Wetlands, another island, and an empty restaurant

Saturday

I travelled almost as far as you can get towards China on the MTR, to Tin Shui Wai station, were I met my cousin Robert. We spent the day at the Hong Kong Wetlands Park, a collection of lakes, walkways, birdwatching hides and assorted buildings that explain the importance of the wetlands environment. The park is surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings, with more being built as we watched – which just emphasised how vital it is to preserve areas like these – but every now and then you can glimpse an unspoilt view to the mountains in the distance.The main building is wedge-shaped, meaning that you can walk easily across the roof, starting at the ground level and ending up with a spectacular view of the whole site. the whole roof is covered with grass, and there is even a maze to try on the way up.The mist you can see coming from the walkway provides a welcome respite from the heat as you wander around.

After another Paper Party back in the city to celebrate the end of Susie’s working week, we discovered for ourselves the effect on tourism that the current disturbances has had. The waiter in Pizza Express where went for a quick supper told us that they were all going to knock off early that evening, and this was a Saturday night at the very height of the tourist season.

Sunday

We decided to escape the city and catch the ferry over to Peng Chau so that I could show Susie one of the places I’d been (twice!) this week. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms, but we spent the first hour or two on the island enjoying slightly cooler and dry weather. We walked around the entire southern part of the island, beyond where I’d managed to go with my bike, stoping to paddle and collect shells at the deserted beach where I swam last week – you might just spot Susie enjoying some peace and quiet on a rock in the sea, after listening to a week of continuous music exams.The side I hadn’t seen before was so different from the rest of the island, since the path turned more inland and took you through what seemed to be a series of allotments, with mango trees and banana plantations at every turn. The air was thick with the sound of cicadas, more unfamiliar birdsong, and occasionally the sound of a transistor radio playing Chinese pop music somewhere out of sight. As we passed one hut made entirely of sheets of bare metal, the most fantastic smell of cooking wafted out and we both realised it was well past lunchtime. The path came out at the long beach on the western side, where another big religious festival was underway, or rather being prepared for. Gangs of helpers were folding paper parcels in a precise and intricate way whilst chatting with each other, we hardly passed a single person who wasn’t carrying a large bundle of smoking joss sticks, and there was an enormous paper image of a God, presiding over long rows of food offerings to dead relatives. We cut across the village, passing Abbey Road once more but sadly with no sign of Sherry or Joey, to my lunch recommendation for the day, the Ho Ho Kitchen. Just as we sat down, the weather broke, and we ended up spending well over two hours enjoying the fantastic food (Pak Choi in garlic and ginger, fried noodles with bean sprouts and mushrooms and fried rice with tons of garlic and ginger, all with iced lemon tea) whilst witnessing a proper South China Sea storm from the comfort of our booth. The narrow alleyway emptied of people, cats crept beneath low tables, shopkeepers covered up their produce with plastic, and everyone took an afternoon break.

As soon as the rain stopped, we wandered back towards the ferry to return home, just in time to catch another religious procession with musical accompaniment that had been waiting out the rain under a tent by the waterfront. They set off with great purpose on a tour of the small bay, with a long line of followers all dressed in white.

Monday

Not much, really. A lazy day, with a long sociable breakfast with all of the other examiners, a trip to the gym on the top floor, and a visit to the Science Museum in the afternoon. See you again back at the the Central Ferry Piers very shortly…