An 18km Hike

My last blog made reference to YVR which attracted some discussion on why IATA had assigned many Canadian airports with the prefix “Y” which in turn must have helped to boost visit numbers a bit – but I wouldn’t know about readership – somewhat an unintended consequence, and from which I have learned something, the usefulness of which is suspect though.

I also learnt last week somehow that my friends in Vancouver had yet to receive the books I sent them by registered post – when my friends in Toronto and Edmonton were already reading them – and I was told that it had to do with whether the mail bag carrying the books landed on an east bound or west bound ocean liner, and whether the mail bag had landed Vancouver and subsequently had its contents distributed separately on land.  It is somewhat complicated and I don’t think an average reader would be interested. Tell me if you think I am wrong.

I went to the funeral of a friend last week, which took place in a Church in Tsing I City. Once again, I learnt something new: Whereas the Catholic Diocese had yet to sanction the resumption of public Masses in churches, there is no limit in numbers attending a funeral Mass. It was thus I attended a first full Mass since December 2020, somewhat accidentally, in a rather spacious church that can easily hold 400 to 500 people. I reckon there were close to 100 people in the congregation at the funeral Mass. I couldn’t help feeling the ambivalence – on the one hand I was glad I could attend a Mass physically, as opposed to looking at a pre-recorded video on YouTube; but on the other, I was saddened by the passage of a good friend – and had even wondered for a second whether I should be going round town looking for funeral Masses.

Daniel Mak was an ex-colleague and a few years my junior in Wah Yan College. We had a weekly luncheon organized for Thursdays until the coronavirus pandemic struck and he used to come to these lunches regularly before he was diagnosed as having pancreatic cancer. He was a good guy, quiet, mild mannered, considerate and very much service minded. He volunteered his time and resources to disadvantaged children and youth and had always been modest about what he had been doing.

Just as the gyms had been allowed to re-open, the number of infected cases spiked, mostly from a gym in Central which generated renewed fears and panic. Then, as we began to see more people joining the vaccination programmes, negative news gathered strength and the situation was certainly not helped by a biased media, which arguably had been milder and somewhat tamed in the wake of the enactment of national security laws. Let me illustrate with two examples.

First, SCMP had a recent front page headline, under a section on US – China Tensions, which was meant to be a routine report on the US sanctions announced on 24 Hong Kong and mainland officials, taking place on the eve of the talks between diplomats of the two countries in Alaska. I have been an ardent subscriber if not a fervent reader of SCMP for the last 50 years, not only because it is the only English daily published in Hong Kong since 1903, but it has been reasonably open and balanced, or less biased, in its reporting and editorials. Well, SCMP had seen it fit to have a sub-heading which said, “Washington retaliates after Beijing’s overhaul of HK’s electoral system.” The operative word on which I take issue is “retaliates”. What is there to retaliate, I ask with a straight and honest face. The decisions and the move to overhaul the electoral system of Hong Kong are strictly China’s prerogative and responsibilities which would not affect any other counties or their nationals, including the United States. The US unilateral move to impose sanctions on the two dozen officials, therefore, can at best described as “reaction” or “apparent responses”. To brand it as retaliation is certainly a biased response, calculated to demonstrate a position and to create an opinion. Not what I would call objective journalism.

Secondly, the media’s reporting on Shenzhen sending back to Hong Kong eight fugitives were anything but biased. These are common criminals and fugitives. They were handed over to the Hong Kong Police so that they could be put through the legal and judicial processes in Hong Kong. And how did the media react – SCMP reported that some lawyers accused the Hong Kong Police of keeping families in the dark about prison release. It seems that the situation was caused by the Hong Kong journalists being more resourceful than the lawyers and the families of the fugitives.

In the midst of all these, we took a break to explore somewhat by accident, the Lai Chi Wo Hakka villages, of which there are seven, collectively known as the Hing Chun Yeuk, or the alliance celebrating Spring. The Alliance comprises Kop Tong or Kap Tong (clam or frog pond), Lai Chi Wo, Mui Tsz Lam, Ngau Shi Wu (literally cow dung lake), Sam A Village, Siu Tan (little beach), and So Lo Pun; all very picturesque and poetic names. It was an impulsive trip, motivated by the desire to meet two good friends one of whom had recently been released from quarantine because he was amongst a group of 60 at a monthly luncheon meeting held in three rooms in a hotel during which one of the participants met a visitor who was later proved positive. We began with an easy walk from Wu Kau Tang car park and walked through the scenic trails to Sam A Village where we had lunch in an eatery located on an expansive marshy beach fronting Double Haven or Yan Chau Tong, which is a harbour enclosed by Double Island, Crescent Island and Crooked Island with north-eastern New Territories, all part of the Yan Chau Tong Marine Park. Mark Gor who organized the hike had sighted the eatery, called Green Villa, a few months before after a heavy meal at Kop Tong, and this was his first meal there. It was a great meal indeed with genuine Hakka food. The operators are from the Tsang clan who had left the village for some five decades. Their grandmother had lived there more than half a century ago, but the third generation whom we met and who now operate at the eatery had only returned from France, Leon I think, three or four years ago for a taste of quiet and rural life. They spent two to three years clearing the site and forming the land, planting some fruit crops, building living quarters, and acquiring water and electricity supplies before opening Green Villa for business in June 2020. The Tsang’s are interesting people indeed. The young lady who took our orders said that weekends were choker blogged and suggested advanced booking. They made good coffee too.

Mark Gor took us to Lai Chi Wo after the meal. It was a very pleasant and scenic walk along the mangrove. Between the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the area has been turned into a sort of museum and tourism site; and I find it very interesting and educational indeed. We walked past some rather interesting sites and artefacts and arrived at the pier from where ferries and vessels had operated from Tai Po. It was then we had to decide what to do next before sunset.

Eventually, we decided to walk back to Wu Kau Tang through Kap Tong, where Mark Gor had been before. To cut the long story short, we arrived the eatery Mark Gor used to patronize in less than an hour and decided to have high tea at Fat Kee at Kap Tong which is rather close to Mui Tze Lam. To digress a bit, we had met three young European ladies en route to Lai Chi Wo, who stopped for a packed lunch. We met them again on our way up or back to Kap Tong. They seemed to be lost; and when Mark Gor mentioned high tea, they followed us to Fat Kee’s place, thus adding more business to Fat Kee. Now, Fat Kee has been run by the Fan Clan for more than two decades; and we learned from the Tsang’s at Sam A that the Fan’s had been operating there without running water and electricity supply for many years, to the admiration and amazement of the Tsang’s. Indeed, Wikipedia says that the place had been operating for 40 years without water and electricity. We learnt that Uncle Fat was a cook in UK and had returned to Kap Tong some 20 years ago to start a business. He is indeed a character. We ended up having more than tea. We had two platefuls of vegetables and egg stuffs and left with some spices too, so that we didn’t begin the trip back to Wu Kau Tang through Mui Tze Lam until 5:30pm. To cut the long story short, we made it to the car park before 7:30pm. The phone recorded that we had done more than 18km, which was not bad.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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