Monday, December 31, 2007

10 highlights of my 2007

The Taipei institution I recently visited
that gets my vote for best museum this year

A photogenic part of that which gets my vote
as the best place to live
that's just a few minutes' walk away
from the pub that has become a firm favorite of mine :)

Around this time last year, I wrote up a list of my 10 highlights of 2006. Reading it again recently, I found that it served to remind me of some particularly good times and experiences. Consequently, it seems worthwhile to go ahead repeat the exercise, only for 2007 this time around.

As previously, the list is on the eclectic side, as reflects this blog's and its writer's personalities. Also, as reflects the eclecticism, while certain categories (e.g., 'best book' and 'best museum') are the same as last year's, others are different -- as befits my different experiences this year from 2006. At the same time though, hope that it will make for worthwhile (and enjoyable) reading for more than myself. And now, without further ado:-

1) Best Book: Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates, and the Story of the New China (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007) by John Pomfret, an American journalist who had been a university exchange student at China's Nanjing University in the early 1980s and later served for a time as the Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post. Full of interesting, detail-rich stories that ring true (and sometimes are all the more chilling for this being the case), the tome makes for a thoroughly engrossing read as it gives an insightful look into the contemporary Chinese psyche by way of an exploration cum examination of the lives of people who really have, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, lived in "interesting times" -- as well as lived to tell the tale.

2) Best Concert: If I had named a 'best concert' for 2006, it would have been the Tsai Chin concert at Genting Highlands. The truth of the matter though is that however enjoyable it was, it also happened to be the only live music event I attended that year! In contrast, since moving to Hong Kong in May, I've managed to attend my share of concerts, many of which -- for all of Hong Kong being the fabled land of Cantopop -- have had classical music on the programme. Over the course of doing so, I've become quite the fan of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and it's their Birthday Rhapsody concert that tops my list of wonderful concerts that I attended; though another, this time one given by Taiwan's U Theatre drumming troupe in Hong Kong earlier this year, also merits a special mention.

3) Best Hike: As regular readers know, I've been able to do quite a bit of hiking since moving to Hong Kong. And while each and everyone of those that I've gone on have had their merits, I must say that the highlight of my 2007 hiking year really has to be the exhilarating expedition that two of my friends and I embarked on and that took us from Wong Nai Chung Gap up to Violet Hill before ending up at the Tai Tam reservoirs; a hike which allowed me to take in views and take photos like these, these and these, and was all the more enjoyable for the refreshing wind that blew and bright sun that shone that day.

4) Best Live Performing Arts Production: The Hong Kong Dance Company's Angel Falls actually provided with two really cool experiences rather than just the one. Firstly, I'm going to come out and state that meeting and interviewing its director and scriptwriter, Raymond To, was a dream come true and it really was the icing on the cake when the scriptwriter of Peking Opera Blues -- my favorite movie in the whole wide world -- and so much more turned out to be utterly charming, gracious and interesting a person to interview. So, it was with great anticipation that I went to check out a performance of this beautiful musical, and with much joy that I found it to be every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as I had hoped as well as trusted that it would be.

5) Best Museum: The National Palace Museum, located in Taipei, Taiwan, and containing untold treasures and riches that span some eight centuries of Chinese history, much of which was transported over from Mainland China along with the fleeing Chinese Nationalists in 1949. Tracing its origins to the National Palace Museum which opened inside Beijing's Forbidden City on October 10, 1925, this institution first opened to the public in Taiwan in 1965 but was closed for extensive renovations for some four years in this century and only reopened again to the public on December 25, 2006.

(Also, at the risk of upsetting folks from Mainland China, I have to admit that when my mother and I visited the Forbidden City back in 2005, we were impressed by the architecture but couldn't help but something -- or, rather, quite a few things -- were missing from its interiors. Thus the kernels of our idea to visit the National Palace Museum were sowed on our visit to Beijing. And after visiting that museological establishment, I can confirm that it most certainly is where a lot more impressive portable objects are to be found than in any of the former royal residences we visited over on the Mainland!)

6) Best Place to Live: This one actually is for more than just 2007 since eight months on after moving to Hong Kong, I really do feel that it's the best place in the world that I have lived thus far. And when you consider that thus far in my life, I've lived in -- not just visited -- quite a few places (namely, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Wellingborough, London and Beckenham, England; Beloit (Wisconsin), Yellowjacket (Colorado) and Philadelphia, USA; and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, Tanzania)... and, also, that I love Hong Kong far more now than it was 'just' a movie mecca which I made annual pilgrimages to for some years... Touch wood, but I truly do hope that I'll be able to happily call it home for some time to come.

7) Best Pub: There are times after work when I like to head over to a pub for a pint or two (but seldom more than that -- honest!). And although I had determined to try out a selection of drinking holes after moving to Hong Kong before settling too quickly on just one to be a regular at, the truth of the matter is that early on, I realized that I had found one that I really like in The Globe. For while there are quite a few other pubs and/or bars that are closer to my residence or workplace, none of them match Toby Cooper's place in terms of draft beer selection and ambience, and -- this is something that really seals the deal for me... -- its being a non-smoking establishment! Additionally, its food -- especially its homemade pies of the week -- isn't half bad either. Ditto re its friendly staff!

8) Best Restaurant: Confession: I've only ever been to the Tin Hau branch of Yakitoritei. So it's possible that its older Happy Valley branch may be even better than this newer branch. And I probably should give it a try some time. The 'problem', though, is that so strong a grip does the Tin Hau branch of this eatery that serves up over 40 different varieties of
yakitori already have on me that whenever the mood strikes for me to go have some grilled Japanese food, it's to this place -- whose grilled quails eggs are simply divine, and whose chefs know how to make strips of chicken skin simultaneously crispy, chewy and delicious! -- that I find my feet automatically carrying the rest of me to these days! ;S

9) Best Sporting Experience: It's been a while since I wrote about the association football team I've supported since 1978. This has not been because my Arsenal passion has dampened some but, rather, because superstitious person that I am when it comes to football, I sometimes worry that I will jinx The Gunners by writing about their' virtues and better moments! For all this, I can't help but give voice in this entry to the joy that The Arsenal have often given to me. And -- this current campaign having gone swimmingly well thus far -- none more so in 2007 than the day in January when a second string team of Young Guns put six goals past the legendary Liverpool at 'Fortress Anfield'! :b

10) Best Totally Unexpected Occurrence: Funny but true: The more I think about events that fall into the category, the more I realize how many there were (and how surreal -- and fantastical -- my life has been since I moved to Hong Kong). And in any other year, certain celebrity encounters -- e.g., spotting Bobby Yip, hands full of shopping, in one MTR station, Hui Siu Hung in another, and seeing Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng and Crystal Tin casually chatting away in the lobby area of a cineplex, never mind passing by Leon Lai as I walked down the stairs after having said my goodbyes to Miriam Yeung...! :o -- would definitely have topped this category. But the Hello Kitty fan that I am really does feel that this year, what really takes the cake is my getting gifted a set of MTR Hello Kitty Heroes by the Sanrio Wave folks as a token of gratitude for my having written a feature article about Hello Kitty and gotten her on the cover of bc magazine! :)))))))

Enjoy? If so, please do feel free to post some comments on my choices and categories! Oh, and should anyone wonder about why there's no Best Film category here, it's because I'm preparing a whole blog entry that will be devoted to movies I viewed in 2007, and it's my intention to write and put it up on this blog in the very near future... :b


Anonymous said...

Wow Yvonne, as usual, this is quite something! Would love to read your 2007 films and film related stuff review. Besides the Sinfonietta, how are other classical music related concerts, as to their variety and quality?

YTSL said...

Hi (Ho?) --

Am hoping that I'll have time to write my 2007 films review sometime today but my free time is going by really quickly!

Re clssical music concerts in Hong Kong: They run the gamut from world-famous -- and from abroad (e.g., Kiri te Kanawa) as well as Hong Kong itself -- to local, and recitals involving single performers to ones with orchestras (and then there are the operas too). To get a further idea of quality, the HK Sinfonietta is actually considered to be Hong Kong's second tier orchestra -- with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra being bigger and, some would say, better. But really enjoy their concerts -- especially when Yip Wing Sie is conducting (for, yes, I've noticed that a conductor *can* make quite a big difference to proceedings.)

alejna said...

A great list! I love the way it reflects your varied interests and activities. I'm so glad to hear how much you continue to love living in Hong Kong.

I haven't had much chance to reflect on my own 2007. It's all pretty much blurred together right now. (I'm on the tired and overloaded side just now.)

Anyhow, I'll look forward to the movie list. I've likley not seen any of them, as I'm not sure we even went to a theater in 2007...

YTSL said...

Hi Alejna --

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my list. Was a bit surprised post writing it to see that so much of it was Hong Kong-focused and wondered whether people living far away from the Fragrant Harbour would find the list interesting...

And re the movie list: Am happy to say that it's now written and up, so feel free to go read and comment re it! :)

Willow said...

I've posted a very uninspiring (yet amusing) Best of 2007 at the other site where I blog Only members have access to the list. ;)

YTSL said...

Hmmm, since only members have access to that list, will you post it on your personal, accessible blog then? Also, speaking of access: Notice that your blog doesn't allow comments. Why's that?

Willow said...

I've opened my blog back to allow comments. ;D

And I'll post that thing I'm calling Best-of to make you laugh, I hope.

YTSL said...

Hi Willow --

Okay, will visit your blog again some time soon then! :)