In 2006 and 2007, I wrote up "10 highlights of the year" entries. Although I had intended to write my 10 highlights of 2008 before 2009 came along, certain circumstances (including my having to work on the first day of 2009 and that day falling in the middle of the week) have led to my only doing so over the first weekend of the new year. Still, better late than never, right? Well, at least I think so! Hence my going ahead and submitting my "best of" list for 2008 in this here blog post:-
1) Best Book: Once upon a time, I was an Africanist. Although that is no longer the case (along with my thinking that I'd devote my life to being an anthropologist), I actually continue to have strong, emotion-laden memories of -- and interest in -- those parts of that continent that I've spent time in. As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, I also have wondered for years now how it went from being quite a bit better off than Tanzania (where I lived for some two years) when I visited it in December 1995 to the heartbreakingly and nightmarishly benighted place that it now has been for some time. Peter Godwin's When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Back Bay Books, 2008) clearly explains as well as describes how the situation deterioriated while also being a very affecting history and story of himself and his family. Tragic but also not entirely without hope, this book really is a very enthralling, highly recommended read.
2) Best Concert: I feel very lucky to have been able to attend -- in a single year -- concerts headlined by such as Joanna MacGregor, Midori, her brother Ryu Goto and Trey Lee. For all of the considerable prowess of the afore-mentioned talents, however, there really is no question for me as to what was the best concert I attended in 2008; not after being witness to Yo-Yo Ma and the HKCO performing. Suffice to say that Ma is a musician who deserves his exalted reputation; with the icing on the cake being how, when performing, he seemed able to enjoy himself, the music that he was producing and the very process of collaborating with fellow musicians.
3) Best Filmophile Facility: Its theatre's screen is not the biggest in Hong Kong and there are movie fans who will scoff at its restrictions against eating or drinking when taking in a movie but the Hong Kong Film Archive is one of the greatest things in the Big Lychee as far as this film geek is considered. This not least because its programmers have allowed for me to view Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1928), Ivan the Terrible Parts I (1944) and II (1958), Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929), Zhu Shilin's Sorrows of the Forbidden City (1948), The Dividing Wall (1951) and Festival Moon (1953), and so much more there in 2008 alone!
4) Best Hike: The hike from Wu Kau Tang to Sam A minimally covers a distance of 10.5 kilometers but I'm not sure whether that measurement includes the return leg back and doubt that it includes the walk to take in the Bride's Pool that my two hiking companions on the day and I decided to apend to our hike. Still, it wasn't its length alone that caused this Northeast Hong Kong hike to yield material for not one but three separate photo-essays but, rather, the number of interesting sights (like abandoned villages as well as different geographical and geological situations) that we got to view along the way!
5) Best National Cuisine: There's no denying my love of Penang food and Klang bak kut teh. Nevertheless, my favorite national cuisine in the world actually is not that of my native Malaysia but, rather, Japan. And while good Japanese food can be found in many parts of the world (including Hong Kong, as can be seen by my favorite restaurant in the territory being a yakitori-ya), my latest visit to the Land of the Rising Sun in the summer 2008 -- in particular, the experiences of partaking of such as the Genghis Khan barbecue lunch and ramen dinner in Sapporo and the evening eating marathon in the centre of the kuidaore no machi -- i.e., the city where you eat ‘til you drop that is Osaka -- that is Dotonbori Street -- served to reconfirm that Japanese food really is unparalleled in its native land.
6) Best Natural Sight: I knew things were bad but it's still pretty disconcerting to get statistical confirmation that in 2008, Hong Kong air pollution was the worst since records started being kept. Besides fears of what the air pollution will do to one's physical health, something else I've definitely noticed is how polluted air days are so gray and depressing. On a related note, I also notice how much I psychologically perk up at the sight of bright blue skies. No longer something to be granted, they now are things I truly treasure. Let's just hope that they will not be rare sights a la rainbows (or, even rarer, starry skies) in Hong Kong in 2009... :S
7) Best Sporting Event: No, not something Arsenal-related because 2008 has not been a particularly great year to be a Gooner. (Indeed, I'll state for the record here that the current Arsenal side is the worst under Arsene Wenger ever!) Instead, and even though I was one of those slow to catch the fever, count me as one of those eventually won over by the hype and drama of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So much so that not only did I watch more of the Olympic Games on TV than I thought I would but also ended up doing such as giving people -- and taking lots photos of -- more fuwa than I ever thought I would! ;b
8) Best Television Series: It's true enough that since moving to Hong Kong, I rarely spend time in front of the TV. Indeed, I'll go so far as to admit that I tend to only turn to the TV when I come down with a cold or the flu; and then only after I feel I've spent too many hours resting and/or reading in bed. In short, it's the rare TV show that I'll watch for its own sake. In 2008, that TV show was The Wire (in particularly, Season 5 of the series). So, now that it's wrapped up for good, would recommend suggestions as to what I should turn to next should the TV viewing bug bites once more...
9) Best Theatrical Production: There's no question that the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre's production of De Ling and Empress Dowager Ci Xi is on the old side. After all, the 2008 edition was the fourth revival of a play that was first performed back in 1998. In addition, many of its cast members -- notably its 81-year-old leading lady -- are on the... mature side. But, post catching a performance of this historical drama, can but conclude that old is gold re the production but also its wonderful star, Lisa Lu. (And yes, meeting and interviewing her most definitely was one of the highlights of my time at bc magazine -- heck, my still not too lengthy journalistic career!)
10) Best Thrill Ride: This category has more candidates than usual this year, including the world's largest ferris wheel over in Osaka and rollercoasters over in Ocean Park. But the award has to go to that which I'd also consider to be the best cable car ride I've ever gone on: Hong Kong's Ngong Ping 360 which takes passengers from Tung Chung all the way up to the Ngong Ping Plateau whose residents include that impressive statue popularly known as the Big Buddha. :)