Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Descent from Victoria Peak

January 7th, 2011

Descent from Victoria Peak from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

As the day comes to a close, Ken descends by bus from Victoria Peak, the highest summit on Hong Kong Island.


Around Victoria Peak

January 6th, 2011

Around Victoria Peak from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Enjoying a brief foray onto the tourist trail, Ken visits Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Offering a brief introduction to the former British colony’s geography, he explores the viewing centre, and avoids the queues for the Peak tram by taking… the Number 15 bus. And look out for the fortunately short clips of communal music making. You have been warned!

Tourists - web


Peak prices

January 5th, 2011

Peak prices from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken ventures up to Victoria Peak, the highest summit on Hong Kong Island. Discovering it to be just a bit exclusive. One four bedroom property on the market for $500 million Hong Kong dollars – about £42 million. Or roughly £10 million per bedroom. That’d be en suite then.


Lazy Sundays

January 4th, 2011

Maids - web

Sunday. Small groups. All women. Around the HSBC building on Hong Kong Island. Some in a nearby underpass. Others outside the main Post Office. Sharing food and drink. As if enjoying a picnic. Friends chatting. Filipino house maids. Enjoying their one day off each week. A brief escape from the confines of living with their employers.

HSBC - web

Hong Kong is a fast-paced city. Busy, busy, busy. The maids an integral part of life in the former British colony.


Smog over Shenzhen

January 3rd, 2011

Think we were both taken aback. For slightly different reasons. I’d become very conscious of the thick, heavy diesel fumes on the roads of mainland China. Ending each day with a blackened face. Hideous smuts around my eyes. Phil, my host in Hong Kong, had lived in the former British colony for some years. But he hadn’t previously seen such a stark reminder of the sheer extent of the air pollution. Emanating across the border from mainland China.

Smog - web

We’d climbed the steep slopes of Castle Peak, on the western side of Hong Kong’s New Territories. To the north, beyond the lesser summits, the border with mainland China. And the city of Shenzhen. About fourteen million people. An industrial complex. Covered by a thick grey blanket of smog. Its upper edge clearly defined. Contrasting sharply with the clear blue skies above.

To be fair to the Chinese, they are undergoing a pretty intense industrial revolution. Just as the UK did a few hundred years ago. With scant regard for the environment I’m sure. So, not unreasonable to cut China a bit of slack. Not too much though. I’ve lived and breathed pollution for quite a few months. Tightening chest. Glad of the sweet, fresh air of Australia.


Hong Kong and the Holy Grail

December 27th, 2010

HK entry - web

It’d taken quite a while to sink in. We’d done it. Made it to Hong Kong. In time for Christmas. Just. The end of Asia. Second continent complete. Others more elated at first than Emma, my trusty steed, and I. We were just plain relieved to be over the border and safely into the former British colony. Remembering, just in time, that they drive on the left…

It’d been a long day with quite a few hurdles in the offing. A typical Christmas Eve perhaps. A final sprint into the heart of Shenzhen, a city of around fourteen million, in search of the railway station. Even with a decent street map I’d chanced upon, they’d been a few twists and U-turns. And some particularly unforgiving traffic.

Strictly speaking you cannot take a bicycle across the border. Not a fully laden tourer. Not if everyone sticks to the rules. Which had been causing me some angst. Found myself fretting unduly. Searching for the Holy Grail – the definitive, hassle free means of getting into Hong Kong. A guarantee of success. Problem is, it doesn’t exist.

I’d woken up to this a few days earlier. Realised my mistake. Recognised the best plan was simply to bluff and cuff my way across. Armed with some hints and tips from other cyclists who’d done it. Bit grumpy with myself. Should, by now, have known better. Succumbed to the search for unobtainable certainty because I was so determined not to get caught out on the last day. Did not want to fail to make Hong Kong for Christmas.

And the irony? It couldn’t really have been much easier. Bit of hassle forcing Emma into the packed lift to reach Immigration. But "Last Day Rules" were in force. And she’s a tough northern lass. I’d been flummoxed for a moment by an escalator, but Matt, a keen English cyclist who’d been living out in Hong Kong for a couple of decades, came to my aid. Up we went. To the bemusement of onlookers.

There was the inevitable x-ray scanner. I hesitated. Removing all the bags and passing them through was entirely possible. But there was just one machine. And lots of people. It’d be chaotic. I offered to have my luggage hand searched and was on my way in errr… a very short space of time.

One hurdle left. Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Rail – the only means of exiting from the Lo Wu crossing point into the colony. Folding bicycles only. Stories of other cyclists being reluctantly allowed onboard, having first removed their front wheel. Matt had warned me to expect some hassle, but all would be ok if I stood my ground. And was unfailingly polite. Besides, they’d have to give way eventually. My Chinese visa had been cancelled as I’d come over the border, so I’d no option but to go forwards. Eventually.

MTR - web

And refused we were at the ticket barrier. For a moment. Then a female voice. Clear. Confident. "Follow me" she said. I thought possibly the station supervisor. "Through there to the train. Carriage twelve". I thanked her profusely, wished her Merry Christmas and we were quickly on our way. A few minutes later tucked discreetly away in the rear carriage. One stop to Sheing Shui and disembarkation.

The journey to our final destination, Tuen Mun on the western side of Hong Kong, should have taken an hour or two. Around fifteen miles. We’d even a decent road map for most of it. But a bit of well-intentioned mis-direction and failing light meant it took quite a bit longer. Not that it seemed to matter. Docile traffic. Even street lights. A warm evening. But, most of all, we’d crossed the border. Reached Hong Kong.

[A particularly big thank you to Iris, Phil, Peter and Matt for their advice and assistance in getting safely across the Hong Kong border]


China – some candid thoughts

December 26th, 2010

cen-stamp web

The worst thing you can do is censor yourself as the pencil hits the paper. You must not edit until you get it all on paper. If you can put everything down, stream-of-consciousness, you’ll do yourself a service– Stephen Sondheim, Composer

Hong Kong is part of China. A Special Administrative Region. But a de facto separate nation. Freedom of expression of the sort that is the norm for developed, democratic countries. Even if universal suffrage is a bit lacking. But it does enable me to legitimately share some of my more candid thoughts on China. Nothing that isn’t fair comment, or disrespectful. Observations carefully crafted. Striving for balance.

So, a few pieces coming up to give a more complete picture on China. Some serious, others more light-hearted. Statistics to amuse. Nothing to heavy. It is Christmas after all.


Phil and Ken’s Christmas Message

December 25th, 2010

Christmas dinner from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken, and fellow Brit Phil, prepare a traditional English Christmas Dinner. Hong Kong style. And the story of Ken’s, and trusty steed Emma, entry into the former British Colony? That follows tomorrow evening. Even if, like "The Titanic", you’ve a good idea how it ends…!


Snow progress

December 16th, 2010

Winsnow - web

Next morning. First light. View from the window. Snow. But at least not the insipid, icy rain of the previous day. Perhaps the dry cold I’d hoped for. I’d know shortly. Soon be stepping outside. Be back on the road in an hour or so. Kit for the most part dry. Onwards towards Hong Kong.

Morale had recovered from yesterday’s dip. And the intermittent heater had, miraculously, managed to stay on all night. Dreading to think what the room would have been like had it stopped once again. I’d still slept in my fleece. Comfortable. Just.

But I was still a little vexed as to how I’d actually cross into Hong Kong. Ferry. Train. Or bus. Probably in that order of preference. Riding through the various border posts not permitted. Plenty of advice from various people. Much of it conflicting. Or at least lacking the certainty I was seeking. The bordering city of Shenzhen home to millions. Wandering around, trying your luck, and you’d be there for a week.


Lost in space

December 10th, 2010

"Confusion now hath made his masterpiece" William Shakespeare, English playwright, been dead a while…

Seems tales of planes, trains and automobiles, first impressions of Hong Kong, and lamenting New Year’s Eve in Sydney may have caused a spot of confusion. A friendly Yorkshireman expressed it more plainly. And with a lot more brevity. Made me smile. But this is a family orientated website so forgive me if I don’t repeat it exactly. Put another way, "Where’s Ken?"

"Expert. Someone who brings confusion to simplicity" Gregory Nunn, some American chap, still breathing

South of the city of Nanchang, roughly six hundred miles north of Hong Kong. On track to reach there in time for Christmas. Planning to celebrate in style with another Yorkshireman. Then off to Australia at the end of the month. Cheap flights irresistible.

"If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius" Larry Leissner, another American chap

To be fair, I find China confusing enough at times. Roads that no longer exist, at least in a navigable form. Large provincial towns that appear unexpectedly. Not on the map. Add in a flying visit to Hong Kong a little while ago for a fresh Chinese visa. Picture easily becomes a little murky. Like the Yellow River.

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