Friday, 5 January 2018

tunnel vision

The new town of Ma On Shan is located in a narrow coastal strip on the southern coast of Tolo Harbour between the inlets of Sha Tin Hoi and Kei Ling Ha Hoi. The nature of this geography means that there are effectively only two ways for someone riding a bike to enter the town. And only the southern entry point leads from a significant population centre, so unless that cyclist is planning to pass through the town—all the way on cycle tracks—on their way to the Sai Kung Country Park, which is not a course of action that I could recommend, especially at weekends, they wouldn’t see the mural in an underpass close to where the cycle track eventually peters out.

Although Paula and I used to come this way regularly until a few years ago, there was no mural then, but I’ve recently been looking for ways to create the longest possible long-distance bike ride, and my explorations have brought me to the northern end of Ma On Shan.

Like many of the things I come across when exploring the New Territories by bike, I can take no credit for what follows. I just thought that this mural was sufficiently interesting to be brought to the attention of more people.

This is what the underpass looks like when approaching Ma On Shan from the north:

However, as a Westerner I read things from left to right, and most cyclists will arrive for the first time at the left-hand end, so that is the way I’ve decided to present the mural. When approaching from the south, there is a promenade extending several kilometres, although I don’t think there are any facilities for sailing or swimming, any palm trees, or anywhere to sling a hammock:

…but there are many places for children to play, and pet ownership is almost certainly more widespread than it is in Kowloon or on Hong Kong island. The Sai Kung herd of feral cows does stray into the northern outskirts of the town, and I think that this is what is represented by the disembodied yellow face:

I don’t think that the images of buildings in the next photo refer to any real structures—unlike many of the buildings in town, which are instantly recognizable—and I can’t say that I understand the significance of the rose, or the dog on the top of the building on the left:

Before the development of Ma On Shan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the natural vegetation along the coast would have been mangroves. And before we moved to Fanling in 2008, we lived further around the coast to the east, and I could see 20–30 species of butterfly during a 15-minute walk. But I don’t think you would see too many butterflies hereabouts nowadays:

This prancing horse is in the exact centre of the mural, and the ‘greenery’ extending on both sides is artistically unlike anything else here. But there is a reason: Ma On Shan translates as ‘horse saddle mountain’, and the town takes its name from the mountain towering above it (Ma On Shan is the second-highest peak in the New Territories). However, the profile of the ‘greenery’ does not match the profile of the mountain, which is very distinctive.

I love the clouds in the next photo, and of course kite-flying is a popular pastime all over Hong Kong:

In the next photo, the cat is sleeping on the roof of Wu Kai Sha station, the terminus of the Ma On Shan Line, which was opened in 2004. I’m not aware of any church in the area that would be recognizable as such from the outside:

…and there are certainly no windmills hereabouts:

The animal in the next photo is a muntjac or barking deer, which are reputedly common in this area, although I’ve never seen one despite spending a lot of time here in the 1970s. These animals are reputedly very timid, so it wouldn’t be nibbling the grass with someone thrashing a guitar behind them.

And we’re finally out in the countryside, although the girl on the bicycle, clearly a weekender, would be a liability to both herself and others once the cycle track has been left behind.


  1. The tunnel vision is vivid and lifely while many Hong Kongers dream to have such a life style.

    1. ...a fantasy lifestyle, if these images are anything to go by.

  2. Entirely in the Western artistic tradition, I see. How fares the Chinese artistic tradition?

    1. I don’t see anything describable as Chinese artistic influence in public art here Peter.


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