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Weeks 36,37,38+39 - Easter

Weeks 36-39 of my year in Hong Kong. Two week Easter break and a visit to Tsz Shan Monastery.

sunny 30 °C

Posted on 3rd May 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.

Last four weeks have flown by. Spent two weeks relaxing over Easter before school restarted for my final term here, which has thankfully returned to normal. Before Easter, half the school would be in during the morning and half in the afternoon due to a capacity limit. This made the place feel very empty. However that limit has now been increased so only one year group has to stay home on Zoom each day; all other years are in school. Noisy corridors and large groups in games lessons make the place feel normal, the first time it's done so since being here. There are still many restrictions in place though, especially in sport. No tackling in football, no contact in rugby, sanitising every piece of equipment touched. Very frustrating as part of the Gap Tutor job normally involves coaching teams and travelling to fixtures with them, which I was looking forward to doing. Hasn't been a single sports fixture for schools this year, and the swimming pool hasn't been used once either.

Originally I was planning to go to Japan over the Easter break, which of course wasn't possible. HK has just announced that a quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore will be opening in late May (without the need for the currently-compulsory 21 days of quarantine). I would go for it - a return flight from here to Singapore normally costs less than £100 - but there'll only one 200-seat plane a day. Because it's the only tourism option for HK residents, demand for those 200 seats is through the roof; the price of a ticket is over £1000 (tenfold the normal price). There's also the risk of being stranded over there, which could happen overnight if untraceable cases spike above five a day. Even if people aren't stranded, they will be forced to undergo 14/21-day quarantine in the event of a spike, which defeats the purpose of the bubble.

It's a shame we haven't been able to travel elsewhere. We're so close to Thailand, Japan and Japan, yet are unable to visit because of restrictions, quarantine etc. The main reason I wanted to come to HK for a year was its location; flights are much shorter and a fraction of the UK price. Return flight from here to Bangkok normally costs £50 and takes less than 3hrs. Flight from here to Osaka is 4hrs, as opposed to 14hrs from the UK. Don't get me wrong, still an amazing year regardless, but it does feel like I'm not making the most of it being in such a good location.

Week 36 (5th-11th April)

First week of Easter holidays. Got my second vaccine on the Tuesday. Felt completely fine for the rest of the day, but when I woke up the next morning I felt awful: headache, 38 °C fever and extremely weak. Stayed in bed for the whole day. Then the side effects just went away, and the next morning I'd recovered fully and was back to normal again. I'm used to feeling weak for a few days after I recover from an illness, so it was strange to get better so quickly after feeling so bad the day before.
Fully vaccinated

As I didn't feel these side effects until the evening, I went to the beach after getting the vaccine. Went to Shek O, located at the end of the Dragons Back hike I did in January. Very busy as beaches had only reopened the previous week. Didn't realise how nice the Shek O area was; there's a private golf course surrounded by mansions, including a white one with red Chinese-style pai fang roofs that looked like a palace. Definitely one of the nicer beaches in HK, being located in a rural location of the south of HK Island, far away from the polluted waters around the shipping ports and power stations.
Shek O beach, and the palace-like mansion

Hiked Lion Rock on the Friday, named for being shaped like a lion from a distance. Had to hike through Lion Rock Country Park which is home to wild monkeys; we saw two adults and one baby which was pretty cool. The view from the top would've been amazing if it wasn't raining. The visibility wasn't great when we got to the top, which was annoying because halfway down our descent the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Its peak has three sections: the tail, the body and the head of the lion. There are signs by the head warning people not to climb on top because of how sheer the drop is on the other side (I've attached a stock image of what it looks like from a distance). Really nice hike despite the weather conditions.
Lion Rock hike

Think we've done pretty much all of the main hikes in HK, as well as some of the lesser-known ones. They kept us occupied every weekend from December to late February when everything was closed during the fourth wave. Even if stuff was open I'm pretty sure we'd still have done as many as possible. I feel that if you don't do the hikes here then you're not making the most of Hong Kong; you get the best views of the city, the islands and everything in between while doing them. Don't think people realise how scenic HK is because the skyscrapers and nightlife are what come to mind first. It's so beautiful and there's so much variety.
Danger signs on the head of the Lion, the Lion from a distance and the view from the top

Ate at the Rosewood on the Sunday, a fancy hotel located in Tsim Sha Tsui along the waterfront. Had Mediterranean food: octopus, sea bass and as much focaccia bread as we wanted. Really gonna miss the food when I leave here; never seen so many good places to eat in my life.
The Rosewood, the view from it and grilled octopus

Week 37 (12th-18th April)

Second and last week of the Easter holidays. Went back to Suicide Cliff on the Monday. The last time we went was slightly hazy, and also we wanted to go at sunset. So glad we decided to go back; weather conditions were perfect. The ascent seemed much quicker this time, probably because we'd already done it before. Went from the bottom to the top in 45 mins. One of the clearest days I've seen; there was absolutely no haze or smog which is rare in HK. The cliff is located in Kowloon and looks across the harbour onto HK Island, where all the skyscrapers are. The view of the skyline with the Peak in the background was crystal-clear; we stayed up there for over an hour and watched the sunset.
Suicide Cliff at sunset

Visited Tsz Shan Monastery on the Saturday, the one I saw from the top of Tai Mo Shan. Whilst being beautiful - easily the best monastery/temple here - it doesn't have much history, unlike most others which have traditional roots. Its construction finished in 2015 and was built for £150 million by Li Ka-Shing, a business tycoon and 30th richest person in the world. The monastery is beautiful, completely silent and has real buddhas walking around. We had to wear trousers as it's disrespectful to show your legs in a Buddhist place of worship.
Tsz Shan Monastery and a guard at the entrance

It's located in the mountains near Tai Po, a quiet area far away from the city. Additionally, the day we went was misty, which combined with the silence gave it a mystical feel, as if it were some sort of hidden settlement. The temples are made out of very expensive-looking dark wood, centred around a courtyard with a golden orb-like lamp in the middle. There is a set of steps at the far end of the courtyard leading up through the centre temple, which takes you to the highlight: the Guanyin statue.

It doesn't look real, standing at 76m tall and gleaming white. It's painted in 'self-cleaning fluorocarbon paint' which makes it look as though it's glowing. It's immense and photos can't capture how massive it is. Probably the same height as lots of HK's apartment blocks. You can see it from literally miles away; I could see it glistening from the top of Tai Mo Shan which is over 20km away.
Temple complex with the well in the middle, and the Guanyin statue, the 15th tallest statue in the world

We took part in one of their practices, where we filled a small wooden bowl with holy water and carried it to a large well. We then went up the steps to the statue, and walked around it clockwise three times, before bowing in front of it. We received a blessing of good luck from it. There was also an exhibition with ancient Buddhist ornaments, like little head carvings, dating as far back as the 3rd century. Some were from mainland China, others from Thailand, Cambodia and even India. Quite interesting how they all depicted people in the same way despite being made in different locations during different time periods. Such a unique experience.
Buddhist exhibition, with the first ornament from the 6th century

Played my last ever rugby match on the Sunday for Kowloon U19s, starting at flanker. Really close game that we unfortunately lost, but I loved it. Played at HK University pitches in Sandy Bay, located on the coast; you can kick the ball from the pitch into the sea if you want. Whilst I won't miss being constantly injured, I will miss the sport.
Kowloon U19s

Week 38 (19th-25th April)

School restarted for my third and final term here. 10 weeks long, so at the time of writing I only have 8 weeks left. As mentioned, all year groups but one are allowed in at a time now, so the place feels normal and has a buzz to it. However the school isn't allowed to serve 'hot lunch' to day students, but is allowed to serve 'substantial snacks' which consist of a sandwich/wrap, salad and dessert. One of the measures put in place by the government to prevent the spread of Covid.

Some of the restrictions make zero sense, such as having to wear a mask anytime you're in public. Doesn't matter if you're walking through a park or along a road and there's nobody else around, you MUST have a mask on, and if the police see you without one on they can fine you up to £500. Unbearable in this heat; average temperature is over 30 °C which is impossible to breathe in with a mask on.

Went back to Sai Kung rockpools on the Saturday, and they were just as amazing as last time. 28 °C but quite cloudy, though this worked out in our favour as we had the normally-busy hotspot to ourselves. Because of the 1hr hike it takes to get there, people only tend to go when the weather is perfect. Spent the day there cliff-jumping and swimming, before heading to Cheung Kee Seafood Restaurant for dinner, one of HK's highest rated seafood restaurants.
Sai Kung rockpools

Week 39 (26th April - 2nd May)

Busy week of work again. Now that pretty much all the kids are back in school, we're very busy with sports and supervision. Last term we had lots of free periods as all our work is in person, which left us a bit bored at points. Now we only have one or two frees a day; games and PE in the morning, house supervision during break and lunch, then some office work in the afternoon before evening duty.

Went on an Aqua Luna on Friday, a party boat resembling ancient Chinese sailing boats. They're made out of wood and look like pirate ships, with their signature feature being their red sails. Now they're used as tour boats and are popular with both residents and tourists because of the views they provide. Had some drinks and watched the sunset from the boat, before it became dark and we saw the skyline light up.
Aqua Luna party boat with its signature red sails, and the skyline from the boat at night

Brunch at Francis on Sunday, a fantastic Middle-Eastern restaurant, but other than that a fairly quiet weekend.


Waiting to May half-term to book a return flight, in the hope that somewhere does open up for quarantine-free tourism. Not looking likely though. Singapore travel bubble isn't an option, and my original plan for the end of the year - spending a month with my aunt in Australia - isn't going to go ahead. Just going to try and make the most of my last two months in HK before heading back to Birmingham. Honestly stunned at how fast time has gone; I've been here for 9 months, yet still remember first arriving, getting out of quarantine, visiting every area in HK like the tourist I was. Now I know all the best places for food, cheapest shops; I know the bus routes like the back of my hand. Gonna have to just enjoy it as much as I can in these last two months. Definitely going to come back; this place is amazing and feels like my second home now.


Posted by David Zhao 06:28 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged hot

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