Hong Kong 11
Some new things and some repeats of favorite things
On previous trips we have stopped over at Japan
before arriving in Hong
Kong. This trip we arrive in Hong Kong first and then after
a week we plan on flying to Okinawa
. As adults you can sometimes tough it out and
sleep a few hours to help get over the jet lag, but young kids
don't seem to be able to sleep in on demand. So four am
rolls around, we are up and looking for something to do. Our
first few mornings, we went to the wholesale fruit market to start
A few vendors do sell small orders of sometimes high end
fruit. We bought strawberries at roughly 1/3rd the price of
the prices at CitySuper. We bought a durian (which isn't
really in season) which was quite expensive, but not available at
Of course a visit to the fruit market doesn't use up the whole day
- we still have hours before the sun comes up. Helen wanted
to try a 24 hour Ramen place in Tsim Sha Tsoi, but when we
arrived, it was closed. Grrr. The kids acted up so we
went for a walk near the harbour to try and burn off some energy.
When the kids wake up at 4 am, they won't be staying up all
day. A few stops down the MTR is Sham Shui Po - a
neighborhood that once had garment factories and still has lots of
craft appropriate stores. We went for a brief walk to the
beads stores and the kids filled baskets with small beads.
Nara and Claira have different strategies - Nara got a lot of
large pieces with a single necklace in mind. Claira grabbed
small handfuls of beads she liked. When we went to make
jewellery at home, Claira's selections proved more flexible.
Po Kong Village Road Park
A new one for us - we went to Po Kong
Village Road Park. This park is about half an hour by bus
from Mong Kok. You can rent bikes (Helmets mandatory) and
ride your bike. There are two tracks - a small round track
for training wheels and a km loop for two wheel bikes.
They have training wheels for bikes of all
size (including adult sized bikes). Claira was quite happy
going around the small loop while Mom watched from a bench.
Nara and I rode on the larger loop.
The loop has hill on one end so you need to do some work to get up
and then a long downhill segment as your loose your
elevation. The park is surrounded by apartment buildings.
The larger loop has faster bikes (no
training wheels allowed). One gentlemen was doing loops on
his personal road bike. Hong Kong roads are narrow, often
steep and consistently busy. To ride a road bike on the
streets of Hong Kong, you need to be really good shape.
The park also includes a decent sized
Walking Around Mong Kok
Helen's Grandfather lives in Mong Kok.
Any day we can go out for a walk, but weekends are especially good
in Mong Kok because transit to far away places is usually extra
busy and many markets in Mong Kok are fullest on the
weekends. We usually walk up to Prince Edward to see the
bird and flower market and then walk through the goldfish market
to get back home.
The kids were trying to find a place selling kittens or puppies
(Chinchillas were an interesting distraction, but not what they
wanted) when we heard a huge amount of crashing.
A restaurant was opening and they had a
group in to do a lion dance to open it. The basically closed
traffic on the street for the dance and the crowd of people
watching. The kids agreed to watch the dragon dance.
Mong Kok is basically the prototype for street photography - a
constant churn of tourists from all over the world mixed with
locals trying to make a dollar.
The kids walk around this neighborhood
Hoi Ha Wan
Hoi Ha Wan is at one of the extremes of Hong
Kong - North and east of the city, it's at least 45 minutes by bus
from the closest MTR stop. It is listed as a Marine Park
with good snorkeling. We took the little green bus out to
Sai Kung (the queue is almost in front of our door) and from Sai
Kung, we took the "once every half hour" tourist bus out to Hoi Ha
Wan. There seemed to be more domestic helpers on the bus
than any other group.
The village has nice signs directing you to the beach and the the
trails. We chose to walk out to the pier first to look
The trail was well kept and easy for
kids. When we got out to the pier it was pretty obvious it
wasn't going to be a warm day. The kids wanted to go to the
The beach is pretty course sand (like most
beaches in Hong Kong), but we basically had it to ourselves.
The girls collected shells and played in the shallows. The
water was warm but the tide was in so there wasn't much to see.
Sadly the bus ride is a bit twisty so we decided not to stay for
lunch in the village before heading back. We packed up in a
hurry (bus only comes once every half an hour) and rode the buses
back to Mong Kok. If we can plan the tides and weather
better, I'd like to go back!
Mai Po Marshes
I've been to the Deep Bay Hides at Mai Po
Marshes at twice before this so I thought I had some idea what to
expect. The tides are always a bit of a wild card, but you
can adjust for that a bit by changing hides. I got to the
first hide, opened the shutter and saw a woman on a mud sled, but
almost no birds. Uh oh. I'm told she is doing illegal
fishing for mud skippers and the birds weren't at all pleased -
they were no where nearby. I went to the third blind and
hoped she wasn't going in that direction.
The tide today started high and went out
as the day went on, making the ocean's edge further and further
from the blinds. A beach has many different zones for birds
to specialize against so as time went on some birds left and new
birds arrived. It is easy to get a crowd shot of many
different birds in the same scene, but isolating a single subject,
close enough to get details required a bit more patience.
I have a soft spot for small birds so I really liked watching the
Plover's run around the exposed mud and plants. These small
birds eat small things and apparently quite a bit of them because
they were always moving for their next meal.
Next up are the small specialized birds. These birds have
really long legs or bills or both to give them an advantage for
eating things in the mudflats. Long bills lets them get into
the mud for worms. Up turned bills are helpful for skimming
the surface for small insects.
Birds get larger. These birds are generally slow moving
ambush predators going after fish and worms.
I have a soft spot for Kingfishers because
there are so many choices in Asia and only one fairly plane
Kingfisher in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently there are
four species you can see at Mai Po, but so far I have only seen 3.
Seagulls seem to have a pretty common strategy world wide - why
hunt when you can steal from other birds. Of course that
behaviour was on dispay when another bird had some nice.
And then you get the marine predators. Osprey are world wide
and eat mostly fish.
There are a variety of forest adapted
birds that also make appearances when the water is out.
These are generalist birds without adaptations for mud or
filtering, but can still find a good meal on temporary ground left
behind by the tide.
On previous trips to Mai Po I have seen butterflies flying around
the mangroves. Apparently there behaviour is quite
temperature dependent - if it's not warm enough, they don't fly so
much. I did see insects flying, but it was much easier to
follow them to where they landed and they perched for long enough
that I had a chance to take a photo. Considering previous
trips I got no good photos of butterflies, I was surprised how
productive this trip was.
Photo Walk with David Diskin
I've been to Hong Kong 11 times now and I am
still finding new things to do and see. Before kids we
generally came to Hong Kong in the fall or winter. Now that
we have kids in school, we are constrained to try and make the
most of Spring Break - two weeks off in March. I've been to
Mai Po Marshes a few times (and will hopefully return), but I was
hoping to diversify into some new sites. I found a Hong Kong Nature Walks
and booked a day to explore some places I haven't been before.
Our first stop was the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve close to
University station in the New Territories. This large park
has a tiny parking lot. We somehow managed to find a spot to
park and started up the hill into the park. David pointed
our birds in the trees.
We passed the offices of the rangers and headed to small clearing
with water running on one side. In the shrubs, grasses
and brush, we found butterflies.
We headed up the hill to a second
clearing with a prominent stand of coral trees. From time to
time, birds would fly into the trees to either drink from the
flower or eat what was feeding on the flower (I'm not sure
This second clearing had more species of
butterflies in a small fenced off garden. There was a
large hedge area that looked like it was butterfly forage.
The clearing also had a pond. It was early in the
season for dragonflies, but we did find a Russet Percher in the
nearby grass. David spotted a red eared slider (the same
aquarium turtles we see in Canadian ponds), and David found a pair
of toads "busy".
After a pleasant morning, we walked back to the car and stopped at
a nearby park for lunch.
Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve
In the afternoon we went to the Fung Yuen
Butterfly Reserve, a short car ride away. The area looks
like it was once a farm but has been converted into a woodland
park with trails and gardens. The gardens are stocked with
plants that butterflies like - either food for butterflies or food
for caterpillars. The signage around the reserve was
excellent and the entrace/gift shop sold a guide book of all of
the species of butterflies you might see here.
We started by walking a path through dry
underbrush - a recent forest. As you walked through, you
would distrurb unseen butterflies but then watch them quickly
settle back on their host or a nearby plant. I was
particularly taken by Lemon Pansey because it had vibrant "top" -
dorsal side, but a muted "bottom" - ventral side. I had
assumed that butterflies were mostly the same on both sides.
You follow the path up and discover a small garden.
Butterflies are common and while not always easy to photograph,
they do sometimes stop to feed. Below are some of the
smaller butterflies I saw:
Some larger or quite vibrant butterflies are really attention
grabbing. You wonder how an insect that is so brightly
coloured doesn't get eaten - I assume they are either poisonous,
or have another strategy to avoid predation.
Three "Tigers" - different species from the same Tribe.
It's still quite early in the season for dragonflies, but there
were some of them as well.
One of our favorites was a pair (or maybe three) skinks playing in
the underbrush. They were probably in mating season because
they exposed themselves quite frequently while chasing each other
Helen's Aunt Jennie has family connections
Shek O. Shek O is beautiful, but it's a long, twisty bus
ride after a long MTR ride. I was looking for something
closer and I picked Repulse Bay as being close to an MTR station
and a nice beach. Helen's aunt said the water is dirty
(compared to Shek O). Helen wasn't feeling well, so I
decided to go with the kids for a swim.
Repulse bay is full of very expensive apartments, many of which
are fill with ex-patriots. I didn't realize how much Repulse
Bay is actually disconnected from what the rest of Hong Kong is
really like. When we arrived at the beach, we were hardly
alone - a continuous stream of tour buses unloaded mainland
Chinese tourists looking to take photos of anything foreign,
including me and my kids. Of course none of them were here
for the swimming (which was quite nice) but they did take lots of
selfies with on foot in the ocean.
The kids and I got changed and went for a
swim. The water was nice and the life guards were certainly
aware we were in the water.
After about an hour swimming around, we
went in for lunch. In Shek O, the restaurants have basically
Chinese dishes (even though they might be Thai, or BBQ
themed). Repulse bay restaurants seemed like a mash up
between pubs, beach restaunants and American fast food. We
went for lunch at a place with a kids menu (not common in Chinese
restaurants) that had grilled cheese and fries. The kids
There is a new mall in Repulse bay, but
you might have thought it was departure lounge for long haul
flights. Most of the customers were foreigners or Nannies
with foreigner kids. They had two free bouncy castles and a
Tesla dealer. The kids stores were doing okay and the store
selling kids socks from Australia was making a killing selling
socks to kids that wanted to go onto the bouncy castle. Our
kids probably spent an hour jumping.
It all fell apart when I wanted to get back to the MTR
station. The bus was no where to be found and the taxi's had
entirely evaporated. After waiting too long, we got on a bus
that went over the mountain back to Central and Nara got bus
sick. If only I was more comfortable with Uber. Still,
a pretty good day!
Hong Kong Disneyland!
The kids have grown to the age that we can't
really deny that Disneyland exists. The Hong Kong Disneyland
is one of the smallest so I figured it would be a safer
introduction to the world of theme parks. We did some
research online, but even then we weren't quite prepared to make
the most of the day.
Claira is 4 so a lot of the faster rides aren't yet age
appropriate. The first ride we saw that they were excited
about was the carousel in the view of the castle. The lineup
was short so we went for a ride!
After that, we tried the Winnie the Pooh ride. Then the
Jungle River Cruise. We saw the lion king show. We saw
the "it's a small world" boat show.
Several times a day the park hosts a "parade" down main
street. People in this part of the world aren't well known
for lining up and staying behind barriers, but there were plenty
of Disney "Hosts" to ensure everyone was seated off the parade
route and didn't try to cross the parade while it was running.
We had dinner on site (not cheap, but very western kids friendly)
and as the sun was setting we got one last ride on a
carousel. We didn't stay long enough for the fireworks (the
kids were just too tired out).
Not a cheap day, but the kids did have fun. I think this is
an activity we can grow into - next time they might be able to do
more of the rides and last long enough to see the evening
High Island Reservoir
On my first trip to Hong Kong, I stumbled
onto a showing of winners from a "In Hong Kong" photo
contest. The winning entry was a photo of the columnar
basalt near High Island at Sunset. I've always had a thing
for Columar Basalt, but I haven't yet been that close to the
rocks. This trip I changed that.
In Sai Kung, there is a geopark museum that offers free tours out
to the resevoir where you can see columnar basalt. In
classic Hong Kong fashion, I got to the museum to find out the
tours for the next two days were sold out. They suggested I
take a cab.
About 150HKD later (about 25 CAD), you are
standing on the High Island reservoir looking over what was once
the inside of a volcano. Back in the 60's when Hong
Kong and China weren't on a good footing, Hong Kong was worried
about it's water supply. Some engineer figured out they
could dam a valley out in the New Territories and make a
freshwater lake where there was once just a valley.
Lots of effort later (there are two dams -
one to keep the lake in and another to keep the ocean away), the
lake started filling up and Hong Kong had a long term water supply
and a new tourist attraction - go see the dam! The road is
paved, but one way only so it seems a bit crazy when the taxi
drivers are driving at 50 km/h around blind corners honking away
to hopefully prevent an accident.
Nara and I did see the columnar basalt, some feral cows and
"Sensitive Plant" - an invasive weed from North America that folds
it's leaves when you touch it.
The taxi ride back is even more challenging (if at all possible,
try to avoid getting a taxi around 4pm), but we were back in Mong
Kok for dinner.
Big picture, the reason we go to Hong Kong
is to visit family. I don't bring the camera out every time
we have family together, but it is nice to have photos of
people. Helen's friend Katie
flew in from Taiwan
for the day to join us for a meal an a
bit of shopping. Nara and Claira remembered Katie from last
year when we visited.
Jennie helped us out when the kids were born and is a great help
every time we come to Hong Kong. She watches the kids when
Helen and I go out in the evenings and she takes Helen out clothes
shopping when I can't take it any more. Her son Alan is
engaged to Kat and we sure hope we can make it out when there is a
wedding date announced.
While we are in Hong
Kong, we stay at Helen's grandfather's house. The house is
small by western standards (on bathroom for three bedrooms) but
quite workable for the two weeks we are there. There is a pet
turtle that needs taking car of - Claira sometimes helps moving her
back after her tub is cleaned out.
Helen's grandfather is still doing
well. His walking is more limited so we arranged for him to
get a wheelchair and a walked for getting around the house.
The kids can speak some Cantonese so they can understand him a
Tags: Hong Kong(86), Mai Po Nature Reserve(24), butterfly(17), Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve(15), Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve(13), dorsal(9)
People: Nara(18), Claira(18), Helen(4), Jennie(2), Great Grandfather Cheung(2)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Hong Kong 11
Last Modified Sunday, June 25th, 2017 at 23:27:59 Edit
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