Holiday Happenings

Anddd, in the blink of an eye, the long Christmas weekend is behind us. I went back to work this week, and I truly understand what they mean by ‘you can’t escape your work’. Even though we get the two days off, when we come back to work, we still have to do what wasn’t done on Monday and Tuesday. So in the end, you find yourself faced with an extremely busy Wednesday, endless emails to get through, and all the work that was yours to begin with.

Much has happened in my December. I mean, that’s almost a given – you have the routine Christmas parties and it’s also a good excuse to meet up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. But aside from that, there’s also a lot of other activities that I found myself engaged in. It’s almost impossible to get through it all without me giving up on my post halfway in between (because it will definitely get too long), so I’ll try to touch a bit of everything.

The first weekend of December, I participated in a 10k run. I haven’t signed up for a race in a long time, but in recent months I’ve been running almost every weekday at lunch. I have a colleague in my department that has a healthy habit of working out during lunch, and I decided to join him. It’s much easier to do exercise when you have someone watching you and keeping you accountable! So anyway, when I signed up for this run, I hadn’t even started exercising with him yet; I just felt like I would be able to do it, and it would give me some motivation to start running again. Besides, this event is sponsored by my company, so I wouldn’t have to pay the registration fee.

In the end, I accomplished a time of 53:47. My previous best official race time was from 4 years ago at 55:17, so this is quite an improvement for me! As it turns out, the girl that finished third place achieved just under 53 minutes. I was pretty close to a trophy!

Just a refresher… this was from my night run in 2013 when I landed in Hong Kong for my co-op year!

The second weekend, I went to visit pretty much the one and only oyster farm in Hong Kong. It’s located in Lau Fau Shan, and these oyster farmers literally plant and farm oysters in local waters. It sounds extremely easy – you just need some branches covered in baby oysters and leave them in the water; they’ll eventually grow bigger by themselves. Of course, you need to get the farms set up and buy the baby oyster ‘seeds’, and you also need to buy your own boat and supplies. Hong Kong also has the disadvantage of typhoons hitting, so you have to tend for your farms if anything happens. But aside from that, you really don’t have much to do as an oyster farmer until it’s time to collect your harvests (and those months are extremely busy).

This is how the farms look: just endless patches of wooden sticks combined together.

Lau Fau Shan is located right at Shenzhen Bay, and on the other side of the water is mainland China! We got front row seats of this magnificent Shenzhen Bay Bridge.

The reason why Lau Fau Shan is ideal for oyster farming is because it’s in between fresh and salt water, which is exactly what the oysters need to live and grow. That reason, along with the fact that oyster farms take up space and space is very expensive in Hong Kong, is why there is only Lau Fau Shan left as the sole oyster farm in this city.

Another fun fact: I always thought Lau Fau Shan was a mountain, because ‘Shan’ in Chinese is ‘mountain’ and it sounds like ‘something something mountain’ (for example, Fuji-san is Mountain Fuji). Well… it’s nothing close to a mountain. In fact, Lau Fau Shan is well-known for seafood because it’s so close to the water! (I always thought that was weird – how can a mountain be well known for seafood? Well, now I know). Anyway, I asked why it’s named like this, and the best answer I got was that because the tides come in and out, the hills on the land sometimes look like its a mountain, and sometimes the mountain disappears. So, the name literally translated means “sailing and floating mountain”.

See those ‘mountains’ in the background? Yeah, that’s pretty much as high as it gets.

Because everybody knows that Hong Kong waters are dirty and full of pollution, nobody dares to eat raw oysters farmed in Hong Kong. That is also why raw oysters are still extremely expensive, even if there are local oysters in the market – because the raw ones are all imported, and the local ones would never be eaten raw. Instead, the typical method of preparing oysters before selling them is letting them dry under the sun until they turn gold, and then sell them off as ‘golden oysters’. These are actually still quite expensive to buy, because of all the extra work in drying them out! You’ll see a lot of these golden oysters for sale around the Lau Fau Shan market.

The next day, I got a tour through HAESL (Hong Kong Aero Engine Services Ltd.). They are an engine shop owned partially by Rolls-Royce, and therefore only perform maintenance on Rolls-Royce airplane engines. Most of our engines are T700 and get sent to this shop located in Tseung Kwan O for routine maintenance. I don’t know where our PW engines go, but probably abroad somewhere.

The maintenance shop is really what you expect of a shop – lots of machinery and tools that allow you to grind and mill the engine parts, down to the most accurate precision. They opened up the majority of the shop to visitors for their 20th anniversary celebration, except of course you can’t actually touch their expensive machines. However, they do have some machines working live demos, and maintenance personnel standing at various stations to explain what the machine does.

I’ll be honest – engines are not my favourite part of an airplane. In fact, they may as well be my least favourite part, mainly because they’re noisy, but also because the math and physics behind them is so… whishy-washy. Like, nobody understands the real physica behind what goes on in the core of an engine. What they do is test different combinations of things until something works, and then continue with trial and error over minor adjustments until they find an optimum efficiency. I think it’s dumb. But hey, there are people fascinated by airplane engines out there, so fair enough.

Nevertheless, it was a cool experience, and they only open up their shop once every ten years for their celebration! My favourite part was the wind tunnel. It’s a huge chamber that they use to test the engines after they’ve finished the maintenance process, and even with extremely thick and heavy double doors separating this room from the rest of the shop, people tell me that they can hear the engine and feel the vibration outside. That’s normal – I’ve watched countless number of airplane engines roar in front of me during my time at line maintenance to know that they’re not lying.

Aside from the shop tour, there were also numerous carnival games outside for kids to play. I was attracted by this soccer booth and ended up winning a piece of chocolate 🙂

They also had a some extra work clothes for you to take pictures in, similar to what I had to wear when I worked at line maintenance. I was saying that I should have brought my uniform too.

Next weekend, I hiked up to Ngong Ping. They have this snowy village thing at the top where they blow fake snow at various times throughout the day, except it was a bit disappointing. Somehow, it still felt extremely festive, but I would say most likely because it was actually quite cold that day.

Here’s the main area with Christmas decorations – the part that everyone was trying to get a picture with:

But aside from that, the rest of the village looks as it usual; a small village:

We took a trail that runs directly under the cable cars, and it’s intended to be an emergency rescue trail (in case one of the cable cars fall). The trail is only open when the cable cars are running.

The trail gives a clear view of the airport, and we watched numerous takeoffs and landings on the way up. Now that I’m not working at the airport, this makes me miss it so much more!

I was able to put another Disneyland visit in my schedule before my annual pass expired. I bought the cheapest pass, which allows access only on weekdays and does not include public holidays. This worked well with my schedule when I used to work shifts, and I would often be free on random weekdays. However, I’ve been in the office since July and I don’t think I’ll be back on shifts anytime soon (at least not for the next year), so I decided to opt out of the annual pass for this upcoming year. Besides, I heard Hong Kong Disneyland is getting some nice renovations, so that means a lot of areas will be under construction during 2018.

I’m glad I did go! I met Olaf this time around, which is someone I never met in my previous vists!

I don’t think I’ll be able to escape Disneyland’s Christmas atmosphere next year, even without my annual pass. You see, Hong Kong doesn’t get very cold, so it never feels like Christmas. But there is something about Disneyland, I’m sure they do something right which I can’t quite put into words… whenever I walk through Main Street USA and the Town Square, I always feel Christmas.

My Christmas Day was spent hiking up Lantau Peak. People say this is a relatively difficult mountain to hike because it’s a steep way up, but in my mind, there’s no such thing as a difficult hike. I mean, nobody is timing you, so you can take as long as you want, and if you make your pace slow enough, then no hike will ever be difficult.

This trail was mostly clear of trees (unlike the hike up the cable car rescue trail), so you could see very far out into the horizon. It was also nice that this path was relatively uncrowded; I guess the mountain is just less popular to hike.

The only disappointment is the amount of pollution you realize you have to live with – there’s no escaping it. Up on the mountain, you can clearly see blue skies above the clouds, and then a layer of smog below it. It definitely makes you feel worse when you see the dirty air that you’re inhaling. Sometimes you would rather be oblivious.

This hike ended at Ngong Ping once again, so I basically came here twice within a week. The difference being this time, we entered from other side of the village, and walked past the Wisdom Path that I had never visited before. They’re just huge wooden logs with Buddhist sayings carved on them.

Finally, my last Christmas holiday adventure was on the 26th, when we hiked the Tsing Yi Nature Trail pretty much in our backyard. Tsing Yi has many hills and small peaks, and the residential area (where we live) is on the flatter and lower part of the island. You don’t have to look far for trails to hike!

This particular trail is an easy walk through the park. The roads are all nicely paved, and there are many areas with picnic tables and benches for you to enjoy a picnic over the views in the background. This is also a nice area to get snapshots of the majestic Tsing Ma Bridge.

And there you go! That’s how I spent my last month of 2017. Looking forward to more adventures in 2018!

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