I had planned to get out on my bike on Saturday, but I drank too much gin on my way back to Hong Kong the previous day to be in a fit state to do anything other than go to our local restaurant for yam char. However, Monday was a public holiday, and Paula mentioned that during the summer, the government had relaxed the access restrictions on what had formerly been the ‘closed area’, a buffer zone running along the frontier between Hong Kong and the rest of China that had been established by the British to deter illegal immigrants. Why not take a look around?
We didn’t get off to an auspicious start. I made a pig’s ear of the ramp that forms part of the crossing under the railway (Across the Tracks) and received a severe whack on the shin from a pedal as reward for my incompetence. Paula gave up without really trying, possibly because she’d heard my cry of pain. Once we’d crossed the Shum Chun River, we turned right at the point where Journey to the West turns left, and we soon found ourselves in an extensive area of farmland:
After a few kilometres, we passed a sign by the roadside. Having been out of Hong Kong for almost five months, my brain wasn’t programmed to read Chinese immediately, and Paula said nothing, but some 20–30 metres further down the road, it suddenly dawned on me what it said: “ice-cold soft drinks”.
Naturally, I developed a sudden thirst, so we turned back.
Stores like this are common in the New Territories, but this one had a couple of unusual features. The first was the pig, which, incredibly, turned out to be a family pet, although it didn’t have a name, unless Chu Tsai (‘Little Pig’) counts.
Behind the store, a small lagoon was being used to cultivate lotus, the roots of which are widely used in Cantonese cooking. Incidentally, in the end I didn’t fancy a soft drink and chose a can of cold beer instead.
Moving on, we could see what appeared to be an important building across the fields to our left. Possibly some kind of ancestral hall, I thought, although it didn’t seem to be in a particularly good state of repair. A closer approach confirmed my initial impression.
I would like to think that the Hong Kong government can find the money and skilled craftsmen to restore this building. It should not be allowed to decay further.
We didn’t venture any further on this initial foray, because we had reached a busy road that I deemed unsuitable for cycling, but you can be sure that we’ll be back. Soon.