Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Round Lugard Road, Hong Kong

Our long weekend in Hong Kong wasn't quite a garden trip, but we managed to squeeze some green between all the grey... Feeling like the ultimate tourists, we took the century-old Peak Tram, Hong Kong's number one attraction, up the steep hill to the highest top of the island. Probably needless to say, but the Peak platform was a shameless tourist trap, full of utterly unnecessary things being sold for rip-off prices. A quick walk through, and you are out in the green, at the narrow and winding Lugard Road that starts just below the Peak Platform.
The Peak offers an amazing view of just how congested Hong Kong is; small-town girl as I am in the bottom of my soul, I really don't get how people manage to live in these megacities. I love to visit, but after a couple of days I desperately crave fresh air and calm that would be very difficult to afford if living there... It was touching to see, how even in this extreme environment, people had carved their green spaces wherever they could: look at the top of the pink building and to the left of it, and you'll find a couple of (probably very windy) roof gardens on the top of them.
Anyway, the pathway around the hill top could never have felt more inviting than after the knick-knacks of the Peak Platform. From 1921 (see here for some wonderful old pictures of the construction phase - they weren't afraid of heights, those guys...), it was originally built as a promenade, with the sole function to provide a stunning view of the city, the harbour, and the surrounding islands. Needless to say, it still delivers; despite the vegetation that has filled the hillsides since the early days, this is still one of the best (or if you ask me - the best) place to view the city. The walk is about 3.5 km around, so a gentle stroll takes about hour and a half - as in our case, combined with a stop at the two playgrounds found on the hillsides. Below some snapshots - as usual when having my family with me, I wasn't alert enough with my camera, but hopefully they convey at least a little of how lovely this walk is - really recommended if you need some fresh air while in Hong Kong.
One of the viewing platforms, with an original concrete bench still around.

An old Indian rubber tree, first photographed from the way towards it, and after having passed it - with another tourist as a measuring stick showing its huge proportions...
  More jungle vegetation on the hillsides...
 And lastly, a view to the other side of the island, towards the archipelago hiding in haze. So peaceful, and just a couple of miles away from the beehive of the other side of the island. This is where I could think of living - in a little hut amongst the greenery with a sea view ... not so much to ask?

Monday, March 18, 2013

A psychedelic Heritage Tree

Mindanao gums, Eucalyptus deglupta, are native to Papua New Guinea.
I caught this amazing Mindanao gum this morning at the nearby Katong Park. It seemed to be burning in the warm morning light, its bark peeling like it wanted to throw off its clothes in the heat. Quite psychedelic.
As rock'n'roll as it might look, it is actually a Heritage Tree, one of the lucky ones to be included Singapore's eminent program for protecting especially "valuable specimens" -  with their worth calculated in terms of historical value, age, and size. This Mindanao scores on each of the criteria. Besides being over a century old and having a girth of over 3.4 meters, it is also historically significant, as it once grew at the Katong Fort that existed here during the British colonial days. The Fort is gone, the tree still stays.
There are currently 199 Heritage Trees in Singapore. Maybe I should go and portray them all?  

A soft cocoon on the Mindanao, the butterfly waiting to fly out from its shelter.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back from grey to green

“There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot.”
- Wendell Berry, Remembering -
Yet another flight... I'm just back from the concrete jungle of Hong Kong to the lush greenery of Singapore; my new hometown feels like a pretty country town in comparison.
With family and friends on several continents, I'll probably never be able to travel on foot only. So why am I writing about this? I'm not sure; the quote just came to my mind while sitting on the plane back home. I was thinking of Wendell's longing of not travelling anywhere but where you can go on foot; of being content with one's life as it is, and not always craving for more of everything - experiences, things, happiness. Or maybe he didn't even mean that? I don't know; I never read the whole book.
In my tangled thoughts, I felt him also talking about being closer to the ground and to the soil. Which is not what I do for the moment, living as I am in a high rise some 60 meters above the ground. Garden girl as I am, I need soil under my fingernails, and I need a garden to mirror continuous ebbs and flows of life. Needing an elevator to get to the ground is not for girls like me; I feel as misplaced as my potted plants, that quickly wilt away in the unrelenting sun without showers from my watering cans. Never to travel again except on foot would be unrealistic, but I should be able to get closer to the soil again. I just need to take one step at a time.