Monday, October 31, 2016

Getting into the spirit of things on Halloween!

Some people really get into the spirit of things come Halloween!

Then there are those who don't need a festive excuse 
to indulge in tricks (and jokes)... ;b 

This evening and also last Saturday night, I saw people out on the streets and in the MTR dressed up as ghosts, ghouls, zombies and -- more cutesily -- as pumpkins; something I've come to increasingly expect when Halloween comes along (and also the closest Saturday night before it).  But while I've been occasionally amused by those parading about in costume during this time of the year -- including, most memorably, a woman dressed up as a Na'vi from Avatar who was in the same MTR carriage as me one evening a few years back -- I've not felt much of an inclination to join in the dressing up.

And for the record: I definitely have not been inclined to do up my abode in ways that get one realizing that some people really get into the spirit of Halloween when this American festival whose popularity has spread around the world, including to Hong Kong, comes along.  However, upon coming across a patch of road that had streaks of red candle wax on it while out hiking with two friends one afternoon, something mischievous took hold of me.  More specifically, I saw the possibility of a good horror image coming out of my going and lying on it!

Interestingly, although the friends I was with and I all had an enjoyable giggle while I lay down on the fortunately very quiet, deserted road and made like Death had taken me into its embrace, one of them later had cold feet about my posting the picture on this blog.  At the very least, he suggested, wait until Halloween to share the photo.  Then people will be more likely to be amused rather than shocked, or even horrified -- and, I suppose, view the image as a comic treat rather than bad taste joke/trick! ;b

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Large tree-climbing praying mantis spottings on the Chi Ma Wan peninsula! :)

A praying mantis making its way up a tree
Different occasion, different tree -- but same mantis?

If memory serves me right, I never saw a praying mantis in the wild until I began hiking in Hong Kong.  Given the number of mantis spottings I've made in recent years, this can seem improbable.  And yet, I believe this to be true since I vividly remember my first ever spotting of these fascinating looking insects -- despite that event taking place close to seven years ago now!
While on a beach in Cheung Chau waiting for a few laggards, a fellow member of the hiking group I was with saw a praying mantis and managed to get it to hang out for a bit on his hand.  I remember being amazed by how tiny the creature was as well as struck by how alien looking it looked.  And I also marvelled at the man's having spotted the mantis; what with my critter spotting abilities having not been as good then as it has become, thanks to my getting loads of practice over the years.
I also have distinct memories of the first time I came across a praying mantis so large that it made me gasp: while at Kyoto's Fushimi Inari shrine, whose major claim to fame is its hundreds, if not thousands, of torii.  And it wasn't until last month, on the hike to Pui O post Chi Ma Wan beach clean-up, that I came across a mantis that big, if not bigger, in Hong Kong!
In addition to its size, this particular creature also astonished because it was the first time I had seen a praying mantis climbing a tree -- rather than, say, perched on a railing (and thus easy to spot) or some leaves (which allowed it to be better camouflaged).  And after all these years of never having ever spotted a mantis in the wild, never mind in tree-climbing action, imagine how mind-blowing it'd be if I were to spot the same mantis doing the same thing again one month later?
Granted that I can't say with certainty that this was the case.  Still, it seems super coincidental at the very least that while walking to Pui O post Chi Ma Wan beach-clean up yesterday, I'd once again set eyes on a(nother) large praying mantis climbing up a tree -- though admittedly a different one located several meters further along the road from that which was being scaled by the praying mantis I spotted last month!  And since these critters have a life span of 6 months up to a year, I'm not going to rule out the possibility that I've seen the same praying mantis in that particular part of Lantau... ;b 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Beach clean-up report and musings

There are parts of the beach near Chi Ma Wan ferry pier
which look to have more plastic pellets than sand :(
Made and used in Mainland China,
but washed ashore on a Hong Kong beach
It's the last Saturday of the month -- which means that it's beach clean-up time once more for the group whose leader has taken to calling us "Sustainability Heroes".  This time around, the portends were good from the start; what with our participant numbers being in the double digits, five of us being "returnees" (rather than people who turn up once but than never are seen again -- because the terrible state of the beach horrifies them and makes them want to give up, as opposed to galvanize them into further action!), and our also having the lowest number of "no shows" ever (at just one) for a Green Sustainable Living Hong Kong meetup event!

Adding to the agreeable mood was that the raindrops that fell as we got off the ferry from Mui Wo at Chi Ma Wan soon dried up, replaced by a largely sunny sky, cooling breezes and noticeably lower humidity than we've felt in ages!  Indeed, so fine were today's physical conditions that I felt okay with just having two water breaks rather than the at least twice more than I've felt a need to take on considerably hotter and more humid days.
All things considered, it's a good thing that our party was in an upbeat mood as we went about our task today as there was plenty of trash for us to pick up on the beach.  As we've come to expect, the vast majority of litter that we found was made of plastic.  Strangely enough though, there were a disproportionately high amount of plastic bottle caps to plastic bottles; something like 50 bottle caps to every one bottle!  Also unexpected was the significant number of plastic toys (among them, Lego blocks and also a mini Pikachu) along with shoes and amount of medical items (including inhalers as well as pill containers and such) that had collected in one particularly trash-filled corner of the beach.    
Worst of all was what appeared to be millions of plastic pellets so plentiful as well as small that they could easily be mistaken for large grains of sand if you didn't bend down and really look closely at them.  They're the kind of plastic that one can easily imagine fish, other aquatic animals and birds swallowing in large quantities and dying as a result.  So it's actually surprising that, in contrast to on the occasion of some other beach clean-ups, I didn't see any dead fish strewn on the beach or floating in the nearby water this time around!    
When talking to people about the trash that one finds on Hong Kong beaches, I've found that many of them mistakenly assume that it comes from folks littering at and on the beaches.  While I'm sure that this does sometimes happen, my beach clean-up experiences have made me utterly convinced that the bulk of the trash found on Hong Kong's beaches have washed ashore from the water and that a good deal of it comes from errant companies and corporations rather than individuals.  
Also, as we once again saw today, quite a bit of this trash that pollutes Hong Kong beaches comes from across the Hong Kong-Mainland Chinese border.  So even while individuals -- and here I think it's worth noting that today's beach cleanup crew consisted of members who're originally from France, the USA, Malaysia and Mainland China as well as Hong Kong-born folks -- can and do make an effort to clean the beaches, governments really need to be working on this decreasing this pollution internationally as well as locally -- and acknowledging that it's not enough to make sure there's less trash within its own borders, sometimes by way of allowing it to go across those borders!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Home in Hong Kong

I lived in one of the tong lau in the above picture
for more than eight years... ;S

Earlier today, I moved from the place I called home for some eight years to an apartment not too far away.  And lest there be any doubt: yes, I'm still in Hong Kong -- and plan to be so for the foreseeable future!  

Having decided to hire movers for the first time ever in my life, I also decided to pay extra for them to pack my things.  Scheduled to arrive at 9:30 this morning, they arrived at my doorstep 45 minutes earlier than expected; and even more amazingly proceeded to pack all my things and transport them to my new place by 10am!   

Despite having spent much of the rest of the day unpacking with the help of good friend, I'm still not yet fully unpacked.  Something I really get to noticing whenever I move is how much stuff I feel like I own (even while my friend assured me that I don't seem to have as much stuff as many other people she knows).  And it's one reason why I dislike moving; even while it's true enough that I've probably moved around quite a bit more to date than many other folks.

For the record: I'm now in my fourth flat since moving to Hong Kong in May 2007.  And Hong Kong is the ninth different part of the world that I've lived in.  And yes, for all its political ills and such, I actually still do like the Big Lychee best of all the places I've spent a significant amount of time in thus far in my life.  Perhaps not coincidentally, as I've told more than one person over the years: I've gone and lived in other places in the world because of school or work; but Hong Kong is the only place that I decided I wanted to make a home in -- and then went about finding ways to earn a living and live here... :)    

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Housing eccentricities and downright madness!

The Yick Fat Building has appeared in many movies but 
it's a real life place rather than a made-for-movies set! :O
Perhaps more amazingly is that there are buildings
similar to it located in the vicinity!
Often times, when I tell people that I spent two years of my life in East Africa, they have visions of me living in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere and are kind of disappointed when I tell them that, actually, I lived in homes located in an urban space.  At the same time though, I consider some of them to be among the most "exotic" in which I have spent time in.  
We're talking, after all, of such as a place in Zanzibar Stone Town whose directions for visitors to find it ran along the lines of "Go to the Anglican Cathedral and stand near the baobab tree nearby.  Look for the bicycle mechanic shop.  The house I'm living in is located behind it!".  Oh, and there was the fact that another of my Zanzibar Stone Town residences was located in the grounds of a graveyard and had bush babies living on the roof!
In addition, as far as physical amenities were concerned, all of the places where I lived in Zanzibar (I bounced around for a bit there and stayed in four different places over the course of nine months or so) didn't have hot water to bathe with, and three of them weren't equipped with fridges (which necessitated my having to go to the market pretty much daily, like most Zanzibaris!).  Still, living conditions weren't half as spartan as when I attended archaeological field school in the Four Corners region of the US my sophomore summer and spent the bulk of my nights sleeping in a tent!

Such experiences along with that of having been a graduate student, I reckon, have made me more able to tolerate poor housing conditions than many other folks.  Yet it also is the case that there are tons of places here in Hong Kong that I simply would never ever want to have to call home.  And I'm not just talking here about the cage homes and tiny subdivided flats that I consider myself immensely fortunate to only have been in courtesy of the Society for Community Organization (SOCO)'s Life in West Kowloon exhibition in a Sham Shui Po tong lau but also the actually pretty high priced microflats that Hong Kong developers seem more and more intent on building.
A few years back, Queen's Cube was criticized for having flats with listed gross floor space of 400 square feet that actually had only 275 square feet of "saleable" (or "usable") space -- and went on to inspire the production of a clever "King's Cube" parody video.  But its flats seem palatial now in comparison to those in Henderson Land's One Prestige (the smallest of which are just 163 square feet).  And the madness has continued with an announcement today that Swire -- which is widely considered to be the best housing developer in Hong Kong -- will be making available studio apartments that are just 142 square feet in size later this year!
Again, bear in mind that I am someone who has lived in housing that a fair few people would not feel comfortable in.  (In addition to the Zanzibari and Four Corners examples, I've also done such as lived in a group house with four other people in Philadelphia, and attended boarding school in England back in the days where the bulk of the money went to education rather than accomodation!)  And yet, I think that 163 and 142 square feet flats are a bridge too far; especially at their price -- which in the case of One Prestige was close to HK$4 million (~US$515,670) to purchase and in the case of Swire's Star Studios, is looking to cost HK$12,780 (~US$1,648) a month to rent! :O

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Hong Kong Island hike with plenty of critter spottings, including those of the camouflaged variety (Photo-essay)

The first couple of years that I went hiking here in Hong Kong, I tried very hard to avoid going on trails more than once.  After all, one of my reasons for venturing into the Hong Kong countryside was to explore the territory -- and I know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of trails here to go on.

But the more I've hiked in the Big Lychee, the more I've come to have favorite trails that I am happy to do repeat runs on.  One reason is that I've come to discover that the same section of land can look so very different at different times of the year.  Another is that these days, there are such as critter spottings to look forward to rather than solely scenic vistas on a trek.  

In addition, there are certain trails that I like so much that I want to take other people along; with one of them being the agreeably walkable section of the Hong Kong Trail that takes hikers from Wan Chai Gap over to Wong Nai Chung Gap that I've been on more than five times, and with at least five different friends now!  And of course it helps that it almost always yields interesting sights, including of the kind of camouflaged creatures that I'd have been hard pushed to spot when I first began hiking regularly here more than eight years ago now! ;b

A tame looking hill stream that I now know is capable

A mystery bug whose legs look disproportionately longer 
than one might expect, given the size of the rest of it!

A butterfly that could easily be mistaken for a leaf
if one were to walk quickly by it ;b

Shiny fluffy material that got me 
thinking it came from fairyland! :)

 But, of course, the reality's more mundane... ;)

Doesn't this brown grasshopper look like 
it was fashioned out of wood? :O

 I love spotting stick insects because it feels like
such an achievement when I'm able to do so ;b

Your eyes are not deceiving you: that Golden Orb Weaver's 
prey includes a pretty large butterfly!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Up hill and down dale in urban Hong Kong

Some streets in Hong Kong are only accessible on foot

Not a car in sight despite this photo having been 
taken in the heart of the city! ;b

Considering that two typhoons passed close enough to Hong Kong this week that typhoon signals were raised on a number of days, I'm actually pretty amazed that I managed to spend as much time outdoors as I did.  And while I haven't gone hiking in the Hong Kong countryside in more than a week, I still reckon that I've actually gotten in quite a bit of a workout by way of having done quite a bit of urban walking over the few days; this particularly so since one frequently finds oneself going up and down slopes -- rather than just moving about on flat land -- in these parts.

On more than one occasion, I've had a friend jokingly complain to me when I've suggested that we have a meal and/or drinks in Central or the section of Sheung Wan adjacent to it about this meaning that we have to get in a bit of hiking before and after meeting up; and this particularly when the designated restaurant or bar is located in Soho or nearby "PoHo".  But I figure that places like Little Bao and Yardbird -- not to mention For Kee and Sing Heung Yuen -- are worth the climb (along with the wait that's often required in order to snag a seat at these dining establishments)!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before on this blog but the first place I actually ever stayed in after moving to Hong Kong back in May 2007 was located in Soho.  And should anyone wonder: yes, I did think that it was pretty cool to be living in the same part of Hong Kong that Tony Leung Chiu Wai's Chungking Express character was shown doing -- and the film's cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, did in real life! -- and to head to work and back home daily along the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator/Travelator which I will forever associate with that 1994 Wong Kar Wai movie.  Also, even with what can seem like over-gentrification in the area, it's true enough that this part of Hong Kong still does have a particular visual charm.

Nevertheless, I have to admit to not wanting to live in this elevated section of the Big Lychee these days.  Instead, my residential preferences involve prioritizing being closer to an MTR station and this generally means that one will be on level ground closer to sea level.  And even though it's true enough that the particular area of Hong Kong which I've chosen to make my home for some nine years now -- and counting! -- is not as picturesque as these other parts of the territory, it's got enough (local) color and attractions as far as I'm concerned! ;b 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

75 Days: Life, Liberty and Happiness is disturbingly overly dramatic in its portrayal of the Umbrella Movement (film review)

The peaceful norm in "Occupied" sections of Hong Kong 
during the Umbrella Movement

75 Days: Life, Liberty and Happiness (Extended Edition) (Hong Kong, 2016)
- Film 75, directors, cinematographers and editors

It's taken a while but a spate of documentaries on the Umbrella Movement which took place in the fall of 2014 here in Hong Kong have finally started to see the light of day.  Following such as the appearance of Umbrella Movement/Revolution music videos on Youtube and Umbrella Movement short films (a selection of which were screened at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival last year) have been the likes of Evans Chan's thoughtful Raise the Umbrellas (which screened in "work of progress" form at the Asia Society last December along with his insightful 1992 political drama, To Liv(e)), and a number of entries in this year's recently concluded Chinese Documentary Festival.   
Faced with a wealth of choices, I opted to check out a 130 minute documentary that I was hoping would have the broadest view of things on account of it having been made by a group of filmmakers rather than have just one or two directors as well as possess a less specialist focus -- unlike, say, Tim Cheung King Si's More than Conquerors, which looked at a group of Christians who took part in the Umbrella Movement, or Kanas Liu's 2 Van Drivers, about van drivers who volunteered to distribute and transport donated supplies during the Umbrella Movement, and even acted as first-aiders and drove the injured to hospitals when needed.

Especially in view of another film screened at the festival -- Chan Tze Koon's Yellowing -- having earned a Golden Horse nomination for best documentary and favorable reviews from the likes of David Bordwell, I think I made the wrong choice in going for 75 Days: Life, Liberty and Happiness (Extended Edition).  And in retrospect, I should have considered the possibility of the film containing, if not misrepresentations exactly, then a portrayal that doesn't jibe with many others' perspectives of the events that have radically changed Hong Kong's political landscape since, unlike the normative view of the 2014 Hong Kong protests having lasted 79 days, the documentary's makers appear to consider that it lasted just 75 days. 

On a positive note: I like that 75 Days includes film footage shot during the night as well as day at Occupy Mongkok and Occupy Causeway Bay along with Occupy Admiralty. I also very much appreciate that members of Film 75 were on the ground and recording what was happening pretty much right from the start, and captured such as the protests that took place back on September 28th, 2014 and the disproportionately violent police response to them that culminated in an unprecedented 87 cannisters of tear gas having been fired into the crowd.

All in all, the strong impression I had is that members of Film 75 collectively spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours at the Occupy sites and have a wealth of film footage of what took place, particularly over in Mongkok and Admiralty.  It's just such a pity that, when choosing what to include in 75 Days, they ended up disproportionately featuring dramatic, confrontational moments during the Umbrella Movement; and, in so doing, ended up giving an overly aggressive view of what actually were generally extremely peaceful, non-violent -- and polite and civilized even! -- protests.

During the post-screening discussion of the film, a member of the audience shared his dismay at precisely this and said that he wouldn't want 75 Days to be seen by his friends who hadn't been at the Occupy sites themselves because they may get the wrong idea of the Umbrella Movement upon doing so.  I totally agree with him about this; which is particularly sad in view of my (still) getting the sense that members of Film 75 actually are Umbrella Movement supporters themselves or, at the very least, actually wanted to present a balanced view of what the protests.

Here's the thing: I think the members of Film 75's wish to ensure that their work was interesting and dramatic inadvertently resulted in their favoring those moments they captured when people behaved violently and in other stupid ways that sometimes disturb and other times actually (just) amuse.  And even while a large proportion of the bad behavior shown was committed by individuals against the Umbrella Movement, I actually came away from viewing 75 Days with the fear that this film could easily be made use of by the Umbrella Movement's opponents and detractors.

My rating for this film: 5.5

Friday, October 21, 2016

Typhoon Haima came close enough to Hong Kong to shut down the city for the greater part of today!

Less vehicular traffic than usual in Causeway Bay 
earlier this this evening

Noticeably less foot traffic too at the usually super busy
Over the course of just a few days, Hong Kong has seen warning signals raised for not one but two typhoons passing nearby.  Earlier this week, Typhoon Sarika caused typhoon signal number 3 to be raised -- and also brought about Black Rainstorm-class torrential downpours that caused several sections of the city to dramatically flood.  Still, it didn't cause the Big Lychee to shut down the way that Typhoon Haima did earlier today after it came close enough to Hong Kong to prompt typhoon signal number 8 to be issued at around 6.10am and stay in effect for close to 12 hours.
More than 740 flights scheduled to depart from or arrive at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport were cancelled and 156 trees were felled by the third typhoon to come near Hong Kong this month.  For my part, I got an inkling that Typhoon Haima was a more serious storm than Typhoon Sarika last night when I felt significantly stronger winds than usual blowing and the barometric pressure changed so dramatically that my back started aching and I actually came down with a migraine attack so bad that not only was my head thudding but the very act of sipping water -- to help me swallow some ibuprofen -- caused me to feel nauseous! 
Although I woke up later than usual this morning, the sky was so dark that it looked like I had woken hours earlier than was actually the case.  Even before getting confirmation when I checked the Hong Kong Observatory website, I knew that the Typhoon Signal Number 8 had already been raised due to it being way quieter than usual outside as a result of such as the buses not running and the majority of stores on the road where I live not having opened for the day.
Although it didn't actually rain as hard for much of today as it had done on Wednesday afternoon, I opted against venturing out from my home until Typhoon Signal Number 8 had been downgraded into Typhoon Signal Number 3 and things felt like they had settled down somewhat.  Deciding to reward myself with a sushi dinner in Causeway Bay, I headed over there on a tram which had resumed service -- and found that normally super busy part of Hong Kong to be way less crowded (and consequently more peaceful) than usual.  
While strolling about the area, I discovered that such as the Causeway Bay branches of the Apple Store and Sogo Department Store were closed despite Typhoon Signal Number 8 no longer being in effect.  On the other hand, many restaurants, bars, pharmacies and such had opened for business.  Indeed, I found out just this evening from a restaurant manager that branches of Senryo actually stay open during Typhoon Signal Number 8; what with the management perhaps anticipating that some lovers of sushi really won't let major typhoons get in the way of their craving for this popular Japanese food which definitely has many fans here in Hong Kong! ;b

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meeting with Bodhisattva doesn't get the spirit soaring (film review)

A Bodhisattva on Ngong Ping

Meeting with Bodhisattva (Taiwan, 2016)
- Kuo Shiao Yun, director and co-editor
Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by drums and drummers.  And while early on in my life, I only knew of Western drummers like Ringo Starr and Karen Carpenter, the drummers whose music has really made my heart pound with excitement in recent times have been East Asian percussion ensembles such as Japan's Kodo group of taiko drummers and Taiwan's dramatic U-Theatre.  
In addition to having been privileged to witness live performances by these drum troupes here in Hong Kong, I've also seen U-Theatre prominently feature in a 2007 drama directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Kenneth Bi's The Drummer.  Playing a fictional troupe which nonetheless are closely modelled on their real selves, its members awed me with their zen style of drumming but also the spartan lifestyles and disciplined routines adhered to at their Taiwan mountain base.  
If truth be told, I'd have been satisfied if Kuo Shiao Yun's documentary about this artistic troupe -- which screened at this year's Chinese Documentary Festival -- had pretty much just concentrated on bringing U-Theatre's musical performances to the silver screen.  But Meeting with Bodhisattva -- which takes its title from the troupe's work "inspired by humanistic and Buddhist wisdom on the aspiration of strength and bravery in life" -- actually spends more time on the social work enacted by, and spiritual dimensions of, U-Theatre than the troupe's music-making efforts per se.
In particular, the film looks at U-Theatre's interaction with recently released inmates at Taiwan's Changhua Prison who had participated in its dharma drum training and subsequently were invited to embark on a close to 400 kilometer walk from the southern city of Pingtung to the Taiwanese capital of Taipei along with U-Theatre troupe members and a group of young students from the countryside who also had trained with U-Theatre.  
Early on in Meeting with Bodhisattva, one is given the sense that U-Theatre's founder and artistic director, Liu Ruo Yu, had this idea that walking can get one in a meditative state of mind and help people to focus on following the path towards righteousness.  As we proceed further along into the film, however, not only does this particular viewpoint end up being challenged by such as the errant behaviour of some of the walk participants but the documentary itself seems to lose its way.
By film's end, it feels like the idealists of U-Theatre have been brought down to earth.  And although I don't think this is what the people behind this documentary actually had sought to do, it felt like they effectively revealed the subjects of their film to be less, well, magical and extraordinary than they previously had seemed.  
On one level, there's nothing wrong with that.  But I can't help that Meeting with Bodhisattva consequently ended up disappointing its core audience: those of us who have been thrilled in the past by the music of U-Theatre but also been impressed by -- even if not totally subscribing to -- their philosophical ideals and spiritual beliefs.
My rating for the film: 6.5

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From Siu Sai Wan to Big Wave Bay via Leaping Dragon Walk and associated paths (Photo-essay)

"Here be dragons" is the phrase famously associated with unmapped areas of the world in days of yore, and which does appear in Latin on a 16th century copper globe.  Increasingly though, I think that Hong Kong is the place where dragons are to be found -- or, at least, dragon-themed place names such as Kowloon (taken from the Cantonese kau loong, meaning "nine dragons), the Lung Yeuk Tau ("Mountain of the Leaping Dragon") Heritage Trail, and the Leaping Dragon Walk which I went on one sunny and super high visibility afternoon (very unlike today's, with its torrential "black rain" and all!) not so long ago. 

Leading from Siu Sai Wan up to the northern end of the Pottinger Peak Country Trail, one can cobble together a nice hiking route that covers the entirety of the paved path, part of that country trail and an unnamed trail that leads down to Hong Kong Island's Big Wave Bay.  While in the area, one might be tempted to detour along the approximately half kilometer long Cape Collinson Path to check out the lighthouse over at Cape Collinson.  If you do so though, go more for the sea views and critter spottings (including camera-shy squirrels!) than for the lighthouse itself -- which, disappointingly, one can't get all that close to courtesy of locked gates! ;S

One can easily get tempted to tarry a while at 
Siu Sai Wan's scenic waterfront promenade
 The closest I got to the Cape Collinson lighthouse :(

Maybe I'd have better luck if I went along this roped path
but I wasn't feeling daring enough to do so! ;S

Back on the Leaping Dragon Walk, one eventually gets
sufficient elevation to get impressive views like this :)
Just past the "Do Not Feed Wild Animals" banner is
a shrine where humans can get some tea to drink ;b
But it's the unnamed section of trail leading down to Big Wave Bay 
that offered up the hike's most spectacular views to my mind!
On a high visibility day, one can see Joss House Bay's Tai Miu 
from this eastern Hong Kong Island hiking trail! 
Looking southwards, and much closer to get to,
was Big Wave Bay, where I concluded the hike :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Funassyi infiltrated my dreams, and the Ponyos have multiplied in my reality! ;b

Sleeping Bag Funassyi with three beloved Ponyos 
and one beloved "flying" Hello Kitty

An expanded -- since September 24th -- plushie Ponyo family!

While hiking along the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail a couple of weekends ago, the friend I was with asked me if I had any recurring dreams; whereupon I shared with him my having dreams in which I return to a house I used to live in in Philadelphia -- only in the dream, it's almost always falling apart! -- and also of my returning to the campus of my alma mater in Beloit, Wisconsin, only this time in happier conditions.  Another dream I regularly have -- which I didn't mention over the course of that conversation -- is more surreal and fantastical; seeing that it involves Earth, in particular the part of the world in which I'm residing (in the dream), being subject to an alien invasion! 

As it so happens, I had that dream again last night.  This time though, there was a new twist which involved my being close to home and thus able to feel like I had a bit of time to pack my valuables into my backpack before making my way out of the city -- often, in the dream, by way of walking on the side of some train tracks.  And as unbelievable as it sounds, I actually considered packing two beloved plushies that I own in real life into that backpack -- and, in the end, left my "flying" Hello Kitty plushie on the bed in favor of leaving with Sleeping Bag Funassyi!

In all honesty: I'm not sure how to interpret much of the dream/nightmare.  But what I feel I do know is that there exists in it pretty concrete proof that Funassyi has come to have a deeply embedded place in my heart -- and it's true enough that I really do adore the Pear Fairy from Funabashi that I first became enamored with roughly one year ago this month!

At the same time though, I think I should point out that loving Funassyi doesn't mean that my love for Hello Kitty, Ponyo, etc. has gone away, been destroyed, etc.  In addition, even while it's true enough that my focus in recent months has been on accumulating Funassyi items, the number of Hello Kitty, Ponyo, etc. items that I own have not decreased in number.  Indeed, in the case of the Ponyos, their number has increased: this on account of a friend presenting me with two (more) Ponyo plushies on the eve of my latest birthday -- which turned out to be yet another fun as well as special occasion at Sake Bar Ginn... ;b

Monday, October 17, 2016

Elevated walking city!

 Just a small part of the longest outdoor 

 Just a small segment of the extensive footbridge system
that, on rainy days, one happily realizes has a covered top!

A visitor from the USA and I were talking recently about the 10,000 steps a day that health experts have recommended that we take.  Whereas he reckoned that mark is really difficult to attain when adhering to his regular routine back in America (which includes lots of time spent commuting in a car as well as at a desk at work), he figured that it'd be relatively easy for him to reach in Hong Kong, where he noticed that lots of people can be found walking about pretty much wherever he goes in the city.

No doubt about it: this is very much a walking city.  And even while I didn't have a car when I lived in the US as well as am car-less here in Hong Kong, I can state with certainty that I move around on foot a lot more here in the Big Lychee than I ever did in America.  

This isn't on account of one not using much public transportation; indeed, I also use a lot more -- and more kinds of -- public transportation here in Hong Kong than I did when I lived in the big Eastern seaboard city of Philadelphia (and, for that matter, the small Midwestern town of Beloit).  Rather, I'm just out and about here for more hours of the day -- and, especially, night; due in no small part to pretty much all of urban Hong Kong feeling eminently safe to be in after dark, never mind in bright daylight.

Still, this is not to say that I always enjoy walking in Hong Kong.  Specifically, I dislike walking in streets that are so over-crowded that I feel I lack the space to move about at my preferred pace and with my preferred stride -- though I have to say that I feel this a lot less now that the (Mainland Chinese) visitor numbers to Hong Kong are noticeably below their pre-Umbrella Movement peak.  

A friend who also generally likes to get by on foot's pet peeve is how it can seem like the foot traffic in Hong Kong often gets shunted over-ground as well as underground.  While I share her dislike of what are called subways in British English and underpasses in American English, I have to say that I don't tend to mind footbridges and other elevated walkways; this not least because I still can see interesting sights from them (unlike in the underground passages) -- and also because I like how they provide overhead cover from the not insignificant amount of rain that Hong Kong gets throughout much of the year!

Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that I'm a fan of the elevated walkways that allow me to walk from Admiralty through Central to Sheung Wan or up to the Mid-Levels without my feet touching the ground for all but just a few meters around the vicinity of the Court of Final Appeal Building and Statue Square.  In particular, I really appreciate the air-conditioned comfort of the sections that connect various commercial buildings in Central that are owned by Hong Kong Land during Hong Kong's many hot and humid months; this even though this particular route means my passing by some high-end designer clothing and accessory stores that I'd normally try to give a wide berth... ;b    

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Full moon over Hong Kong

Full moon over Tai Hang last month
Full moon over Hong Kong tonight :)
As I was making my way home after spending a few enjoyable hours watching the Tai Hang fire dragon in action one month ago to the day, I came across several people standing about and training their cameras up at the sky.  Automatically, I looked up to see what had caught their attention -- and saw the sight of a beautiful full moon in the night sky; one which I, too, sought to capture images of with my camera -- only to feel unable to do that stunning sight sufficient justice.
Still, when I came across a group of people trying to take photos of the full moon over Wan Chai earlier tonight, I couldn't help but feel inclined to follow suit and try my luck again.  While the results still aren't as satisfying as when I managed to snap a photo of the moon in which its craters can be seen on its face a few years back, I'm happy enough this time around.  
At the very least, after all, I now have images to go with my memories of lovely clear skies on two full moon nights in a row here in Hong Kong; a state of affairs which absolutely cannot be taken for granted, especially in view of typhoons being prone to lurk about in the area in September and October, even if they aren't peak typhoon season months.  (And in fact, yet another typhoon warning is in effect as I write this blog post, and the Hong Kong Observatory currently is tracking two typhoons -- Sarika and Haima -- as this point in time!)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Foodie and sake lover heaven at Sagrantino's 9th anniversary bash! :)

When these are just the starters, you know that
you're having a feast of a meal! ;b

Add free flow quality sake to the mix and 
I'm most definitely a happy camper! :)))

Whenever I've dined at Sagrantino, I get to ruing the lack of sake (more precisely, nihonshu) on the drinks menu.  Knowing that the Japanese-Italian (or is it Italian-Japanese) restaurant's owner-chef, Takashi Yasuda, is partial to the Japanese national tipple makes its absence from Sagrantino's drinks menu more notable.  

So when given the chance, I asked him about this state of affairs -- and was told that this was because many of his customers prefer to bring their own bottles of sake over rather than opt for something from what would inevitably be a smaller selection if the restaurant were to offer this alcohol along with the wines, beer and other beverages on its drinks menu.  

Although I like my sake, I have to admit to not being given to carting about my favorite sake to a(ny) restaurant.  So I had reconciled myself to drinking something else when I dined at Sagrantino, only to be told by Takashi himself that for the restaurant's 9th anniversary, he'd be hosting a special event that would feature free flow sake from the Asahi-Shuzo Sake Brewing Company that makes his favorite Kubota sake along with a range of his culinary concoctions.

Needless to say, I didn't need a second invitation to decide to attend!  And even though I ended up leaving this evening's party while it was still in fairly full swing, it wasn't for lack of enjoyment -- but, rather, because I was already super stuffed and satiated after two and a half hours of feasting and drinking (unlike some of the other guests who, in addition to enjoying what was on offer at Sagrantino, were planning to go to Sake Bar Ginn for after dinner drinks later on this Saturday night)!   

With regards to the sake: there was a choice of two different junmai daiginjo, one junmai, one daiginjo, and one ginjo.  Those who know me will be able to predict my having eschewed the daiginjo and ginjo options and focusing instead on the rich tasting junmai and junmai daiginjo: both of which were very fine brews, but the more floral flagship Kubota Manjyu definitely edged it for me, and was the one that I found myself returning to throughout the evening.

As for the food: there was the classic combination of melon wrapped by prosciutto on offer and also raw oysters on the half shell (that I suspect came from Japan rather than Italy) among the starting options.  But as the night wore on, Takashi got more and more creative; coming up with delectable combinations such as mentaiko and mozarella topped with thin strips of seaweed, miso soybeans and mascarpone on slices of semi-firm tofu, and -- my favorite of the lot -- crackers topped with a divine pairing of pistachios and gorgonzola drizzled with honey!  

In a week that also included an amazing dinner at Godenya, it can feel like I've been privy to a slice of foodie heaven in recent days.  The only downside to all this is the fear of what all this indulgence has done to my waistline, never mind my weight count and cholestorol levels!  Which is why I really feel that I need to do such as walk thousands of steps each day; and am glad to note that I actually did walk more than 20,000 steps today alone... ;b