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Archive for October, 2009

18102009(027)We decided to go on an adventure last Sunday. The weather this time of year (mid-October) is excellent here. Eighty-ish degrees fahrenheit, not humid. Sunny. In classic fashion, we left about 4 hours later than we should have. On the agenda was Shui Tau Tsuen, a village whose name means “water’s head village” according to our guide book. This is a village that dates back to a single family, the Tangs, as far back as the 12th century.

Getting there was interesting.

We knew it would require a subway, a bus, and perhaps a bit of walking. We didn’t know that the trip there would take 2 hours. The MTR subway ride to Tsuen Wan West Station on the Kowloon side was easy enough. We found Nina Tower, the largest building in the area, and found the spot where Bus 51 sat. I was in charge of directions.

Struggling up the bus’s steps, I asked the driver “Mung Yeung School?” He looked at me. That was it. Just looked at me. It was neither a yes nor a no, but it wasn’t a definitive, “no way.” So I wedged the stroller into an empty seat and examined the bus stop chart inside near our seat.

“Excellent,” I said. “We’re the next stop.”

Within 3 seconds, my wife corrected me.

“We’re the second to last stop.” Oh yeah. I read the chart from top to bottom when it really was meant to be read from bottom to top. There were 22 stops between us and Mung Yeung School, and even then, we really didn’t have a clue where we were going.

And what we definitely didn’t know was that this bus trip was up and over a very, very steep mountain. Not a hill. A mountain. I’d have been more comfortable on the Tahoe Pass on Route 80 in a blizzard. We swayed and leaned most of the way. I kept close tabs on the bus stops. I’d announce it to E had a direct line to the chart. I’d announce the stop as if we were getting closer.

“We’ve got a lot more stops,” She’d say. The realist. I was just hoping the bus would hug the hair pin turns. Soon we were on flat land. Arriving at the school, we turned around and walked a bit, coming upon the village in about 15 minutes.

18102009(018)The scene was really amazing. The village itself was tucked into the base of these large, green mountains, similar to the rolling lumps in northern California we’d see in places like Marin or even Big Sur.

When we reached the village, we arrived at the old school house, or the Yi Tai Study Hall as it’s known, built in the mid-1800s. From here, we walked through and around some of the Tang family’s ancestral halls and tiny traditional houses and over to an open field.

There was a festival going on, perfect for kids. Children and adults stood around kiddie pools loaded with goldfish trying to catch some new pets for home. F wanted some goldfish but I refused, though E was willing to compromise. I cleaned that damned goldfish tank of ours every week when we had it. No fish. Those sorry species of ours died long and horrible deaths, despite my efforts.

18102009(025)Next was an in-ground pool where turtles floated and massive catfish swam with their stinging whiskers piercing out from the water.

As we walked away, T said she wanted to go back to see the turtles and the seals. How she got seals and catfish mixed up is beyond me.

There was an open field where kites flew and goats roamed. F did a painting while T filled a little hour glass with multi-colored sand.
The glass bottle withstood multiple drops, which I later realized were deliberate. T was proud of her multi-colored sand creation, so proud that she showed it to one of the goats.

The sun was setting over the green, wrinkled hills, and I was getting antsy to get back to the bus before dark. T had said hours ago that ‘my pee pee is coming out’ but she was afraid to use the gross bathrooms that dotted the village. By the time we found a popsicle stand, the pee pee flowed, right through her underpants and shorts.

On the way out, as T and I waited for E and F who were in the bathroom, we inspected an old village house that looked as if it could have been a 1000 years old. And given the history of the Tang family in this area, it’s not impossible. T and I said prayers at the little temple near the main road.

“Do F now,” She’d say, after I’d mumble something about F living a long and wonderful life. “Do Mommy now.” And so on. She’s very into parity for all of us. On the walk back to the bus, we went through a subway (or tunnel under the highway) and we played the chanting name game: “give me an F…” … “F!!” “Gimme an I…”  “I!!!” After every one of these chants, T would say “Do Mommy now.”
“Gimme an M!!!”

So one of the funniest and saddest parts came while waiting for the 51 bus back to Tsuen Wan West. T dropped her hour glass thingy and it smashed on the ground. We’d told her several times to be careful, and I even tried to confiscate it in my pocket but she grabbed it.

T cried for a bit but then just got mad. I held her and tried to tell her that we’d make something similar another time. She wanted to show it to “ya ya” she kept saying.  She stared off into the sunset.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked her, noticing her pensive look.

“Any-fing,” she said, pissed off. When she says ‘anything’ she means “nothing.”  (This comes up all the time. “T, what do you want for dinner” I’ll ask. “Any-fing” is the response. Translation: Nothing).

The 51 bus ride back was easier, though by the end, it was over-crowded.

“Whoa. There are too many people on this bus, Dad,” F yelled, loud enough for every new passenger to hear. (We learned afterwards there is a much easier way by staying on the the West Rail line to Kam Shueng Road rather than getting off at Tsuen Wan West and taking the51  bus. You can then take a taxi or minibus from Kam Shueng Road to Kam Tin Road – we’ll try it next time).

Dinner was eaten on our balcony, per F’s request. It was a great end to an excellent day. The sky was clear, giving us a perfect view of the harbour and the bright lights of Kowloon.

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01102009On October 1 we decided to hike to the famous Tai Long Wan area in Sai Kung Country park.  We decided to do the easier option of a 45 minute hike in by starting at the Sai Wan Road Pavilion. There were some steep sections on the way in but as we observed – it would be much worse on the way out (and it was, especially considering we’re each carrying a child).

It was well worth it. The hike itself was beautiful and the beach was stunning – probably the best we’ve been to in Hong Kong so far. When we arrived at the beach (a sliver of which you can see from above at about the 3/4 mark of the hike) we ate some lunch and then took off for the water. There are four beaches that make up Tai Wan and the most famous, Tai Wan, is popular with surfers but has a dangerous rip tide. So even though we weren’t at that beach M was very cautious with me taking F too far out.

There were about 15-20 people there, some who also hiked in, the majority of which were from the two junks moored just off shore, and who swam or took small dingy’s into shore. It felt like a deserted island. After we swam, we walked along the beach, drew pictures and messages in the sand, and enjoyed the scenery. After a few hours we hiked back out and had a great dinner in Sai Kung town.

We got home at about 7:45, and myself and the kids rushed into the shower. Being China’s National Day there were fireworks scheduled in Victoria Harbor at 8pm and we can see them from our roof. We got up there at about 8:05 and it was such an amazing experience to watch F and T watch their first fireworks show and gasp or say “wow” or “whoa, that was a big one!”

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