New Territories and Happy Valley races

Trip Start Sep 03, 2013
Trip End Mar 25, 2014

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Where I stayed
City Garden Hotel Hong Kong
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Up with the alarm at 06:15 and down for breakfast just after 6:45 in the hope of getting in early.  We have been told that we are being picked up for our morning trip at 8:00 in Central and breakfast doesnt start until 7:00 so it is all going to be a bit of a rush job.  Arriving for breakfast early we find it is all open and in use and actually started serving at 6:30 - if only we'd known.  To save time we take a taxi from the hotel to the City Hall in Central where we are supposed to be picked up at 8:00.  We wait and wait and finally someone comes for us at 8:30.  Our rushed start to the day could have been much more liesurely if we had been given correct details to start with ... never mind.
After pick up we pass through the harbour tunnel to Kowloon side, collect another two people to make our total for the day only five.  We ten drive away north west to our first stop at the Yuen Yuen Institute (so good they named it twice ?!).  This is actually a temple dedicated to Confucians, Taoists and Bhuddists.  In the first courtyard is a supposed replica of the Temple Of Heaven in Beijing but a poor shadow of the real thing.  Inside the 'replica' were a group of blue clad monks in morning worship chanting along to music played on traditional instruments.  Yuen Yuen is a popular place for cremations and has large areas for storing ashes.  Relatives can then visit and leave offerings such as paper money, model cars, phones, anything really made from paper and burned so that they can reach the ancestors on the 'other side'.  IN the Taoist part of the temple is a circular room surrounded by 'generals'.  It is said that everyone hs a 'general' depending upon the year in which they were born so we both sought our own.
Leaving Yuen Yuen we drove upwards to Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong's highest point.  It is cloudy today and the views are poor but it is a nice spot.  The mountain is covered in hiking btrails and BBQ spots and today and a large group of schoolchildren are here enjoying themselves and cooking up something that smells better than our croissants !
We continue on to Fanling Walled City which belonged to the Pang family, one of the New Territories five major clans, and is still largely inhabited in that family's descendants.  We enter through what was once the only gateway and above the large doors are still three cannon ports to keep out unwanted neighbours.  The cannon themselves are sat in the courtyard in front of the doors.  The housing is still largely tiny and the alleyways that run through the village barely wide enough for two people to pass.  Our guide for the day stops to talk to a couple of people leaving a house who turn out to be on their way to Swansea where they live for most of the year.  An interesting stop and a pleasant stroll through the village park before we leave.
We drive on to a bird sanctuary particularly popular with herons and across the water can see the town, Sha Tau Kok, in a restricted zone, that contains a border to mainland China.
Driving on across the mountains we pass the old military station of RAF Sek KOng and its runway.  Now occupied by the Chinese PLA most of the old station quarters are now derelict as well with not too many troops being stationed here.
We then drive to a small Hakka village on the Luk Kung Road.  A lot of the houses here are now derelict and standing locked.  The houses are handed down through the generations but none of the younger people want to live here anymore and have left.  We passed a house where the owners were now in LOndon and spoke to a man who was visiting from his home in LIchfield.  We were alowed to enter the Wong family ancestral shrine and view their old houses either side that were filled with things that could probably have found a home in a museum.  A really nice place for a brief visit although you get the feeling it wont be here for many more years.
We drove on past Plover Cove Country Park with the Pat Sin Lang mountains to our left and made a brief stop at Bride'sool waterfall before continuing to a fish farming community at Sam Mun Tsai.
We return to Kowloon past Tai Po and the Sha Tin racecourse before being dropped off outside the YMCA next door to the Peninsula Hotel.
We walk back up Nathan Road before cutting through to Ashley Road where there are lots of restaurants to choose from.  We end up enjoying roast duck with honey on noodles.
We walk down to the waterfront and catch the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island then the tram back to the hotel by which time we are both struggling to keep our eyes open.  I write up these notes with a coffee and some pastries we had left from our extended breakfast then stretched out on the bed for a while.
Just after 18:00 we walk up to the main road and catch a tram heading to Happy Valley and get off into huge crowds at the racecourse.  I have been in two minds as to buying a general entrance ticket or splashing out on a special tourist ticket but the general entrance ticket, as I have had before, won the day.  We were able to get trackside about 30m from the finishing post and stand next to the parade ring close enough to reach out and touch the horses so it couldnt have been much better if we had access to the boxes high up in the stands.  We watched the first four races and all of our tipped horses crashed and burnt except for me picking the winner in the last race we saw.  No money was wagered so nothing lost.  The atmosphere trackside was great and I am sure it was better than being with the nobs upstairs.  We had a good walk around, picked up a booklet of racecards and sat in the lower seats for a while between racing and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
We walked back behind the main grandstands until we reached a tram stop then trammed back to the hotel with a quick stop at a 7/11 for beer and snack to take to the room.

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