Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A stroll around Peng Chau island and off to Beijing!

PHIL: Mar 8/Day 22

We decide to take the short ferry trip from Lantau to Peng Chau and then across to the trappist Monastery on the remote coast of Lantau opposite Peng Chau on a small ‘kaito’  boat. This is a re-run of the trek Jane and I did quarter of a century ago but time has moved on apace here and, though Peng Chau village seems little changed the boats bobbing in the harbour are no longer traditional wooden sampans and the nuns at the monastery seem to use a mini-van to supply them from the pier below. 

Hongkong harbour
Nearby Discovery Bay residential complex and Hong Kong’s Disneyland mar the otherwise tranquil view and the track, now well paved and fenced, betrays the less unfettered nature of the former colony as the 21st century progresses.

Now off to Beijing, again courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

The hotel Allie has chosen is in one of the few remaining ‘hutongs’- areas of single story tiled-roof courtyard housing – now considered ‘passe’ by the 21st century Chinese hierarchy. Though our room is tiny it has traditional features such as lanterns and lacquerware furniture. The hotel’s two courtyards contain elegant shrubs and trees with blossom just breaking out. Outside is a busy side-street but calm prevails within.

Our traditional Hutong guesthouse in Beijing
In search of a pre-bed ‘digestivo’ drink we walk several blocks only to have to settle for a Japanese ‘private dinner club’ whose velvet-curtained booths suggest other kinds of pre-bed activities.

ALLIE: DAY 22: Thursday, 8th of March
A lovely boat tour, a walk to a monastery and flight to mainland China

Ferry to Peng Chau Island 
This is revolutionary! My dear husband shocks me with announcing that he has a great idea as what to do with our last remaining half day in Hong Kong: A walk! 

For him to suggest a proper hike is like me wanting to go flying in a small aircraft! But he isn’t drunk or gone sick, he indeed means what he says and so we board a little boat that takes us to the small island of Peng Chau. 

We change boats and sail on via Discovery bay (the discovery lies in the fact that the place is totally spoilt by high rise concrete housing estates) and disembark at a tiny pier back on Lantau island. 

We walk up a steep hill and finally stand in front of a monastery. The Trappist monastery, a place that Phil had visited 25 years ago with his previous wife Jane.
Trappist monastery

Everything is dead quiet around us. We enter the basilica and learn that the nuns (in the brochure that I find, it only talks about the “little poor sisters”) pray around 8 times a day, starting at 3.30 and that they are not allowed to speak. Wow, that sounds really tough.

Our path climbs up the hills passing through lush green vegetation, some of the beautiful Hong Kong Bauhinias in full blossom. After only 30 min we reach the top. The view is very nice, even though it could be more rewarding on a clear day. 

Today its just grey, cloudy, windy and cold – again! But at least we see the skyscrapers of Central, the peak, Disneyland and a golf course! I kiss my husband and thank him for  his wonderful idea. Of course I realize that I will have to “pay” for this walk with lots of airfields and aeroplane-watching in China!

Phil taking a well-deserved rest during our hike
At check-out from the Silvermine Beach Hotel we realize that we don’t live anymore in “Royal York Crescent, Bristol” but in “Roth Yaw Gisc, Brision, UK” – at least we still live in the UK!

A racing taxi-driver-lady brings us back to Hong Kong airport and at 5 pm we sit onboard the Cathay flight to Beijing.

Hutongs in Beijing
I have never been so quick out of an aeroplane, through immigration and getting my luggage. It took us less then 30min from touch down to be sitting in a taxi. 

The taxi driver has no idea where our hotel is supposed to be. I my best Chinese I try to explain to him where it is. The traffic is amazingly smooth and at 21.00 we are already in our lovely traditional Hutong Hotel the “Hao Yuan Bingguan” in central Beijing.

For a quick nightcap we venture out to the street (its pretty cold!) and end up in the “Sweet smelling village pub”. We are the only guests. The waiter seats us in a separeĆ© and draws the curtain. 

Wow, I guess I have to be cautious of my husband now. We could have indulged in some wonderful exotic sounding Chinese dishes like ‘Dry Pan Intestine’, Recipe Soil Tortoise’, ‘Sweet-smelling turtle’, ‘dry-pan fish ovum’ or ‘home tourn drunk fish’ – but we decide to stay vegetarian and only have some Qingdao Beer, “yes, draft”, but its out of a bottle!

The adventure can begin. Tomorrow we have to leave our computer, mobile phones (not that I would have one), and other valuables, and check with the Koryo office to get our North Korean visas. 

Then we will be out of touch for a week. It will be hard to catch up writing, especially after hopefully so many diverse impressions in a secret and unknown country.

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