Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Hong Kong Park - a green oasis amidst the skyscrapers

Visiting Hong Kong Park was an afterthought for us - the lineups for the Peak Tram were too long and the Park was just a short walk from the tram station, so we detoured and discovered a lush green space in the midst of the concrete jungle.  The Park, completed in 1991 on the grounds of the former Victoria Barracks, was a beautiful blending of modern design with the natural landscape.

The part I enjoyed most was the aviary with its 600 birds, some 80 species, freely flying through.  It was a bird paradise, and a photographer's!  There were more birds than people so the birds were very cocky, hanging out on the bridges, gawking at the humans.  It was quite hilarious.

There were a lot of steps to climb as it was built on a hill
The Aviary from above

Inside the aviary
"What's up, man?!"

Abundance of riches - kiwi, mango and papaya for breakfast!  'Tis the life!

Bali Starlings owned the place - see how unperturbed this one was - I couldn't have been more than a few feet away with my camera in its face

Lots of photo ops

Beautifully landscaped grounds led us to the green house 

Verdant tropical plants inside the green house

The large koi pond with its acrobatic turtles provided endless entertainment for all ages

I was more than a little disappointed that the main floor of the Museum of Tea Ware in Falstaff House was closed for renovations.  I had been looking forward to seeing its collection of historic tea ware.  Of some consolation was an exquisite exhibit of seal carvings in the K.S. Lo Gallery above the tea shop, these seals and accompanying ceramics were from across the centuries as far back as the Song Dynasty.  It was quite an interesting exhibit.

K.S. Lo Gallery with an exquisite exhibit of carved seals
My favourite: seal with a lotus

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Chi Lin Nunnery - an oasis of calm in Hong Kong

On this trip to Hong Kong, we discovered the many green spaces both within the city and on the outlying areas, including the islands.  I have never been to Diamond Hill in Kowloon because when I was growing up, this area was an area full of squatter huts, not a place that one would go for a quiet afternoon walk.  So going that far into the depths of Kowloon was a completely new experience for me.

We emerged from the metro station into a crowded multi-storey mall in Diamond Hill, north Kowloon.  After a short walk along a busy road, we were relieved to find the Nan Lian Garden which was the prelude to the Chi Lin Nunnery.  The entire complex was built in the style of Tang Dynasty architecture - formal gardens with lots of rocks, water features and wooden structures - "man in harmony with nature" being the philosophical centre of this concept.  Please visit the website for details.  

The Tang Dynasty was an unprecedented period of peace and affluence in China, generally considered a high point in Chinese culture.  The extravagances of the period are reflected in these gardens.    Parts of it are a little over the top but I enjoyed the gardens, particularly the bonsais and the rock art accompanied by calligraphy of appropriate quotes from Chinese classics.  There was also an interesting  exhibition of Chinese timber architecture.

But it was in the Chi Lin Nunnery where I found the peace and calm I was looking for.  There was a pervading sense of peace in walking the cloisters and immersing myself in the harmonious architecture - all wood frame built without nails.  
Entrance to the Nan Lian gardens

This type of rock and tree landscape is typical inside the gardens

The interlocking wood beam architecture exhibit hall was itself an example of this style

What is this gaudy golden pagoda and red bridge doing here?! (it's Tang...)

A the top of the hill is the vegetarian restaurant - reserve early for a table at this  much sought after eatery

Rock art and calligraphy

Parade of bonsais

The walkway to the Chi Lin Nunnery

The cloisters with a temporary exhibition of gorgeous stone art

Bonsai in the courtyard of the nunnery 

Devotee praying outside a temple niche

Temple of the Medicine god - this is a popular spot.  The only way I could have taken a picture was with a telephoto lens.  

The sweeping lines of the roofs are simply stunnin

It was an oasis of calm amidst the bustle of the city - a few hours in here refreshed the spirt. Walking back through the mall into the metro station, I almost didn't mind the noise as much.  It's all a matter of perspective.