Taxi tip for Guangzhou

I was in Guangzhou last weekend and had the opportunity to take taxi with a relative who is a Guangzhou native.  He told me a secret about Guangzhou: “We Guangzhou people only take yellow taxi. They are Guangzhou people’s taxi.” According to him, the yellow taxi company recruits only locals as taxi drivers, not those unable to speak Cantonese from other provinces. True to his words, we went on a yellow taxi whose driver started to reminisce about the past in Cantonese upon hearing that we were heading to Pan Xi Restaurant (畔溪酒家),a restaurant founded in 1947 and known for its garden setting.

The taxi driver said: “The old tea houses had a distinct flavor, which is long gone. Remember these old restaurants used to have netted windows? The owners would put up the nets over the windows so that the customers would not fly the plates out through the windows. For the bills were decided by the number of plates left on the tables. Flying plates was commonplace then.

“In days of yore, the steamed beef cubes were small as they were never re-heated. Nowadays, the steamed beef cubes are big, as they are heated again and again. The good taste is gone.”

I understand from the conversation why the Guangzhou people trust yellow taxi.

There are seven taxi colors in Guangzhou, representing different taxi operators. The taxi fare is the same despite the myriad of colors.

Po Toi Island: Great Place to Be (Part 2)

If you do not wish to go for the rugged trail as described in Part 1, try this easy trail on the Island. After leaving the pier, turn left and not far on your right hand side, is a narrow path between houses with such handwritten words on the wall, indicating a path leading to country trail:photo 5 (6)Follow the path and you will come across a dessert restaurant called Kun Kei Store (坤記士多). Be brave to walk through the open restaurant – the owners may call out at you to sit down for some dessert soups. You will soon be on a paved trail to see ancient rock carvings of some three thousand years and some of the famous rock formations on the Island, as well as a light house.

The way to see rock cravings
The way to see rock cravings

The rock cravings on the Island are declared monuments in Hong Kong, discovered in 1960s. Two groups of cravings, wearing off,  are visible. photo 4 (7)As I had to meet the 4pm ferry time to leave the Island on the day of visit, I had no alternative but headed back to the pier before reaching the light house. As you can tell, the Island is interesting enough for exploration more than one day. I promised myself I would come back.

Before boarding the ferry, there was still a little bit time. So I was using the time to find out what I could buy from a store near the pier,  run by an old couple who sold herbal tea, seaweed, dry fish, etc. It seemed that they sold everything, even a sugarcane for $10, fresh from the field. There is a moving humanity touch about the Island. photo (98)

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The couple dried herbs on the ground and sold them as slimming herbal tea.
They dried fish in the open.
They also dried fish in the open.

Poi Toi Island: Great Place to Be (Part 1)

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Date: 19 October, 2013

Strangely, for such an enchanting island, I did not visit it until recently. It captured my heart when I began to climb its hill. I started from Tin Hau Temple (turning left after leaving the pier).

The Tin Hau Temple on Po Toi Island enjoys commanding view of the sea
The Tin Hau Temple on Po Toi Island enjoys a commanding view of the sea

Near the temple, there is a rugged trail with metal chains as handrails along the way. The climb was extremely interesting and a bit exhausting with spectacular view meeting your eyes. photo 2 (18)photo 3 (10)photo 1 (21)photo 2 (20)Dotting the way are some fascinating rock formations for which Po Toi is famous, as well as signposts ensuring that you will not get 2 (21)photo 1 (22)After about 1.5 hours of walk, you will come to an intersection with a pavilion at not far distance. You can either go up to the pavilion and walk a longer distance before heading back to the pier, or go the easier route which will take you to the pier in half an hour.

I was so smitten by the scenery and had spent longer time than expected on the route taking photos and resting that I decided to go the easier route – I did not want to miss the ferry scheduled for 4pm leaving the Island. It took me two hours in total to reach the pier again when it normally takes 1.5 hours. If you go the longer route, it will be about 2.5 hours in total.

Po Toi Island, a fishing village in the old days, is now inhabited by a very small population. So the ferry service is very infrequent. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is only one ferry service to (10am) /from (2pm) Po Toi from Aberdeen. I went there on a Saturday. The ferry departs Aberdeen at 10am and 3pm , and leaves Po Toi at 2pm and 4pm on Saturdays. The obvious option for me was taking the 10am ferry and returning at 4pm. Sundays have more services though, and the services are mainly between Stanley and Po Toi: leaving Stanley pier at 10am, 11:30am, 3:30pm and 5pm, and leaving Po Toi for Stanley at 9:15am, 10:45am, 3pm and 4:30pm. Please view the timetable below for details:

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(please click to enlarge to see the timetable)

The ferry service to Po Toi Island is provided by Tsui Wah Ferry (tel: 2272 2022). You can call the company if you have any question. Ferry time from Aberdeen to Po Toi is one hour and slightly shorter if it is between Stanley and Po Toi.

I spent leisurely time in a small dessert restaurant near the pier after 2-hr walk. The restaurant was run by an old lady who made and sold really delicious bean soup and who has lived on the island for most of her life. photo (94)Must not miss her green bean soup and purple rice soup. She made the dessert using wood fire. “The gas is so expensive. I cannot afford it. I just use the wood collected from the hill.” She said. She said she had been making bean soup for twenty years and saw the spike in bean price in recent years. “For all those years, I did not raise the price. I only added HK$2 to the price recently. I really put in a lot ingredients into the dessert soup,” she (96)

For the delicious bean soup packed with ingredients, she charged HK$12 only. You won’t find such delicious sweet with such good price anywhere else in Hong Kong. In fact, I noticed that all the dessert restaurants on the Island have similar price. I must say, the prices on the island are very reasonable, compared to other outlying islands in Hong Kong. This island’s people have a touch of simplicity and sincerity.

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seaweed being dried on the Island

The Island is known to produce the best seaweed in Hong Kong.  Green bean soup with seaweed is a common and traditional Chinese dessert and that explains why Po Toi Island has quite a few dessert restaurants with green bean soup being the main and most attractive item on the menu.

How to get to the Aberdeen pier for ferry

The ferry pier is near the children playground at Aberdeen harbourfront, towards the fish retail market.

How to get to the Stanley pier for ferry

Ferry to Po Toi Island leaves Blake pier in Stanley near Murray House every Sunday or on Public Holidays.

Po Toi Island: Great Place to Be (Part 2)

Another historic day for HK – 20 Oct rally

This is yet another historic day for Hong Kong – 120,000 people turned up to protest the government’s decision not to issue the free-to-air TV license to Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) last Sunday. 500,000 people gave “like” to a Facebook page calling for protest against the government’s decision and then this past Sunday, thousands of people, most of them wearing black in response to the organizer’s call, marched from Causeway Bay to the Government Headquarters in Admiralty. photo (3) photo (86)

When I approached Admiralty, I was both excited and surprised to see a sea of people converge on the government site to rally against CY Leung and his government’s decision. It evoked the day when thousands of people converged at the same place to protest the implementation of national education in school curricula. The sense of solidarity gripped the people attending the rally who clapped hands and waved at each other.photophoto (85)People made speech, denouncing Leung and defending Hong Kong’s core value, bringing with them amplifier and microphone to make their voice (2)And all sorts of banners in the mockery of the government’s decision were exhibited during the 1 (15) photo 3photo (4)photo 1 (16)CY Leung’s government is a joke in the minds of Hong Kong people – how much public outcry Leung has aroused since he was elected by a mere 689 votes in a Beijing-rigged election. While a reasonable person would think that HKTV deserves the license for its entrepreneurial spirit and efforts to revive Hong Kong’s TV golden era and creative industry, his government threw it out, saying that this is good for the health of the local TV industry. In other words, it wants to promote the health of the TV business by forestalling any disruptive forces that would change the established order, keeping HK people forever at the mercy of the monopoly of TVB, the current major player. ATV, kowtowing to Beijing and controlled by “red” capitalists, is another current player, whose TV programs are simply rubbish. The fact that ATV can still exist despite its very poor performance and reputation, is another joke.

Though Hong Kong people have long been deprived of quality TV programs, it took the government three years to finally make a decision regarding issuing new TV license, a decision that is so unreasonable and ridiculous that draws the ire of the public. People are angry that there is no justice but political motivation behind the decision. photo (5)What is more, the government keeps saying that it is the collective decision of the cabinet (i.e. Executive Council) whose deliberations should be kept confidential. Who are these people on the cabinet btw? They include mostly Leung’s loyalists who Leung appointed to the cabinet so that he could return their favor of supporting his bid for Chief Executive. If the cabinet has no responsibility to explain their decisions which are of great public interest on the flimsy excuse of confidentiality, then Hong Kong affairs will be in the hands of a select few who are not held accountable for their decisions. Why should Hong Kong’s future be governed by them? They have no mandate from Hong Kong people to govern or make decisions on their behalf! That this happens in Hong Kong, the so called Asia’s world city, is another big joke.

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Flashing anti-Leung poster from a tram in support of the rally

Since Leung took power, Hong Kong people have taken to the streets a few times en masse. You only need to be in the march to feel how much people here despise him and want him out. I hope Beijing can see that we Hong Kong people want real democracy and to elect our leader, not one that implanted from above like Leung, an idiot and one with no integrity, not to mention leadership and vision. Forcing people to bow to the will of those with power can only backfire, one day.

Challenging walk: towards Tai O

Hiking Route: Shek Pik Reservoir -> Kau Ling Chung ->Fan Lau ->Yi O->Tai O

Date: 7 September 2013

This hiking route comprises section 8 of Lantau Trail (鳳凰徑) from Shek Pik Reservoir (石壁水塘) to Kau Ling Chung (狗嶺涌), and Section 7 from Kau Ling Chung to Yi O (二澳)and then Tai O(大澳). It was a tough walk because the distance is long, about 18 kilometres, and  took me and my friends six hours to finish (we were slow, of course). It was tought also because section 7 had part of the trail covered in water, making it very muddy. This may be because the preceding days had been raining (82)photo 1 (13)Regardless of raining or not, the section of trail leading to Yi O from Fan Lau is quite off the beaten path and is redolent of remoteness. Approaching Yi O, a village abandoned since 1990’s, a sign was put up, asking people not to enter for safety reason. Undeterred, we pressed on, and came to the site of old Yi O village, which saw traces of construction and farming on a vast stretch of land without any 2 (14)The sign was put up by the former Yi O villagers, I later learnt. They have argument with the Government over land use, and have burned down a large area of trees, avowing to stop all other people from entering their village.

From Yi O, you have to pass a couple of crossroads before landing on a concrete pavement leading to Tai O. There is no signage (well, it is understood if the villagers do not welcome visitors). We decided to follow the path where bicycle ruts could be seen as we saw previously villagers biking. This worked and we soon left the muddy path and were on the paved way to Tai O.

At the intersection of Yi O and the paved way is an expanse of marshes. It is starkly beautiful and quiet (83)

photo 4 (6)photo (84)The starting section, i.e. section 8 from Shek Pik to Kau Leng Chung, is a bit boring, as the trail is mostly along a catchwater. After leaving the catchwater, the walk was getting more interesting.  A number of waterfalls caught our attention.

photo (77)This hiking route’s culmination is Fan Lau, which is at the southwest end of Lantau Island and Hong Kong territory.

photo (78)photo 2 (12) The waters at Fan Lau, a peninsula, are brown as they are close to Pearl River Estuary. A number of sites of historic value dot Fan Lau, including Fan Lau Fort which is a declared monument and was built in Qing Dynasty for defense.

There is a hiking trail through Fan Lau, but on the day of hiking, it was such sweltering heat that my friends and I decided not to deviate from Lantau Trail to explore Fan Lau. And we were very grateful that at the mostly abandoned Fan Lau Village, a Mr Chan, a retired fireman, is running a small store to provide hikers with much cherished drinks and instant noodles. Imagine no place to unwind during a 6-hour gruelling walk under intense heat. Mr Chan’s store felt like an oasis for 3 (6)The store has a nice terrace looking out to a big garden. Mr Chan grows chili in the garden and makes chili paste and sells to hikers. He also grows custard apples (番鬼荔枝) in his garden. Asked why he chooses this fruit, “my mother left me with the trees,” he said. He gave each of us a custard apple for tasting.

The hike ended at Tai O’s bus station. Walking on the long bridge leading to the bus station one could still see some refreshing unique scenery. It ended on a pleasant (79)

It is about 1 hour 40 minutes to walk from Shek Pik Reservoir to Kau Ling Chung, and 1 hour from Kau Ling Chung to Fan Lau, and another 3 hours from Fan Lau to Tai O via Yi O.

How to get to the starting point:

Take bus No. 11 from Tung Chung MTR station, and get off after you see Shek Pik Reservoir. There are signs near the bus stop pointing to Tai Long Wan Tsuen (大浪灣村) and Wang Pui Road (宏貝路). Follow the road and you will be on section 8 of Lantau Trail.