Sunday, March 25, 2018

Escaping the Concrete Jungle.


We took the local bus down from Victoria Peak. It wasn't a long ride and the bus made barely a handful of stops. Our challenge was figuring where to get off as we really had no clue what the route of the bus was.

As soon as we left the hills behind, I fired up Google Maps in hopes that we would be able to hop off the bus as close as we could to our next destination - the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.  We had pretty much walked past the place on our way to the tram station but of course, the bus wasn't going that way; it was headed towards the Star Ferry terminal.  Unfortunately, Google maps was not working well.  I think the tall buildings of the city were making it hard to get a good signal on my phone.  Bro wasn't haven't any better luck on his.

So, at one point, we just decided to get off the bus.  We walked for a short distance before sitting down and taking a short break.  Time to give the feet a rest and for Bro to munch on leftovers we had with us from Lin Heung.

While it's Sunday and all the offices are closed, commercial establishments were open for business and the streets were bustling with people out and about and enjoying the day.




We soon resumed our walking, heading in the direction that Google maps seemed to be pointing us towards.  It was quite a long walk but eventually, we made it to the Botanical Garden.  We actually at the entrance that we walked past on our way to the Peak Tram station.  Pure luck.

Bro had a map of the place in his guide book and since he's the garden dude, I let him decide where we would we go.

Map from Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Leisure and Cultural Services website.

We didn't get far before our first stop - a lovely fountain.  The steps around it made for the perfect resting stop.  We are slowly losing our sightseeing steam for the day as our stops are becoming more and more frequent :-)  So far, no signs of jetlag though so I think we managed to pretty much kick in a day.   Yay!


The Botanical Garden is really a lovely little bit of green space, surrounded on all sides by the concrete jungle of Hong Kong.  There is no admission fee to come here so it's no surprising that it's a popular spot for locals to come and soak in a bit of Mother Nature.  If this was a city park in the US, you would find bikers and joggers on the paths but here, no one biking or jogging. But there were a lot of families out, with young kids running around.  I am sure that the rest of the week they are cooped up in an apartment so today is their day to get out and really stretch their legs.

Before we got underway on our stroll through this park, we did get ourselves some ice cream cones to replenish our energy.  After all, we didn't have lunch and dinner is still a few hours away.  The ice cream options here were same old, same old, so I just opted for something that looked like a Nutty Buddy....one of my favorite types of ice cream cones.  I am such a child when it comes to ice cream 😁


Bro's first stop was the conservatory. 


This one is fairly small but like many conservatories I've been too, grows non-native plants like these barrel cacti which you would find all over the desert southwest region of the US.


For obvious reasons, the conservatory is divided into different zones.  From the dry, arid room filled with cacti, we crossed over in to a humid, lush green space dominated by tree ferns.


I don't think it took us more than 20 minutes to make our way through the conservatory.  Then it was  off to see some birds at the aviary.

On our way, we passed by a beautiful red flowering tree,  commonly known as a red cotton tree (Bombax ceiba).  It is native to the region and its blooms a sign that spring has arrived.


On our way to the aviary, we passed by a small memorial garden dedicated to the health workers of Hong Kong who lost their lives battling the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus outbreak that killed 774 people worldwide in 2003.  


What was sad to see was just how young these brave people were when they lost their lives trying to save those of others.



The aviary is named after Sir Edward Youde, a British administrator who served as Governor of Hong Kong from 1982-1986.

Inside the large tented aviary are some 600 birds of 90 species from the rainforests of Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.  An elevated walkway in the aviary allows visitors to walk through the tree canopy and view the birds, trees and plants from different elevations and angles.


We definitely did not see 90 species but the few that I was able to spot were really very beautiful birds; most certainly none I have ever seen before.   Unfortunately, the elevated walkway was high enough from the floor below that it took all of my zoom lens range to barely capture a decent photo.  I caught sight of this male bird trying to do his best to get the attention of the female.  It is springtime here so I'm guessing it's mating season.  Whatever.  She had no interest in him at all!


The pair below look like doves (Emerald doves, perhaps?) to me.  The aviary does provide plaques describing the species of birds but I got so distracted looking for birds that I forgot to identify these.  I just think their coloration is so pretty.


I also spotted a pair of Southern Crowned Pigeon (Goura scheepmakeri, also strolling on the concrete path below the elevated walkway.  Not easy getting a good shot of them.




This little white feathered bird with the blue mask around its eyes Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi).  The bird is critically endangered with fewer than 100 adults assumed to be existing in the wild.


Another pigeon or dove, roosting on a stone ledge.  You might overlook this bird with its lack of colorful feathers but what a lovely pattern they have.


The puffed up fluff ball below is a common green winged dove, Chalcophaps indica.


The Zoological part of the garden is a good size - there are about 40 enclosures housing about 70 reptiles, 70 mammals and 500 birds. Mammals include orangutans, gibbons, porcupines, tamarins, macaques, lemurs, agouti and marmosets. Reptiles include Burmese Python, terrapins, tortoise, alligators and turtles and birds include flamingos, mynahs, geese, ducks and cranes. 



It was late afternoon by the time we decided to leave the gardens and zoo behind.  We had spent much of today, outside the concrete jungle of the city, and it was wonderful.  All day long, we had crossed paths with several groups of women who were speaking Malay.  Never did we see them in the company of any men.  On the way out of the garden, I asked one of the women where they were from.  She didn't answer my question, just replying instead that they were visiting the city.  My suspicion is that these are Indonesian women some of whom work in the homes of wealthy expats on the week days and have a day off on the weekend where they gather with their other Indonesian women friends.  Not surprising, there is quite a large population of foreign domestic workers working and living in Hong Kong where there's also a substantial community of wealthy citizens.

It was nice to see the women chatting and laughing, enjoying what is likely their time off from work.


For us, it was now time to get back to the sidewalks and streets and get to our next destination.  Dinner is calling, albeit an early one!