Hong Kong – Hanoi and return: IPhone daily notes of an overland journey

These are the notes of a ten days journey of an Eurasian couple from Hong Kong to Hanoi, and back. We decided to travel by train in order to taste and watch all the 100% beauty and variety starting from Hong Kong towards Guangzhou, Nanning and to eventually reach Hanoi on the early morning of the third day. Then spending six full days to explore the Vietnamese capital and her surroundings, to finally embark on the same journey at reverse. The verdict was: cool.

We re arriving in Nam Ning by train in a couple of hours. The landscape outside the window is intense green. Jeff s sleeping on the soft bed above. We are sharing the compartment with two young boys. This was the first night in the train starting in GZ city. Here we spent some time in the most amazing mall and i was really happy to say goodbye to the obstinate luxury of South China.

We are now in the train to Hanoi after having enjoyed wandering, hotel couching, dining in Nam Ning. This city reminds of South America eh eh. And of Napoli ah ah. We found a lovely local canteen run by a chubby cool lady along one of the main roads adjacent to the railway station. They served us the tastiest bowl of noodles and wanton. Next to it a family bakery with the most flavorful scallion pancakes and so on. Goodnite: we have already taken position in our soft beds; this time we are sharing the room with a Vietnamese-American couple. Outside is only pure nature. Beautiful. Open spaces.

The cock is singing and singing from some street around here, since we have arrived here very early morning at the hotel in Hanoi. Resting and looking forward to the rest of the day. To meet our musician friends from Aussie and having fun at their concert tonite, scheduled at another awesome Hotel nearby.

So today we joined our group of friends from Ozland and Vietnam on a daily trip that took us three hours far from the city to the most wonderful geological park of Vietnam and now we are in the minibus on the way back to Hanoi city. We were all stunned by the beauty of the land and could even do some canoeing and swimming in the deep waters in betweens the rocks. It was simply heaven to say it in one word.

We went exploring and roamed around the beautiful Hoam Kiem lake of this district called also Old district with its red bridge and a temple to remember confucian plus taoist philosophers; then the tropical rain poured for some time, the air was fresh afterwards and we ended with a late lunch and some spa relaxing time.

We are now heading to the Fabric market, Cho Ham, while side walking the small lake south the hotel. This area has lots of pretty fashionable local shops plus more from Japan, Korea. Vietnamese lady fashion designers are just cool and smart. Simply looking at the cut of either their traditional and modern dresses you ll understand how good, pretty and practical their message is. The evening brought us the pamper of a foot massage plus the fanciness of a dinner at a place called ‘wild lotus restaurant’.

We walked all the way up to the north in a village of copper craftmenship once,  crossing the neatest district with villas, embassies and famous historical plazas with statues, pinnacles and monuments. Hanoi seems very Italian to me, not only for its facade and alleys but also for its lifestyle and pace. We passed thru great art galleries roads, silk and embroidery road, souvenirs alleys. Moreover we found ourselves all of a sudden strolling along a rustic tea market just behind the century old bridge Long Bien. By chance later we were in front of a modern theatre building and some young boys from France sold us two extra tickets to watch the popular ‘water puppet show’ starting in minuts. We went in and it was an hour of fun and childlike plus cultural enjoyment. What i admired most in this art form was the ability to blend musical instruments, singing, acting and water puppeting all in once. Terrific job. This 1000 years old city is so gorgeous and puts lots of stress on art, technology, medical and humanitarian fields. You can tell it from the buildings and the universities located here. It was also home to the first western style university of Indochina during its old times. I have also travelled to Ho Chi Minh two times priorly and found that the spirit and the genuine culture of Vietnam resides in Hanoi today.

It was National museum of history and a spa time. Vietnam map looks almost like the Italian one. There is an historical highlight I loved: “It was patriotism, not communism, than inspired me” quoting Mr. Ho Chi Minh. After a family kitchen experience finally time to come to the station. The train to Nanning is leaving in 10 minuts, goodnite from the soft bed compartment all for us.

The  day spent in Nanning was lots of fun and some gorgeous accidental shopping. We took the rikshaw up to Nanhu Lake park towards southeast; the drivers here are amazing and they can drive totally e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and in a.n.y. direction to reach the destination. The bamboo forest, the lake and the tropical rain were waiting for us. Beautiful area! In Nanning on the way back lunch and dinner were exactly at the same two places of the week before (plus the chubby smiling lady was happy to see us again). The train to GZ was late at night.

We travelled overnight in a sitting compartment all violet and cute. Landscape outside is purely agricultural mixed with construction sites. Lots of big butterflies outside the window too. Guangzhou is waiting. Then Hong Kong.

Starting point.

Diving is like a meditation. Getting to become one with aquatic nature and watching the colors and the wonders of a deep sea abyssin landscape. Total silence surrounding the human nature. Becoming one with this present silence.

Painting is also like a meditation. Expressing the beauty thru movements of the hand, putting it into colors, lines, shapes.  Without thinking, drawing into the silence.

Tai-chi is like a meditation. Feeling the energy rising up and refreshing the senses and everything else into the being. Each movement is in harmony with inner breathing and spirituality of self.

Photoshooting is just like meditation too. The focus of the nerves, the observation of the present moment. In relax, in dynamism, in fun.

Surfing the net is perfect meditation. Like surfing the waves of something bigger and empty. The vibrations of the entire universe surrounding the digital personal experience.    

Whole life IS meditation. Or at least the starting point of… it. It…?!

Like in a spiritual Disneyland

Despite of the fact that Chinese culture is often associated to the character of the Moon, cold, silverly, sleep lover, calm…everytime i visit a modern temple in HK the sensations revealed are just the opposite: tryumphing in colors, energetic, strong,  hot! You may get even dizzy by literally swimming into a rainbow of colors and attractions just like in an entertainment park!

Welcome to Kwun Yam shrine, a buddhist site situated on a eastside beach in town since the beginning of Seventies. Most of the statues follow the mosaic tecnique and dress themselves with brilliant colors. Look at the golden fish! He is watched out by three fluffy innocent goats that a child would love to ride and climb up on the horns for sure; everthing happens under the benevolent look of a robust  Wise master.

I did not shooted all of the monuments being some of their faces quite terrifying and  weird, therefore i am just offering you a panorama of what really caught my attention while basking into this glorious sunshine on Sunday, half lost with a couple of other friends in the crowd with mainlanders pouring and pouring in from touristic buses.

Of course the main character here is Kwun Yam, the eternal symbol of chastity and purity although poor lady was bestowed with swastika decorations drawn in the opposite way (like the one used by Hitler). She is a real Mother and believed to be the protector from all the dangers far away at the horizon. Is she protecting Hong Kong?

 She is grand, her impressive figure striking against the modern skyscrapers in the back at one of the most chic marine areas.

Her face shaped like a full moon, Purnima.

I was thrilled like when we go to Ocean Park. It s exciting to know that  spirituality has some nuances of  blast within,  like a bursting laugh or an erupting volcano. It is not always carried along pure white wings or zen materials.

Morever this blast is enjoyed by careful silent eyes of colorless statues. I loved the way many lady figures were scattered here and there, simple busts in smooth grey stone with nice hair styles nd cute cheeks too…They are witnessing that plyfulness in spirituality, the absurdity of the game and the beauty of the drama… Sometimes they give you their backshoulders, sometimes they smile, sometimes they seem serious. They all come alive!



 To conclude  the visit, my favourite matching colors in a classic animal scene on Chinese talavera:

Peng Chau: the island of the bycicles

Peng Chau is the weekend destination of families and couples who seek to escape the imposing environment of Hong Kong city. From Central Pier there is a ferry every hour and you can reach the island in 30 minuts.

The first thing you will notice are the bycicles in line on the pier and scattered around the narrow streets and the small plaza. Peng Chau reserve for you an atmosphere of coziness and colors also perfect for children.

There are several small beaches, all at measure of this tiny island on the west side of the South Chinese Sea (Hong Kong area). The most popular is the long and wide one just in front of the pier since it is close to downtown. The seawater seems to be shallow and secure, that’s why it is the favourite of the local families with kids. The beaches are allined along a path now crossing the village now facing directly the seaside.

Old style houses mix with new buildings. There is a beach not far from the pier which with 2 big tents is perfect for yoga seminars and swims.  Another tiny beach is located at the end of the path, rubber shoes are recommended here since it’s a very rockey one. At least the sunset is awsome from here and you can enjoy bathing in the sunrays water! 

Time for dinner. A couple of traditional restaurants are waiting for you on the pier: fried Chinese rice, fresh pomelo water and sugar cane. Or a Western dining with delicious pizzas and juicy pasta carbonara offers indoor and outdoor comfortable tables. Two place to not miss for shopping are: the local lady who paints and bake beautiful ceramics and the Chinese artcraft store with one century furnitures from China and Mongolia. Peng Chau has it all!