Birding @ Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Before coming to Lamma Island, i did some quick search on the birds available there and was excited enough to rent a 18 mm – 300 mm lens to cover the whole spectrum from landscape to birds. 300 mm isn’t really good enough for birdings but I guess I have to compromise. The first thing on our approach to the island that we saw was the numerous Black Kite in the sky. That got me all excited and I pull out the camera notwithstanding that we were in a rubber dinghy in the middle of the sea. Silly me. 

On landing, as we walked towards our apartment, the ladies spotted a bird in one of the bush. By the time I turned around it was gone. But that was the sign of more good things to come. After checking in, I got out the camera and walked around. Many bird calls but nothing that I can shoot. And it was getting dark. Blimey! But still I managed to shoot some Chinese Bulbuls on the beach and of course the Black Kites but nothing usable though.

Early next morning before setting off for breakfast, I got my first shot. Again with low light and the birdie so far away, it wasn’t a great shot but it was in birding speak, a lifer for me. A pair of White Wagtail! 

White Wagtail

This was taken from the patio of our apartment and heavily cropped. But this was the first of many lifers to come for the rest of the day.

Another bird on the beach was this black and white bird. Looked like a crow. In fact it was standing next to a crow. Discovered later that it is really a crow but a Collared Crow,  a species that I have not heard anyone mentioned as being sighted in Singapore.

Collared Crow

Walking towards Yung Shun Wan village,  we got our 2nd bird or should I say birds. This was the beautiful Red Whiskered Bulbul.

Red Whiskered Bulbul

This was probably the 2nd most abundant bird on the island beside the Black Kite. They were everywhere and after getting over the initial excitement, I had to tell the ladies that I got enough of this bid and not to point out to me! Sadly it is not the same in Singapore where the birds are now so rare drove to almost extinction by the pet trade.

Next was a more common familiar looking bird which I could positively identify as a Drongo. Another lifer!

Black Drongo

Next we spotted another common bird in Singapore.  The Oriental Magpipe Robin. It always a pleasure to see this beautiful bird.

Oriental Magpie Robin

At Yung Shun Wan village, despite the built up area, there were more birds among which was the most common bird in Hong Kong, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

At the Pier, there was a lone Little Egret

Little Egret

But what got me more excited was another lifer for me a pair of Pacific Reef Egret. 

Pacific Reef Egret

Apparently this piece of rock is its favourite perch for fishing cos there are many photos on the web of the same bird on the same rock!

On the way back from breakfast, and walking along the Family Trail, there was this bird which I managed to later identify as a Black Collared Starling. Another lifer!

Black Collared Starling

And then managed to see another Chinese Bulbul at much closer range compared to those on the beach.

Chinese Bulbul

Did saw another bird in the forest but it was too dark to have a proper shot. I think it is a Grey Backed Thrush though.

Grey Backed Thrush

Thereafter, it was pretty much either the Sparrow or the Red Whiskered Bulbul and of course the Black Kite up in the sky. Until we reached the other pier at Sok Kwu Wan. I was hoping to see a Red Throated Diver which has been reported sighted there but no idea. Instead I saw some myna on the boat. I was rather surprised since my understanding is that myna are mostly land birds. I ws sure they were myna though. They look alike and yet there was something different. Turned out I was right. These are Crested Mynas. 

Crested Myna

That was the last of the Lifers for me. Spotted more Red Whiskered Bulbul, Oriental Magpipe Robin and Spotted Dove and of course the Black Kite. Up to these points, I still haven’t got any decent shot of the Black Kite as they were mostly too high up. But as we climbed higher and higher on our way back, I finally managed to get some decent photos of them!

Black Kite

The 18 – 300 mm performed well enough to make me a happy man. I do not need crisp sharp photos suitable for joining contest or to blow up to A1 or even A3 size photos. Just good enough to take a decent photo and the 18 – 300 mm managed to did just that!

Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Just like in Singapore, getting to the islands of HK is fairly easy. Just go to the Ferry Pier at Central and take a short ferry ride to any of the island, in our case Lamma Island. A short 45 minutes ferry ride and we reached the pier at Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. From there, it was a long 2 hours walk to our guesthouse at Luk Chau Tuen but luckily for us, our host came to pick us up in his rubber dinghy. Did I mention rubber dingy?

The rubber dinghy that took us to and from our apartment to the pier

When I first saw it, I could see ourselves getting totally soaked on our way there. Luckily, our host Christian drove very slowly and not only did we not get soaked, we saw a lot of birds especially the Black Kites. I was all so excited and out came the camera although as expected, none of the photos came out well what with the movement of the boat and the choppy water.

That our apartment at the end.

Our place at Luk Chau Tsuen reminds me of one of those places in those 90s Hong Kong vampire movie where the vampires run amok on the island. Luk Chau Tsuen is more like an abandoned village next to the sea and the buildings look so dilapidated, ours included. But fortunately, our host had turned his place into a nice cosy place despite it being quite run down. 

Next morning we started our exploration of Lamma Island. The island itself is not very big and only 7 km in length. There are 2 villages with 2 pier at each end of the island. Unfortunately we were right smacked somewhere in the centre and had to walk about 2 km to Yung Shun Wan village for our breakfast. The walk was fairly easy as there is a proper concrete path that leads to both village.

Just a short walk up the hill and we got a gorgeous view of Aberdeen across the sea.

And just further up ahead we saw the first landmark of the island, the Lamma Wind Turbines. 

There is another impressive view of the sea and beyong from this high point.

Going closer to Yung Shue Wan, we passed by this apparently famous tau huay (bean curd) place but it was too early and not opened yet. We did stopped to eat on our way to Sok Kwu Wan but I wasn’t terribly impressed by it though. What got us more excited was this place

Yes this is the place where the famous Fatt Kor, actor Chow Yun Fat grew up. The 2nd house in the photo! 

And finally after many stops for photos and almost 1 hour later, we reached Yung Shuw Wan where we had our breakfast and the ladies did some shopping for groceries!

From here, we have to walk the whole 7 km to Sok Kwu Wan. The walk was pleasant enough although it involves many climbs. But the view was fantastic and there was beaches and many many birds to see that it took us longer than expected.

Hung Shing Ye Bay

We stopped for a while to enjoy the breeze at the beach. There were proper toilet facilities here and small eateries. It was all so pleasant. Unfortunately, the view was marred by this power plant which sticks out like a sore thumb!

The power plant is visible from most high ground unfortunately

After this we started going up and up and got more and more great views

We didn’t have to go up this peak but we did, later on our way back to our apartment.

After a long long walk, we finally reached the village of Sok Kwu Wan. The first thing that caught my eye is this graffiti of this pig on one of the houses.

The star tourist attraction of Lamma Island is this Tin Hau Temple. 

We didn’t go in though cos we were real hungry by then and there were seafood restaurants galore here. After lunch, we had to walk all the way back to our apartment. This time, we took a detour and went up the peak.

We had a glorious view of the Lamma Island bay from up high. 

By the time we got back to our apartment, we had walked from 8 am till 6 pm criss-crossing the island and then back tracking to our place covering at least 12 km. But with great weather, beautiful scenery and for me, sighting of many birds, it was a great great adventure, well worth the walk. And there was still the sun rise to look forward to the next morning although we did wake up a bit too late to catch the sun rise in full!

Because we stayed on the island, we had to walk back to our place which took extra time. Generally, it would have been better to just do a day trip – take a ferry over to either one of the pier and walk to the other end and take the ferry from the other pier back to mainland. 

Dragon Back Trail @ Hong Kong

We had 1 day to kill before the marathon and so garang us went for a hike at Dragon Back. Dragon Back is supposed to be a easy hike and near enough for us to reach and complete in half a day so as not to tire out the legs for the race the next day.

We took Uber to the trail head at Shek-O instead of going through the hassle of taking the MTR and then changing bus. It cost us a fair bit more and I think took longer as the driver wasn’t familiar with the way there and didn’t know where to drop us until we came to this place where there was a group of hikers. We reckon this must be it since the GPS said so.

We alight and yes we were at the trail head! Up a short flight of stairs and the rest was dirt track. Like what most people described in social media, it was an easy walk even though the way was up and up and up. But the view of the surrounding was awesome and we stopped many many times to take photos. In fact I think we spent more time taking photos than actual trekking.

Eventually we reach an open area where there were many hikers taking photos.

Some were posing precariously on the rocks. Sighed… One wrong move or a gust of strong wind and this lady would be swept off the mountain top. Stupid gal.

From here, we backtracked a bit to go to the summit which was not very high actually.  Yah that the summit over at the top of the hill!Just 285 metres. We had our lunch break here before descending. We got side tracked by some paragliders launching themselves off the mountain top and spent some time waiting for a couple to get ready and take off. Wow!

Thereafter the walk down was pretty easy over a tree covered trail unlike the earlier open mountain top. Sheltered from the wind and sun! Yeah. This also means no view L though. We reached the bottom which was back at a different part of Shek-O Road. At that point in time I didn’t know that turning right will lead us to a beach. Instead we turned left to the main road at Tai Tam Road and took a bus to Shau Kei Wan where we chanced upon a char chan teng, Sun Kwong Roasted Goose Restaurant serving really great goose meat!

All in, we took about 3 hours + to complete the trek. Longer than expected but not too bad considering that we stopped at least for almost an hour for photos, lunch and watching the paragliders.

Hong Kong 2010

Hongkong, Hongkong. What a place. After 3 visits, the Mrs is still not sick of the place. This time round we stayed in Tsim Tsai Chui, a slightly more high class area and the agenda  was shop, shop and shop.
So first day, walked along Nathan Rd to MongKok where Kelly managed to get a pair of trail shoes and some other stuff which left her in bliss. Food was dessert, noodle and dessert again!
Mongkok
Dessert after desserts

  2nd day was Citigate where we bought shirts and more shirts before we went to Times Square where we hit jackpot and ended up with shoes and more shoes. We also had a very sumptuous lunch and discovered that not only is our Ms Kelly a big eater of egg tart, she was also a big eater of Chee Cheong Fun and we had 4 different type of Cheong Fun in addition to the usual dim sum! And that of course was followed by more shopping in the evening where the ladies bought more clothes and more shoes!
Times Square

3rd day was when we decided to do the politically correct thing and visit a local tourist attraction and so we  went to Ocean Park. Yes no Disneyland for us. The highlight was the Panda of course. And we also discovered that Ms Kelly is a daredevil as she went for all the rides while the 3 of us cowardly stayed far far away!

 And of course we got to get our fixed of Hong Kong food like smelly tofu, the popular siew mai and fish ball and fried chee cheong fun.

4th and final day and before we left for home, we went searching for the Avenue of Stars and discovered it was actually just a 10 minutes walk from our hotel. And we get to walk through the rather high end Canton Rd before we dragged ourselves back to hotel and our flight back to SG but of course not before buying more stuff for the folks back home.

Macau

Off for a short holiday in the sin city of Asia – Macau – the most profitable gambling city in the world. But that does not concern us since we were there not to gamble but to run. Yes we were there to participate in the Macau Galaxy International Marathon.
St Paul Wall
After a night of sleep and brekkie, we walked to the Olympic Stadium which was like 5 minutes from our hotel to collect our race pack. We were actually on Taipa, which was like a rural part of Macauand there was fresh air, very few people and traffic. But of course, being Singaporean, we had to go where the people are and after the collection, we took a cab over to the main Macau island itself for food and shopping. And notwithstanding that we were going to do a race the next day, we walked and shopped from 11am till 9 pm!
Giordano – all of 3 storey high
Church Wedding

Macau island is actually not very big. The main area of activity seems to be the bustling Sedano Square where all the shops are and where all the historical sites seem to be a short walk away. We visited the die die must visit St Paul’s Church, or what’s left of it plus 2 other churches and in the process gate crashed a wedding! There aren’t that many shops just the same old names found in Singapore and Hongkong, places like Giordano, Bossini, Starbucks, McDonalds but the differences is that these outlets are huge affairs here.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
Egg flour pancake
There were plenty of street food and we found out our traveling mate, was a glutton when it comes to Portuguese egg tarts. She practically bought one from each outlet that sell them! Then there was this long queue for some sort of pancake which turns out to be simply flour and cake and was a big disappointment.
The day ended with a desperate search for Portuguese food but we failed in the end being too lazy to travel further and ended up at a miserable joint eating such rather nice rice set but at the same time enduring the smoke from the other diners inside the café. 

We then managed to walk to the Casinos area but actually we were looking for a cab to take us back and somehow ended in the casino district. But we only managed to see 2 hotels before a cab came along and end of sight seeing.

Next day, after the race, took the ferry to Hongkong and thus ended our trip to Sin City without us stepping foot into any casino. What a bummer!

3 Days of Holiday

Went for a short break in the land of the fragrance harbour. It has been many years since we last when there. Last time, the airport was still at the old place and we could see all the shanty houses along the sea as the plane fly into the airport. Now the airport has been relocated to a much safer location.

The first stop for the day after check in was a trip up the Peak. First to Mdm Tussauds which turned out to be a big disappointment! It was so small with so few wax exhibits. The night view from the Peak was supposed to be fantastic but there was a perpetual layer of fog or is is haze that prevented a clear view.
The next day, we got conned into accepting the free 1 day city tour offered by the tour agency we booked with and ended up following them for a lousy breakfast and lunch and the obligatory visit to a jewelery and a herbal store wasting half the time. Still we got to go to Repulse Bay,

Aberdeen Harbour
and a ride on one of the longest cable car in the world (I think).
And at the top, got to see a giant of a Buddha (shown here half size)After that, pop by Citigate where there are over 60 factory outlets including the Nike, Adidas, Puma and New Balance factory outlets!

Night time was at the Mongkok area and we went gaga over the numerous sports shop there. The range of Adidas and Nike shoes were amazing. See until blur and didn’t know what to get!

The next day was spent at Ocean Park
and in the night was back at Mongkok checking out the rest of the shops and Ladies Market.

Too short a trip. M did not get her full day shopping and I did not get to go to Macau. Much has changed in HK since we last went. The people now are so friendly and polite. Everybody now can speak Mandarin making it easier for us to communicate. The MTR is so convenient and afforable. Streets are clean, food is delicious and the things are so reasonably priced. So we were be back to spend more time on shopping!

More photos here