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The first part of the Dragon’s Back trail was a concrete road, but soon I found myself on a sandy path that meandered through the shady bushes on the side of the mountain. To my surprise I could spot many butterflies, there were always a few dancing around. The cicades in the background and the lack of traffic noises, made me totally forget I was close to one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
When the path finally reached the mountain ridge there were excellent views over the sea, and surrounding islands, beaches and villages, including Big Wave Village, and Shek-O Beach. Also nice to see were the bird of prey gliding in thermals in search for food. But as I found out not carrying something to cover my head was a major mistake: there was hardly any shadow to be found on the ridge!
The reward was Shek-O Beach, a quick and short bus ride away over the main road to which I descended at the end of the ridge. The village had several laid back places to eat and drink, nothing fancy though, and a beautiful beach where you could hire chairs or sun screens. The rocks and the beach almost looked like the south of France! After a few drinks with a fellow hiker a bus took me back to an MTR station. Recommended!
The starting point of my Dragon’s Back hike was the Chai Wan MTR-station (Metro), easy to be reached from my hotel at MTR-station Tin Hau. The station reminded me a little bit of a miniature Hoog Catharijne, the Dutch shopping centre famous for its labyrinth structure in which it is impossible to find the exit. But once I found it it was pretty easy to locate the entrance to the Cape Collinson cemetery, the quickest way up the mountain to the actual trail.
Cape Collinson cemetery was layed out on the steep and winding flanks of Collinson Mountain. The rising dead seemed to mirror the high rises in front of it, an important difference being that the latter did not have stairs but elevators. In the already scorching heat of June walking in the cemetery around noon was rather disorienting, also because of the glinstering white marble and concrete around. Time wise I could have planned my hike better…
No wonder that there were small pavilions placed on strategic points at the cemetery; much deserved shadow for visiting family members and maintenance workers. At the back a moist and shadowy flight of stairs took me finally to the bushes that were topping the cemetery. Here was a plateau called ‘Pottinger Gap’, a small ‘gap’ between the mountains which showed the first signage of the Dragons Back trail.
In May I booked a small holiday in Hong Kong. Primarily known as a finance and shopping centre I also found out that it was an excellent place for hiking. 28 percent of its area consists of natural parks. Perfect since I also wanted to see some nature! Websites showed fine hiking offerings on Hong Kong Island, as well as in the New Territories, all easily reached by public transport. The Dragon’s Back trail, which I wanted to walk, was even mentioned as best Urban trail in the world by Time Out magazine in 2004.
I booked the trip with low budget airline Spring Airlines. Risky since more expensive airlines seem to get more priority when it’s busy, and it can be busy at Pudong (the largest of two airports in Shanghai, the other being the more regional Hongchiao). Spring Airline’s plane definitely had the smallest seat pitch of any airplane I have ever sat on: I felt almost like standing instead of sitting…
The approach to Hong Kong International Airport provided beautiful views of the area. Showing multiple contrasts: that between high-rise apartment buildings and the green hills, and that of the islands of Hong Kong and the sea. Its blueness contrasted also nicely with the earth colors of the mouth of the Yangtse river, when leaving Pudong.
Living in China has made me increasingly aware that the relations between mainland Chinese and HK-Chinese can be politically and culturally tense at times. As a British colony Hong Kong fared better then the adjecent Chinese empire or state, which made some of its inhabitants doubt the advantages having been handed back to China 20 years ago.
In Hong Kong mainland Chinese are sometimes seen as underdeveloped and corrupt simpletons, whose growing influence can only spell out worse to come for their relatively open but also slightly stagnant society. The other way around Hong Kong people are often seen as arrogant snobs, admired for their shopping paradise, but on the other hand a part of China that never should have been given to a Western country in the first place.
Two weeks ago the Taiwanese edition of my book ‘A Clear Dream’ (Droom van Helderheid) was published as part of the ‘Source series’. It is surprising to see such an interest in Taiwan in the history of Dutch visual identity, modernism and design agencies.
The ‘Source series” is an imprint of Taiwanese designer Wang Zhi-Hong facilitated by Faces Publications. Luckely the print quality of the book seems better then the Chinese edition published last year. It is fascinating to see how Zhi-Hong uses social media to generate interest: the book has already been seen by over 11.000 people on Behance (featured graphic design), and by many more on Tumbler, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The book features a nice cover and a carefully composed layout that to a large degree is based upon the Dutch edition, that was designed by Piet Gerards Ontwerpers. It is not clear whether Zhi-Hong takes note of this.
Suzhou IFS Center is making progress. When finished it will be the highest skyscraper in Suzhou and one of the highest in China with its 452 mtr height. It will be a fitting partner for the ‘Gate to the Orient’ on the other side of Jinji Lake with its 302 mtr height: yin and yang. Nevertheless I do wonder who is going to use all that office space…
I found myself on a rather cloudy day at Dianshan Lake. Happily the flowering yellow rapeseed lightened the atmosphere. A new experience for me since in the Netherlands I associate rapeseed with industrialized agriculture.
Dianshan Lake lies between Suzhou & Shanghai. It is a popular destination for day trips: Jinxi, one of the better known water towns is situated right next to it. During the past years there have been many building activities around the lake. Gated communities targeted at the richer middle class, in search for a better quality of live outside the city. Housing here also provides an alternative for people who are not originally from Shanghai, and thus are not allowed to buy a house there. Continue reading
Real estate sellers a plenty around Dianshan Lake. Dozens of young suited up boys & girls wander on highways, crossings and exits,handing out flyers advertising apartments and houses. They present a danger to themselves and car drivers.
Imagine people in a suit with a waving sign, walking up to you in the Netherlands just as you exit highway with 80 km an hour! Somehow they remind of the zombies from The Walking Dead. Connection between consumer society and zombies anyone? There are many unoccupied new houses around the area. The property market is in stagnation. God forbid what happens to the Chinese economy when it collapses. Continue reading