Friday, May 23, 2014

Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 2]

Mui Wo on Lantau Island, Hong Kong was a silver and lead mining community during the late 19th century. But historical accounts mention Mui Wo as early as the 13th century. If you missed the first part of my Mui Wo experience, read Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 1].

Yuen's Watchtower (left) beside River Silver
After lunch, we proceeded to the west side of Mui Wo. As you leave Ngan Wan Estate, you will see Yu Tak Lei Yuen or Yuen Old Mansion and Watchtower. It is an old granite watchtower by the River Silver and mansion of Yuen Wah Chiu, WWII guerrilla commander and chairman of Mui Wo Rural Committee after the war. The view from the bridge leading to the mansion is very picturesque, especially in the morning (the afternoon sun is behind the mountain).

Luk Tei Tong Watchtower
We first passed by Luk Tei Tong Village where another watchtower built by the Tsang family, the Luk Tei Tong Watchtower is located. Beside the watchtower is a small temple. Just like Wang Tong, most of the structures here are recent and three-floors in height.

There was another small temple on the other side of the village, in front of the village square of Luk Tei Tong.

Looks like some of the locals were preparing for a celebration with roasted suckling pig or siu yuk 燒乳豬!

From Luk Tei Tong, we walked up to Tai Tei Tong Village. In the village square is the Pak Tai Temple. The square is actually a venue for the villagers to hold gatherings and banquets. In fact, there was a community barbecue in the square when we passed by, celebrating the anniversary of a local kindergarden school.

A community barbecue at Tai Tei Tong Village Square
You would immediately notice that half of the community were foreigners. As I mentioned, Mui Wo is very popular with expats, especially those with families. This rural town allows them to live and raise their families in a suburban setting, the same way they would do in their home countries. You'd see young European or American kids walking or biking around and wonder if you are still in Asia!

And to prove how rural Mui Wo is, many residents have farms and plant their own produce. Don't be surprised if you see a water buffalo walking around!

There's another small temple in Choi Yuen Village called Kuan Yam Temple. But we skipped that because it was getting dark and we wanted to be back at the pier before nightfall.

Pak Ngan Heung Village and the village square
An old family temple still stands in Pak Ngan Heung, part of the roof unfortunately collapsed
Even further up is Pak Ngan Heung Village where several attractions are located. There's Silver Mine Waterfall, which unfortunately was down to a trickle when we saw it. It gushes during the rainy season, quite I sight I was told. Nearby is Silver Mine Cave, which is a reminder of the silver mining days of Mui Wo. You can't go in though since they closed it off due to safety reasons.

If you follow the path from the cave, that will take you to the Hong Kong Olympic Trail, a 5.6 kilometer trail that connects Pak Mong Village on the north side of Mui Wo to Pak Ngan Heung. There are a lot of directional signs, so you can't miss it.

Man Mo Temple is the oldest temple in Mui Wo, built during the Wanli era of the Ming Dynasty (1573-1619). It's also the oldest Man Mo temple in Hong Kong, a temple for the worship of the civil god Man Cheong Tai and the martial god Kwan Shing Tai. Paintings depicting ancient Chinese sages and heroes can be found on the facade. You will see this temple on your way to the falls.

The walk from Chung Hau to Pak Ngan Heung is about three kilometers. So back and forth is about six kilometers.

Instead of going back, we decided to complete the loop, arriving in Chung Hau from the north. On the way back we passed by more farms and rural houses.

Too bad there was no sunset that day since it was cloudy. As it got dark, you would see the expats and locals arriving from work on Hong Kong Island, biking or walking home.

Since it was a Friday, visitors were starting to arrive in Mui Wo as well. A popular practice among Hong Kong locals is to rent a house or room in Mui Wo for the weekend for a change of environment. And you'll see families and friends enjoying a barbecue meal.

How to get to Mui Wo
Ferries leave Hong Kong Island for Mui Wo from Central Pier No. 6. Tickets may cost between HK$15.20 to HK$42.90 depending on the type of ferry and day. Sundays are the most expensive. Ordinary ferries are the cheapest but take 55 minutes. The fast ferry can take you there in 35 minutes. Here is the ferry schedule.

Alternately you can take the MTR to Tung Chung. In Tung Chung, board the 3M bus which will take you to Mui Wo. Walking is the means of getting around the villages. But bicycles are available for rent near on of the supermarkets.

Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 1]

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a modern city. But many of its rural towns and villages continue to maintain their character. If you want a different view of Hong Kong, I suggest you visit the islands. Among those I've visited are Cheung Chau during the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and Tai O Fishing Village.

Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island is just thirty minutes by ferry from Hong Kong Island (Central Pier 6). But the town retains its old charm. Its relaxed atmosphere is why many expats working in Hong Kong's financial district choose to live here with their families. Building and height restrictions ensure that development is controlled. If you visit on a weekday, it feels like you are not in Hong Kong since the sleepy town is unusually quiet. 

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Around the Mui Wo Ferry Pier is the commercial area of the town, with supermarkets, stores, banks, restaurants, and other establishments. That's where residents with cars also park since motorized vehicles are not allowed in the villages. A bus terminus beside the pier conveniently connects Mui Wo with the rest of Lantau, including Tung Chung (and the MTR) and Tai O Fishing Village. So if you don't want to take a ferry, a longer land trip via Tung Chung is possible. Also in the area is the Mui Wo Cooked Food Market (open from 6 a.m. to midnight) where seafood is a specialty.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
For an introduction to Mui Wo, visit the Mui Wo Culture and Heritage Exhibition Center at the east end of Mui Wo Central Community Road, a few meters behind Silvermine Bay Beach. The center has available maps to guide you as you trek around the town. Chung Hau Village is what one could consider the main village of Mui Wo.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
In the morning, we walked around Chung Hau and further north to Wang Tong Village. As we left the center of Chung Hau, the houses got smaller and shorter. In fact, none of them go beyond two floors. Unlike urban Hong Kong, people here enjoy their own gardens and private spaces.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Further down the road is Wang Tong, a newer community. Many of the structures here are three-floor buildings which often house apartments for rent.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
As the path moves towards Butterfly Hill, the houses get sparser. Many of the houses you will see are much older ones, quite a number of them abandoned. But I learned the owners refuse to sell the properties especially because Mui Wo has become a viable option for simple living in Hong Kong.

You could actually make a loop to the rest of the villages from here. Or even walk all the way to Tung Chung which is about ten kilometers away. Another option is to walk east from Chung Hau to the Trappist Have Monastery up the hills of Mui Wo. But I was not prepared to climb.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Since it was nearing lunch, we decided to walk back to the Mui Wo Ferry Pier for lunch, passing through the rest of Chung Hau. We walked the length of Mui Wo Rural Community Road where you could find small restaurants and stores, a community center, recreational facilities, and a place where many locals play mah jong.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
You definitely get to see a facet of Hong Kong that you will not find in the more popular tourist attractions. And this was just one of several villages in Mui Wo.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Before crossing the river, you will pass by the Hung Shing Temple, previously located near the beach (it collapsed due to poor maintenance) and reconstructed in Chung Hau. In front of the temple is a pair of stone lions, a female lion playing with a cub, and a male lion stepping on a gold ball. If you look closely at the male lion, you'll find that its genitals are exposed!

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
You will see a good number of fishing boats docked at River Silver as you cross the bridge connecting Chung Hau and Ngan Wan Estate. Mui Wo remains a fishing community.

We had lunch at a Turkish restaurant which my hosts wanted to try. You'd wonder why there are so many food options in Mui Wo despite its small population. That's because it's a popular weekend destination and these restaurants cater to those visitors. We were planning to visit Tai O that afternoon. But since it was a bit late for Tai O, we decided to explore the rest of Mui Wo. That's my next post. Read Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 2].

Thank you to Sonia Zerrudo, Toto de Ramos, and Irene Haagen, active members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong, for taking me around Mui Wo!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Binondo Chinatown late night food trip at a discount!

Late night food tripping in Binondo Chinatown can be really fun! Not many people know that a number of restaurants drop prices for selected dishes usually after 9 p.m. Just ask the restaurant if they have a late night promo.

The other month, we made a dim sum stop at Wan Chai Tea House. All dim sum (except the Hakaw) sells for Php47 per serving after 9 p.m. We had Pork Spareribs, Siomai, Goto Curry and Pipa Tofu.

Several years ago, we tried the late night shabu-shabu at Golden Fortune Seafood Restaurant offered with a hefty discount depending on the ingredient. Also check out the dim sum at King Chef at Lucky Chinatown Mall. Yes, it's happy hour for Chinatown treats! I'm getting hungry! Time to head out to Binondo!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tandang Sora Shrine & Emilio Jacinto Memorial at Himlayang Pilipino, Quezon City

Tandang Sora in Quezon City is named Tandang Sora because the area was where Melchora Aquino de Ramos (known as Tandang Sora) actually lived. Tandang Sora aided the Philippine Revolution by caring for sick and wounded revolutionaries, and opening her home to secret meetings of the Katipunan. She was already 84 when the Philippine Revolution broke out and lived until the grand old age of 107!

Her house was located in Banlat, where the Resting Place of the Remains of Melchora "Tandang Sora" Aquino or the Tandang Sora National Shrine, was built in time for her birth bicentennial in 2012. Her remains were transferred from Himlayang Pilipino just a few kilometers away to the current location in Banlat. The actual location of the house, two alleys from the shrine, is marked by a bust and marker in what used to be a wide open space, but unfortunately has been chocked by informal settlers.

Since Himlayang Pilipino was just nearby, I decided to visit as well. The former tomb of Tandang Sora is still there. We really don't make shrines like they used to. There's no doubt, the tomb in Himlayang Pilipino is more elegant and more stately than the current Tandang Sora Shrine they built in Banlat. I don't know who approved the design of the current shrine. But I hope the Quezon City Government, which now manages it, raises the bar by upgrading and improving the shrine to make it more stately.

The tomb in Himlayang Pilipino is a scultural mural made by renowned sculptor Florante "Boy" Caedo. Made of concrete with marble dust and chips, the tomb captures the compassion of Tandang Sora for her countrymen. Even the wrinkles on her face convey such a strong message. I wish the current shrine could express as much emotion as the one in Himlayang Pilipino.

On the opposite end of the memorial park is the General Emilio Jacinto Memorial where the remains of the young general are still resting. Also made by Caedo, the sculptures on the tomb were cold cast in bronze. The setting is fantastic, located on top of a small hill with a large open space around it.

I really hope they make memorials and shrines like they used to. Who approves the new ones anyway? To them, it's pwede na, I guess. You have to visit Himlayang Pilipino to understand how powerful a message our monuments used to convey.

Recess by Chef Chris serves the original panizza!

Recess by Chef Chris
The original panizza is now in Makati! Long before commercial pizza outlets served rolled pizza with arugula and alfalfa, we were already enjoying them in Clark, Pampanga! Chef Chris Locher now brings his panizzas to Makati with Recess by Chef Chris.

Recess by Chef Chris
There are two sets of panizzas in the menu, the Original and Pinoy Originals, panizzas with Pinoy toppings. I got one pick from the Original, Tin Sn 50 with chorizo, bacon, ham, salami, assorted peppers and mushrooms for toppings. Others interesting choices are Platinum Pt 78 with Angus beef, Gold Au 79 with barbecued chicken, and Magnesium Mg 12 with barbecued pork.

From the Pinoy Originals, I got BeTa which is beef tapa, onions and pickled sayote atchara. There's PoTo with pork tocino, red onions, and salted eggs, TiTo with smoked bangus, red egg and onions, and CoBe with corned beef, egg, caramelized onions and potatoes.

There's much more on the menu. But if only for the panizza, you've got to visit Recess by Chef Chris!

Recess by Chef Chris
50 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati
Telephone No. (02) 8991818

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hagisan ng Suman and Mayohan sa Tayabas, Quezon! Viva San Isidro Labrador!

While Lucban celebrates the Pahiyas Festival, other towns in Quezon have their own celebrations for the feast of San Isidro Labrador every May 15. In Tayabas, the city holds the Mayohan sa Tayabas. Unlike Lucban, only the area of Munting Bayan in Tayabas has pahiyas or decor on the houses.

The riotous procession of San Isidro Labrador makes its way around Tayabas City on May 15. Notice the baliskog piled on both sides of the road, showcased during the Parada ng Baliskog.
Mayohan sa Tayabas actually lasts several days, usually beginning on May 7 with the Parada ng Baliskog (kog means arch) at 3 p.m. The sixty-six barangays and various organizations create arches made of indigenous materials, flowers and produce and parade them around the city.

But the main event is the Hagisan ng Suman on May 15 itself. It is actually a procession of the centuries-old image of San Isidro Labrador. It leaves the Tayabas Basilica between 2 to 3 p.m. and makes its way around the city for several hours. It ends up being a males only procession because things get really rough and riotous.

Hundreds of suman are thrown from the balcony of Tayabas City Hall
As the image of San Isidro Labrador passes by a house, its residents start throwing suman, fruits and other local produce, as well as money and other goodies (some immigrant families ship boxes of imported goods to their relatives for the hagisan). This symbolizes the sharing of wealth and prosperity to farmers and peasants. The farmers believe that the more suman you catch, the bigger the yield for the year.

Unfortunately, the crowd of catchers has changed and the catching has gotten really aggressive. Even I got caught in the frenzy while taking photos, and one can get hurt if you don't move with the crowd, especially since the procession moves really fast. But it's really fun watching. And if you know anyone from Tayabas, you should join the hagisan from their balconies since that is even more fun!

Tayabas Basilica
And since you are in Tayabas, you should visit their heritage sites. The city has several National Cultural Treasures, namely the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel and the Tayabas Historic Bridges namely Alitao, Isabel II, Francisco de Asis, Gibanga, Malagonlong, Lakawan, Mate, Ese, Despedida, and Tuloy. The Casa de la Communidad de Tayabas is a National Historical Landmark.

Santuario de las Almas
Ermita Church
Tayabas Cemetery
Tayabas Cemetery Chapel
The town also has three centuries-old chapels, namely the Santuario de las Almas on the way to Lucena, Ermita Church near the basilica, and the Tayabas Cemetry Chapel in Munting Bayan.

Here's information on the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon.
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