Hong Kong Part 3/3: Monkeys and Buddha

Part One: Travel is Glamorous Only in Retrospect

Part Two: The Peak, Temple and Skyline

Monday:

Monday was my birthday. We couldn’t decide what to do. That was three days in a row that any plan we had was thrown out because it was going to be miserably busy. We finally decided to take the MTR (the subway- rather than the ferry) to the Dingleberry and try to find an H&M store as well as maybe finding those temples we missed out on when we were walking to nowhere (spoiler: we never do this).

Everything went pretty smoothly with the MTR.  It was so much better than the craziness of the ferry.

We got off at a market. It was pretty neat but not all that different than the markets in Seoul.  We wandered around for a while before we stumbled on a pet market. Because of the millions of apartments, people are almost always in the market for a fish. So it was mostly in a fish market.

Most fish were just in bags hung on a massive wall. Their price written in permanent marker on the bag. It was a little sad but it seemed like many people were interested in them.

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We saw a some shops selling kittens and dogs. The kittens were so playful and everyone was surprisingly being so respectful – not tapping on glass or trying to wake up the puppies that it wasn’t as terrible as you would maybe think it was. They honestly looked like they were all being cared for pretty well. Better than some of the puppy shops in Korea.

We made the mistake of going to H&M, a clothing store Chris and I really like from Europe. It was so packed you couldn’t even look at anything. Every single rack had someone next to it perusing.

On the way back someone tried to scam us with the ticket machine. Then I got completely screwed. I scanned my subway card but the dumbass lady in front of me stepped back  for no conceivable reason and got her stupid purse stuck on the turnstile. … You guessed it, when she pulled and untangled it, the turnstile turned and completely stole my ride. So I couldn’t get through to go to the subways. I kept scanning the card over and over, in disbelief that the world was so stupid. But it thought I was already in the subway area (the turnstile turned so how couldn’t I be) And of course it was during after-work traffic. So about a million and one people (seven million people, in fact) were pushing and crowding to get to the subway to get home. I was actually trapped between a crush of people and a small barricade. Chris was on the other side and there didn’t seem like any option but to go pay for another card. But that option was completely BS because the scammy money guy was back there.

This story seems like nothing now but at the time it was really crappy. I was more or less trapped against a metal gate as hundreds of people scanned their cards behind me. It didn’t really seem like I could get another ticket, much less get out of the spot where I was standing. Mostly, I was pissed because my ride was essentially stolen by peoples dumbassery.

I was pissed off. We finally found a customer help center on my side of the turnstile. I walked up looking for blood. Without really having to say much, my ticket was promptly recharged and I didn’t have to fork over another cent.

Honestly. That was my whole birthday. Some piss poor markets, a really neat fish and pet market, and then getting effed by public transport.

But all thats okay because Tuesday was the best day of the whole trip.

Tuesday

We had been noticing a pattern of every-other-day being a good day in Hong Kong. And the alternative days were either really boring, obnoxious or overwhelming. Given this Law of Hong Kong, today was destined to be a good day.  The best day so far had been spent on a man made trail on Victoria Peak. So we decided to go find a real trail on a real mountain.

Dragons Back is a really really popular hike here. So we immediately began researching anything else. We wanted to be in a position that, if god forbid, we got lost on a mountain, no one would ever find us (this is a joke – this feat would be impossible with the city surrounding the mountains) We craved, nay, required solitude.

Lonely Planet made some mention of “pesky monkeys” – we were immediately all in.

We took the MTR to a very off-the-beaten path part of Hong Kong. We could have/should have taken a taxi up the hill to the trail head, instead we began trekking up the very steep road.  It began sprinkling about halfway up. By the time we reached the end of the city road it was raining pretty hard. We had water, a phone and a “survival bracelet” but no umbrella or rain jackets. Our mistake. Oh well. We kept going.

The walk seemed like it was going nowhere. The rain didn’t look like it would let up. We almost considered heading down but we’re too stubborn for that. We hadn’t gotten to the trail head and didn’t know how far away it even was but we were not going to head down. It was the Law of Hong Kong, damnit, today was supposed to be good!

The day was looking like it was going to be a huge bust. The worst bust so far.

Then someone went walking by with a cat. They had, apparently, taken their cat for a hike (??!!) and were hiking down. “That’s weird” we said. Then up ahead we saw something furry. Having just seen a cat we assumed – cat. That is a house cat. But it swung around the metal barricade like a total badass. Something cats cannot do. “Monkey!” I cried stopping Chris.

We watched it glide across the top of the metal gate easily like some kind of monkey monorail. We pursued at a distance.

Soon more monkeys came flying and twisting out of the trees to land on the metal and begin walking on it. Cars drove by, people passed, and they were unfazed. This was definitely their area, and they knew to stay on the metal to avoid getting hit on the roads.

We kept a very healthy distance until a monkey chose to walk by us at about 5 feet away. They were feral but had been corrupted by feeding. He didn’t look for food on us but he proved that they wouldn’t attack (or even care about you) if you didn’t provoke.

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From that point on we followed about 50 monkeys up the hill in an adorable monkey parade. Sometimes they were only a few feet away, other times we were all alone until the original Monorail Monkey would arrive again, acting as a caboose.

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Then the Monkey Parade stopped and everyone hung out for a bit. I’m not sure what they thought they were doing. But a crowd of hikers gathered and took photos. Maybe the monkeys were humoring us. Likely they were sizing us up for food. We took lots of pictures and enjoyed them before they swung away into the trees. And yeah, some strutted confidently across the street, too good for trees.

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Bottom right corner – Mr. Monorail Monkey
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Baby monkey was scared because of some nearby construction.

The awesomeness of the hike didn’t end there. In fact, we finally only just arrived at the trail-head. We could have turned back right there, satisfied. But we had only been walking on the street. We still needed to get out on a proper trail and get lost in a jungle.

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It didn’t take very far for the concrete steps to disappear and the views to begin.

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We didn’t know what trail we were on. We were on some kind-of complex-trail made up of 6+ segments that people could hike individually. We thought we were on one, we were probably on another. It didn’t really matter. At one point the rain stopped and we just kept powering along. We didn’t know where we would pop out or if we would have to turn around hike all the way back out.

We decided to go up Lions Rock and got this amazing view.

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The elevation was about 1,600 feet. It didn’t seem that impressive until we got down and looked back up at it. It makes the buildings look like legos.

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The clouds got darker and darker. The trail looked like it might continue on some but we didn’t want to get hit by lightning. An understandable choice.
lioinsrokOn the way back down we saw two more of the horrible spiny banana spiders. Still believing them to be the other banana spiders that will attack, we were a little frightened of walking under their exercise-ball sized webs.

Then came the rain. We thought we had been in the rain before. Now, NOW we were in the rain. The path became a stream of water flowing down and, still without umbrellas, we were forced to stop for a moment. We hitched our backpacks up over our heads and stood laughing at each other.

Now were were soaked and had no idea how far away from an exit we were. Our stuff got soaked. Our journals, passports, and the camera all got wet. We put the camera in the most waterproof place we could find and it turned out okay, but one of the travel journals  was pretty much ruined.

We hiked out in a few hours, still soaked. The rain eventually slowed somewhat but we liked it. We passed a pillbox military structure – when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1941 – on the same day as Pearl Harbor, in fact. These military outposts were set up and still remain. There’s nothing much to it now, but it made the incredible hike even more fantastic.

Just when the adventure seemed over, we saw two wild boars foraging in the bushes. They paid us no mind. They were rustling through leaves too furiously to be photographed – they’re just boar-y blurs so we won’t include a photo.

Wednesday

Wednesday is really really easy to write about. Nothing happened. It rained so badly that they closed the schools and opened emergency shelters for homeless.

More than 40cm of rain fell on parts of Hong Kong over the last 24 hours [from when we had been hiking]… delaying flights at the airport and closing schools.

The downpours came in short, sharp bursts, with the red rainstorm warning issued twice in six hours. (source)

It was the hardest rain I’ve ever seen or stood in. The rain was so huge and fat, and it fell so quickly that it hurt to be under it. We stayed in the hotel for the majority of the day and we regret nothing.

Thursday

Since we had lost a whole day on Wednesday we had to make a choice: miss the “Big Buddha” or miss Macau. Everyone had ranted and raved about how beautiful Macau was. Mainly it became a choice between long ferry ride or (what we thought to be) a shorter subway ride. So we picked the Big Buddha. We took the subway and arrived just as the rain began. We didn’t even want to take the cable cars up to the Big Buddha as they looked expensive and too pushy-Chinese-y. So we opted for the bus. Good thing because the views would have been bad and they suspended the cable cars because of the rain/lightning.

The bus was way too long, it took us on the most roundabout way possible but after 45 minutes we were there and we had seen feral buffalo (no pics, sorry) so it wasn’t too bad.

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We explored the temple first. buddhaThen we began up the stairs.

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We enjoyed one last British pub meal before packing our things and heading home the next day.

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