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Weeks 33,34+35 - Lantau Peak, Sunset Peak and Suicide Cliff

Weeks 33-35 of my year in Hong Kong. First vaccination, visit to a monastery and climbing the 2nd and 3rd tallest mountains in HK.

sunny 28 °C

Posted on 5th April 2021

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

At the time of writing, I have pretty much three months left in Hong Kong (contract finishes on 30th June). Unbelievable how fast this year has gone by. Whilst exploring HK has been amazing, the thing I've enjoyed the most has probably been the job. Two aspects to it: sports lessons and boarding duties. We are one of two teachers running each sports lesson (two on athletics, rugby, football etc) so we're heavily involved and quite important. I often run drills/mini games for half the group, and join whenever there is kick-tennis, crossbar challenge or penalty shootout. Such a fun job. Evening boarding duties are laid-back and give me the chance get to know the kids better. Everybody has settled in now, so we're past the stage where they'll get homesick and upset. They're now just very loud and run about screaming all the time, and I often play games like Pictionary or charades with them. Whilst school closures give us lie-ins and days off, it's so much better having all the kids in and being busy with sport/house duties; the place feels quite empty without them.

Week 33 (8th-14th March)

Went to Ho Lee Fook for a birthday, a restaurant that feels like a nightclub; very dim lighting and located in a basement so there's no signal. Really cool place and we got free stuff because we told them it was a birthday. Lots of free Sake (Japanese spirit made from rice) and a Chinese drink made from tea leaves and rum. Highlight was wagyu beef short ribs that was on the house (normally costs £50 just for that dish). It was so juicy and you could cut through it like butter. The food in HK is insane, and justifies its title as one of the three food capitals of the world.
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Ho Lee Fook roast goose, and wagyu beef short rib

Visited Chi Lin Nunnery on the weekend, a famous monastery and holy garden. Buildings were made from wood and canvas (for windows) and had traditional Chinese 'pai fang' roofs. Very peaceful; lots of water features and located far away from the city centre. There was a garden (Nan Lian Garden) with a golden pagoda and a koi-fish lake in the middle. Behind the garden was an impressive temple complex; stone courtyard with a golden orb in the middle and bonsai trees along the pavement, with steps leading up to the main temple which was huge. Some of the monasteries here are beautiful and what you'd expect the buildings in ancient China to look like, such as the Forbidden City.
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Nan Lian Garden, and temples in Chi Lin Nunnery

Had duck and pancakes after the monastery. Handmade pancakes and a whole duck they carved up in front of us, and I'm pretty sure their plum sauce was made in-house too. One of my favourite meals, along with roast goose and pad thai probably.
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Duck and pancakes, with whole duck being carved in front of us

Week 34 (15th-21st March)

Got my first vaccination on the Tuesday. That was the first week that vaccinations had been open to school staff; previously we weren't classed as a priority group. At the time of writing, however, anybody over the age of 30 can book a vaccine. People in HK seem very reluctant to get the vaccine. Might be related to the deaths of nine people (out of less than 500,000 altogether) shortly after getting the Chinese Sinovac vaccine. Rate of vaccination is very slow here, and the government is even talking about making vaccinated people exempt from certain restrictions like wearing a mask, in order to encourage more people to get the jab.

Very efficient process, much like the testing process when I arrived here. Sports halls and community centres have been turned into vaccination hubs across HK. Mine was a sports hall. Somebody at the door checked my appointment number, I filled in a form and went to a booth. The nurse asked me my name and date of birth, and then jabbed me. Whole thing took less than 5 minutes (excluding the compulsory 15 minute wait in the waiting area in case anybody reacted badly). Didn't feel any side effects other than a sore shoulder.
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Vaccination hub at Tsuen King Circuit Sports Centre

Did one of HK's most famous hikes called Suicide Cliff later that week. Essentially a jagged rock that sticks out of a cliff face to create an overhang. Apparently people have fallen off the edge whilst taking photos before, hence the name; it's 150m from the overhang to the base, and due to how steep it is you'd free-fall the whole thing. View over the city was insane though. Did it in 27 °C heat which made it a challenge; we were drenched in sweat for the whole hike. Parts of the descent were pretty much vertical, so there were guide ropes tied to trees for us to hold on to. We pretty much had to abseil down these sections which made it quite fun.
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Suicide Cliff

Week 35 (22nd-28th March)

Quiet week. Heard Line of Duty season 6 was coming out so I rewatched all of seasons 1-5 to refresh my memory. Finished it within a week which I thought was a decent achievement. Played a football match near Ocean Park theme park. Played at right-back for the first time, which was good as I got more touches of the ball than in any match before, but bad as I had to run more than in any match before. Finished the weekend with a Thai buffet, where we could order as much prawn pad thai as we wanted and they'd bring it fresh to our table.
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Football in Aberdeen, and Thai buffet

Week 36 (29th March - 4th April)

Broke up for Easter on the Wednesday. My football team doesn't have any games over Easter so I decided to join a rugby team. Had training on the Thursday with a match at Happy Valley on Sunday. Played for Kowloon RFC, one of four U19 sides in HK; there aren't enough players to form a league with more teams. Lost 26-13, which was an impressive score considering most of the backline of the other team (Tigers) played for the HK national team. Our two coaches are hooker and centre for HK men's national team too.
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Debut for Kowloon RFC

Friday was really good. Hiked Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, 2nd and 3rd tallest mountains in HK respectively, before finishing in the coastal village of Mui Wo. Whole hike took over 7hrs. Lantau Peak was all in the clouds which meant there wasn't a view but it did feel cool to be shrouded in cloud, whilst Sunset Peak looked over the airport. The mountains themselves were beautiful, with sand trails running across their peaks and exposed rock giving them a sense of danger. There were little stone huts along the top of Sunset Peak too, built in the 1930s for camping in and still used today. Walked nearly 28km that day, and my legs were in agony the next day.
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Lantau Peak in the clouds, and view from Sunset Peak and its stone huts

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Next two weeks are our Easter break. Not too much planned; going back to the rockpools we visited in October, and now that the weather is warmer (relative) we'll be having quite a few beach days. Got one more term before it's time to leave HK, and the second half-term is only three weeks long. I'm now just hoping that somewhere like Japan, Thailand, Cambodia or Macau opens up for tourism by June/July. I feel it would be a waste not to visit other nearby Asian countries given how close HK is and how cheap flights from here are (flight from here to Thailand costs under £50). There's a bit of hope with the vaccine drive starting and extremely low cases here; yesterday (4th April) there were 0 locally transmitted cases and 7 imported ones. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Dave

Posted by David Zhao 03:17 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged vaccine

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