Hong Kong Highlights

Our Hong Kong Highlights are not a tourist list of things to see rather what we discovered, walking the streets, during our brief visit to Hong Kong in October, that stuck in our hearts and minds.

Armed with a map, we picked up at the train station, we set out each day with the plan only to discover a new area of the city of Hong Kong.  Each day as we hoped, we were amazed at the colours, culture and fantastic food we discovered.

Here are our Hong Kong highlights which were overlaid, everyday and everywhere by two things; the vibrant colours and juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures.

CITY OF LIGHTS & COLOUR

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An obvious highlight; the Hong Kong skyline, famed for its brightly lit skyscrapers.  The nightly ‘light show’ spectacular from either side of the harbour and quite stunning from the Star Ferry.

We were more amazed also by the colours and lights in every street…
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There must be almost as many neon lights as people in Hong Kong!
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EAST MEETS WEST

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The juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures is constantly highlighted, and for us sometimes uncomfortable, in Hong Kong; smart-dressed city types relax in the many western style bars, seemingly oblivious to the (more often than not) Chinese making everything work in the background.

Contemporary stores selling fine goods sit along side traditional Chinese stores and workshops.Hong-kong-highlights-chinese-tradition

High above the bustling streets, hidden away roof top bars offer breath-taking prices to match their viewsHong-kong-highlights-roof-top-bar

whilst below in the narrow streets and alleys make-shift street cafes serve fantastic, simple local food to eastern and western people alike.Hong-kong-highlights-street-food

An amazing array of ingredient in even the simplest dishes…
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TEMPLES

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Though the peace and tranquility is spoilt in some by camera clicking, indiscreet tourists others remain serene and sacred places the Taoist and Buddhist temples remain one of our Hong Kong highlights.

In most temples we came across I only stood close to the entrance and watched the people perform their ceremonies for a few minutes.  If the temples were empty, and it felt appropriate, I took pictures.
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In the smaller, less tourist visited temples the deep red of the messages to the gods, the aroma of the constantly burning incense coils particularly highlight the contrast of east and west in Hong Kong.

Even surrounded by ancient eastern culture and religion the modern, western influenced city and its skyscrapers were never far away.Hong-kong-highlights-incense-spirals

APPRECIATION OF STYLE & NATURE

The of our most surprising Hong Kong highlights for us was the evident appreciation and application of style.
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These two perfectly, almost eerily, coordinated girls caught my eye on Hong Kong harbour.  Their use of colour perhaps not as vibrant as others but such simple, understated and elegant style made a real impression.

Even the modern shopping malls revealed an appreciation of style.  These ‘retail temples’ were worth visiting to see the emphasis given to style and use of natural materials.  Even the ladies rooms were spectacular!
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Thankfully nature still rules in many places throughout Hong Kong and is appreciated sometimes simply for the shade it provides
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and, in such a fast developing and fast moving city like Hong Kong, it’s fascinating to see nature appreciated and interwoven with a special attention to detail and effortless style.

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THE PEAK

Not for the experience of the Peak Tram which, though a wonderful site making its way slowly up the hill, we avoided and walked up to the Peak from the city instead.

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Rather again for nature and the dominance of it so close to the city.  On the path up to and around the peak it was wonderful and unsettling at the same time to see how quickly nature takes back over after people have cut their path and laid their mark.

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Walking in Portes du Soleil

As soon as the snow disappears, normally early May, we are out walking in Portes du Soleil.  Walking in Portes du Soleil mountains from Morzine and Montriond has easy access and is very rewarding with amazing views across Haute Savoie region from many of the peaks.Morzine portesdusoleil summer hikingIn spring and summer the valleys and peaks are transformed by nature.  Verdant and welcoming from the valley floor to the rocky peaks where miraculously mountain flowers appear everywhereSpring mountain flowersand crocuses force their way through the fading patches of snow.sheepskinalps-walking-holiday1.jpgDuring May and June, the wonderfully peaceful ‘inter-season’ Adam and I enjoy a variety of walks from our home in Portes du Soleil.  Some walking out to conquer particular peaks and others simply a nice circuit along the rolling hills of the lower slopes.

Everywhere is well sign posted so, as long as you have an idea of where you want to head to, it’s easy to walk in Portes du Soleil without a map.sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil14.jpgWe have now completed/conquered the four main peaks that dominate the skyline from Morzine & Montriond; Pointe de Nantaux, Ressachaux, Pointe de Nyon and Roc D’Enfer.

Pointe de Nantaux was particularly daunting and rewarding at the same time and took us two attempts to conquer since the first time the summit was still very much covered with snow but in August 2017 we made it to the top with our friend David.Nantaux-summit-Haute-savoieThe sign at the bottom ‘KMV’ (kilometre vertical) gives it away that this is not the easiest of walks and this is by no means the roughest or steepest part.
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In short the KMV is 1000m of ascent in 2000m of distance covered and then you have another 200m or so of climb and around 500m distance to reach the summit.

The arrow shows the top of the KMV (where I took the photo below), you may just make out the path directly below and the summit you see to the right is not the true summit….Nantau-Montriond-portes-du-soleil

IMG_4775The peace and tranquility, that we had all to ourselves (even on a bank holiday), at the summit was spellbinding.walking-in-portes-du-soleil-nantaux-summitNantaux-summit-montriondWalking the descent was harder on the legs though easier on the lungs and the scenery, with views across Portes du Soleil, absolutely breathtaking.  Oh to be the shepherd who gets to stay here!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil5Everywhere reminders of the power of nature.amazing-nature-walking-portesduesoleil

Pointe de Ressachaux is another must conquer peak when walking in Portes du Soleil. We set off reasonably early suspecting it was a 5-6 hour walk to the summit and back.   It was Sunday so, after several cups of coffee, 10.30am wasn’t a bad achievement!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil2As we huffed and puffed up and up through the forest we were embarrassed and just a little demotivated to be cheerily greeted by a group of pot-bellied, grey haired ‘ramblers’ striding down towards us at 11.30am.

In my halting French I asked were they returning from the summit already? ‘Bien sûr! Bonne Montée!’ they replied as they disappeared down through the forest.

A few corners later some very kind, and fit, person had made a welcome bench from a fallen tree…Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil11We envied the French group, probably enjoying a menu du jour very soon but the tasty cheese baguettes in our rucksacks for lunch at the summit spurred us on. and hat a picnic spot it is.Morzine walking amazing viewshiking morzine portesdusoleil area

Pointe de Nyon, our favourite peak in winter for easy to reach, fun, off-piste on powder days and actually a deceivingly difficult walk in summer.
Morzine spring summer walk bike resortWe have walked from our home in Montriond, through town and up to the plateau du Nyon via the Cascade de Nyon which makes it about 5 hours to the top and back.IMG_4663On a clear day, as our next walk to the summit of Nyon, you can clearly see Mont Blanc from here…IMG_4659To make it shorter we’ve driven up to the plateau and walked from there which makes it a little more relaxing and leaves time for lunch at Chez Nannon.

You can even get the chair lift to just below the summit so that you can reach the amazing viewswalking-ported-du-soleil-Nyon

Roc D’Enfer lives up to its name Rock of Hell.

We walked from home which made the total circuit about 30km and around 7 hours. On the way to the base of Roc D’Enfer you have spectacular views, even Mont Blanc in the distance.walking Portes du soleil Mont Blanc viewWhen you pass the sign that basically says ‘ this way if you’re sensible and want an easy walk back to Les Gets or this way Danger of death’ you know you will have to keep your wits about you.

A steep, scramble over rocks takes you up to a narrow path along the long ridge which follows the crest where sometime it can be quite tricky to see where the path is.walking portes du soleil Roc D'EnferFor several kilometres the narrow path picks it way up and down the ridgesRoc D'Enfer walking portes du soleiluntil finally emerging into a mountain meadow and the long track back to Col D’Encrenaz and home with Roc D’Enfer looming large behind you.walking portes du soleil mountain meadow

Walking in Portes du Soleil is not all about ‘up’, high peaks and tough climbs.

We’ve had great days wandering in the valley and found virtually flat walks with friends and family by the river and around Morzine town using the suspension foot-bridge to avoid ups and downs.Morzine  - 6th July 2016The advantage of staying close to town is that there are always plenty of places for refreshments in the sunshine…IMG_3686and if you do fancy exploring and walking a little higher in Portes du Soleil you can always take the lift up.Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil15

My favourite, relaxing rather than challenging, walking in Portes du Soleil has got to be around Lac du Montriond.  A flat walk with spectacular views in every direction and a bar at either end!

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Similarly Lac du Mines D’Or is a short drive, up, along Vallee de la Manche and rewards you with amazing views, a short walk and the Chalet Freterolle just a little further up for a spot of local lunch…

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Back to Beautiful Britain

Back to beautiful Britain and our holiday blues melancholy lifted a little as we entered the bustling and really quite beautiful port of Portsmouth.  On a surprisingly sunny day our ferry passed through the historic defensive towers, austere against a patchwork of green and gold fields either side of the estuary. We passed a myriad of ships and small boats, some charging around, the bigger military vessels skulking in corners and the majestic Victory standing proud at the centre.

Portsmouth harbour back in blighty

Of the 18 ports we have departed or entered during our trip, Portsmouth welcomed us home in style, the most interesting and picturesque we have seen on our whole journey this summer.  We are always surprised how the beautiful Britain is when we come home after travels elsewhere.  After our previous evening on the coast by the Normandy Beaches we could really see how the returning soldiers must have been overcome with emotion at the site of the English coast on their return back to beautiful Britain or Blighty.

It felt extremely odd when we got back ‘home’, well to our house anyway, as it really didn’t feel like home any longer.  Home is our van on the road, home is wherever we are together. The house and all its appliances, trimmings and furnishings now seems quite unnecessary after living in a camper van and out of a bag for 7 weeks.

So rather than stay inside and unpack we sat in the garden and enjoyed the sound of the birds and the breeze rusting in the trees, though the British August weather meant jumpers (and gloves for me).   We enjoyed the skyline of tall trees against the cloud dappled sky and both remarked how beautiful Britain really is.

We were both amazed when we noticed that a plane, probably going somewhere important, had left a striking cut through the, already, beautiful cloud formations against the bright blue sky.  It halted our conversation until it finally dissolved…

Airplane cuts the sky stunning cloud formations

We were not still for long, a couple of days later, we set us off on a tour of Britain, which joined us with our dear van again. This time, not being used a camper van but for a very enjoyable drive north to my mum near Penrith and then onwards to Boat of Garten near Inverness in Scotland.

In the northern Lake District, near Troutbeck, my Mum was brave and adventurous (or perhaps stubborn like I would be) as we trudged up and down rocky paths, often particularly boggy.  Soggy feet and wobbly knees did not slow her down and we enjoyed a fantastic walk with wonderful views over to Blencathra (Saddleback) peeking out of the clouds at the far end of the walk…

view to saddleback

Adam looked like ‘king of all he surveys’ as we stopped for a little breather and to admire the view of the british landscape on the last descent..

king of all he surveys

and finally the long-awaited pub, The Mill Inn at Mungrisdale was in sight!

view to Mill Inn Troutbeck

The next day I persuaded Adam to walk Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennines, a few miles (and up) behind my Mum’s house.  The weather was not ideal and still with a few hundred metres of climb remaining, we entered the cloud stubbornly blanketing the top section, so I used all my powers of persuasion to get Adam to go all the way to the top.  Wet and a little weary we finally spotted the summit, the trig point (just visible over Adam’s shoulder)…

trig point in fog on Cross Fell Pennines

The views and the weather improved as we descended, the rugged landscape unveiled itself again.  Overall, another wonderful walk in the Pennines…topped off with a wonderful evening with friends (Adam and I both feel very privileged to be able to call our parents ‘friends’ – I hope everyone does).

view to pennine hills Cross fell

Next stop Boat of Garten, near Inverness in Scotland, a stunning location in the Cairngorms National park for more great food, great company and wonderful walks with friends…

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and nature amazed us yet again…

remarkable trees at Nethybridge lake

We were not looking forward to coming back to ‘Blighty’ but our time here so far has reconfirmed that where we call currently home is truly beautiful, a lush varied landscape full of natural interest, if only it was hotter…

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