it at night time. It’s kind of creepy and scary so I only get a third of the way over. 200,00 prisons of war and enslaved Asians died building the death railway for the Japanese in world war 2. What I don’t get is how the Thais let this happen on their soil. The weird thing is that now where there was death, disease, beatings, slave labour there are now luxurious floating restaurants. I know time moves on, but it seems totally perverse. I haven’t come her for this, but it’s fascinating. So are the huge allies cemeteries. Next door there is also a rather bizarre Chinese one full of pointy spires and a large outdoor crematorium.

Lunch is at on’s Isaan thai restaurant. A tiny place with 4 tables and where the kitchen is on the street in front of the shop, and On cooks non-stop. The food is terrific. Full of flavour, packed full of diverse and interesting veg; Chinese mushrooms, sweet potato, thai aubergine, to name a few. My green curry and red rice is amazing. The food is so good I return for dinner and have a banana leaf salad and sour large flat noodles with pak choi (perhaps). It is here I share a table with Jo, a professional poker player from Switzerland, a job which is location non-specific and, he says, allows him to live wherever he wants and earn all he needs to exist for a year in a couple of months…he is quite intense and has a curious stare. After a while our conversation has got incredibly deep and we examine the concepts of knowledge, understanding, being…..there were odd moments when it almost felt like I had entered into a scene from a film. Could it be Hitchcock? 2 strangers meet and decide to swap identities. It doesn’t go that far…but it’s true that when you meet someone for the first time you could, if you wanted pretend to be anything you wanted. Who knows if he was telling the truth. He could be some crazy guy on the run from Interpol…..anyway, it was an entertaining lunch.

Afterwards I cycle through the area that all these towns seem to have: a school zone with. 3 or 4 large school complexes, the buildings with an open space on the ground floor level, where kids often congregate politely sitting cross legged reciting something with a teacher. The kids are all smart and somehow noble looking in crisp simple uniforms. Their parents pick some of them up from school on their mopeds. It’s not untypical to see mother plus little son plus little daughter all on the same little bike puttering home. There is a new temple complex being built by the river. It’s very unusual. The central temple is still plain concrete, and the embellishments along the eaves and ridge of the roof are being attached. Some, strangely have been painted already. Dragons. Seems strange to be finishing the decorations before the structure is complete. There are 2 completed smaller temples. They are Chinese pagodas, and round with 2 levels. Garishly painted and with a recording of chanting resonating within.

I cross the river and cycle a few miles to Wat Tham Khao Pun, which is known for its caves. There is a serious of around 15 chambers, some requiring serious stooping to enter. 2 of these are used as temples, ie they contain Buddhas. The most striking and most beautiful thing was the sheer silence. Nobody else there, maybe 20m underground, I sat and listened to silence. Wonderful.

Day 02 – Singapore

It’s not as hot as expected. Permanently overcast and a bit sticky, but nothing unbearable at all.Today I went out to the Botanic Gardens (not Botanical) with a girl and guy I met at the hotel (Sophie from Holland and Valeria from Italy). Travelled by super-clean and super efficient MRT (subway).

The paths were lined with Christmas trees decorated by local kids in rather off-the-wall and recycle-friendly ways. I particularly like the one by the Russian church (I think) which was hung with baubles with the face of Yuri Gugarin stuck on, and rockets made out of silver-painted water bottles. We spent most of the time in the Evolution Garden which told the history of plant life, but overdid it a bit with concrete replicas of primordial trees and dinosaur footprints on the concrete path.

After those 2 left for lunch I wandered through the rain forest area then headed down to the bus stop. But had no idea where to go next.

The bus took me to where I wasn’t expecting, and a Chinese guy, whose help I didn’t want, insisted on showing me where I could go. Trouble was he couldn’t read the map. Ive found that a lot in Asia, that people cannot read maps. I found myself heading past some tower blocks and into China town.

Pausing at a food court to get a bargain plateful of vege Chinese food, some of which I have no idea of its name or components. Yum.

Over the road was the 5-storey Chinese Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. No teeth in sight but quite a lot of Buddhas.

Actually, it was spectacular. More or less next door was the  Sri Mariamman Krsna Temple, equally amazing, ornately painted Vishnu, and cows, resplendent against the backdrop of high-rise hotels and financial offices.

Smith Street was the centre for prostitutes and opium dens in the 1920’s, but now its pretty painted shuttered Chinese houses are hidden by a street-long canopy  built to protect the open-air Chinese market, where I bought nothing. It’s all very similar to Malaysia, so i have to say, so far nothing new, but nevertheless, very pleasant. Reassuringly alien, yet familiar.

I bussed it back to Victoria Road, near the hotel, and found myself looking over a low wall into a rambling graveyard (the religion is not clear, but certainly not Christian). My photographic curiosity got the better of me and drew me into the scrubby garden lined with almost identical and un-inscribed grave markers. As I went deeper I found a ruined building, open to the sky with trees and creepers wrapped around it. I suddenly looked right and there appearing from some trees and eyeing me was a big tan skinny dog. A stray. To my relief he was alone and, probably surprised to see anyone on his patch, he trotted away. It was then I realized my legs were being bitten. Bugs, or worse in the prickly tough tropical grass. Time to shower and put on some cream.

This led to a tropical collapse and sleep for several hours.

In the evening I wanted to catch some of the crazy modern towers at dusk by the harbour. Distance and sheer number of amazing views delayed my progress. In fact i didn’t really know where I was heading. Just guided by the space occupied by malls, hotels, offices, main roads and over-passes. Rain fell lightly and I found my route coming to an end, so I strode through a fashion mall where the shops were just closing. If it was KL or BKK I think they would have been hectically crowded at that time.

Headed to Little India by underground, changing at a fabulous multi-layered spartan clean chrome open-plan interchange with a constant soundtrack of multi-lingual reminders about rubbish, drinking and eating on the network.

Tonight India was different. Shops were open, the gatherings of moustachioed men weren’t there, I had chappatis and curry then visited the Sri Veeramakaliallam Temple, where blessings, offerings and prostrations were in full swing. Food was being sold and Brahmans were collecting limes from devotees and marking their foreheads with ash. A bell was rung and 2 musicians began to play, one a handheld drum with 2 tones, the other an Indian pipe of some kind, the length of an oboe, and looking perfect for charming snakes. i sat and watched, the only white face there, knowing from experience not even to try to take pictures. Committing it all to memory instead.

After hunting down a samosa, ambled back to the hotel for rest and to consider my moves for tomorrow.

Hope I can upload some photos soon.