Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things to do in Hong Kong when it rains

A view from the bus on a rainy day

After the storm earlier today

I come from a place where it rains a lot. (In statistical terms, we're talking over an average of 100 inches of rain each year!) This fact notwithstanding, many non-Asian tourists seem to primarily visit Penang for sun along with sea and sand. Consequently, I have visions of their being reduced to holing up for hours on end in their hotel rooms and bars when the heavens open.

What with Hong Kong being marketed as a shopping paradise, its giant indoor shopping malls are the places that tourists and locals alike tend to make a beeline for; and this particularly so when it rains in this territory whose authorities take rain storms very seriously. But for those for who do not always consider shopping or window shopping to be all that fun activities, there really are other -- and, to my mind, better -- options. More specifically, two rainy day activities that I regularly indulge in are movie viewing and museum going.

With regards to the former: one would do well to remember to not only look at what's on offer at the multiplexes -- some of which (like the Broadway Cinematheque) regularly offer up fare that's more art house than one might think -- but also the Hong Kong Film Archive. In addition, Hong Kong really doesn't lack for film festivals; with the HKIFF Society that organises a Summer IFF along with the Hong Kong International Film Festival each spring being the undoubted granddaddy of them all yet by no means being the only game in this city whose denizens have had a love affair with the movies for many decades.

With regards to the latter: although there surely are residents of -- as well as visitors to -- Hong Kong who don't pass through the doors of a museum even once during their time in Asia's World City, I really do reckon that those folks are missing out on a lot more than they might realize. For one thing, Hong Kong is home to more museums -- and some very interesting specialist ones at that -- than many people realize. For another, the territory's major museological institutions -- and one relatively 'minor' one in the form of the University of Hong Kong's University Museum and Art Gallery -- often play host to some really interesting special exhibitions.

As an example, earlier today, I braved the rain to go visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art -- and, particularly (since I had already been there before), its truly special temporary Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation exhibition -- the Takashi Murakami part of which (that includes screenings of this super-cute and colorful Superflat First Love video) actually got me covetting a Louis Vuitton item for the first time in my life!

For first time visitors to Hong Kong who want to know more about its local history and heritage, however, I really would recommend that they check out either the Hong Kong Museum of History -- with its wonderful multi-room The Hong Kong Story permanent exhibition along with informative special exhibitions like the current Modern Metropolis: Material Culture of Shanghai and Hong Kong (that I checked out last weekend) -- or the Hong Kong Heritage Museum whose permanent exhibitions include a very impressive Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall and one of whose planned special exhibitions is one on the late Lydia Sum.

What with rain storms in Hong Kong liable to come to an end as abruptly as they begin, one should also be on the look out for opportunities in between storms to enjoy scenic vistas -- since the storms often act like nature's cleaners and leaving clearer air behind. As an example, this afternoon, it was raining very hard when I entered the Hong Kong Museum of Art but it stopped pouring some time when I was in that museological establishment. Consequently, I was able to enjoy a nice stroll along the nearby Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade and take the post-storm photo that adorns the top of this entry... :)

Addendum: this entry has turned out to be one of the most popular entries on my blog. For those seeking more ideas for what to do in Hong Kong when it rains, please go here -- and hope you'll be able to enjoy your time in the Big Lychee even when it's not sunny out!


JC said...

I like both those shots... and they are perfect for showing another thing to do when it rains... take photos!

Anonymous said...

Here, here for Hong Kong's museums. I've been to the Heritage Museum three times (once for a fantastic Cantopop exhibit), the Museum of Art twice, and the Museum of History once (which I could easily revisit several times just for the Hong Kong Story exhibit alone).

I'm bummed that I will miss the Modern Metropolis show, but it looks like I'll be able to catch the Lydia Sum exhibit!

And I can't agree with you more about the wonderful role of rainstorms as nature's cleaners. That's why I never complain if it rains when I'm in HK. :)

Anonymous said...

And I just saw that HK University Museum and Art Gallery will be having an exhibit of Carrie Koo Mei's paintings during the time of my trip!! :D

Who says there's nothing to do in HK besides shop?!

Horsoon said...

Rainy days are usually not days I look forward to take photos, but you did a good job here; especially the view from the bus :)

sarah bailey knight said...

Hi ytsl,

Great photo takes from the bus. I like it looks like the viewer sees the rain drops above the umbrellas.

Also enjoyed the 'Superflat First Love' video though I'm not a big fan of the artist nor the designer.

hehe, hehe.....if you buy Louis Vuitton may I suggest the limited edition bag that sells for US$5,000.

YTSL said...

Hi JC --

Usually tend to think that rain spoils many a photo op. But what with so much rain pouring down, I had to try taking some shots. And the results actually haven't all been displeasing! ;b

Hi duriandave --

Have you been to the smaller museums? HK movie buffs might get a kick, in particular, out of the Museum of Coastal Defence which has been the location of at least a couple of movies made in the past couple of years or so. And have to say that the views from there are truly spectacular -- on a clear day, of course! :)

And wow re your Koo Mei exhibition comment: are you sure it's THAT Koo Mei?? Then I'll be so there too! :b

Hi Horsoon --

Thanks for your compliments -- really value them seeing as they come from a talented photographer like yourself! :)

Hi sbk --

US$5,000 for a bag. OH. MY. GOD. Especially at the shock that so many people seem to own (genuine) LV bags here in Hong Kong!!!

Anonymous said...

YTSL, I know that Koo Mei became a painter, so I'm assuming that this is her.

Her teacher was a really famous painter of the Lingnan School of Painting (I can't remember his name right now).

And no, I've not been to any of the smaller museums, but I'll definitely consider paying Museum of Coastal Defence, especially if it involves a wonderful views!

BTW, I just started reading Jason Wordie's Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island, which I found at my local library.

YTSL said...

Hi again duriandave --

Ooooo and wow... didn't know about Carrie Koo Mei having become a painter. Thanks for the info. Talk about being a Renaissance woman -- so radio DJ turned singer-actress-scriptwriter-producer-director-actress' agent Sylvia Chang wasn't the first in Hong Kong cinema, it seems! ;b

Re the views from the Museum of Coastal Defence: you can check out a few here:-

And oh good re your reading Jason Wordie's book. Cool, isn't it? (And yeah, wish he would hurry up and write one for the New Territories!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to those pics! It definitely looks like the Museum is worth visiting just for the surrounding views.

Yeah, I love Jason's book. It's chockful of interesting history, acerbic observations, and humorous asides. And it definitely makes me want to wander around the side streets of Hong Kong.

ewaffle said...

There is something comfortingly bureaucratic about the Hong Kong Observatory Rainstorm Warning System to which you provide a link, with the different amounts of heavy rainfall sorted into categories along with the appropriate response by various groups (parents, school children, office workers, etc.) which largely consist of "If you are inside stay inside if flooding is forecast; if you are outside, then go inside".

While it might seem that the advice is no more than "be smart enough to come in out of the rain" it is welcome contrast to weather reporting in the U.S., where it is more along the lines of, get ready for another storm of the century, we are all in grave danger, don't panic.`

After dealing with typhoons, monsoon winds and tropical downpours for a few hundred years the authorities in Hong Kong seem to trust citizens to handle weather like adults.

Lovely photographs, as always. Like many other commenters (and, I am sure, many more who didn't comment) I really like the one from the top of the bus. It is beyond me to figure exactly why but it is a great image.

hcpen said...

I really wanted to visit the Museums whilst in HK and even planned to go to the Heritage Museum and another one in Shatin (name can't remember) but no time...heheh...maybe next time..

YTSL said...

Hi once more duriandave --

Well, if you find time... and Shau Kei Wan's not far at all from Sai Wan Ho. So...! ;b

And yes, Jason Wordie really has been responsible for me wandering through certain parts of Hong Kong I might not have otherwise thought to go. :)

Hi ewaffle --

I'm not so sure that the Hong Kong weather authorities treat Hong Kong residents like adults. Nevertheless, I take your point re their advice being quite a bit better than the equivalent folks in the US!

And I'm glad you like the photos -- and thought to comment about them and so much else besides. :)

Hi hcpen --

Hmmm... I think the Shatin museum you wanted to visit *was* the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. In any case, hope you have a next time in Hong Kong and will visit at least one of its museums before too long. :)