Last year around this time, I posted my favourites among the hundreds of photographs I’d taken during the previous seven months in Hong Kong. This year, a few days before I head off to the UK for the summer, I thought I would do the same, and by the merest coincidence, I again have precisely thirteen to post. This selection does not include any of the photos I’ve used in other posts, or photos such as those of door gods or the three immortals that I plan to use in future posts.
Between December and February, the Kam Tin River teems with migratory birds, and the first photo has an amusing story attached to it. We were cycling along the right bank of the river when I spotted a large group of cormorants in the water, so I stopped to try to photograph the scene. Normally, merely riding past is enough to spook a cormorant, but this group seemed unfazed, probably because there was a shoal of fish in the water beneath them.
I estimated the total number of birds at around forty, and they were ducking and diving, so less than half the number were visible at any one time. Having taken a few photos, I had just put my camera away, assuming that they weren’t about to go anywhere, when the blighters suddenly started to take off. Because of the enormous effort needed to pull their large bodies out of the water, cormorants taking off are a spectacular sight, and these forty taking off at once constituted the biggest missed shot of the winter.
The next two photos were also taken on the Kam Tin River. The first is of two spoonbills, while the second shows a group of cormorants, two of which are drying their wings in the sun, a spoonbill and a couple of egrets.
Staying with the bird theme, the next picture, taken from my balcony, shows four rose-ringed parakeets. These birds are not native to Hong Kong, and they are not regular visitors to the area where I live, but I know immediately from their whistling calls when a gang is in the neighbourhood.
Another photo taken from my balcony shows a barred cloud formation that, according to my observations, is quite common in Hong Kong, although I don’t remember seeing anything similar in the UK:
The section of the journey to the west that I labelled ‘the snake path’ meanders around several lotus ponds, and I couldn’t help but notice the range of colours in the leaves of this specimen:
I’ve given the title ‘Islamic State’ to the next picture.
I leave it to you, the reader, to determine why I would choose such a title, although the next photo may provide a clue. It is a shot of Mirror Pool, a less well-known companion to Bride’s Pool, which is one of Hong Kong’s best-known ‘beauty spots’.
I took the previous photo during a hike to the so-called ghost village of Lai Chi Wo over the Easter break, and the next two photos were taken on the same excursion. The first is a ceramic counterpoint to the bronze dragon and phoenix featured in last year’s photo highlights and is on the roof of a small temple. The second shows another common feature of such buildings: a stylized street scene. This latter caused some disagreement between Paula and myself, because I think it shows a ‘sing-song girl’ (courtesan) at an upstairs window. Paula doesn’t.
A few days ago, I had a letter to post, and even by the shortest route the distance to the post office is about 3km. I could have taken a minibus—only $2 (16p) for a senior like me—but I opted for a circuitous walk instead, a walk that took me past a temple I hadn’t known was there. The door gods here are the most outlandish I’ve ever seen, but you’ll have to await a future post on door gods to see what I mean. Meanwhile, the wooden screen behind the doors, which blocks the direct view from outside when the doors are open—evil spirits can only travel in straight lines—is here decorated with the garish images of two imperial civil servants (the winged hats are a bit of a giveaway); such screens are usually unadorned:
Closer to home (in the next village, in fact), I took the following photo of a narrow alley between two rows of traditional houses. The most striking feature of this scene is the stone benches on one side. They are slabs of an igneous rock, probably diorite, and I estimate the weight of each slab at 100kg, so a lot of work would have been involved in cutting them to the required size and transporting them to their present location.
Finally, I had to include this photo. I had less than 10 seconds after spotting this cyclist, who was riding at right angles to my direction of travel, to get my camera out of my pocket, point and shoot. I think I did quite well.