Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another Side of Hong Kong

When everyone thinks of Hong Kong, skyscrapers and high finance come to mind. We've noted the fast paced city and the densely populated downtown area where 7 million people live in close proximity. The vast quantity of people, high rises, ethnic restaurants and shops is unbelievable.

Yet there is another side of Hong Kong which we've had the pleasure of exploring. Hong Kong encompasses about 230 islands, most of them uninhabited. And it's all so close!

Repulse Bay Beach on the South of Hong Kong Island

Geography such as this offers countless places to sail and anchor and even more places to hike in a natural setting. Wild cows, pigs, and monkeys wander freely in the large uninhabited areas, and occasionally wander into the populated areas. While none make it as far as the skyscrapers downtown, they have frequently been spotted straded in the center of a traffic circle (called a "roundabout") outside the city core. There are barking deer, a dog sized animal that barks when frightened but is actually a deer, which we have heard about but haven't yet spotted. While we've seen the wild cattle, including one getting ready to give birth, we have yet to see the wild pigs and monkeys. Friends of ours have seen all of these wild animals from their home in the city's outskirts.

View of Islands from Sai Kung Town

Where our boat is moored, we are very close to some great hiking and not far from a huge park where there are even more trails. The hilly topography creates interesting gorges, peaks and waterfalls. Hiking along the peaks in the park offers impressive vistas of nearby islands as well as a large crystal clear blue resevoir created by joining a large island to the mainland with two dams, and replacing the seawater with fresh.

High Island Resevoir created by joining island to mainland

Only photos can communicate effectively how gorgeous some of the scenery in Hong Kong can be. On one hike, we walked along a beach, then picked our way through rocks along a creekbed up a gorge to a couple of fantastic waterfalls where we could cool down and picnic.

Swimming in a waterfall

Waterfall in Luk Wu Gorge

I (Wendy) and a friend climbed vertically up the rocks to the top of a steep drop off where we could jump into the pool below. Very exciting! Well worth many revisits.

Another Gorgeous Waterfall

Our anchorage offers a quiet spot away from the bustle of downtown, yet very convenient transportation into the city center. Just outside our bay lie numerous anchorages and beaches. Whenever we go racing, we see all these islands in the distance beckoning to us to come and explore. We can see caves and beaches along their shores that look inviting. We rigged up our sailing dinghy and sailed through the anchorage and then to a nearby beach for a respite. Hiking trails wind upwards from the beach that we are keen to pursue more thoroughly.

Beach hike

We are looking forward to cruising to nearby islands on our boat for a change of pace when the weather looks good. The last time we planned a cruise, though, a typhoon was predicted to be heading straight for Hong Kong. So we scratched our plans and prepared for the typhoon in case there was a direct hit. Typhoon Chanchu passed east of Hong Kong, leaving us with heavy rains and windy gusts, but no major damage in Hong Kong despite the havoc it wreaked in other areas where it passed. More details on our typhoon preparations are featured on our blog.

View overlooking resevoir

We are enjoying the yacht club where we are moored. A popular yacht club event is a casual sail or race to a nearby island for a large communal Chinese seafood feast. We have had several occasions to join in. When dining Chinese style, the more people that participate the better. We have been impressed by the abundance and quality of seafood and the incredibly cheap cost. Last weekend after racing, we and 6 other people from the boat Garth was racing on went to a nearby seafood restaurant. For about $65 US, 8 people feasted on as much seafood as they could desire along with a generous supply of beer and Oolong tea. We've had lobster fixed several ways, squid, cuttle fish, regular fish, broiled scallops in the shell, crab, clams and even snails in a spicy red pepper sauce. We can hardly wait for the next sail to nearby restaurant, yet twice recently our foray out has been cancelled due to heavy rain. It is that time of year during which rain is more common. We are looking forward to lots more racing and seafood feast cruises with yacht club friends we've made. Check out more details about the yacht club where we are moored on our blog.