This week has seen a real spike in the special. Today, thanks to an invitation from GLiu, I went cycling in the New Territories. Starting from Tai Wai KCR station around 11.30 a.m., we rented bikes to be returned at Tai Mei Tuk. We did so around 5.30 p.m. Yup, I spent six hours on a bike today. My knees are echoing this in consternation. Note: this route can be covered in 2 hours — we took much longer cos of lunch and random stoppage.
I had an awesome amount of fun. There were 14 cyclists in the group, of which I knew five. The others were nice and friendly. One of them was a regularly outdoorsy type, so he was sucking water out of a backpack/waterbottle — I mistook him for a lollipop addict at first. I may have said this before, but it bears repeating — the New Territories are a world away from the postcard hustle and bustle of Hong Kong as city.
Got mountain, got water (有山有水) as some might say — curvaceous mountain ridges and glistening rivers and harbours form the backdrop of this land. The heart, the breath and the mind slow to an organic pace — no urgent drumbeat of neon and automotive report here. I cycled along the Shing Mun River (城門河), gazed across Tolo Harbour (吐露港) upon Ma On Shan (馬鞍山), and passed by a creaky floating ‘tea cafe’ (茶餐廳) and a swirly lookout tower commemorating Hong Kong’s handover to China.
Oh — and this will especially interest MY — when we stopped over in Tai Po Central for a late lunch, we came across a bunch of teenyboppers queuing up for some nefarious purpose. Curiosity got the better of this cat, so I did some trundling about and discovered that Zheng Yuan Chang (鄭元暢) — possibly one of the most beautiful creatures this side of the Milky Way — was gonna appear next door for some ‘handshaking event’ (握手會)!!! We had to leave before he actually appeared, but soaking in the crowd’s anticipation was sweet. I mean, of all the places in the world — we weren’t even in Taiwan, fer goodness’ sake!
I also encountered Cantonese opera staged along a waterfront promenade, which prompted the funny English ‘lyrics’ of The Butterfly Lovers to surface in my mind (“Are you going to die / I die become a butterfly / Butterfly fly so high …”), which I then proceeded to share with some bemused/appalled Hongkongers. We had to take a detour through an industrial estate thanks to the opera, but I’m chalking that up to another worthwhile experience. Passing by a place in an automobile is akin to watching the telly — there’s simply nothing like smelling a place and brushing past its stone, brick and mortar if you want to say you’ve been there.
On the breezy, green stretch towards the endpoint, I passed by lots of village houses (村屋). These are either old, dilapidated and abandoned traditional houses whose inhabitants have fled to the city or Canada/Australia/the UK, or shiny new multi-storey houses built on plots of farmland used to placate displaced villagers. These houses are invariably handed down the male line, never the female, but can be sold to ‘outsiders’; a pungent mix of chauvinism and capitalism if you ask me (but please don’t). You can see some nestling in the photo below — they overlook Tolo Harbour.
We finished with a spin around the dam of Plover Cover reservoir, which was carved out from the sea by laborious draining, damming and funnelling of freshwater. Apparently a scene from the Andy Lau-Sammi Cheng film Yesterday Once More (龍鳳門) was filmed here. Have I written all this before?! Anyway, you can always depend on Plover Cove for sunsets, flying insects, bicycle jams and ambulances. Good stuff. GLiu and her friend got a Doraemon kite up, up, and away, and I spotted a supine woman flying a kite!
I’m feeling just a wee bit achy breaky now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I leave you with a glimpse of the many-splendoured sunset witnessed at Plover Cove this evening.
PS: Haven’t started packing for Taipei yet! (Yes, I’m going there again!) And who’s going to look after my poinsettia when I’m away? My family had arranged for a basket of the red Christmas flowers and a hamper of foodstuff to be delivered to me on Christmas Eve, and delivered it was. At the risk of ending up like her, all I can say is, “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”