It is not uncommon for road workers to pass the night at their working place, using small tents. They can get food delivered, but where do they go to wash? Perhaps in one of the many toilet buildings that have been built along the Suzhou roads?
For my last day in Hong Kong I made a small hike to Big Wave Bay. For this I walked again through the cemetery, but instead of going right to Shek-O Beach I went left, a shorter route to the Bay. Such a nice bay it is! The village looks like it is totally isolated, but in fact it is also easily reachable by bus. Its peacefulness made for a big contrast when I went to dinner with a friend later on the day in a busy shopping centre! Suzhou is very relaxed compared to all this.
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!
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.
First stop of my US research trip was Washington. It was dull, or maybe it only seemed like it, since I had hardly time to visit museums and other things around there. Usually I was at the National Archives main building in Maryland.
On busy nights this entrepreneur sits at the local McDonalds. She takes orders from her website. She buys MacDonalds food that people can pick up, or that her friend delivers. Price for this service is 1 yuan extra. McDonalds is strict on internal guidelines and branding, so it is remarkable to see something like this happening.