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Mills and Chung Path

Recently I discovered the Mills and Chung path on Hong Kong Island’s south coast. It is very easily accessible and on a nice day is a little gem of a walk. The new South Island MTR line takes you to Ocean Park. From there walk for 10 minutes up the busy Wong Chuk Hang Road towards Repulse Bay past some very expensive housing. Just after the Hong Kong Country Club the path goes down a flight of steps to the sea and the walk begins.

As soon as you get down to the sea there is a wonderful feeling of calm. The wide, level path winds round the coast to Deep Water Bay, past the Victoria Recreation Club and onto the beach.

The beach itself is quite quiet but then it was the middle of winter, although the temperature was 22 and it was a beautiful, clear sunny day. Looking out to sea the Ocean Park cable car is on the right and a variety of small and not so small boats ply their way across the bay. At the far end of the beach the path continues, going round the headland with views back to the beach.
Middle Island and the yacht club come into view as trees and flowers overhang the path.

The path continues round the headland and approaches Repulse Bay. The bay is dominated by expensive tower blocks, one famously with a hole built into it. The colonial Repulse Bay Hotel is still there but barely visible with all the recent developments that includes a major shopping mall.

Just off the beach is a wonderfully, gaudy Tin Hau temple. The Mills and Chung path goes no further and the next part of the journey takes you along South Bay Road until a steep flight of steps takes you up to a path that runs along the contour between South Bay and Repulse Bay Road, allowing for a quiet and leafy walk avoiding the traffic. The path eventually comes out on the busy Repulse Bay Road but it is not long before you reach Chung Hom Kok Road and head off down a long flight of steps and then follow the road round to Ma Hang Park and down into Stanley.

And yet another beach.

One of the beauties of this walk is that you can stop at Deep Water Bay or Repulse Bay and pick up a bus back to Ocean Park, Causeway Bay or Central rather than going all the way to Stanley. A good one to try if you do not feel up to anything too energetic.

New Zealand

You may wonder why I have an article entitled New Zealand listed under 'Hong Kong Diary'. Well, read on.

I recently spent a couple of weeks back in New Zealand having had few trips outside Hong Kong in recent years. To say the least it was an eye opener. From the moment I boarded the Air New Zealand flight to Auckland I was reminded of what I am missing out on by living in Hong Kong. I was putting my bag up in to the luggage rack and realised someone was behind me and turned to see a young man carrying an assortment of bags.. "Sorry, mate," "It's ok, take your time," replied the stranger. As soon as someone says that you get out of their way anyway but living in a place where people can often be in too much of a hurry to see 'excuse me' as they barge past it was very refreshing. Air New Zealand is, more often than not, an entertaining experience as the staff are relaxed and friendly while performing their duties professionally. Fortunately, I had no one sitting next to me and the 11 hour flight to Auckland passed remarkably quickly with the aid of a number of Harry Potter films.

Auckland Airport

It was a bit wet in Auckland so it was onto the terminal transfer bus in Auckland to go over to the domestic terminal for the flight down to Dunedin. For those of you who aren't sure about the world climate, this was the beginning of July and so the middle of winter in New Zealand and I was heading to the far south. Some people think that as NZ is the last significant piece of land before Antarctica it must be a bit on the cold side. Compared to its larger neighbour the climate is much more temperate but you must consider that Dunedin is 45 degrees south which corresponds to the Pyrenees in Europe so NZ is considerably nearer the equator than anywhere in UK. However, it can still be very cold, particularly for a tropical man like myself.

But I digress. Having enjoyed the flight down, picking up the rental car was a hoot with a lot of banter with staff and other renters. And then into the car. The beauty of rental cars is that you always have a newish car to drive although that can be a problem as I do not drive in Hong Kong and have no idea about the latest developments and it was a while before I worked out how to start the car. Out onto the road and after trundling round some side roads for a few km it's out onto State Highway 1 to go up to Dunedin and to my hotel, checkin and a well-earned rest.


The first evening I popped out to the local New World supermarket to pick up some food and drink. I stepped inside and couldn't help but smile and took out my phone to take a few photos. Why would I want to take photos of a perfectly ordinary supermarket? If you have been to a supermarket in Hong Kong you would understand. Granted space is at a premium in HK and rents are ridiculously expensive which results in most supermarkets being squeezed into an area the size of a ping pong table with aisles which will just about allow two trolleys to pass side by side but, in order to increase display space, the supermarkets pile up boxes of goods in the aisles so that only one trolley can get past.

Hong Kong Supermarket....

Not only that, but there is little if anything in the way of a store room and there is no access from behind the shop so deliveries are made through the main entrance an palettes are dumped in the aisles. I have sent photos of this to the relevant government departments but the response has been that they "meet Hong Kong standards", which suggests that HK has third world standards.

But back to New World, Cumberland Street, Dunedin. Oh, the joy. By HK standards, a huge space with a huge variety of high quality fruit, veg and everything else you need. Aisles that must be big enough to allow at least four trolleys to pass side by side but in NZ the trolleys are driven by people who show an awareness for their fellow customers which helps keep the traffic flowing. Apart from the main display shelves there are NO additional displays taking up space in the aisles. Lots of staff around who seem ready to help customers find what they are looking for. And then there's the checkout. It is not uncommon in HK to go to the checkout and while the checkout staff go through the necessary procedures to check out your purchases there is a fair chance they will not acknowledge your presence and may hold a conversation with their friends who may well be the far side of the shop. At New World a nice friendly greeting, check out the goods while a packer packs your bag, purchase complete and off you go.


A recent development in HK supermarkets is the introduction of self-checkouts. About 10 years behind the rest of the world but they have arrived and, judging by my local supermarket in Happy Valley, they picked them up quite cheaply. We have four checkouts shoved into a corner where trolleys and baskets are scattered so that it is very difficult to use more than three of the terminals. If you are foolish enough to buy loose fruit and vegetables you have to find a ticket that matches what you have bought and that is not always easy. If you buy alcohol a red light flashes, this is to help prevent people under the age of 18 buying it, and a message says that a member of staff will come and assist you. This is not true. You have to go in pursuit of staff because no member of staff is on duty in the self-checkout area.

Self checkout
Check out

Despite it being the middle of winter most of the time I was in Dunedin there was blue skies and sunshine, at least during the day. Dunedin is a city of around 130000 people, the population of a couple of buildings in HK but the 7th largest city in New Zealand. It does not take long to get out of the city in search of the countryside and what countryside it is. The Otago peninsula offers winding lanes, dirt roads, isolation, seals, penguins, albatross and a castle, of sorts. The coastline north and south of Dunedin is spectacular with stunning beaches, which in the middle of winter you can have more or less to yourself, bar the odd dog taking a hearty soul for a walk. Travelling inland there are even wilder and more deserted spots. With almost artificially blue skies, the likes of which have long since departed from Hong Kong, clean air and unassuming, friendly people and roads so quiet you start to wonder if you've driven past a road closed sign.


Near Hoopers inlet
Hoopers Inlet

So New Zealand is picture perfect with so much going for it why on earth do I live in Hong Kong? It's a good question and one I ask myself many times and there are all sorts of reasons but I might discuss those another time.

Riots and ridicule

These are interesting times in Hong Kong. Despite it being one of the safest and least violent cities in the world we are experiencing almost daily protests which invariably lead to a violent conclusion. What has led us to this situation? Well, I might have to skip a few details but I will to try to explain my understanding of what has been going on.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 having been in British hands since 1842. Chris Patten was the last governor of Hong Kong and tried to introduce an element of democracy. It wasn't much but it did give the population the idea it had some role to play in electing its government. Having had control of the place for 150 years it seemed a little late in the day to try to introduce democracy and it was bound to annoy the Chinese government who agreed to introduce the idea of one country two systems, so that while Hong Kong would belong to China in 1997 the agreement guaranteed that Hong Kong could enjoy a degree of autonomy and that socialism practised in the mainland China would not be extended to Hong Kong and Hong Kong would continue its capitalist system and way of life.

Although Patten introduced a degree of democracy the CEO has to be a candidate approved by Beijing. It may be cruel to say it but that rules out anyone with imagination and a desire to change anything. Don't rock the boat and toe the party line are the orders of the day. As each CEO has come and gone the willingness to fall into bed with Beijing has increased and their popularity with HK people has declined.

There had been calls for the CEO to be elected by the public or at least not just the hand picked pool of 1200 Beijing stalwarts and refusal to do this led to the Occupy Central movement which paralysed Hong Kong in 2014 but which fizzled out without bringing any changes. Our current CEO, Carrie Lam, took over with promises of listening to the public. Elections took place and a number of democrats were voted in to the Legislative Council (Legco) but foolishly decided to make protests during their swearing in ceremony. The government jumped on this as an opportunity to disqualify these legislators.

A few people spoke of Hong Kong declaring independence from China and such is China's paranoia that the party was banned and any discussion of independence was declared illegal with letters going to schools warning them not to allow any discussion of the subject. An erosion into freedom of speech.
When by-elections were eventually arranged candidates were vetted and any who had had anything to do with independence were barred from standing for election.

A Hong Kong man was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan, returned to Taiwan and, with no extradition treaty in place Lam used this as a reason to introduce an extradition bill which would allow suspected criminals to be returned to Taiwan, Macau and mainland China. The mainland legal system is not one that is trusted and all sorts of organisations and individuals advised Lam not to go ahead with the bill. Unfortunately, her advisers told her to carry on and, with the demolition of any effective opposition, Lam knew she had sufficient support in Legco to push the bill through. Democrats attempts to delay the bill in committee merely encouraged Lam to bypass the discussion stage and put it straight to Legco.

At this point a frustrated public took to the streets and an estimated 1 million people marched on June 9th demanding that the bill be withdrawn and that Lam should step down. Her response was to say that she was going ahead anyway. She was clearly not going to listen to peaceful protest and so the inevitable happened three days later when a protest turned violent. Immediately Lam said the bill was suspended. The protests on June 12th ended up with some violence and there were a lot of complaints about over reaction by the police, over use of pepper spray and tear gas, and concerns that some of the police did not have visible numbers on the uniforms, which is illegal, but was explained away by the head of the police in that they were wearing new uniforms and there was no room to put the numbers.

The following week, June 16th, a march made up mainly of students and young people and with an estimated 2 million people, quietly walked through the streets repeating demands for the bill to be withdrawn, for Lam to step down and for there to be an independent enquiry into the behaviour of the police.

Realising that she had got things very wrong Lam apologised for the fact that she and her cabinet had misjudged the feelings of the people, or at least she said sorry, promised to listen to the people and to do better in the future. But the bill was not withdrawn and Lam was clearly not going to step down.

Since then the protests have continued and have become increasingly violent while Lam has virtually disappeared and, despite what she said, only seems to listen to her pro-Beijing advisers. Last week a gang of around 100 white-shirted men attacked all and sundry at a railway station and evidence would suggest that they were organised and paid for by people close to the government and/or the police.

Many members of the public are fed up with the violence and damage to property, the Legco building was invaded and damaged, and want the police to take a harder line and have organised pro-police marches. Lam and friends have said little other than that we must say no to violence.

From the demonstrators point of view, the continuing violence and changing tactics ensure that Hong Kong remains in the international news. Although many people are demanding that Lam takes some action her inaction is paying off in that the demonstrators are becoming unsure of what to focus on and many members of the public just want everything to get back to normal.

By focusing on the violence people are ignoring the real issues.

Lamma Island

When I want to go out but am not sure where to go Lamma Island is a likely place for me to end up. It has so much to offer: sleepy villages, bustling villages, beautiful beaches, lush vegetation, good walking, history, a good mix of local and overseas culture and a lot of food outlets.

Yim tin Tsai

Sai Kung is the nearest thing to a seaside resort town in Hong Kong overlooking a beautiful harbour, dotted with a range of attractive and hilly islands. On a clear day there can't be many better views. Along the water front are numerous seafood restaurants, touts for harbour tours, a drummer and other entertainers and the occasional farmers' market.

Sai Kung harbour

Away from the waterfront are some interesting back streets, pubs, a fish and chip shop, temples and lanes to explore. Sai Kung's biggest problem is that it is unique in Hong Kong, getting bigger all the time and struggles to cope with the number of people and the influx of cars.

Back streets

Along the waterfront are numerous places where you can book a boat out to one of the islands in the harbour. One that I like to go to is Yim Tin Tsai. People have moved away from the smaller islands onto the mainland and into the cities in search of wealth as it has become increasingly difficult to make a decent living. Yim Tin Tsai is a perfect example of this in that people had left the island to the point that it was virtually deserted. A Catholic community decided to buy much of the property on the island and it now has a new lease of life.

The journey to the island on the rainbow ferry is pleasant and relaxing, with the captain slowing the boat down as we floated through a school of small jelly fish and other attractions.

First impressions of the island are very positive. By the pier is an old building that has been renovated to be a museum and excellent cafe...

Yim Tin Tsai pier

...which provides a wonderful outdoor seating area where you can sip coffee and admire the view back to Sai Kung town.


A path winds up from the pier past derelict houses and houses that have been renovated and are now used for weekend camps and meeting places for the Catholic community.

Derelict houses

At the top of the hill is a small church that has been renovated well.


At the top of the next hill is a grave yard with views across to the island of Kau Sai Chau, where there is a municipal golf course.

View from graveyard

The island needs an income and much of that comes from salt pans that have been claimed back from the mangroves.

Salt pans

While there is not that much to see on the island it makes for a pleasant walk and a great escape from the city. But the fun is not over as the journey back provides some extra excitement. Rather than going straight back to Sai Kung the boat heads south and round the bottom of Sharp Island where the sea is a little less calm and the boat pauses to allow passengers to look at the caves and rock formations.

Caves, Sharp Island

The rest of the journey provides good views of Sai Kung...

Ferry boat

...and Ma On Shan mountain behind it.

Ma On Shan

Highly recommended for a pleasant and relaxing afternoon out.

Lai Chi Wo

There are some parts of Hong Kong which are very inaccessible. The north east corner is particularly remote. There is a group of islands which most Hong Kongers will never see and which can only be accessed by ferries from Sha Tau Kok which, although part of Hong Kong is actually out of bounds and only accessible with the appropriate permit.

Lai Chi Wo is a village in the north east which is only accessible by a long trip to the north east countryside and then a walk of up to two hours or a once-a-week ferry ride which only runs at 9am on Sunday or by bus to one of the remotest parts of Hong Kong and then a 2 hour hike.

I got up early and took the train to University Station. I was a bit concerned when I found thousands of people at the station marching off on the same route as myself to Ma Liu Shui pier. Fortunately, they were all heading off on a walk while I got on the ferry, although that too was packed. The journey to Lai Chi Wo takes 90 minutes and travels the full length of Tolo Harbour. This starts opposite Ma On Shan new town...

ma on shan

...and quickly moves into very remote, inaccessible parts of the territory.

ma on shan

At the end of Tolo Harbour the ferry takes a sharp left and then slows down dramatically to pass through the narrow channel between Double Island and the mainland.

ma on shan

Past a water sports centre on Double Island onto a view of a small community on Crooked Island and then to the pier at Lai Chi Wo.

ma on shan

Lai Chi Wo is another remote village from which almost all the occupants have left in search of a better life elsewhere. But in a moment of inspiration someone in the government decided that the village should not be allowed to die. The village has been preserved and a geoheritage centre and nature trail have been added so that it is now a popular tourist attraction on Sundays. The village itself is backed by a large fung shui wood and is surrounded by a fung shui wall which has brought the village its share of good luck over the years.

fung shui wall

Outside the walled village is a large open area in front of a temple where the villagers set up stalls selling food to the visitors.

open space

While the villagers must enjoy the money that the visitors bring I am sure they aren't so impressed by the crassness of some of the visitors. While I was there a large party from a Hong Kong school arrived, marshalled by a teacher with loud hailer who organised the group photo with the huge banner advertising the school. Personally, I would have thought that with displays of such insensitivity it would be better not to advertise.

Having gorged myself on snacks and the inevitable tofu fa, a soy bean blancmange with ginger syrup I started the walk back, deciding not to make use of the return ferry. Foolishly, I thought the path would be a gentle walk around the coast but there were a number of uphill slogs, usually involving a flight of steps. Along the way I passed through a number of deserted villages.

yung shue au

In Yung Shue Au, there were a number of men with chain stores, cutting down and burning off vegetation. A man, with a very English accent, told me that he had grown up in the village, gone away to UK and now worked in Hong Kong. He hoped to renovate enough of the village to be able to spend some time there each year. But the problem was that everything was overgrown, a tree grew out of one house, and there were no services, no water, no electricity, no sewerage, no telephone, no road so not a great prospect.

Over the hill and back down to the coast with views across to Sha Tau Kok which, although part of Hong Kong, is out of bounds unless you have an appropriate permit. I have yet to work out why this is the case.

sha tau kok

This eventually leads back to Luk Keng, a village which most people know for a collection of restaurants and a minibus back to civilisation.

luk keng

I don't care where you live but I think it would be hard to have a comparable day out anywhere in the world. Hong Kong offers so much variety, culture and friendly, interesting people in such a small area. Despite its small size, the vistas offered in some of the more remote parts are extensive and spectacular and, for a government that only seems interested in the annual surplus, it is fantastic that, at least some parts of the territory are deemed worth preserving.

Wolf Warrior 2

This morning I had a ticket to see the new Chinese film that has been received well in China, Wolf Warrior 2 (WW2), and trotted off to the Palace in Kwun Tung for the 9am showing.

Jing Wu directed the film and also plays the hero Leng Feng who, from the opening scene in which he saves a ship from pirates off the coast of Africa, he is an indestructible, one-man army. To be honest, I really don't enjoy action movies. As soon as there is an explosion in slow motion I can be fairly sure that a film is not likely to be to my liking. Another technique I hate in films is the overuse of flashback, and WW2 overuses it. The whole thing could be described as a Jean-Claude van Chan movie, no better, no worse.

It seemed like any other action movie, other than that the heroes were all Chinese. The action came thick and fast with the soundtrack consisting mainly of gunfire and explosions and the film's blood budget must have been more than some countries' economies.

On the positive side, most of the death and destruction avoided being too gruesome, so no flying heads, and, other than the flashbacks to Leng's fiance being killed, the film did not waste time on romantic scenes that do nothing to move the story forward. For the most part, the action rarely let up.

It would be fair to say that a lot of films produced in the USA and UK are very patriotic and during World War II, clearly served as propaganda, but these days we tend to expect propaganda to be a little less direct. WW2 is Chinese propaganda which becomes increasingly less subtle, leading to the finale which is likely to leave non-Chinese open-mouthed in amazement.

The film is set in an African country which is going through an armed revolution and a number of Chinese nationals are trapped up country and need to be rescued. There were a number of references to the help that China gives to African countries and how the Chinese are friendly, popular and peace-loving. No real difference from an American film although the bit where the PLA officer explained that the PLA was unable to take any action because they didn't have the permission of the UN seemed particularly amusing.

My main interest in the film before I saw it was that the female lead was played by Celina Jade, who I taught at Island School many years ago. It was hard to judge her acting ability as she was mainly there to be an attractive female lead but it was great to see someone I actually knew up on the big screen.

Towards the end as Leng Feng leads the rescued party back to safety they come to the edge of a town through which they must pass and where opposing sides are shooting each other. Our hero stops the convoy and, using his arm as a flag pole, holds up the Chinese flag for all to see. Both warring factions call out, "It's ok, it's the Chinese". The firing stops and the convoy passes through unharmed.

If fingers were not far enough down the throat by then the final image on the screen was of a Chinese passport with the reassuring caption that wherever you are in the world the PLA will be there to help you.

Disabled encounters

A couple of disabled encounters this weekend. On Saturday I was sitting on the waterfront at Sai Kung. Sai Kung is probably the jewel in Hong Kong's crown when it comes to urban settings with the most glorious harbour filled with tree covered islands or, in one case, tee covered islands, as one has been filled with holes to provide a publically accessible golf course which, each weekend, attracts thousands looking for an escape from their cage homes in Sham Shui Po.

For those not engaged in putting balls in holes, on a sunny day, the waterfront is a great place to spend some time at the weekend. Apart from the wonderful views of the sea and the islands, there are numerous other attractions. The boat hire companies offering tours of the harbour, ferries to beaches and, for those who can't be bothered with the walk to Tai Long Wan, there are boats out to the remoter beaches. Pulled into the harbour wall are small boats selling seafood to those on the promenade above, hauling the catch up in small buckets. Cool guys in shades and speedboats cruise up to the harbour steps to pick up expensive looking couples looking for faster and more private routes to the beaches.

When I arrived at the waterfront I noticed a lot of paddles leaning against a wall. Some hours later, after a hair cut and a walk around the inner harbour, I saw the paddles were still there but, shortly afterwards, watched a group of 16-20 young, fit looking people picking up the paddles, descending the steps and paddling off in a dragon boat. I use this as an example of what a safe and trusting society this is that you can safely leave a pile of paddles leaning against a wall without the risk of some idiots walking off with them 'for a laugh'. Later, I thought I may have just witnessed twenty boat thieves running off with a dragon boat but I prefer to retain my positive view of human nature. As an aside, I was hiking today when I passed a small digger on Lamma Island that had been left on a building site for the weekend. Hanging off the cab were a yellow hard hat, a straw sun hat and a number of other miscellaneous items that the workmen had left and knew they would still be there when they returned to work.

Back on dry land, a guitarist was playing a very passable rhythm track, which went on for some time until his mates joined in with vocals. This was clearly a mistake and it was noticeable that they did not attract a crowd but still seemed to be enjoying themselves. I could hear a variety of hallelujahs, which were either from a very poor cover of Leonard Cohen's famous song, or evidence that they were an imitation gospel band.

Every weekend a man takes his place on the waterfront and sets up a variety of percussion instruments that he encourages young children to come along and hit, rhythmically or otherwise. I assume he must make some money by doing this and he is almost as popular as the Mister Softee van.

In addition to the gospel band, I could hear the strains of Canto-pop, not my favourite brand of music but acceptable, although the singing wasn't a huge improvement on the hallelujahs. On further investigation, I came across a session run by a group called Stewards ( who want to encourage a simpler lifestyle. The singers encouraged people to come up and join them, as did the dancers. Around the stage were a number of games: a giant Jenga set, metre long pick-up-sticks and a section with coloured buckets that children had to arrange in specified orders as fast as possible. By the number of people queuing to have a go at the games it looked as though the organisers were in for a late night. Great fun.

Back on the waterfront, I watched the numerous doggy people parading their dogs, the occasional, bare-chested, sweaty athlete, beautiful people stopping to take photos of themselves, some really ugly people stopping to take photos of themselves and then a couple came towards me. The man in a wheelchair with an uncertain number of limbs accompanied by a young woman struggling along on a pair of crutches. Progress was clearly a great effort and I couldn't help notice her T-shirt which bore the inscription "What doesn't kill you...." and nothing else. A wonderful piece of irony.

And then, today, I was hiking on Lamma Island. Being a sunny public holiday the crowds were out, but all were heading south towards Lamma's beaches so I headed north to Pak Kok Tsuen, where few tourists seem to venture. A nice walk with a lot of steps at the start and a number of short climbs up a well-kept concrete path leads the way to Pak Kok Tsuen (village) which is very well kept and very pretty, with a store where you can purchase food and drinks. Further along the path, on the way back towards Yung Shue Wan, I encountered a public toilet which, considering this was a fairly remote spot, was well-appointed with railings around the urinal so that the disabled, and those the worse for drink, could gain support while relieving themselves. Very commendable, but then I considered the various routes by which one could arrive at this public toilet. The village has a ferry pier with a steep walk up from the pier through the village. The route back to Yung Shue Wan involved further hills and steps and so there seemed little possibility that toilet's clientelle were likely to consist of a large number of disabled people requiring support railings at the urinal. Therefore, I could only conclude that the railings were for the benefit of the village inebbriates.

Hong Kong West

For those of you familiar with Hong Kong, Tuen Mun would not be among your top-ten places to hang out and look cool. For many years it was a remote new town with a big power station in the north-west New Territories. In recent years it has been linked to civilisation by the West Rail MTR extension. Half an hour on the train and I was at Tuen Mun station. At Tuen Mun station you can transfer to the LRT (Light Rail Transit) which is north-west Hong Kong's answer to Hong Kong island's trams. Considering full sized trains, granted only one or two carriages, travel through the streets there are surprisingly few fatalities. The LRT is an extensive rail system providing a convenient network linking a lot of places that most people would not think of going to. I travelled one stop on the LRT and got off at the Town Hall, not that I wanted to go to the Town Hall but the station is adjacent to Tuen Mun Park.

Tuen Mun park reptile house

At 9am on a Saturday morning, the park was a very pleasant escape. Quiet paths wandering through gardens, past lakes and water features. Groups of, mainly old, people performing morning exercise. A group of men crowded around a table to watch a game of chess. At another two men were playing a serious game of Go with chess style stop clocks to time their moves. A modern building set tastefully within the gardens turned out to be a reptile house. Open at 9am and free admission to a well-presented set of snakes and lizards. For those with a fear of such creatures, it was reassuring to see that none of them was venomous.

But I had not come to Tuen Mun to look at the park, I was after a ferry that I had never used so it was back on the LRT to go down to Tuen Mun pier. I bought a ticket for the Tai O ferry but had almost an hour to kill so went for a stroll along Tuen Mun promenade. The promenade is very pleasant; a wide path with the sea on one side, with views across to the mountains of Lantau island, and shops on the other. At the far end you come to Butterfly Beach which, when I first came to Hong Kong, was almost always closed due to pollution.

Tuen Mun promenade

Walking back to the ferry pier I noticed a very small beach which could have been an attractive feature had it not been covered in plastic bottles and other rubbish washed up by the sea. Meanwhile, a council worker was sweeping up leaves from the promenade. Some 50 metres further on was another worker sweeping up leaves and a further 50 metres I came across another worker hosing down the path. I couldn't help thinking that these workers could have spared half an hour to clean up the beach as, to me, plastic bottles are far more offensive than fallen leaves.

At last it was time to board the ferry. First stop was Tung Chung on Lantau Island, which is another new town that grew up as a result of Hong Kong airport moving out of the city centre. New towns take time to mature and blend into their surroundings. The design of Tung Chung suggests it will be a long time before it blends into its surroundings. Armies of high rise dominate the landscape and stare out across the sea to Tuen Mun. Opposite Tung Chung is the island that was built to house the airport and the ferry proceeded down the channel between the two to Sha Lo Wan and then on to Tai O.

Tung Chung

Tai O provides a wonderful contrast to other parts of Hong Kong with most of its houses being built above the water, largely from aluminium sheeting. It was not too long ago that visitors to Tai O had to cross the river into the main village on a small boat powered by old ladies who pulled on ropes to move it. They have been replaced by a bridge, which is just as well as Tai O attracts a lot more visitors these days.

Tai O

From Tai O I set out on the main event of the day, which was to walk back up the coast to Tung Chung. It is not a particularly difficult walk as the hills are not excessive but it was 34 degrees that day and when walking on exposed sections across rocks that had already been baked in the sun I would think the temperatures were more like 38. However, unlike walks in previous weeks, the humidity was mercifully low so that it was possible to sit still and not sweat. The narrow path out of Tai O offers great views along the coast and across to Tuen Mun.

Tai O - Sham Wat path

But the coast is now dominated by the new bridge to Zhuhai which is under construction.

Bridge to Zhuhai

This section of the path keeps to the coast but does not keep to the contours so that every time you go round a headland you have to climb a bit. It seemed like a bad decision on the part of the path makers but I think the need to go over rather than round is dicated by the electricity poles that prefer to take the shortest rather than easiest route. After an hour I reached Sham Wat, a sleepy little village with a few restaurants catering for those hiking along the path. It is also a point of no return for those heading towards Tung Chung as it provides the last place with road access that would allow the weary to escape. I must admit to being weary and struggling a bit in the heat and was considering calling for a taxi. Not surprisingly there were no Ubers in the vicinity and I sat down at one of the open air restaurants looking out across the bay. Relaxing with a hot coffee and a bowl of daofu fa, which is a sort of blancmange made from tofu and served with ginger sugar, I felt revived and ready to proceed towards Tung Chung.

Sham Wat

The next place of note was Sha Lo Wan. The last time I was there it was a quiet village cut off from the modern world with no road access and views across the Pearl River Estuary. How things have changed. The village seems to have fewer residents and it still has no road access but the runway for new airport ends opposite the village. While I was there the constant noise of planes taking off wrecked any possibility of peace and tranqulity despite its tranquil setting which was not improved by the construction work being carried out on the Zhuhai bridge. The only consolation the villagers have is that they now have ferry access to the facilities of Tung Chung but other than that is hard to see that they have gained any benefits from the new airport.

The next village, San Tau, had numerous banners up expressing opposition to the building of a third runway which is likely to inflict more noise pollution both during its construction and on completion. Unfortunately for the villagers, it is unlikely that their few voices are likely to bother those with power and big ideas. Not far from San Tau, the merry sight of tower blocks announced that I was closing in on Tung Chung.

Tung Chung

The gondolas heading up to the giant Buddha on Lantau Peak passed overhead and I headed for Tung Chung fort. Despite all the development the fort has survived and provides a quiet spot to sit and consider Hong Kong's history well before the Brits arrived and planted their flag.

Tung Chung fort

But progress can't be stopped so the historic fort is now a mere speck amongst the high rise.

Tung Chung fort

And so into Tung Chung, a somewhat soulless place but it did have a very welcome MTR station. Before getting on the train I thought I would have a wash and change my clothes but, like most MTR stations, it didn't provide toilets where such acts could be performed in private so I was reduced to sitting on the floor and wiping myself down with wet wipes before slipping on a new shirt. Signs in country parks often say 'take your litter home' and the MTR seem to have a similar way of thinking. At least more recent stations now offer toilet facilities.


I have always tried hard to understand religion. My parents were traditional British Christians in that they adhered to the traditions of Christianity but made little pretence at being practising Christians, so we were spared church on Sundays but were able to enjoy other traditions of Christianity such as Easter Eggs and Christmas presents. The crunch came when I came of age to be confirmed as my brother and sister had been before me, but I put my foot down on the basis of not believing in god. There were some tense discussions but eventually my argument that it would be hypocrisy to go through the ceremony was accepted and the matter was not discussed again. People don't seem to have a problem with going along with hypocrisy, still choosing to get married in church and having religious funeral services. But then the churches go along with it too as it keeps them in business.

I can accept that matter is made up of atoms even though I can't see them but I can't believe in a deity. But you can believe in a deity without needing a religion. Religions appear to be more about providing a set of rules to live by than they are about deities, heaven, hell and eternal damnation help motivate the masses to adhere to the rules.

Wong Tai Sin temple

I visited the bedlam that is Wong Tai Sin temple. It is a great experience and one I would thoroughly recommend. Huge quantities of joss sticks being purchased and lit to the point that the smoke stings the eyes; photographs do not convey the atmosphere. There are large numbers of people praying in front of the temple and putting joss sticks into the sand boxes provided but what are they praying for and who are they praying to? Do people believe in these gods or is it like my 'Christian' upbringing and has more to do with tradition or superstition?

As a committed atheist, it is a joy to live in a truly secular country. Countries like NZ and UK are ostensibly secular but still have many references to Christianity btu there is none of that living in Hong Kong or China, so it is quite surprising to see just how many people involve themselves in religious practices. One of my friends is a church goer but will pop into varieties of temples to pray to some god or other, no doubt on the principle that if you pray to enough gods one of them may make you rich.

Tung Lung Chau

One of the factors that makes Hong Kong such a great place to live is the accessibility of wild countryside, islands, beaches and a way of life that takes you back to a much simpler world free of Pokemons.

Yesterday I took the ferry from Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong island to Sam Ka Tsuen on Kowloon side and then immediately got on the 9am ferry to Tung Lung Chau. Contrary to the transport department's website which indicates there is a return ferry at 2pm the earliest return was at 3.40pm, which was to be a problem later in the day.

The 30 minute ferry ride through the eastern part of HK harbour is interesting as most of the ferry routes head west. Starting from Lei Yue Mun, past Tsueng Kwan O and onto the Clearwater Bay peninsula. I had not realised how big Tung Lung island was, basically a mountain with a path round the coast.

Although the major paths are well kept Tung Lung does not provide the facilities to be found on other islands in Hong Kong, such as toilets but there are a few places to eat. Not having had breakfast I thought a nourishing bowl of noodles would set me up for the day as there was a lot of time to fill. Climbing the steps from the pier I came across a restaurant that was just opening up, went inside and took a seat. A little old lady of indeterminate age but bent double was in charge of getting the place ready for business and shuffled painfully from table to table putting out chopsticks, menus, etc. I felt obliged to help and so found myself setting the tables myself. The view through the trees to HK island and the sound of birds made for a pleasant environment to catch up with the day's Sudoku problem.

Nice though the environment the old lady didn't seem to be terribly interested in taking my order but eventually things began to happen and it was worth waiting for. I then headed north to the site of Tung Lung fort. Similar to Roman remains it consisted of a series of low walls.

Tung Lung fort

Nearby is an information centre in a nicely renovated cottage but without an aircon 2 mnutes was about as much as I could take before having to outside to cool off. I mentioned that public toilets are not a major feature of the island but there is a toliet at the fort to service the campsite. While it may be one of the cleaner toilets in HK it requires a strong stomach consisting of a hole and a short drop. Nearby is the island's north pier with a pretty beach looking across to the Clearwater Bay peninsula.


I retraced my steps, wondering whether I should try climbing to the top of the hill but didn't see a clear path and being a very hot day thought better of it and went in search of Tung Lung's rock carvings. I've been to rock carvings before but clearly hadn't learnt my lesson. A flight of steps led down to the carvings, which always seem to be just above sea level but my starting point was well above that. I counted 478 steps but may well have been a few out. The rock carvings were much the same as others I have seen. Great that HK wants to preserve a bit of history having knocked down so much of it but rock carvings don't figure high on my list of things I must see before I die. Each of the 478 steps climbing back up reinforced my view that, in future, signposts to rock carvings should be ignored.

Now I consider myself to be reasonably fit but time spent in the gym and thrashing out the metres on the treadmill is no preparation for climbing in temperatures around 33+ when the sun was out and unbearably humid when it isn't. Progress back up the steps was slow and by the time I reached the top I was exhausted and staggered back to the restaurant by the pier and settled down to rest and replenish a few liquids. The time was around 12.30 and I had had enough and would happily have gone home to sleep off the morning's excesses. Unfortunately, I still had more than 3 hours to wait for the ferry. Having exhausted myself on the rock carving steps further exploration of the island was out of the question for fear of dying so I idled my time away around the restaurant and the beach.

Sitting on a rock on the beach I was suddenly aware of movement to my left and looked down to see a brief but brutal struggle between a large solitary wasp and a small crab. It was over very quickly with the little crab standing no chance and soon it lay paralysed. I wondered what would happen next as this would not be a good place for the wasp to hatch out its eggs as we were below the hide tide mark. After resting for a few minutes the wasp burst into action. Bear in mind that the wasp was considerably smaller than the crab I was amazed to see it take a firm grasp on the crab and then drag it at high speed back up the beach, over rocks and across the sand until it eventually disappeared into some large dark rocks having traversed four or five metres. Hard to imagine the amount of energy required to drag the crab that distance but clearly the wasp worked out. While the incident only lasted a few minutes it was a good reminder of how much life goes on around us without us realising and that most of it survives without the use of technology.

As the time neared for the arrival of the ferry a large crowd built up, one gentleman carrying a huge fish which had all the cameras snapping away but I never saw what happened to it. No idea where all the people appeared from as I saw very few where I walked so maybe I missed the most interesting bits. Maybe another visit is required but not for a while.


On Sunday I had my first experience of Hong Kong karaoke. Held at the evocatively named Bridal House Tea Room Hotel in Yau Ma Tei. After hunting around for a while I was guided up a small flight of stairs and entered a narrow room. On my right was a long table displaying an extensive assortment of raw meats and on my left an open BBQ fire on which to cook it. Another first, I found a lethal looking BBQ fork and spent the next five minutes trying to skewer a hunk of chicken on the end. I only dropped it on the floor once and considered that, as I was about to stick it in an open fire, any bugs it may have collected would soon be dealt with.

Next, to the fire to turn the ugly lump of flesh on the end of my fork into something edible. But I am in a small room with about 50 other people, each brandishing a sharp, 80cm weapon. South American Indians coat the tips of their weapons with curare to ensure their wounded prey do not escape, these weapons were tipped with raw flesh harbouring untold numbers of bacteria. I managed to find a spot, or at least my sympathetic fellow guests offered me a seat close to the BBQ from where I could start cooking my hunk of meat. People came and went but I sat there with my fork in the fire still clutching a piece of apparently raw meat. I was given helpful advice; your meat is too close to the fire, you need to hold it higher; your meat is too far from the fire, you need to hold it closer; and there was the polite derision at my incompetence in skewering the beast which was considered a major factor in it failing to cook.

As i continued to sit there a woman, who was clearly used to feeding the poor, donated a piece of lamb that she cooked earlier and assured me that she had enough. If a Hong Kong Chinese person says they have had enough they are lying. The capacity for continually eating yet not putting on an ounce of weight is uncanny. I had had enough by now and I withdrew my chicken announcing that I was off to eat it. "Not a good idea," said one, "that bit's still raw." Hmmmm, eventually I had held it in the fire long enough to cook a bison and headed for a table with my chicken, the donated lamb and another piece of donated pork which gave me at least half a dozen mouthfuls of relatively tasty food but having a virtually vegetarian diet the rest of the time this glut of meat was not particularly attractive. My cooking failure was made all the more apparent as plate after plate of well cooked meat landed on the table I shared with at least another ten people, each plateful greeted by cheers and applause although, thankfully, not with the usual flurry of photographs one comes to expect when eating out in HK.

Having eaten my fill of dead animals I headed upstairs to see what was happening in the karaoke room. Many westerners think of karaoke as being a bizarre oriental ritual and there is some truth in this. There were about ten people in the room, which had a few tables, chairs, a big TV screen and speakers. Songs came up on the screen, all Cantonese and with the lyrics coming up on the screen in Chinese characters. My ability to read Chinese characters is limited to spotting one or two characters on each screen which I think I know but by the time I have worked out what they are we are onto the next line of the song. This, of course, is a blessing as it meant that no one was going to be able get me to sing that night. Without electronic gadgetry my singing is, at best, confined to a vacuum chamber and even with electronic gadgetry I am no Justin Bieber but, as it turned out, no one could sing. No one could sing in tune, nor in time. What could be worse than one person singing out of tune than two people trying to sing a duet, each in their own out of tune. At times the noise was painful to listen to, not in terms of decibels but in terms of finger nails on blackboards. How can this be entertainment?

But then a song I actually recognised started, so it would be safe to assume this song was much older than the others, in Mandarin rather than Cantonese. A striking looking young woman picked up a microphone. She was tall, slim and elegant and then she started to sing. And could she sing! Pitch perfect, timing impeccable, vocal range impressive, breath control, volume, tone, emotion, this woman had it all. Everyone stopped chatting and listened. This was not what they were used to hearing. And then a message came upstairs that another calf had been slaughtered, and the room emptied leaving the semi-pro singer on her own in the room. Fortunately, whatever had caused the flock to scatter was soon sorted and the room began to fill up again.

The singer sang a couple more before putting down the microphone and returning to her table to a polite round of applause and some encouraging words. At this point I would have assumed that others would have felt a little shy about stepping up to the microphone again but not a bit of it. The duets continued with moments when I thought that a cat impaled on my BBQ fork and toasted on the fire downstairs might have made a similar noise. I am sure none of these people had any illusions that they could sing and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves but can people really enjoy listening to this?

Why has karaoke managed to remain a popular pastime for so long? It was not until this evening I realised that people do not go to karaoke to listen to other people sing. When you sing you are not trying to entertain other people you are trying to enjoy yourself, you are there to have fun and everyone did. If you can't sing it doesn't matter as no one is really listening, so no one is embarrassed. Now it makes sense.

Even the strange BBQ practices started to make sense. In NZ a BBQ consists of a large man wearing an apron and a lot of tattoos slaving over the BBQ which could range from a simple griddle to something the size of Jamie Oliver's kitchen, who would grill half a yak while drinking copious quantities of Speights, Tui or some other NZ beer, while the guests sit around drinking copious quantities of Speights, Tui or bottles of NZ wine and chatting with friends. In HK the process of cooking on the BBQ is a social event, it's part of the entertainment. And therein lies another difference at the HK BBQ. I was there for about 3 and a half hours and in all that time not one drop of alcohol was consumed and yet everyone clearly had a great time. Many westerners might wonder how this is possible.

Nice try, shame about the mess

As I will point out repeatedly, Hong Kong is blessed with a spectacular setting among sea, sand and mountains. Unfortunately far too many people don't seem to care too much about it. Yesterday I took a trip to Ap Lei Chau, an island just off the south coast of Hong Kong island linked by a short road bridge to Aberdeen and shortly to be linked to the amazing MTR rail system. Ap Lei Chau was a fishing village then became a centre for boat building but more recently has, like many other areas of Hong Kong, become a densely populated high-rise development. The old part of the town has become run down but recently the waterfront has been developed into something that the district council can be proud of.

Exploration of the promenade began at the Hung Shing temple with origins dating back hundreds of years. These temples as they have a great atmosphere laden with the scent from hundreds of joss sticks and huge incense coils that constantly fill the air with aromatic smoke. It always seems a bit odd to see the sign on the wall asking visitors not to smoke.

hung shing temple

Aberdeen harbour must be one of the busiest in the world with sampans rushing around ferrying people across the narrow but crowded stretch of water. These small, wide-berthed boats may not look like the jet-setter's dream but they are remarkably manoeuvrable and there is no sign of them being replaced by more modern designs.


At the end of the promenade is the 'Wind Tower'. It is a strange, metal-framed construction that has rows of LEDs that glow in different colours according to the strength of the wind. It also gives great views across to Aberdeen and Hong Kong island.

ap lei chau

Along the promenade is an exhibition centre showing the history of boat building in Ap Lei Chau. Not the most exciting exhibition but interesting enough and the building is attractive. The washroom next door shows that a real effort has gone into making this a world class facility with the wash basins set amongst pot plants. Very attractive, until you see the discarded paper towels that no one has bothered to clean up. But then, as far as I could see, there were no paper towels, nor other hand drying facilities available and the only bin for disposing of rubbish I could see was outside. So a good effort but could be better.

wash room

Back outside I finished my stroll leaning against the wall, taking in the view and reflecting on life. But then I looked down. The water was a mix of rubbish, plastic bags, bottles, dead fish, jellyfish, polystyrene boxes and countless other items that should not be in the sea anywhere and certainly not in an area that has clearly been developed with tourists and locals in mind. How can you develop such an attractive waterfront and yet allow the water it is fronting to be so disgusting? How much effort would it take to clean it up?


Po Toi

Hong Kong is made up of more than 200 islands although few are inhabited. Po Toi is an island of just over 3.69 sq km, south of Hong Kong island with a very small population of permanent residents. While the larger, more popular islands can be accessed by ferries from the central ferry pier to get to Po Toi you need to take a ferry from Aberdeen or Stanley. Aberdeen is an entertainment in itself with its busy harbour full of fishing boats, luxury yachts, kaidos, junks and sampans shuffling people across to Ap Lei Chau, a densely populated island a few hundred metres from Aberdeen. The local authority has done a lot to make Aberdeen more attractive to visit and the waterfront area is a lively place to visit.

Abderdeen harbour

Apart from Sundays there is one ferry a day from Aberdeen to Po Toi, which also helps to make it less well known than the bigger islands but any thoughts that my day would be a quiet getaway were dashed as the queue for the ferry grew longer and a sizeable ferry boat appeared and I boarded along with around 300 other people.

The ferry heads south east, taking it along the south coast of Hong Kong island before leaving the Stanley peninsula, passing Beaufort island and arriving at Tai Wan, an attractive bay where the ferry disgorged its passengers.

Po Toi map

Hong Kong people enjoy going to the many country parks at the weekend to escape from the city. But they do not come to enjoy the peace and quiet of the country while communing with nature. On a quiet path it is not uncommon to come across a large and noisy group scaring off the wildlife and picking the few remaining wild flowers.

So a small island, few footpaths, a lot of people and the prospect of following everyone round for a few hours was not inviting. When you disembark you have the choice of turning left to the village of Tai Wan, going straight ahead up the hill or turning right. I turned left towards the village which has a few houses, an attractive beach and a large restaurant, the Ming Kee. Beyond that is a Tin Hau temple. By the time I reached the temple I had left the crowds behind and had a few minutes of silence looking back towards Hong Kong island before my fellow travellers started to arrive.


Back in the village I enjoyed a quiet lunch of noodles, at a small establishment behind the Ming Kee restaurant. Noodles, what a great invention, quick, versatile and nourishing. Some instant noodles, boiling water, fried egg, luncheon meat and, in this case, a generous helping of seaweed. That set me up for the day, or so I thought. While I had plenty of fuel on board I didn't realise at this point that I had failed to take on enough fluids.

This was the first really hot day of the year with blue skies and temperatures into the low thirties. I walked back through the village back to the ferry pier and then started a gentle climb up a hill through the trees past one of the many small establishments selling drinks and snacks. Back down towards the shore the trees disappeared and views of the bay and the Ngong Ching peninsula opened up. Po Toi is famous for its rock carvings and a short walk down from the main path takes you to the view points to look at them. With no shelter it is amazing they have not eroded more than they have.

The path continued to the peninsula and up a hill to a viewing point. I found it surprisingly hard to climb the steps and considering I am in reasonably good shape I realised I hadn't drunk enough water and the heat was getting to me. I still climbed to the top of the hill where the views are great and, if only we could have some really clear days, would have been spectacular with mountainous islands, calm seas and views south to China's Lema islands. Unfortunately these days it is very rare to have the clarity to see all this other than in hazy outline.


Then came the descent and return to the ferry pier. But no shade. What to do. With energy levels low do you walk slowly to conserve energy but spend longer in the sun or walk quickly to reach shade as soon as possible but risk burning yourself out. Eventually I got back to some partial shade in the trees and sat down at a wayside stall under the cover of some large trees and enjoyed a long cold drink, and another one, and another one.


At this point large numbers of wetern people appears from the ferry pier. Until this point it had not occurred to me why the Ming Kee retaurant was so large. The bay was now home to a collection of smart cruisers and junks, hiring a junk is a popular activity, particularly amongst expats, and a succession f boatloads with each person clutching a bottle of wine ensured that a merry time would be had by all at the restaurant.

Boat show

Today I went to the boat show at Hong Kong's Gold Coast. With the weather as it has been recently with impending downpours never far away it would have been more aptly termed the Grey Coast but no matter. The boat show was excellent. Most of the exhibitors knew that most of the visitors were tyre kickers, or whatever the equivalent term is for people looking at multimillion dollar yachts with an income less than the monthly mooring fee, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

Boat show

Some of these boats are works of art and masterpieces of internal design. Having got used to living in a small flat in the city rather than a spacious farm house in the country I was still impressed with how they managed to have three bedrooms, two quite spacious, bathrooms, including en-suites, slaves' quarters and lots of storage space. Compared to the average HK flat pretty spacious but for those of you who like to play a bit of indoor cricket with the kids you could find the space a bit restrictive and having to charge downstairs to retrieve the ball could result in serious injuries.

So, amazing boats and a well-organised, laid back show. Very enjoyable.

Having had my fill of boats, and without a tinge of envy in my heart, I headed down the road towards the Gold Coast Hotel and walked along the beach. I will give it its due, the sands were golden and the beach was well used, mainly by maids enjoying the Maid Day holiday. HK beaches can sometimes get a bit crowded but the atmosphere is always relaxed and no one is going to kick sand in your face. You can watch a great variety of activities with Philippinas working on a dance routine or singing songs, the Indian guys playing football, the Chinese 20 somethings playing volleyball and some fit young men trying their hands at an energetic 2-a-side beach volleyball. Lots of children digging holes, what else are you supposed to do with sand apart from use it to dam up streams that wander too close to the beach? I particularly liked the group at Cafeteria beach where the children played in the sand by the edge of the water and every now and then dad would arrive with a skewer from the BBQ and torture the children by stuffing hot sausages in their mouths.

After that it was into Tuen Mun, a fairly unattractive town, fairly perhaps being a tad generous, but the large MTR station was quite impressive, and before too long I was back home where I ventured into Park n Shop, or Fusion as it is called in Happy Valley. Heading for the fruit section in search of New Zealand apples I found Royal Galas at 5 for $10, not bad; or I could buy a big bag for $17 but when I counted the big bag contained 8, so you are being charged an extra dollar for the bag. I bought 5 loose ones.

I noticed that they have gone back to showing the price of an item alongside a price that has been crossed out, implying that it has been reduced. The one I noticed in particular was Nescafe Alta Rica coffee at $69 reduced from $84. At some stage in the past it has been $84 but it has been $69 for some months now, so how far back into history are they allowed to go in order to give the impression that prices have been cut?

The final annoyance was seeing so many items showing the price of two items so you have to peer at the small print to find the price for one. I live on my own, most of the time I don't want two. No harm in advertising the price of two but at least make the price for one more, or equally prominent. What made this more irritating today was at the boat show the signs outside those lovely big boats displaying the prices didn't say $65 million for 2 and then in small print say $35 million for 1, no, they just gave the price for one so that people aren't encouraged to buy more than they need. If it's good enough for a luxury yacht it's good enough for Park n Shop.