Have I mentioned that one of the things Hong Kong does really well is holidays? There are 12 statutory or public holidays throughout the year, though there are something like 23 celebrated holidays. (In Hong Kong, celebrated holidays warrant fireworks, festivals and/or parades.) Today was the Tuen Ng Festival, also known as the Dragon Boat Festival. Apparently they race some boats with dragons on them, some guy beats a drum, and everyone cheers for a boat. Or something like that.
I chose to forgo standing in the masses of people, and to sleep in today – a rarity for me that I always enjoy. When I woke up this morning, er, afternoon, I was beyond surprised and excited to find that it was sunny!! We are full force in the rainy season here. Sunday was the first day it hadn’t rained in 17 days. 17 straight days of rain. Ridiculous. And even though it didn’t rain yesterday, it was overcast and threatening all day. So to wake up to sunshine this morning was a complete thrill.
I called up my friends Kate and Joe and we planned to meet out in their area, out in the New Territories in Sai Kung, for a short hike and an afternoon at the beach. The hike wasn’t to strenuous, just muddy. There were some incredible views of Sai Kung Bay and the three of us couldn’t get over the fact that there was sun. Butterflies galore joined us on the hike. Kate informed us that butterflies only come out when the air is clear. After 17 ridiculous days of rain, the air was certainly clear. And warm. We have been feeling the draining effects of humidity for months now, but today was among the first of many warm days. It felt great to be out enjoying it all.
When we finally crest the last hill and descended down towards the beach, we were met with the overwhelming smell of ketchup. As we walked onto the beach we joined Filipina groups enjoying a rare day off in addition to their regular rest day, old men grilling chicken wings and burgers, children flapping their floatie clad arms in glee, and teenagers blaring their radios. Hong Kong boasts an absurd number of men in speedos. They really take away from the beach scenery. Which, aside from the scantily clothed Asian men, is breath-taking. A beach surrounded by green mountains. Beautiful. That is, until you step up to the water and see that it is yellow. Junk boats roaring beyond the shark-safety net emit tons of exhaust directly into the water with every trip to and from the harbour carrying the beach passengers. We chose not to swim, but did cool our feet off for a little while in the water. Then we laid out our blankets and sarongs and enjoyed the wine, bread and cheeses Joe had packed away for our beach adventure. Our little dixie cups dug snugly in the sand to keep from tipping, we each turned to our respective books; Linguistic history for Joe, Stephen King for Kate and Nature Conservation for me. It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.
Trying to beat the setting sun, we packed up our belongings and went back the way we came, finding ourselves in the town square of Sai Kung for a wonderful dinner. Our salads were incredible and hit the spot; fresh cucumbers, avocado, tender chicken, egg, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes (which I picked out and piled on Joe’s plate) and a tasty, but not too heavy, honey-mustard-balsamic dressing. The water they served was among the best I’ve ever tasted, with hints of mint, lemon and strawberries. So refreshing. After dinner we walked along the harbour looking for ice cream, which ironically could only be found in the 7-11.
I didn’t see any dragons. Or hear any drums. Or cheer for a boat. But I am am definitely a big fan of the Tuen Ng Festival holiday!!