Hong Kong: Lantau Island

A Note about this post: This isn’t a proper post about the project, but just something to let you know what we’ve been up to for the past few weeks. Greetings from Southeast Asia!

It’s been awhile since you last heard from yours truly – but there’s a good reason for that.

During that time, we sold off, stored with obliging relatives, or mailed all of the possessions save those that fit into two giant backpacks; gave two weeks notice at our cushy jobs in Manhattan; handed the keys to our Bushwick sublease reluctantly back to the owner (herself just back from Ghana); arranged to film a couple of traditional Khmer wedding ceremonies for our documentary project; and spent two weeks driving a Ford hybrid rental into the ground all around Oregon, mostly visiting friends and relatives (the highlight of which was watching our friends Brian and Heidi kill the room at Suki’s in downtown PDX with their dead on karaoke cover of the B52s’ “Love Shack”).

Then at the dawn of St. Patrick’s Day, we boarded the Bolt Bus from downtown Portland to Seattle, cruised to Sea-Tac on the airport tram, and flew 16 hours from Seattle – via Tokyo – to Hong Kong.
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March 17-20, 2014

The cabin explodes in applause upon our final approach at Tokyo-Narita, because amid 20 mph crosswinds our Airbus 330 drops, twists, and fishes wildly as if in a seizure until right about when we touch the tarmac.  Nice bit of flying.

Partly because of the winds tossing about everything with wings all over the Pacific Rim, we land very late (after 1 am) in Hong Kong International. The only option is to cab it to our hotel and hope  they left the light on.

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The cab driver barrels around 20km curves at a dead 60 km and strains up steep mountainsides in an old 1980s Chinese junker sedan. He almost leaves the engine block dropped through the chassis behind us on a few of his climbs.

A highlight of the ride: a giant black water buffalo with massive horns looms out of the darkness with his rear end to our cab, tail twitching,  lounging and chewing his cud on a sidewalk in front of a darkened shop.
Tourists-meet-Mui-Wos-water-buffalos.-Photo-by-Steven-Knipp-INLINE

Then SCREEEEEEEEEECH we’re there. Luckily the hotel has anticipated our lateness and left the light on. We gingerly navigate a narrow alley strewn with boxes behind a restaurant, catching whiffs of fish and old vegetables and the unmistakeable tang of the salt sea.
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So you may have noticed by now that we like to do things in opposite order. Call us contrary, but because of how the timing worked out with the first Khmer wedding ceremony (and the joys of nonrefundable plane tickets), we’re starting our trip with a vacation first – and not starting proper work until about two weeks in. I know, rough life, right?

Our first two days in Hong Kong are not actually in the towering, buzzing city everyone pictures, but in Mui Wo on southeastern Lantau Island. A town that not even many Hong Kong residents go (most of them head to Disneyland Hong Kong just north at Discovery Bay), Mui Wo doesn’t rate on most tourists’ to-do lists. But we end up digging the quirky village and its super-friendly locals, and of course its uncrowded and laid-back beach, Silvermine Bay.

Silvermine Bay Beach
Silvermine Bay Beach. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
More Silvermine Bay. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
More Silvermine Bay. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer

It’s a perfect place to shake off the jet lag.

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For two days we laze by the tidal canals:

Regatta de Lantau. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
Regatta de Lantau. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer

, eat on the cheap in seafood restaurants overlooking the bay, enjoy sunny mountain views from atop Nam Shan

The view from the Old Village Path down Nam Shan to Mui Wo. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
The view from the Old Village Path down Nam Shan to Mui Wo. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer

, and climb steep, ancient forest trails to a funky hillside village – where the architecture resembles shades of Dr. Seuss:

Mui Wo Village has some interesting condo association rules. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
Mui Wo Village has some interesting condo association rules. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer

beat-up bicycles are the main form of transport, and amateur bird enthusiasts place cloth-covered cages up under trees so their budgies’ cries can attract flocks from all over the island.

But of the island’s famous resident water buffaloes, which reportedly cause traffic jams, are employed in various festivals and races, and otherwise wander anywhere they wish unimpeded by locals, we see nary a sign. The expat British owner of Caffe Paradiso – the best cafe in town, where gut-busting English style breakfasts and strong cappuccinos are the order of the day – disgustedly indicates a familiar culprit.

Eager real estate developers, Hong Kong dollar signs cha-chinging in their collective eyes, consider the buffaloes an obstacle and have won Lantau’s blessing to herd them out of the way to the marshy lowlands over Nam Shan, the southern mountain. And now even the marshlands are in their crosshairs.

The cafe owner sponsors a Lantau Buffalos youth rugby team:

Image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/SLBrugB
The vicious, hardened South Lantau Buffaloes rugby squad practices. Courtesy of South Lantau Buffalo FB pg.

He also sells T-shirts (Keep South Lantau Horny!) with proceeds directly toward preserving the buffalos’ habitat (for more info on this great organization check out http://lantaubuffalo.wordpress.com/). But sadly the prospects don’t seem good for the beasts.

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Our final morning in Mui Wo we hang out on the ferry quay and wait for the boat to Hong Kong Island. We depart the lazy shores of Lantau knowing that we’ll see them again someday, whether in official capacity as filmmakers or as grateful return visitors.

But now it’s time to board the so-called “Ordinary Ferry” (read: slow boat) toward the craziness of Hong Kong Central. But that’s for the next post, which I swear will be more timely than the last….

The slow boat to China. Heh heh. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer
The slow boat to China. Heh heh. Image (c) Benjamin J Spencer

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Hong Kong: Lantau Island

    1. Thanks Autumn! (This is Ben BTW). If only we had had this idea when we went to your wedding. But then you’d be so annoyed by our cameras and questions that you wouldn’t be friends with us anymore.

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