High-speed tram

Few people know that Hong Kong boasts the fastest tramway in the whole world. That is really surprising, since the legendary ‘Ding Ding’ is such a famous tourist attraction. I had heard rumours about the breathtaking speed of these vehicles which otherwise come across as, umm, rather traditional. And don’t you be fooled by the fact that the Wikipedia article doesn’t mention the velocity of these monsters. Yes, the line was built in 1904, yes, it is the world’s largest operational double-decker tram, it is popular, it is eco-friendly, it runs along the northern coastline of Hong Kong Island, bla-bla-bla. But their hair-raising speed is a well-kept secret…

Here’s the ‘Blue Rocket’, for instance:

Followed by the ‘White Lightning’:

I have heard that these reckless drivers (who should be wearing crash helmets, if you ask me…) have a constant battle going on about who is the fastest one.

Next cometh the ‘Book Express’:

And finally, the winner of yesterday’s unofficial race: ‘Superfast International’:

Hiding behind the bus shelter, I managed to secretly measure their speed. At one time, ‘Superfast International’ was doing at least 25 mph! And I only dare to publish this on the internet because I’m leaving the country in a few hours from now anyway…

Tree trunks and tower blocks

Today, during my third day in Hong Kong, a thought crossed my mind. It’s something I hadn’t noticed before here, or at least not consciously. I am talking about the omnipresence of visual structures in this city. Of course there is more to HK than structures – there’s monkeys, butterflies, birds, and even poisonous snakes (according to a website that I consulted in preparation for my trip…). And there’s people too, of course, and quite a few of them. But structures seem to dominate the scene everywhere you look, especially when viewing the components of the city from a certain distance. Here’s a first example:


That’s a pretty obvious one, isn’t it? At first sight, it might seem almost too simple and straightforward. But there are two elements in this image which don’t fall into the category of vertical concrete, stone, mortar, steel, glass and what not. There is a horizon with a piece of sky (albeit a tiny one), and there is the sea, a body of water in the background (even if, through the haze, it rather looks like mercury). And they both seem to challenge the predominance of the ‘man-made’, sky-scraping structures on Kowloon peninsula in the foreground, and of Hong Kong Island behind it. (And I don’t even want to know what psychoanalysis would have to say about the hidden meaning of these high-rise structures…)

I have had other views these days which were less straightforward, but no less graphical. See for yourselves!






Almost everywhere you look, there is something green and natural, there is proper landscape! Mostly just as a backdrop, like a painted curtain framing a theatre stage. But if you leave the streets at bottom level and make your way up into the leafy hills (as I have done several times already), there is more of a balance between the artificial and the organic. I find this close relationship absolutely intriguing, and it is one of the things that really fascinate me about this city.

Speaking of the natural – here too, structures are visible everywhere. And beautiful.







By the way, the above pictures were taken during my second visit to Kam Shan Country Park today, a.k.a. Monkey Hill…

I guess Mother Nature wins the prize for creativity and originality! But in my view, this isn’t a competition. It’s a juxtaposition of two different phenomena, and together they make up more than merely the sum of their parts.

Let me finish with a photo from yesterday evening. I took it from ‘Garden Hill’ right behind my hostel around 5.30 pm, and I guess it supports my argument. I had mounted my tele lens onto my camera in order to photograph some birds. No birds in the end, sadly, but a glorious sunset instead. I guess I can’t complain!


On Monkey Hill

Earlier today, as I took a stroll to the top of the hill behind my hostel, I talked to this elderly guy called William. He was born and bred in Hong Kong and was keen on recommending me places I should visit during my stay. He had seen the binoculars around my neck and asked me if I was interested only in birdwatching or perhaps other animals too. Well of course I am, bring ’em on!

So he told me about Monkey Hill. The official name is Kam Shan Country Park (“Golden Hill”), but apparently it is mostly referred to as Monkey Hill. Normally it would be really easy to get there from my hostel, as it is only three stops away by bus. But what is normal anyway? I had gone to the bus stop and waited there for about twenty minutes, when a lady told me that there would be no more bus service today due to ‘events’ in the city centre. So I waved down a taxi instead which then took me uphill to the entrance of the park for a surprisingly small fee.


Whilst driving in the taxi I had wondered how difficult it might be to find the legendary monkeys. Would they be very shy and elusive? Well, of course not. You see them even before you notice the huge information boards telling you that it’s forbidden to feed them, or in fact any other wildlife in the area.


Most of the monkeys here are rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), and they are hardly shy. The top picture was taken right beside the busy Tai Po Road, right next to the little snack bar (no surprise there). The light was nice, so I mounted my tele lens and took a few pictures.


Let’s not even pretend that this is proper wildlife, okay?


But cute nonetheless, I think! There were mothers with babies, tennagers, and also adult males. The mothers really made sure that I didn’t get too close to their offspring. The showing of teeth and their hissing sounds proved to have the desired effect on me!


Then I walked down a hill towards a smaller water reservoir and a little car park with barbecue area. There were some more macaques hanging around and doing nothing much. They weren’t too disturbed by my presence.


The afternoon light was fading quickly, so I had to use very high ISO settings. But hey, a picture with some ‘noise’ is still better than no picture at all, don’t you agree?


This handsome fellah obviously knows very well which parts of his body are the most beautiful and impressive…


Is it just me or do these creatures really have a melancholy and sad expression on their faces? Dusk was falling, so I walked back to the main road.


No busses today – boring!


Does this guy really only have photo equipment, or is there some chocolate hidden in his backpack somewhere maybe…?


In the absence of chocolate, anything chewable will do 🙂


One of those days when everything is faster than usual…


Wait a minute, is that really a monkey?


I don’t think it managed to break that lamp in the end.

All in all, a nice little trip to a place well away from the city centre and whatever may have been going on there. Some more wildlife will follow tomorrow, and even more authentic than today. Stay tuned!

First impressions of Hong Kong

Let me be honest with you: I planned my entire trip in April this year, i.e. more than six months ago. Had I known back then what I know now about the political situation in Hong Kong, I would have probably chosen a different destination for my extended stop-over on my way to the South Pacific. And later, when the situation here had already become rather tense, I would have gladly changed my itinerary. But despite repeated requests through my travel agency, Lufthansa refused to let me change my flights.

That said, I am glad to be here now.

Quite a stunning scenery…

I arrived yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) and made my way to the hostel by public transport. I was immediately very pleased to see that this part of the city (the only one I’ve been to so far, of course) is really nice and welcoming: lots of shops, people on the streets, generally a friendly and rather relaxed atmosphere. I will share some pictures of the area around Sham Shui Po station and of my wonderful YHA hostel later.

This morning a went for a short stroll through the streets in the neighbourhood and climbed a little hill (whose name I cannot tell you). It was all very pleasant and interesting, and I managed to take a few pictures (click on them to enlarge).

Not bad for a start, not bad at all! Not to mention a handful of new bird species I managed to bag during those two morning hours. But more of that later. Right now I am preparing for a short trip to a nearby park in the hope of seeing some more wildlife. I am rather reluctant to go to the central parts of the city, for fear of getting into trouble.

Feel free to post a comment below! Not quite sure how long my intrinsic motivation for running this blog will last… So drop me a word of encouragement, or perhaps even two, and help me keep my ambitions high!