Hong Kong and Macau, August 2008

Here are the remainder of the Hong Kong pictures. Yingwah’s family made helpful arrangements so that we could visit some of the more unusual places in the New Territories, one of the most exciting of which was the Kat Hing Wai walled and moated village. Modern amenities now squeeze into the tiny, narrow corridors where, from behind the safety of strong iron gates, the villagers used to wait out attacks by bandits and rival clans. Although restored in the17th and 18th centuries, this village and several others like it have survived in the Kam Tin Region for nearly a thousand years.

Over the centuries many people have also taken refuge amongst the mountains and steep sided valleys of Lantau Island, beginning in prehistory and most recently by resistance to the Japanese during the Second World War. I made the amazing 5k cable car ride to the Lo Pin Monastery alone on a day while everyone else seemed to be otherwise occupied. Actually, “amazing” isn’t really the right word for it but I’m sure that if I said what I’d really thought the blog filters would be working overtime. I saw the occasional hardy pilgrims taking the steep and difficult trail on foot far beneath me and, in spite of the 35degree heat, I rather wished I’d done the same . Someone I didn’t envy, however, was the idiot who had hired a helicopter to fly around the face of the giant Buddha like a gnat. Disgraceful behaviour.

Macau is a really fascinating place, the whole province dominated by its reputation as the Las Vegas of the East. So much so that locals complain that the inflated wages earned at the croupier tables are causing a whole generation of Macau youngsters to neglect their education and flock to the bright lights. For, once you enter one of these gambling palaces you see no daylight or natural features but exist in an alternative fantasy kingdom, exemplified by the Venetian which is claimed to be the largest casino in the world. I don’t think I have to tell you how much more I appreciated the five hundred year old World Heritage site that is the temple of the sea goddess Ah Ma.

Another highlight of the Hong Kong trip was meeting Yingwah’s grandmother: Tsai Yuit Yee, a retired schoolteacher who accompanied her historian husband as they visited almost every province in China in search of its ancient heritage. Now widowed, she keeps volumes of meticulously labelled photographs and, had it not been impolite, I would probably have stayed looking at them and listening to her stories until dawn. Grandmother Yee’s travels to the deserts of Western China were a great part of the inspiration that led me to follow in her footsteps in 2009 so I hope that she is being patient with me as I gradually work through my own set of pictures.

Categories: China, Far East

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