The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


From the warm ochre-brown subtleties of an English Autumn, Rod and his sister June left these shores in order to pay a duty visit to their brother Norman who lives in Australia. They took advantage of an extended stopover in Hong Kong, staying in a hotel on the mainland of Kowloon. This short break was a totally new experience for June and a welcome refresher for Rod, who had explored some of the territory before.

The accommodation, on one of the arterial routes of the city - Waterloo Road - was in a modern skyscraper-like hotel where panoramic visions of the urban sprawl could be observed. Initial impressions indicated how like England the area was - driving on the left and with familiar models of car - ‘Worboys’ style of roadsigns in English - road systems somewhat chaotic and the traffic just as horrendous. Of course there were also fundamental differences in culture, in religious observances and in conditions of daily living. Families tended to live in very small apartments in tower blocks, open spaces were at a premium, every inch seemingly used up and the citizens never ceased from taking an opportunity in park spaces to exercise - tai chi and other aerobic exercises being preferred.

The streets, though thronged with teeming masses of compliant and courteous people, were clean - no litter was apparent and the shops and commercial properties bedecked with colourful slogans and notices. So much were the decorations overpowering that if the unwary traveller were to stray from the main thoroughfares he would readily get lost. The road naming and numbering was not very consistent and June and Rod got hopelessly lost on three occasions. It is worth noticing that none of the strangers accosted to help them in locating their hotel were able to read maps at all. The pair got by well in English, though the Chinese government has decreed that this language will be phased out in schools and be replaced by Mandarin. The inhabitants mainly speak Cantonese.

Rod had visited the Prayer Room in Terminal 3 at Heathrow, finding it miserable, cheerless and devoid of any religiosity - being supposedly multifaith. He wished to go to Church in Hong Kong but despite considerable efforts in scouting round geographically the day before, was totally unable to find a suitable ecclesiastical establishment which even remotely fitted his preference for a Traditionalist Anglican emphasis. There were plenty of smart and imposing buildings, some with Christian crosses on - proclaiming a religious non-conformity and with names like ‘Living Waters - Good Shepherd - Redeemer...’ Presumed to be American in origin and clearly expensively endowed.

Rod and June decided to take two tours during their stay. The first one was to the New Territories and the second a trip round the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ by night. The description just alluded to is a translation of the words ‘Hong Kong’.

At the New Territories tour some wonderful discoveries were made and the stops were quite enthralling:

A leisurely visit to a Buddhist monastery. Called the Chuk Lam Sim Yeun (Bamboo Forest Monastery) visitors are enthralled by the ornamentation and opulence in style of the monastery, with its backdrop of Hong Kong’s skyscraper skyline. The monks were seen and heard chanting from their sacred book - in responsorial fashion reminiscent of Rod’s choirboy days - back and forth Decani and Cantoris. One feature was most impressive, in that elderly citizens, otherwise destitute, are permitted to be cared for. In return they engage in daily study of the religion.

Exploration of a walled town. The Kam Tin walled town houses the ancient ethnic group of Hakkas who migrated from the north 700 years ago. They do not mix with the other locals. During the Second World War they were treated by the Japanese occupiers in a most barbaric fashion. Their dress, culture and confined living conditions are the focus of much visitor curiosity.

A hill climb to view mainland China from a high lookout point. At Lok Ma Chau the intrepid traveller trudges up a steep hill in order to look over the Shenzen River where there is a border like the “Berlin Wall” preventing the northerners from entering Hong Kong. There is much commercial traffic however, passing through the border towards the port.

View of a wishing tree. Originally a camphor tree (now pathetically propped up and disused) - the practice still exists of writing a wish and attaching it - done now to a board. Enterprising traders facilitate the process.

Examination of a Taoist temple and shrine. A highly ornate interior and the shrine heavily incensed.

The night tour of Hong Kong Harbour showed the great metropolis in all its splendour:

A surround of multicoloured lights on the island and the mainland, lighting up the main buildings with individual flair. The boat docked for a visit to the island lookout point, where the view was breathtakingly beautiful.

Dinner at the Jumbo floating restaurant. To their astonishment there was an 8 course meal, all of sea food. Down in the hold sea creatures were held in aquaria and the discerning gourmet would select the delicacy to be subsequently consumed.

Rod was particularly interested in the practices of Buddhism, its similarities to, and differences from, Christianity. He has continued with this study.

Oh - and they went on to have a wonderful stay in warm Springtime in Australia with brother Norman. A very pleasant duty.

Rod Dawson

Autumn Edition 2010

The Fragrant Harbour