Monday, March 31, 2014

A Tung Lung Chau hiking experience we won't easily forget! (photo-essay)

Based on the first photo-essay of my second hike on Tung Lung Chau, you'd think that conditions were perfect for a fantastic hike.  But while we had clear air and beautiful blue skies, we also had high heat to deal with.  In addition, this time around, I found the portion of the trail that I had found the most challenging the first time I hiked on this eastern Hong Kong island were now even more difficult to go along on account of their now being badly overgrown and a rope which one could hold on to to haul oneself up at the steepest point of the climb up to the highest point of Tung Lung Chau had now gone missing!

Although Tung Lung Chau's highest hill is only 232 meters high, trust me when I say that my hiking buddy's and I are agreed that it's one of the most difficult we've attempted in Hong Kong to date -- for not only was the trail up this unnamed peak very steep but we felt like the vegetation was trying to mug us, and definitely did leave us with lots of bloodied scratches on our arms and legs. Then on the way down, while I felt that we were done with the hard part, somehow my hiking buddy started reacting badly to the different trail we descended along not having much shade -- so much so that I got to fearing that he had got heat stroke!

At the very least, it's the first and only time we've hiked together that he decided he needed to lie down and rest for a while near hike's end -- and also the only time where he needed me to run and get him some more liquids from the nearest stall where I could get him something cold to drink!  Fortunately, he perked up some after he got some cold liquids into his system...but boy, did this turn out to be a hike that we'll never forget, and not for the best reasons!! :O

Initially, as we headed southwards from Tung Lung Fort
and up to higher ground, we were exhilarated by the
splendid views to be had that afternoon

Can you see the trail up the hill?
(If you answer in the negative, you're in
good company with us!)

 On badly overgrown trails like this, one is
 super grateful to the hikers who have gone before
and left ribbons to help show the way

I'm not completely sure if they're worth it but there is 
also no denying that from the top of the hill, 
the views are pretty grand indeed

The winding concrete path that took us down the hill
(and also to the southwestern and western sections 
the island) also offered up scenic views

Tung Lung Chau's western cliffs are on the rugged side

A sight for sore eyes -- I don't mean the general scenery
but the pier that we needed to get back to catch
a kaido back to Hong Kong Island!

 Hooray, we made it -- and yes, with plenty of time 
to spare before the kaido arrived!

Black Coal, Thin Ice (film review)

The line is long for certain HKIFF screenings, especially
those held at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Black Coal, Thin Ice (Mainland China, 2014)
- From the Gala Presentation program
- Diao Yinan, director
- Starring Liao Fan, Gwei Lun Mei, Wang Xuebing

Years ago, I had to gently break the news to a then entertainment industry colleague of mine that not all festivals and awards are equal.  Thus it is that I'm hardly going to want to rush to view a film that's won an award at a festival like, say, Moscow or Singapore and have learnt from experience to steer clear of films that triumphed at Rotterdam and Vancouver, but will try to check out films that came away with major honors at Cannes and Berlin.

Seeing that Black Coal, Thin Ice won director Diao Yinan the Golden Bear and Liao Fan the Best Actor Silver Bear at this year's Berlinale, the Mainland Chinese film noir set in a part of the country with hot summers and snowy winters was one of the most anticipated films in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival for me. So even though its first screening took place at 9.30pm at the end of what had been a tiring day -- and work week (on account of my taking Friday off) -- for me, I nonetheless did venture to check it out then.

Sadly though, I have to admit to having dozed off a few times during that screening of this cinematic offering whose pacing I generally found on the slow side, and filming style I found reminiscent of Cai Shangjun's People Mountain People Sea, another Mainland crime film that won a major award at a prestigious European film festival (Venice, in the 2012 production's case) -- and similarly generally underwhelming.

To be fair, I found the early part of Black Coal, Thin Ice -- specifically the portions of the work that were set in the summer of 1999, and involved the discovery of human body parts in various coal factories spread over a sizable area and a subsequent criminal investigation led by Liao Fan's character -- to be interesting enough.  But after that section's imaginatively staged climactic shootout in the hair salon -- a scene that started off seeming as it'd be pretty routine, only to shock with a sudden, farcical turn of events -- and a bravura piece of cinematography cum editing that has the film seamlessly segue from the summer of 1999 into the winter of 2004, I felt my attention wandering as the story began to majorly meander.   

Thinking back, I wonder if it's entirely coincidental that I became less interested in proceedings after the film's lead character went -- as a result of being wounded in the line of duty -- from being a stalwart detective sergeant to an alcoholic security guard? Put another way: perhaps director Ding sought to emphasize the changes to the film's chief character by changing the level of energy in the work as a whole as well as his disposition.

If this is the case, then this move was a bad one to my mind.  In addition, I found it strange -- and unhelpful as far as character and plot credibility went -- for Liao Fan's ex-cop character to romantically pursue Gwei Lun Mei's character, seeing as that she first became known to him as the widow of the man whose body parts turned up in various coal factories, even if it were primarily an investigative strategy on his part.

Much more effective was the stunning scene in which the sharp blade of an ice skating boot is used to swiftly wound and then kill an armed man.  If only there had been more violent acts carried out in the film -- because their impressive execution definitely were the highlights of this offering whose helmer, alas, generally tended to steer it in the direction of art house drama rather than crime genre work.

My rating for this film: 6.0

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Midnight After (film review)

Director Fruit Chan (far left) and The Midnight After 
cast members Wong You Nam, Tsui Tin Yau and Sam Lee

The Midnight After (Hong Kong, 2014)
- From the Opening Films programme
- Fruit Chan, director
- Starring Wong You Nam, Janice Man, Tsui Tin Yau, Simon Yam, Kara Hui Ying Hung, Lam Suet, Lee Sheung Ching, Jan Curious, Sam Lee, etc.

Back in 1997, director Fruit Chan burst into prominence with his budget masterpiece Made in Hong Kong.  Over the next few years, he delivered a number of interesting films filled with socio-political commentary, including The Longest Summer (1998), Little Cheung (2000), Durian Durian (2000) and  Hollywood Hong Kong (2001), which I eagerly devoured.  

But since 2002, he's only made two really good movies to my mind: imaginative horror pic Dumplings... Three Extremes (2004), a film so good that its producers realized that what was originally part of a short film anthology was worth turning into a feature length work; and another horror short, this one part of last year's Tales from the Dark: 1.

Seeing that it also came to the Hong Kong International Film Festival in the wake of having received mixed reviews at Berlin (where it had its world premiere), expectations weren't as high as with Aberdeen for the HKIFF's second official opening film.  In addition, although it has a larger cast than the Pang Ho-cheung film, The Midnight After just doesn't boast as much as star power.  

But although it definitely is the more uneven and also arguably lesser film, this horror-drama that's adapted from an internet novel by a writer known as Pizza actually has more memorable visuals by far and one incredible music sequence that damn near propelled me out of my seat!

Imagine Hong Kong without people and other vehicles besides a red minibus plying the Mongkok to Tai Po route late one night.  Difficult to do, right -- and surely even more difficult to render onto film?  And yet, somehow, Fruit Chan and co managed to produce images of precisely that in this movie about 17 people (16 mini bus passengers and its driver) who, as their vehicle is going through the Lion Rock Tunnel, go from a Hong Kong full of people to one where streets, buildings and pretty much the world at large appear devoid of other humans (and, come to think of it, animals and insects too).

As for the music sequence: strange but true -- The Midnight After is the third film I've seen in less than six months to make prominent use of David Bowie's Space Oddity. And while I thought that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty had made great use of Bowie's 1969 song and that the song worked well Bernardo Bertolucci's Me and You (made in 2012 but released earlier this year in Hong Kong), the imaginatively staged scene in this Hong Kong movie that has Jan Curious belting out this number is damn near show-stopping and the absolute highlight of the film.

If only The Midnight After could sustain that level of quality throughout.  As it stands though, the film is intriguing and immensely watchable for the first two thirds but then seems to turn into meandering wreck as it goes into the final straight.  Particularly frustrating is that many questions remain unanswered, loose ends are not tied up and it just generally feels like the film is going nowhere... until you hear talk that there's going to be a sequel, not least since the film only brings viewers to around midway into Pizza's Lost on a Minibus from Mongkok to Tai Po.

From what I've gathered, no definite plans exist as yet for a sequel -- with the film's producers wanting to wait and see how The Midnight After does at the box office before committing to a follow up movie.  For me though, this doesn't make sense -- for if I look upon that this film as part 1, then its ending doesn't seem senseless and I'd consider the film as a whole to have been pretty good but if I'm supposed to treat the film as is as complete, then its last half an hour or so comes across as stupid and damns the work as a whole.  

So, really, this film should either have been planned from the outset as the first part of two part cinematic work or not have been made at all.  Put another way: the insertion of a "To be continued" line at the end of the film and the removal of its final sequence would improve my experience of viewing this film enormously, so much so that I'd have come away really impressed and very much looking forward to checking out Part 2 of the story.

My rating for this film: 8 if it's got a follow-up, 6 if not - averaging out to a 7

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bird and Trees (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

How I wish that I had my present camera (with its 30X zoom) when I toured the Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve early last year!  If I had, there would have been far more close-up shots among the bird photos I took while there!!  

This being said, I'm glad that I managed to spot as many avian creatures while there with my naked eye and take as many bird photographs (with my old -- and actually pretty trusty for 5 years -- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ2) on my visit.  (On the other hand, I rue my not having been quick enough to get a shot of the mongoose that I also spotted at Mai Po!)  And, indeed, I did end up taking so many photos that afternoon that it was quite difficult to decide which to (not) use for this week's entry for Sandi's Photo Hunt.

In the end, I opted for a photo featuring a cute bird on a wire, another of birds in flight (with the top part of a solitary tree also being in the picture), and a photo with lots of trees -- thus fulfilling the requirements of Gattina's chosen Photo Hunt theme for this week.-- atop which can be seen lots of birds.

To confirm that those specks are indeed birds (rather than, say, leaves), check out the enlarged version of the photo by clicking on it.  Another way to tell that those are indeed birds is by noting how many of the trees' branches and trunks are colored the bird excrement that stuck and accumulated on them over the time that those migratory creatures decided to make their area of Mai Po their home for the winter! ;D

Friday, March 28, 2014

Aberdeen outside the HKIFF, and In the Heat of the Sun at the fest (film reviews)

Aberdeen director Pang Ho-cheung and stars Miriam Yeung,
Gigi Leung and Louis Koo at the Hong Kong International Film 
Festival's opening press conference last month

In the Heat of the Sun helmer -- and superstar actor --
Jiang Wen (left) made a surprise appearance at the
film's screening at the Hong Kong International Film Festival

It's only Friday afternoon but I've already viewed five films this week!  For many film fans, this is par for the course when something like the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) is on.  But as it so happens, I've thus far only attended two official 2014 HKIFF screenings!  Still, since two of the other three films I've viewed this week are part of the programme of Hong Kong's largest cultural -- not just film -- event, I'm going to include them in my HKIFF coverage which begins with this entry...

Aberdeen (Hong Kong, 2014)
- From the Opening Films program
- Pang Ho Cheung, director
- Starring Louis Koo, Gigi Leung, Miriam Yeung, Eric Tsang, Lee Man Kwai, Ng Man Tat, Carrie Ng

One of two opening films at this year's HKIFF, Pang Ho Cheung's Aberdeen also looks to have been the most highly anticipated of the fest's offerings -- what with the online tickets for its one HKIFF screening having sold out in 8 minutes despite the screening venue being the cavernous over 1,000 seater Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre!  

Having been unsuccessful in getting one of those tickets myself, I was pretty ecstatic  to get access to the private screening at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre that was scheduled to begin one and a quarter hours before the film officially had its world premiere over on the other side of Victoria Harbour. And even after the screening was delayed by around 45 minutes due to our having to wait for the director and certain of the cast members to appear and briefly comment on the movie, I still approached Pang's 13th directorial effort in a positive -- though admittedly less hyped up -- frame of mind.

An ensemble piece with three-dimensional characters, Aberdeen has as intriguing mix of industry veterans, contemporary stars and one child actress making her film debut in its cast. Ng Man Tat plays the family patriarch -- a fisherman turned Taoist priest, and widower whose companion of choice these days is a nightclub hostess (Carrie Ng) who is less sleazy or glamorous than warmly maternal. 

Son Tao (Louis Koo) is a cram-school tutor with a model-actress wife named Ceci (Gigi Leung) and a cute -- but definitely not pretty -- young daughter they affectionately call Piggy (Lee Man Kwai). Tao's elder sister, Ching (Miriam Yeung), is a guide at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence over in Shau Kei Wan and the wife of radiologist (Eric Tsang) who is having an affair with a nurse colleague (the un-retired Dada Chen), yet comes across as still caring for his wife.
Best known as a maker of comedies (including his first -- and, to my mind -- still best film You Shoot, I Shoot, and the infamous Vulgaria), Pang generates a few laughs in his latest work but there's no mistaking that he's primarily aimed for drama and depth with this multi-stranded story of a multi-generational family who have their roots in the part of Hong Kong that share its English name with a Scottish city. Considerably more low-key than the vast majority of director's previous works, the film's mantra of "inhale... hold your breath... exhale" initially comes across as a joke but turns out to encapsulate a philosophical outlook. 

If truth be told, the film's message of the past having an effect on one's present and future is not exactly new.  But it says quite a bit that it's come from a director who's long been seen both as an enfant terrible and one of those who is contemporary Hong Kong cinema's most influential voices.  Also notable is how this Hong Kong production looks inward (as well as to the past) rather than to, say, the Mainland in terms of fingering problems that beset individuals but also ways for prevailing and remaining hopeful for a better tomorrow.

My rating for this film: 8.0 (up from my initial 7.5 after some thought!)

In the Heat of the Sun (Mainland China, 1994)
- Part of the Jiang Wen: Directing History program
- Jiang Wen, director
- Starring Xia Yu, Ning Jing, Tao Hong

The directorial debut of the amazing Jiang Wen (whose Devils on the Doorstep I viewed at a past HKIFF) is officially a Mainland China-Hong Kong co-production but with a story that's predominantly set in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution, it comes across as a distinctly Mainland Chinese effort.  The winner of a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for its then 16-year-old lead (Xia Yu holds the record for being the youngest ever Best Actor winner at Venice), In the Heat of the Sun also was the first Mainland film to triumph at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards.     

Before the screening began, the director-actor-writer (who served as the story's narrator as well as helmed and scripted the work) appeared on stage to talk a bit about the film.  Joking at the thundering applause he received, Jiang said he hoped that people would still want to applaud him after they had seen his 1994 work.  At the same time, it was obvious that he also knows how popular this movie is -- seeing as he also joked that those who would be seeing the now 20-year-old film for the first time ever that evening probably were under 19 years of age!

Partially based on a novel by writer-director-actor Wang Shuo entitled Wild Beast and on Jiang's own memories of that time in history, In the Heat of the Sun is a coming-of-age tale that's told from the perspective of a teenaged boy known as Monkey (Xia Yu, selected for the role in part because he bears a physical resemblance to Jiang!).  The son of a soldier who's frequently away, he spends a sweltering summer running almost wild in a Beijing with lots of deserted streets, breaking into residences at will (with a skeleton key he fashioned) but never taking anything.

High spirited and often mischievous, Monkey can seem like a modern version of Sun Wukong. Ditto re his liking to spend time in the company of kindred-spirited friends -- one of whom, Yu Bei-pei (Tao Hong), is, surprisingly, a pretty female who's generally treated as a platonic buddy by the boys -- as well as exploring out on his own.    

But after he first comes across a photograph of Mi Lan (Ning Jing) in an apartment he's broken into, then makes her acquaintance, Monkey's world and world view would never be the same again.  Such is the impact of a first love that it affects his life more than any actual Cultural Revolution event or even the suicide of his "class enemy" maternal grandfather.

Almost needless to say, In the Heat of the Sun is unlike any other Cultural Revolution-era film I've seen in terms of its treatment of that event but, also, its mood.  Care-free and dream-like in parts, it most certainly is an overly-romanticized view of a period in China's history that was turbulent and nightmarish for many despite not being without some bittersweet notes.

It's worth bearing in mind though that the film's makers make clear at various points in the work that its story is being told from the viewpoint of a teenager whose worldview doesn't encompass much beyond one's friendship and family circle -- and one whose memory is shown to be fallible at that.  So rather than read too much into In the Heat of the Sun politically, perhaps it's best to see it more as giving proof to the idea that life really can go on -- and that people can fall in (and out of) love -- even during times that history remembers more for the deaths that took place then, rather than the growing up and romances that also did.

My rating for the film: 8.0

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blue skies over Tung Lung Chau (Photo-essay)

The 38th Hong Kong International Film Festival has begun -- and I did view a film tonight.  But I need sometime to mull over my thoughts before posting on the world premiering Aberdeen. So, instead, here's looking back to my second visit to Tung Lung Chau (with photo-essays of the first being viewable here and here).

On my first visit (undertaken with Roz's hiking group), it had drizzled on the kaido trip from Sai Wan Ho to Tung Lung Chau.  This second time around, we had much clearer and brighter skies -- and temperatures that were much higher than one'd expect to have on a September day.  Visually, the results were often quite stunning -- and especially earlier in the day, I definitely did get better photos on this trip than the previous one...

On one of the few kilometers of paved trail that exists 
on the island off the tip of the Clear Water Bay Peninsula

Looking westwards to the far away and far more 
built-up areas of Hong Kong
 Let the record show that the previous photo was taken 
from the top of the hill in this photo ;b
 A view of the interior of what remains of the Kangxi era 
Tung Lung Fort on the northeastern tip of the island

Many of the stones of the fort's impressively 
thick walls are now coated with moss

Even this formerly aspiring archaeologist reckons that 
Tung Lung Chau's natural attributes are quite a bit 
more impressive than its man-made structures!

Rather than see the trees as ruining the view, I take 
the perspective that they help make for a pretty picture :)
While the warning at the top is good to have, 
the one at the bottom seems like it should unnecessary
To be continued...!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Photographs for a wedding

A couple pose for wedding pics in the High Island section
 Another couple in the midst of being captured by a 
photographer's camera -- this time at Nam Sang Wai
Instead of going hiking earlier today like I usually do on Sundays, I went to a friend's wedding this afternoon.  Considering my shutterbug propensities, it may surprise some people to find out that I actually didn't bring my camera with me to the event -- not least because it would be against my general blog policy to put up pics of a private event involving friends or family.
At the same time though, while I definitely would not think to gatecrash strangers' weddings to take photos, it's also true enough that I reckon that couples posing for wedding photos in public spaces -- including Hong Kong's geoparks and country parks! --  are fair photographic game.  All in all, I must admit to being fascinated as well as amused as to where people will go -- and what some of them will do -- to get interesting wedding photos.
Put another way: I no longer am all that surprised any more to come across a couple in formal wedding garb posing for pictures in out of the way parts of Hong Kong.  And I now realize that some couples are willing to do things like lie down on the water's edge at a beach in order to have some unusual photos to celebrate their impending marriage! ;b

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Focus and Technical (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

When many people think of museums, they tend to think of those with an artistic or social historical focus.  But museological institutions actually cover a range of subject matter, including those which fall into the technical and scientific realm.

As a kid, my favorite museum in the whole wide world was the Science Museum in London  -- not least because it had an interactive gallery that looked to have been designed for children to find out that science can be fun!  And while the Natural History Museum located nearby became another favorite a few more years into my youth, I'd have to honestly say that I wasn't able to appreciate the Victoria and Albert Museum -- that's also located in that museum corner of South Kensington -- until I reached my late teens.

Seeing how I was one of those children who actually asked to be taken to museums, it stands to reason that I'd grow up wanting to work in them.  Although curating is not my primary career these days, I'm happy to have been able to be involved with a number of museums and related establishments in various parts of the world over the years (including, most recently, a social history gallery at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang (go to page 36-37 of this linked publication).   

While the museological establishments I've worked in have tended to be cultural in nature, I enjoy visiting museums with pretty much any focus.  And after a morning spent being taken by my German friend to a number of religious institutions in Speyer during my 2010 Germany trip, I took her in turn to a really fun museum that she hitherto had not realized existed in that German town!

The Teknik Museum Speyer (which I reckon can be translated into English as the Technical Museum of Speyer) is home to a whole range of interesting machinery displayed in outdoor as well as indoor settings.  Like Britain's Science Museum, there are a number of exhibits that are designed to be interactive or, at the very least, will respond to pushes of a button (or, in the case of the Speyer museum, the insertion of appropriate coinage into slots!).  And in the case of the larger items on exhibit (including a German U-boat submarine and several military along with civilian planes), visitors are allowed to go inside and check out their interiors.

Suffice to say that I enjoyed the hours I spent at this technical museum -- and to her surprise, so too did my German friend.  Unlike my less snap happy friend though, I also took lots of photos of various exhibits at the museum.  As it turned out, I didn't put up that many of them to document my visit to Speyer (though I did put up a couple in a general blog entry on museums I visited on my German trip), so I'm glad that Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts has given an additional opportunity to do this week! :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An at times super misty Victoria Peak and High West area hike (Photo-essay)

And now for this week's bonus photo-essay besides the one on Beertopia 2014 that I put up on Tuesday: that's right, I can't resist throwing in another hiking photo-essay into the equation after all!  This time around, it's a chronicle of a summer hike around the Victoria Peak area that included yet another trek up (and then down) High West -- from where great views usually are to be had -- whose high points consisted of a spate of caterpillar spottings!

Although summer hikes usually yield up great views, this was one of those August days where it turned up to be pretty misty up in the higher reaches of Hong Kong's 31st and 53rd highest peaks.  And yes, although many people mistakenly think otherwise, 552 meter high Victoria Peak "only" is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island rather than the entire territory of Hong Kong (that includes the New Territories and Kowloon as well as Hong Kong Island).  Not only that but the point which many visitors think is Victoria Peak is really only Victoria Gap -- the area and mountain pass located some 150 meters below Victoria Peak's actual peak! :O

The view from Lugard Road just a few meters away
from Victoria Gap was fairly clear that day

But in part because those scenic views have become fairly familiar 
to me, I was able to not fixate on them and so also managed 
to spot other interesting sights along the way like this crested bird :)

Shortly after my hiking buddy and I got to the top
of High West, the mist came swirling around us -- and 
I have to admit that I found the experience was rather scary :S

It also was pretty misty high up in the area of Victoria Peak 
where the Governor's Mountain Lodge used to be, 
and where Victoria Peak Garden is currently located

 It took a while to get back down to below mist and cloud level 
since we had to go slow along the slippery paths,
but it was quite the relief upon finally doing so!

Another of this hikes unusual sights involved seeing
waterfalls where often there were just dry rocks

In drier times, I could see some foolhardy souls wanting
to clamber up that steep cliff but surely no one would 
want to do so when it was as wet as it was that afternoon?!

The Pok Fu Lam Reservoir also seemed much fuller
than I've seen it in the past -- but what struck me even more
is how beautiful the day looked towards the end of our hike! ;D

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My inner beer geek unleashed at Beertopia 2014! (Photo-essay)

Early in the week is when I usually put up hiking photo-essays (like this one) but for the second week running, I'm opting for something different. Last week, it was an excursion to Yim Tin Tsai.  Today, I'm going to share some photos from the time I spent at Beertopia this past Saturday!

Hong Kong's largest international craft beer festival was started back in 2012. The first two years, I was afraid of going because I had this vision of it being overly packed with the kind of people I sometimes see on the puke- and broken glass-ridden streets of Lan Kwai Fong on a Friday or Saturday night -- or worse, full of sleazy folks looking to hook up with others for an easy drunken lay (like the bar quarter of Wan Chai at its worst).

But after scanning the list of of over 400 craft beers that would be on offer at Beertopia this year and seeing some old Philadelphia area favorites that I've yet to encounter here in Hong Kong, I decided to give it a go.  Having gone for an early bird Saturday afternoon pass, I headed over to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade that was the venue for this year's three day fest at around 12.30pm.  

Although I was supposed to only stay until 5pm, I ended up only leaving at 9.30pm -- having had a grand old beer geek of a time sampling various beers, chatting to brewers, walking around, hanging out with some friends I discovered had separately decided to check out the fest... and scoring a vendor's pass at some point that allowed me to stay on late into the evening! ;b
I think the dragon would be a more suitable mascot 
than a panda for a Hong Kong event -- but will give that 
there were plenty of amusing signs about for Beertopia

 The Kagua beers -- in particular, the blanc -- of Nippon Craft Beer
were the revelations of the day for me, and I loved that I got to talk 
to company CEO Shiro Yamada (on the left of the pic) at Beertopia :)

Japanese microbrews were well represented at Beertopia, with 
Hitachino Nest beers being among those with a dedicated stall

The Hong Kong Beer Company stall featured new beers
brewed by new brewmaster Simon Pesch (facing the camera),
including freshly brewed batches of the Big Wave Bay IPA he says 
is his personal favorite of all the company's all-year-round offerings

The beer geek in me got all excited when I saw 
actually available on draft at Beertopia!!! :b

I spent quite a bit of time hanging about at the Boxing Cat Brewery 
stall sampling its beers, chatting to brewmaster Michael Jordan 
(yes, really!) and other team members -- but forgot to take
a photo of it until the night had fallen! :O

 The first (and final, on the way out) stall at Beertopia that I visited 
was Artisan Beer Imports', whose managing director Keita Oka 
and I talked beer, in particular those from the Philadelphia area such as my old 
favorite Flying Fish XPA (which I had for the first time in over 10 years there)! :)

All too soon, it was time to call it a night -- and here's 
offering up proof in the form of my final snap of the evening
that I wasn't so soused that I could no longer take clear shots
(despite my having sampled some 12 different beers that day)! ;b

Sunday, March 16, 2014

South Lantau hike excursion

When looking out at a distance, today's sights
were on the gray side

 Closer to the path I was on and the ground though,
some patches of color could be seen

In another sign that spring has arrived, several critters
were spotted along today's Lantau Island hike

Shortly after a friend and I began hiking along the eastern section of the South Lantau Country Trail that ranks among my favorite Hong Kong hike routes earlier today, we caught sight of a small insect scurrying about on the ground.  For me, its appearance -- along with those of a number of other critters, including different species of fluttery butterflies -- signaled that spring has arrived, as surely as today's temperatures reaching above 20 degrees Celsius at times.

Other sure signs of spring were the wild flowers that have bloomed, and add such nice color to the overall landscape.  On today's hike, I spotted clumps of pretty purple, blue, yellow and white colored flowers.  There have been occasions when I've not dared to look closely at certain flowers because there were too many bees sniffing around them but today, the bees weren't out in force at all. 

Because of another friend's wedding and the Hong Kong International Film Festival coming up soon, today's hike will be the last hike I will have gone on for close to a month.  So I really wanted to make sure I'd go on a good one -- and even with the day being on the gray side, I think I did, especially since my friend and I didn't end our hike in Nam Shan but, instead, continued trekking past there and down to Mui Wo along an old village path.

Although the South Lantau Country Trail is fairly level for the most part, it makes for a good workout because of its unpaved nature and length.  Having burnt a good amount of energy and built up quite the appetite on the hike, my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a slap up meal at the China Beach Club that I've read about but only went to for the first time today. 

Suffice to say that the food there was satisfying enough that it looks like we've got another post-Mui Wo hike dining spot besides Wah Kee (one of my favorite seaside restaurants in Hong Kong) and Bahce (which is my favorite Turkish restaurant in the Big Lychee)!  And while I didn't do so this time, next time I definitely intend to leave room for dessert -- in particular the restaurant's signature apple crumble! ;b