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Showing posts with label DIY Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DIY Travel. Show all posts

Social distancing defied as huge crowds visit Tai Tong’s red leaves

Posted on 25 December 2020 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

The sweet gumtrees leaves are more colorful this year

The famous red leaves along the narrow Sweet Gumtree Lane in Tai Tong are again drawing hundreds of people daily to the Yuen Long country park, defying Hong Kong’s stringent social distancing protocol.

Cold weather over the past two weeks has turned dozens of sweet gumtrees that line both sides of the road ablaze with orange and red leaves. The colors are deeper this year than in 2019 because the cold spell came in early.

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On a visit to Tai Tong on Christmas Day last year, only a few of the Oriental maple or Liquidambar styraciflua trees were reluctantly turning orange and red. So, despite Hong Kong still being Covid-19-free at the time, there were fewer visitors than these days.

This year, news about the redder leaves and pictures posted on social media are driving a deluge of crowds onto the Tai Tong hills.

Hundreds of people have descended on Tai Tong to see this year's redder leaves

The overflow crowd this year has prompted the MTR Corp to operate a new bus service, K66A, in addition to the existing K66 line to Tai Tong.

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The K66A service fields extra buses to the tourist attraction, taking visitors uphill near the Tai Tong Country Park and barbecue area. That drop-off point is half a kilometer closer to the Sweet Gumtree Lane.

Police patrols equipped with loudhailers were busy warning people about anti-Covid-19 restrictions when we visited the site last Sunday.

Officers stationed outside the gate of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department field office about 1 km near the sweet gumtree stretch broadcast reminders on social distancing and mask-wearing every minute as processions of people arrived.

Their efforts, were, however, put to naught by visitors who posed for a photo before each tree that was flashing colorful leaves.


The authorities had anticipated more arrivals this season, so they installed four portable toilets near the junction of Sweet Gumtree Lane and Tai Lam Reservoir Trail.

The red leaves are the main attraction

When visiting the site, avoid climbing, clinging or touching the trees, as guards from the AFCD strictly prohibit those acts.

Picking up a dried sweet gum leaf for a souvenir is not allowed as well, even if it’s already pressed under people’s feet on the ground. 

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Visitors should bring water and food, as there are no food shops nearby. But they should collect their rubbish and dump them in trash bins at the country park on the way back.

For those who want to turn their stroll into a hike, they turn left on Tai Lam Trail, a part of the MacLehose Trail, after returning from the Sweet Gum Tree Lane excursion.


The trail is easy with some stretches going uphill. The reward is a majestic view of the Thousand Islands, which is actually Tai Lam Dam Reservoir where the tops of several submerged hills stick out of the emerald water like islets.

From the hillside viewpoint along the trail, follow the trail 4km down to So Kwun Wat Village. Take the green bus or walk 1.5km to the Gold Coast shopping center and fill up at eateries and coffee shops.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Buses to Central and other parts of Kowloon and Hong Kong, as well as shuttle bus services to the Tuen Mun MTR station, pick up passengers on both sides of the road.

How to get there:

The leaves are still changing colors

From Central, take the MTR Tung Chung line and get off at Nam Cheong Station to change to the purple line train to Tuen Mun. Get off at Long Ping station and take Exit B. The K66A bus stop, near Long Ping Estate Yuet Ping House, is about 20 meters away from the footbridge stairs across the road from Long Ping station. 

The K66A line, which takes the main road going to Tai Tong, supplements the old K66 route that passes through Yuen Long’s crowded streets. The fare is $4.9 per single journey for adult and $2.2 per single journey for child.


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Vinegar can save anyone during cramp attacks

Posted on 31 October 2020 No comments


Hiking is fun and healthful, but it can be ruined by an unexpected cramp attack.

By Vir B. Lumicao

Going outdoors during the coming holiday break? Take heed. It may be good for you to bring along a small amount of vinegar, especially if you are prone to cramps or sensitive to insect bites or plant stings.
Vinegar is the most effective first-aid remedy to cramps, I can say from my own experience. I discovered it only a few years back when lingering pain from a leg cramp attack while hiking prompted me to search the Internet for the best remedy.
Vinegar also stops itching caused by allergens, insect bites and larval or leaf stings.
Cramps, a sudden tightening of the muscles when they are overworked or exposed to the cold, can lead to serious and even fatal accidents if the attack occurs while a person is biking, swimming, hiking or performing a hazardous outdoor activity.
Sporting experts say cramp is common among athletes who do not warm up before they start a strenuous activity. They say cramp is generally temporary and non-damaging, but it can cause significant pain and paralysis-like immobility of the affected muscle.
Cramp is common among athletes who don't warm up going into action.

My most painful cramp attack happened about three years ago while I was doing a loop hike up Mt Butler and Mt Parker then down to Tai Tam Reservoir and back to the starting point at North Point MTR station.
I began the hike at midday and aimed to finish the roughly 10 km loop by 5pm at a brisk pace. That would leave me time to buy some foodstuff at the North Point market. That didn’t happen.
My mistake was I overexerted myself. From the start at MTR station, I did a nonstop lung-busting climb about a kilometer long on steep concrete stairways and inclined sidewalks until I reached the beginning of the trail on Braemar Hill.
In less than three hours, I was on the Tai Tam Upper Dam. I had my quick lunch on a picnic site along the trail then made my way back up towards the Mt Parker Pavilion.
I was just about 80 meters away from the pavilion when my legs cramped. The pain was severe and I felt my strength drained by the attack, so I supported myself on a roadside rail and shook my ankles up and down, left and right, until the pain eased.
From there, I limped my way down Mt Parker Road and took the tram to North Point.
The post-cramp pain in my calves didn’t go away for two days, leading me to do some internet research on how to prevent cramps. Medical sites offered various forms of advice and advertisers recommended an array of food supplements or endorsed the services of some clinics that specialized on sporting pains.
Tai Tam Reservoir and the South China Sea as seen from Mt Butler.

Then I came across a conversation thread about cramps and its folk remedies. They offered a number of quick fixes such as fruit juice and pickle juice. Then I read an advice from a US Navy Seal. He said keep a bottle of vinegar always ready.
He explained that divers like the Seals are prone to cramps due to the hours they spend in cold waters. A gulp of vinegar would stop the cramp in two to five minutes, he said.
There’s nothing to lose taking his advice so, since then, I’ve made it a point to bring a small bottle of vinegar each time I go hiking. On four occasions that I suffered a cramp on the trails, I drank about a mouthful of the liquid and it kept me going again.
The last time I had cramps was three weekends ago, just as I and my hiking buddy Golda Pay-ong began descending the summit of Lantau Peak, at 950 meters the second-highest in Hong Kong.
First, I felt my thighs tighten and shake. I made a few belabored steps down the steep and narrow trail then stopped on a ridge wide enough for me to take out the vinegar from my backpack. I told Golda to carry on, but she waited.
My thighs were so taut I could not even bend them. I took two swigs and waited for about three minutes, then we resumed our descent.
About 100 meters down the slope, we came upon three Indonesian women sitting on one side of the trail. One of them was in pain as her friends massaged her legs. Cramps, they replied when I asked them what happened. I offered the afflicted woman my remedy.
“Here, take a mouthful. It’s vinegar. I also had cramps about 5 minutes ago,” I told her.
She did and soon she and her friends continued their trek, not far behind me and my buddy.
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In search of Castle Peak’s hidden loaf

Posted on 15 August 2020 No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

Author poses for this priceless shot after ignoring a warning about the difficult climb ahead

A warning sign at the beginning of the steep section of MacLehose Trail Stage 10 up the 583-meter-high Castle Peak in Tuen Mun was clear: 
 “This section is very difficult and suitable only for experienced and well-equipped hikers. Do not attempt it in bad weather. You use this trail entirely at your own risk and the government is absolved from all liabilities in respect of any personal injury (whether fatal or otherwise)…”

I did not bother to finish reading the caveat because, at 11m on June 27, the sun was blazing above the trees and humidity was high. The current temperature was 32 degrees Celsius.

Looking for four female hiking buddies who had set out on the trail about two hours earlier, I climbed the steep, narrow concrete stairway in a blistering pace, huffing and breathing heavily as I wanted to catch up with them before they reached the summit.
Travel writers and hikers estimate the hike at 6.5 kilometers taking a total of four hours, including stops for photo-taking and rest. But those are obviously wintertime estimates, the best time to climb one of Hong Kong’s three most dangerous peaks.

It was summer at its hottest on the day we hiked and the government had issued a very hot weather warning. The sun was already searing my back at 10am, when I started the nearly 2km walk from the Tuen Mun MTR station to the Heung Hoi Ming Shan Memorial Archway, the gateway to Castle Peak.  

A few more flights of steeper stairs zigzagging randomly from the warning sign on the mountain’s craggy eastern face and soon I heard the boisterous banter of my buddies, fellow veterans of several hikes on Hong Kong’s famous peaks.

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In two minutes, I joined them for a quick snack in a little shade beside the trail. At 11:30am a blanket of nimbus clouds was slowly drifting towards the mountain, so, we resumed our hike. It would be risky if the rain came with a thunderstorm, as there was no shelter and we were still 200 meters away from the top.

Rain fell, indeed, but it was just a passing shower cooling the heat our bodies absorbed early in the hike. Half an hour later, we were on the ridge, which was wide enough for about 30 people stopping to rest, take photos and enjoy views of Tuen Mun and its villages spread at the eastern foot of Castle Peak.

On the mountain’s rear, the view was less awesome, but Shenzhen, the sprawling sister-city of Hong Kong across the border, was visible. It was only about 3km across Shenzhen Bay.
The intrepid among us went about 60 meters further up the slope to the summit, which was occupied by a government telecommunications tower.

From there, we had a 360-view of Tuen Mun, the wasteland of sand hills, craters and valleys behind Castle Peak. Visible were Sheung Shui and other parts of the New Territories, as well as parts of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the outlying islands of Lantau and Lamma.    

Most visitors to Castle Peak turn back after reaching the summit. In contrast, our group was bent on going down to the valley where few hikers had gone to find the Bread Rock, a natural attraction on a rocky stream that proved to be a challenge.

Others who had been to the wasteland called it Moon Valley because of the uncommon terrain made up of barren ridges, thinly overgrown slopes, and deep gullies and craters gouged out of packed sandhills by weathering. The only cover was tiger grass, a few rhododendron shrubs, thorn bushes and vines.

Awesome view  from the top
We had no maps, so we relied on our hunches and consoled ourselves with the fact that we had brought enough food, water and a torch if ever we got lost. Old footprints we followed vanished where rain must have washed them away.

I was humming my granddaughter’s favorite nursery song, “Mommy Finger,” and warning my female buddies to beware of the trail surface as it was loose, slippery sand. I had just uttered my latest warning when my left foot slid and my left knee hit the ground.

In a split-second, I rolled thrice down the steep slope, grabbing grass and bushes to stop my fall. As the shocked women panicked, I crawled back to the trail. I dusted off my limbs and forehead then laughed as my buddies asked if I was hurt.

 “I’m fine,” I said, but I could not hide the bleeding gash above my left brow, a scratch on my left arm and a nasty laceration on my left knee. We resumed our hike in a minute with me reminded of the warning sign I had ignored. Then I continued to hum “Mommy…”
The long and difficult climb to the summit
We cut a path through shoulder-high bamboo grass down a slope until we reached a shady stream with cool, pristine water gurgling between rocks. We refilled out water bottles and rested for 15 minutes while nibbling snacks, then picked our way downstream between rocks and boulders in search of the Bread Rock.

We finally found our target after wandering for about an hour in a 2km loop on Moon Valley, slowed down by one of our buddies complaining of dizziness. Bread Rock, we realized later, was just about 500 meters downstream from where we followed a roundabout trail on dry land.

The loaf-like rock was apparently debris spewed out by an erupting undersea volcano some 120 million years ago in offshore Saikung. The massive eruption, according to volcanologists and geologists, created Kowloon and much of the New Territories including Tuen Mun.

Relieved and relaxed after finding our goal, we took another rocky trail that descended to Lum Kwu Tan Village for the bus ride back to the Tuen Mun MTR station. There we treated ourselves to ice cream at a 7-11 outlet before I took the train with the group, still humming my grand-daughter’s nursery song.

TRAVEL: Walk in HK woods offers spring of hope

Posted on 15 April 2020 No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

The beautiful Tai Tam Reservoir and Country Park is a sanctuary to the weary

Nature seems to be a refuge for mankind during a crisis, no matter whether it is today’s novel coronavirus pandemic, a political conflict or a personal predicament.

Artists retreat into the woods to absorb new elements. Lovers go on long, solitary wilderness walks to harness their emotions and return with a trove of poems. Rebels get lost in the jungles and emerge with a cutting edge.

Although the idea of the woods as a refuge is universal, Confucianism has enshrined it as a basic principle, Ren.
Kongzi or Confucius (551-479 BC), the great philosopher of the Late Spring and Autumn period, considered that all things in nature were the material foundation on which humans lived, so, people should be friendly towards them.

This perhaps explains why Hong Kong has incorporated nature in every aspect of city life.

Vast nature gardens are found in the middle of business districts purposely to provide nearby space for relaxation to players in the city’s highly stressful financial boardrooms or share market.

Finely built nature retreats like Hong Kong Park, Tamar Park, Hong Kong Botanical Garden, Chater Garden and even tiny Cheung Kong Park are just a few steps away from the city’s giant financial houses and are open to everyone, from corporates to migrant domestic workers.

Yet, if one is looking for a real wilderness setting to commune with nature, a walk up Old Peak Road and around Lugard Road fills that need with plenty of green canopies and a magnificent city view to offer.

The jungle, in fact, is literally just in the backyard, no matter where in the city you live.
There's a real jungle beyond Hong Kong's concrete jungles

One of the most popular and accessible jungle treks on Hong Kong Island is the Mt Butler-Mt Parker-Tai Tam complex where a nature lover can design his own hiking route.

For a beginner, one can start at Quarry Bay MTR Exit A for the 8-kilometer Mr Parker-Tai Tam Reservoir walk, an easy concrete jungle road up to the ridge then winds downhill to the upper reservoir dam.

On weekdays, wild boars and their litter wander out of the brush to scavenge for food. But on Apr 10, when the Saturday crowd swelled on a bright day after weeks of bleak and wet weather, the boars that we used to watch on the steep slope below were nowhere in sight.     
The paved road splits left towards the peak of Mt Parker or downhill to Tai Tam reservoir and country park. Or one can climb about 600 steps uphill behind the pavilion to the summit of Tai Fung Au and follow the trail on Mt Butler and Jardine’s Lookout to Wong Nai Chung Gap.

From there, one can add another 5km to his hike up Violet Hill and the Sisters Twin Peaks for a breathtaking view of Stanley Peninsula and wait for the sunset on  a view deck near the peak.

Whichever route a hiker chooses, all trails cut through thick vegetation and sedimentary rock formations on lower reaches of the mountains. Be warned that sections on the upper slopes are covered only with rhododendron, cassia or camella shrubs and no canopies, making a summer hike really tough.

In mid-spring though, one is rewarded with a variety of colors of buds, blooms and sprouts and well as brilliant contrasts of old and new leaves. The varied hues offer hope in depressing times such as this.
Beautiful spring blooms offer hope amid the pandemic

One can get so much of nature from the easy walk with lots of picnic and barbecue grounds along the way. Whether one is an artist seeking new ideas, a lover deep in thought or a warrior contemplating strategy and tactics, the route has everything to offer.

But a basic Confucian tenet is: “show love and care for nature in all our dealings with it.”

As Confucius follower Xunzi (Sun Tzu) said: “Respond to it with peace and order, and good fortune will result. Respond to it with disorder, and disaster will follow.

“If the foundations of living are strengthened and are economically used, then Nature cannot bring impoverishment. But if the foundations of living are neglected and used extravagantly, then Nature cannot make the country rich.”

Lakad kawanggawa, lakad biyaya

Posted on 18 May 2019 No comments

Ni George Manalansan

Hindi alintana ng grupo ni Cheryl Gomez ang malakas na buhos ng ulan noong Sabado, ika-4 ng Mayo, nang maglakad ang kanyang grupo papanhik sa bulubundukin ng Thousand Islands sa Tai Lam Chung sa Tuen Mun, New Territories, para makalikom ng pondo para sa kawanggawa.

Umabot sa 10 ang sumama para magsaya at makaipon ng pera na laan sa mga estudyante ng Maytaraw Primary School sa Libacao, Aklan.

Kanilang binagtas ang madulas at maputik na daan na may habang 3 kilometro para isagawa ang kanilang misyon para sa kawanggawa. Matiwasay naman nilang natapos ang lakad na inabot ng dalawang oras, kasama na ang panaka-nakang pag selfie.


Ang lahat na kasali ay nagsabing guminhawa ang kanilang pakiramdam dahil sa ehersisyo, at  nakahanap pa sila ng mga bagong kaibigan.

Kabilang sa kanila si Alona Tercepona na nagsabi na hindi naging madali ang kanilang paglalakad dahil medyo madulas ang daan gawa ng pag-ambon ambon, at matalahib din.

“Pero very careful naman kami kaya natapos namin ng safe (ang lakad),” sabi niya.

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“Alam namin na marami ang nangangailan ng tulong pero we are no hero kaya pa isa-isa lang ang pagtulong, gaya nitong pagbili naming ng school supplies sa mga estudyante ng Maytaraw for the coming school year 2019- 2020.”

Ayon pa kay Alona, mahilig talaga ang kanilang grupo na maglakad dahil kakaiba ang tuwa na nararamdaman kapag narating na ang tuktok o dulo ng paroroonan. Ibang klase din ang pakiramdam kapag nakalayo kahit pansamantala sa ingay at gulo ng mga mataong kalsada ng Hong Kong.

Dahil dito ay naisip daw nila na gamitin ang hilig para makatulong sa kapwa o sa komunidad na kanilang ginagalawan.

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“I was touched by the sad plight of students and teachers in Maytaraw so we decided to push the hike to help them kahit papaano,” sabi ni Alona na naniniwala daw sa sinabi ni Marianne Moore na, “The heart that gives, gathers.”

Hindi pa man natatapos ang kanilang pagpanhik sa Thousand Islands ay naplano na nilang magsagawa ng isa muling hike for charity, at balak nilang isama bilang katuwang sa proyekto ang Wimler Foundation, na nagbibigay tulong din sa mga batang mag-aaral sa Pilipinas.

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Dagdag ni Cheryl: “I have been hiking for 10 years though irregularly. Wala po akong sariling grupo noon, kaya kung kani-kaninong group ako sumasama, mapa Indonesian yan or Filipino. Mayroong easy, moderate o extreme hikes, at lahat sinasamahan ko.”

Dahil sa pagsama sa mga hike for a cause katulad ng “One for Bataan” para sa mga nasunugan sa probinsiya, at “One for Porac” para naman sa mga biktima ng lindol sa bayang ito ng Pampanga kaya naengganyo siyang itatag itong lakad na ito.

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“I’m so thankful na kahit very limited ang time ng anunsyo suportado ako ng mga kaibigan ko at mga naimbita,” sabi ni Cheryl.

Masaya sila kahit mukhang basang sisiw sila habang naglalakad dahil sa panaka-nakang pag-ulan.

Kabilang sa kanila si Gigi Lingao na nag-enjoy ng husto sa lakad.

 “Ako yata ang pinaka matanda sa kanila. I enjoyed hiking with them kahit hindi ko kilala yung iba. Feeling young (ako) kasi tawanan kami lagi. Maganda talaga sa kalusugan ang hiking. Doble benepisyo din sa akin kasi my body was energized and I gained new friends.”

Dagdag niya, “Masarap sa pakiramdam kaya kahit 43 na ako pero feeling 30 lang. Isasama ko na talaga sa fitness goal ko itong hiking at least once a month. Nakakawala ng stress dahil unlike kung nasa mall ka puro gastos at temptation sa pagbili ang nangyayari.”

Iba naman ang dahilan ni Chinchin Recasa kung bakit ubod ng saya ang ginawa nilang paglalakad.

“Eto ang pinakamasaya kasi some hikers tubig lang ang dala paakyat ng bundok, sa amin puno ang bag ng pagkain,” ika niya.

Natutuwa daw siya na nakatagpo ng mga bagong kaibigan, at higit sa lahat, ang mapangiti ang mga batang natutulungan nila kahit sa maliit na bagay.

“Para sa kanila, malaking bagay na ito. Sana ay maging inspirasyon nila sa bawat araw ng paglalakad nila patungo sa eskwela na may mga taong handang tumulong sa kanila.”

Pagbabahagi naman ni Belle Gamarcha, “Kahit gaano man kahirap ang daanan ay nagpatuloy lang kami. Positive ang pananaw ng lahat, kaya panay kami kulitan at tawanan, talagang nakakagaan ng pakiramdam.”

Kakaiba daw ang pakiramdam ng mga nag ha hike dahil sa bukod sa sariwang hangin na malalanghap at magagandang tanawin ay may goal ka, yung maabot ang pinakatuktok ng lakaran.

“Pagbaba ninyong lahat at tiningnan mo yung pinanggalingan ninyo, masasabi mo sa sarili mo ang, ‘noon tinitingnan lang kita, ngayon ay narating na kita”.

Pagkatapos ng kanilang mahabang paglalakad ay dumiretso sila sa Bayanihan Centre para bumoto kaya naging mas kapaki-pakinabang ang kanilang araw ng pahinga.

Para sa gustong sundan ang kanilang mga hakbang, sumakay lang ng MTR mula sa Central papunta sa Nam Cheong, at saka bumaba sa interchange para sa Tuen Mun. Bumaba sa istasyon ng Tuen Mun at kunin ang exit C. Mula sa palengke ng Tuen Mun ay sumakay sa green minibus 43. Sa panghuling babaan ay makikita ang daan paakyat sa Thousand Island.

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