Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sick jokes at the expense of those on both sides of the Hong Kong-Mainland Chinese border who seek democracy and dignity

the others is in danger of meeting the same fate
And even being Hong Kong's "king of votes" may not be able
to save Eddie Chu Hoi Dick from the same fate :(
The Hong Kong and Communist Chinese governments appear to be combining to making sick joke after sick joke at democracy's expense.  On Bastille Day last Friday, it arranged for the disqualification of four elected lawmakers on technicalities. On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law in Taiwan, news came from across the Mainland Chinese-Hong Kong border that Liu Xiaobo had been denied a burial on Chinese soil and, instead, had had his ashes scattered into the sea

Their supposed crime?  Would you believe that it's not having taken their oath of office, as can be seen by their adding words at their swearing-in that ranged from slogans calling for true democracy, self-identifying as a Hong Konger and demanding the resignation of then Chief Executive, Leung Chun Ying to a proclamation that the Umbrella Movement had lost but not died to calls for democratic self-determination for Hong Kong and the death of tyranny?  And if you think this all sounds pretty farcical, join the crowd!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hiking in a quiet, out-of-the-way part of Hong Kong (Photo-essay)

As hiking becomes an increasingly popular activity in Hong Kong, it's become rarer and rarer to feel like you've got the trail to yourself.  As I've found to some surprise though, it's still actually possible; this especially if you venture along a hike route that's not a part of any of the territory's famous four "long" trails (i.e., the Maclehose, Wilson, Lantau and -- especially -- Hong Kong Trails).

Take, for example, a section of a trail on Lantau Island that's not a part of the Lantau Trail which a friend and I chose to hike along one Sunday afternoon a while back, during which we didn't see another single person!  Part of the unpopularity of this trail on the Chi Ma Wan Peninsula stems from its trailhead not being near any bus stop, minibus stop or MTR station.  And while one can catch a ferry from or to a public pier located on the eastern side of the peninsula, the limited service makes it so that you have to time it right; otherwise, you're faced with a rather draining trudge back to civilization!    

As it so happened, we got to the pier too late to catch the ferry we were hoping we'd be in time to take us out of the peninsula that afternoon because we had spent so much more time stopping to admire the stunningly quiet scenic views to be found along our hike.  Consequently, we had no choice but to walk all the way back to Pui O.  But even though my pedometer showed that I ended up walking over 25,000 steps that day, I still will maintain that all that (extra) effort  actually felt worth it -- and I'm trusting that my hiking companion that day felt similarly! ;b      

Looking out onto a peaceful scene at 
the southern edge of Pui O beach
Yes, there really are parts of Hong Kong that are 
on the distinctly rural side and bereft of crowds! ;b

My secondary school art teacher was so right when
she told us that the sea isn't just one shade of blue...
 So far away was that Macau ferry that we could see
but not hear it speeding along to its destination
Back in the 1970s, the Sea Ranch development came about
because it was thought there'd be a market out there for people 
to live in splendid isolation on Chi Ma Wan Peninsula...
On the water's edge at Shap Long Irrigation Reservoir
The pier, with its lights on, located near two now disused
correctional institutions, and from where we'd have 
caught the ferry if we had been on time! ;S
Lights on and tide in at Pui O on our way back there!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Politics and beer in Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong's days as Hong Kong's 
Party Central look to be behind it...

To be sure, stereotypical party-goer types can be found among

But in the main, the crowd and mood is mellower 
these days than previously :)

Back in the fall of 2014, when sections of Hong Kong were being Occupied, I accepted the invitation of a friend to go to a Hong Kong celebration of Oktoberfest.  Even while I enjoyed my friend's company as well as the food and drinks on offer at the event, part of me felt guilty for being at it rather than out in "Occupied" space.  

To make me feel better, my friend agreed to head over with me to the protest areas at Central and Admiralty after we had our dinner.  There we found a lot more people that evening than had been the case at the Oktoberfest event; prompting my friend to ask me whether this made me happy -- to which I replied with an emphatic "Yes!"

Those memories came back to me last night as the route for the candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo took participants (including myself) close to Lan Kwai Fong, where I knew this year's beer and music festival was going on.  And I got to thinking about them once more when I headed over this afternoon to what used to be a crazy party area that I avoided like the plague for years but now has become a mellower place that's home to my favorite bar in Hong Kong and an annual beer and music festival which I had fun chillin' out at last year.   

After three days and nights of high emotion (and political activism), I felt a need to decompress.  In view of bad weather being predicted for today and also my having walked over 19,000 steps yesterday, I figured that a hike wouldn't actually be the answer this time around to my de-stressing needs.  And although part of me wanted to just stay at home and maybe even lie in bed all day, I decided that it would actually be psychologically healthier for me to venture out to enjoy good company -- and also some alcoholic beverages -- at this year's Lan Kwai Fong Beer & Music Festival.

As it so happened, I spent pretty much all of my time at the fest at just one stall: that operated by Sake Bar Ginn!  Ideally, in a setting and event like this, I'd have been drinking ice cold Kirin Ichiban beer topped with frozen beer foam.  In its absence, I made do by alternating drinks of Kirin Ichinan beer with frozen sake mojitos -- and found it to be a cooling combination that also successfully got me pretty relaxed over the course of the afternoon!

Something else that helped put me in a good mood was that there appeared to be fewer people at this event than had been at yesterday's candlelight march!  For one thing, I don't like crowds as a rule; and at events and venues where alcohol is in the mix, my sense is that the mood tends to be more mellow and pleasant when there's ample space to move, breathe, and for sound to be able to travel without people needing to shout.  

For another, it confirms that the turnout at yesterday's candlelight march was actually really respectable.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that it was pretty impressive; with at least one respected news outlet having underlined its importance by noting that last night's march was the only -- not just most -- large-scale commemorative event for Liu Xiaobo on Chinese soil and the fact of it having taken place actually sends a powerful message to Beijing that the rulers there may not want to hear but can't help seeing. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hong Kong's candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo

I lit a candle for Liu Xiaobo at Chater Garden this evening
In the company of thousands of others, I walked candle in hand 
from Chater Garden to the China Liason Office
It may not be an eternal flame but it's been
captured for posterity by my camera
Earlier today came news that the ashes of the late Liu Xiaobo were scattered at sea in a move widely seen as the Chinese government seeking to deny those who loved and admired him a place of pilgrimage.  For many people, it further confirmed the Communist Chinese regime's heartlessness and I totally would not be surprised if it angered people and gave a number of Hong Kongers (further) motivation to turn up for this evening's candlelight march in memory of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Arriving at Chater Garden half an hour before the march got going, I was surprised to see this space get filled to the brim by the time the assembled crowd began moving out along a designated route that would take us from Central through to Sheung Wan all the way to the China Liason Office in Sai Ying Pun.  And while I normally would be able to complete that walk in less than an hour, the fact that I was walking along with thousands of others -- and consequently subject to crowd and traffic control by the police that ensured that there'd be lots of stops and starts along the way -- made it so that I didn't get to the (temporary) memorial space set up for Liu Xiaobo in front of the China Liason Office until close to three hours after I began my journey.
So long did the candlelight march take that my candle got way too short and its light burned out just before I rounded the final corner to the march's designated end point.  Also, I have to admit that my candle's flame was snuffed out two times before then; no thanks to the strong breezes that occasionally blew our way but were no way the worst bits of weather that we had to deal with -- instead, that'd be the rain that I initially dismissed as mere showers before it got to absolutely pelting down as my group of marchers stood waiting to pay our respects before we concluded our march.
In retrospect, I find it symbolic that the candle I lit for Liu Xiaobo was not able, like him, to fully complete its planned journey while alive -- but, hopefully, still may be able to achieve its goal with the help of another.  As for the downpours this evening: I see the rain as the tears shed by heaven for a highly principled individual who had the misfortune of living under a regime whose rulers felt so threatened by his ideas that they decided to view him as a criminal rather than patriot.  
In their treatment of Liu Xiaobo (and also his wife, Liu Xia), the Communist Chinese government have shown how heartless and despicable it is.  Shame on it!  And may Hong Kongers keep on opposing and resisting its attempts -- be it using soft power, what are effectively monetary bribes or menacing intimidation -- to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city, where such as the freedom to protest and the freedom to be critical of the government (in an effort to make it better) is no longer allowed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Disappointment in Hong Kong one day after tragedy struck in Mainland China

A space to mourn Liu Xiaobo's premature death set up 

in front of "Civic Square" this evening 

This afternoon, I went to the China Liason Office in Hong Kong to pay tribute to the late Liu Xiaobo.  Or, rather, I went to the area set up in front of the Liason Office for mourners that has been bedecked with white flowers and signs urging people to remember the Nobel Peace Prize winning pro-democracy activist and demanding his widow, Liu Xia's freedom, and where a condolence book also is available for people to sign.

Not surprisingly, a rally was organized this evening to protest the decision and also to show support to disqualified lawmakers "Long Hair" Leung Kwok Hung, Nathan Law, Law Siu Lai and Edward Yiu.  With many of its speakers being the same ones who also had spoken at another rally this past December, I couldn't help reflecting sadly on how the mood has changed.

Then, there was jubilance in the air since that event at Chater Garden had come in the wake of Leung Chun Ying's announcement that he'd not be seeking re-election as Hong Kong's Chief Executive.  This time around, at the rally in front of the still closed 1,000-square-meter forecourt to the Central Government Offices at Admiralty popularly known as Civic Square, there were notes of defiance struck but along with Liu Xiaobo's death casting a shadow on things was a sense among the assembled crowd that the battle for democracy for Hong Kong is not going to be won anytime soon.

This is not to say, however, that people in Hong Kong have decided to give up the fight.  Especially considering that tonight's event was effectively a one and half hour press conference and had been organized and announced at pretty short notice, the number of people who turned up was surprisingly high.  

One of the folks who turned up to voice their disappointment and unhappiness at what's happened today in Hong Kong was quoted in a Hong Kong Free Press report as follows: "There is no point in protesting when an oppressive government won't listen to you. But I still felt that coming here, contributing to the headcount, was better than staying at home and typing up a status on Facebook. At least I was here."  To which, I'd say, "Hear, hear -- and that's the (Hong Kong) spirit", at least to the latter part of that statement!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

RIP, Liu Xiaobo -- and free Liu Xia!

A great man died today.  Rest in peace, Liu Xiaobo.  And we won't forget you, Liu Xia!  Among other things, it's not something her husband would have wanted.  Remember what he said about his beloved: "Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you." 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dealer/Healer serves up a seemingly tall tale that's actually rooted in reality (film review)

Detail from an artwork located in Kowloon Walled City Park
highlighting the high density of the walled city once located there

Dealer/Healer (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2017)
- Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon), director
- Starring: Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Gordon Lam Ka Tung, Jiang Yiyan, Max Zhang Jin

While I was away in Malaysia and Indonesia this past May, a Hong Kong movie I first heard about more than a year ago and have been eager to check out opened in Hong Kong cinemas.  Eager to view it upon my return to the Big Lychee a fortnight or so later, I was rather perturbed to see that screenings of it had already been gone done to one a day at just a handful of theaters. 

We're talking, after all, of a dramatic offering helmed by a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Director nominee and starring a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor winner.  And, actually, post viewing it, I'm also surprised that Dealer/Healer did not feature in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival; this since I truly do feel that it is a good deal better in quality as well as possesses a more compelling narrative than 2017 HKIFF entrants The Sleep Curse and Love Off the Cuff. 

Telling the story of a drug dealer turned drug rehab worker (who also takes to mediating between rival Triad factions, and underworld figures and the police on the side), Dealer/Healer's tale may seem like a unbelievably tall one if not for it being based on the biography of its executive producer.  Set in the 1970s and 1980s, the film focuses on a couple of eventful decades in the life of Peter Chan Shun Chi -- or, as he's referred to in the movie, Chen Hua. 

Portrayed for the most part by Lau Ching Wan, this product of the Tsz Wan Shan public estates is shown developing from being a playground terror (who headed a group that called themselves the 13 Warlocks of Tsz Wan Shan) into a mid-level gangster whose turf extended to the Kowloon Walled City, but then was undone both by his trying to help out two long-time buddies Bullhorn (played by Gordon Lam Ka Tung) and Cat (essayed by Max Zhang Jin) get some of the drug-dealing business controlled by his bosses and having become addicted to the narcotics he would have done better to just sell.

In retrospect though, his getting found out and slapped into prison for five years actually turned out to be the making of Chen Hua rather than his undoing.  Genuinely reformed while behind bars, he emerged from the correctional facility vowing to not only stay clean but also help others to kick the habit.  Against the odds, he also looks to reconnect with the love of his life (played by Jiang Yiyan) -- and befriends his former enemy, a crooked cop turned powerful drug lord (portrayed by Louis Koo).

Also rather improbable on the face of it is what director Lawrence Lau and co managed to accomplish throughout Dealer/Healer: that is, transport this film's viewers back in time by way of surprisingly detailed and authentic-looking period visuals, and also into parts of Hong Kong (notably the Kowloon Walled City) which actually are no more.  Ironically, however, these aesthetic accomplishments may actually have negatively affected the movie's appeal: because, let's face it, the 1970s and 1980s were pretty stylistically awful decades!

Another paradox laid bear is that whereas it's gratifying to learn about a bad guy genuinely turning into a good one, people who behave badly often are more colorfully and interestingly portrayed in movies than the virtuous.  Put another way: the scenes of Dealer/Healer featuring the pre-reformed protagonist were a good deal more exciting and interesting than those taking place after he found God and got redemption.  Consequently -- and I realize its makers (and executive producer, in particular) may not be happy to hear it -- I honestly felt that this movie actually worked quite a bit better as an entertaining crime drama than as a morality tale about a man whose story genuinely is admirable! 

My rating for this film: 7.5

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tai Po's atmospheric Man Mo Temple looks like the kind of place seen in many a Hong Kong movie

 ...is one of the most incense-filled temples I know in Hong Kong

...and also is home to one of the most impressive 
Tai Sui (60 Year Cycle Gods) displays I've seen around

For a good part of the time that I've lived and worked in Hong Kong, I had to regularly commute between the part of the Big Lychee where I resided to Tai Po.  Since that would take up at least two hours of each day that I did this, I'm sure people can understand when I say that I'm so very glad that those days are now behind me.

At the same time though, this doesn't mean that I've been giving Tai Po a miss since!  For among other things, Tai Po Market MTR station is where the avid hiker can catch buses or -- more often, actaully -- green minibuses to (or from) a number of trail heads.  Also, it's where I get the green mini-bus to Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve.  In addition, nice bike paths can be found in the vicinity of Tai Po that can take one all the way up to Tai Mei Tuk and the Plover Cove Reservoir if one's so inclined or, alternatively, down south to Sha Tin, Tai Wai and Wu Kai Sha.   

In addition, there are area culinary attractions such as Yat Lok's hard-to-resist roast goose (which, ironically, I very rarely got to visit during my lunch breaks when I worked in Tai Po because my office was located too far away from the town center where the eatery is located).  And I've even indulged the inner train spotter in me and paid a visit to the Hong Kong Railway Museum housed in the old Tai Po Market Railway Station that's within easy walking distance from the present one. 

As for Tai Po's markets: these days, there's more than one of them.  I wouldn't go all the way up to Tai Po from, say, Hong Kong Island just for them.  But when coupled with, say, a visit to Fung Yuen, the Hong Kong Railway Station or Yat Lok, I actually think it's worth the trip -- and this especially when you also throw in a visit to the Man Mo Temple in Tai Po located in the vicinity of Tai Po's oldest and most picturesque market, and also a stone's throw away from the Hong Kong Railway Museum.

Built in 1891, around the same time as the nearby market established by a group of area villagers, this particular Man Mo Temple may not be as old as the more famous one over on Hollywood Road -- but I find it a good deal more atmospheric as a result of there being fewer tourists milling about the place and its location close to a genuine working market frequented and patronized by local folk.  And like the far more well known temple dedicated to the gods of war and literature over on Hong Kong Island, it's got its share of faithful devotees -- as can be seen by the numerous offerings, including coiled joss sticks, to be found within it.

As I often tell people: because I came to love Hong Kong by way of my love of Hong Kong cinema, I often find myself viewing Hong Kong not only through rose-colored lens but also in terms of X or Y place looking like it was like a movie set.  In the case of Tai Po's Man Mo Temple: I don't know whether filming ever took place within or around it but I so would not be surprised -- because, truly, my first thought when I saw it was that this place looked like it had popped out of a Hong Kong movie! ;b

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hong Kong's shop cats

A regal looking Hong Kong shop cat
Much loved members of this elite group of felines?
My recent Malaysia-Indonesia trip series of blog posts finally came to a halt last Thursday -- but it doesn't mean I'm quite done mentioning my German friend (who was my travel companion for much of that time) just yet!  A case in point: these days, pretty much whenever I see Japanese Fortune Cats (Maneki Neko) on sale in a store, I think of her: because on one of her trips back to Hong Kong, she was tasked by two of her German friends to get them Maneki Neko.  
When she asked me where she could go about purchasing one, I had to confess to having had no idea where to do so.  One reason why is that it's not at all often that I've bought a Maneki Neko for myself.  And when I've done so, it's been in in their country of origin rather than Hong Kong!  
Almost inevitably, I've since got to noticing Japanese Fortune Cats being sold in a variety of stores here in the Big Lychee.  At the same time though, I'd maintain that one is more likely to come across real life cats in Hong Kong shops than Maneki Neko available for sale or placed by the store owners to attract luck, wealth and/or customers!      
Their official role may be that of mouse-catchers rather than good luck charms or store mascots but the way they loll about and stride around the places where they are to be found, and the affection they generate, makes many a Hong Kong shop cat's status come across as significantly more elevated than many of the human staff!  In recent years, a number of them have gained prominence by way of such as a popular photobook entitled -- what else? -- Hong Kong Shop Cats; and until the newspaper shop where he hung out closed down last year, many a cat-lover would make pilgrimages to the East Tsim Sha Tsui store to catch a glimpse of the famous British shorthair known as Brother Cream.   
Although my love for a certain Hello Kitty is considerably greater than for any live feline, I must admit to not being immune to the latter's allure.  And yes, I too have been known to stop in my tracks upon glimpsing a particular striking looking Hong Kong shop cat.  Often times, it's to admire a particularly magnificent example of this category of animal.  But there also was the time that I did a double take upon realizing that one of those (admittedly distant) cousins to the likes of lions, panthers and jaguars had been fitted out in an outfit festooned with kawaii heart patterns! ;D      

Sunday, July 9, 2017

From Braemar Hill to Wong Nai Chung Gap along Sir Cecil's Ride

Above the city on a hiking trail :)
Even though it was located a fair bit away over on 
the western side of Victoria Harbour, Chinese 
aircraft carrier Liaoning's not too difficult to spot!
Other interesting sightings on today's hike included
critters like this little well camouflaged bug :b
Finally, a day with lots of bright sunshine and no rain!  And so eager was I to go out hiking this afternoon that upon pulling out the Hong Kong Countryside Map out of my backpack, I got to realizing that in my hurry to get out and away, I had packed the wrong area map with me!  (For the record, this was the first time I'd ever done this in some 10 years of hiking in Hong Kong!)

My original plan had been to try out a trail that would take me from near the St. Joan of Arc Secondary School in Braemar Hill up to and through the Mount Butler H. F. Receiving Station over to Siu Ma Shan Bridge and beyond.  Despite the dearth of signage in the area (rare when you're out hiking in Hong Kong but I guess it's Murphy's Law that when you want them, they're not around!) and my lack of the correct map, I managed to find my way to the main entrance of the receiving station -- only to find the way in barred by metal and barbed wire fencing, and warning signs proclaiming that the area's not accessible to the public (at least from that direction!).
Loath to return to where I had started, I backtracked just a bit and took the next fork I saw along the way.  Fairly confident of the general direction that I'd be heading, I relaxed all the more upon realizing at some point that I was on Sir Cecil's Ride: more specifically, a section of it that I had actually been on years ago, and knew would lead me eventually to thoroughly familiar territory in the form of Wong Nai Chung Gap.       
At a point where the top of Jardine's Lookout came into view, I got to remembering that when I first tramped all those years ago along this trail named for a favored riding route of colonial Hong Kong Governor Sir Cecil Clementi, I had looked up in awe at the hikers I saw going up and down that 433-meter-high mountain. Little did I realize that I too would come to be able to enjoy the views from there in time!  
Back then also, I got to recalling too, the only hiking book I owned was Alicia M. Kershaw and Ginger Thrash's Above the City: Hiking Hong Kong Island -- whereas now, I have eight and also am open to finding out about other trails not covered in the books by way of internet browsing, word of mouth and just following trails marked out on one of those truly useful (especially when you remember to bring the right one out on a hike with you) Hong Kong Countryside Maps! ;b 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hiking on one's own on a cloudy but blessedly rainless day (Photo-essay)

Not only do I love hiking but I find it to be a great way to relieve stress.  So imagine my frustration in recent weeks, when it seems like every time I venture out, I'll get rained on -- and to such an extent that I've actually been disinclined to venture out of the concrete jungle into the nearby country parks. 

Hopefully, looking at some hiking photos will help get rid of some of that frustration.  And while I'm at it, here's also cobbling together a photo-essay of a hike through territory so familiar -- namely, the trail leading up Mount Parker Road from King's Road over to Tai Tam Road by way of the Tai Tam Reservoirs -- that I felt comfortable being out on my own but with enough exploratory detours to make the outing feel like I wasn't entirely repeating myself along with enough pretty much always interesting sights to make for a satisfying excursion into the Hong Kong countryside... :b

See the pavilion that's half obscured by foliage
to the left of the picture?

Here's what it looks like up close :b

 From the pavilion, one can see the section of 
Mount Parker Road that I often jokingly refer to

In its vicinity, I also found a more rugged route 
to the pavilion than the one I had taken!

Although there was some precipitation in the air,
I happily didn't get rained on that afternoon :)

The threat of rain undoubtedly played a part in there being
fewer people out in Tai Tam Country Park than usual that day

 Amidst all this, I think the reservoirs' water levels
may well have been at the lowest that I've seen to date! 

When you catch sight of the dam atop which is a section
of Tai Tam Road, then you know that you're near hike's end... :)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The highest section of the spread out Kek Lok Si Temple complex

On a hill with grand views of Penang (which can be 
better appreciated upon clicking the above image!)...

...can be found this tall bronze statue 
And in a nearby hall can be found this multi-armed 
Many years ago, I took an American friend to the Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam, Penang.  As we walked through the main part of this sprawling temple complex that's full of exotic sights (some of which used to scare me when I was a child!), he got to asking me -- not entirely in jest, I'm thinking -- to confirm that it all wasn't just a movie set.       

At the time, the highlight of our visit involved going into the temple's Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas and up along flights of stairs that get progressively narrower the higher you climb to the top of this seven-storey structure.  From there, you'd get a panoramic view of the surrounding area and all the way to George Town over in the distance.  

These days, however, one can venture further up the hill to a highest section of the Kek Lok Si Temple.  And that was what a group of us (including my mother, a friend of hers and my German friend) did on my most recent visit to this Penang landmark whose construction began in 1890 but seems to be still being added to and expanding to this day.
Towering above its famous pagoda is an over 30-meter-tall bronze statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, housed in an 83-meter-high pavilion and visible from many kilometers away.  The tallest statue of its kind in the world, it replaced a white plaster-encased fiber glass statue of the same deity which didn't fare too well when exposed to the elements.  While certainly very impressive, this present statue reportedly is a scaled-down version of what had been originally planned, as its height was limited by the authorities so that it wouldn't cast its shadow over the Penang State Mosque located in the area below.     

One structure that this statue does overshadow -- and whose very existence I previously had not been aware of -- is a nearby hall housing a very different version of Guan Yin, one whose multiple arms are extended to help out various people.  Also in the area is a pond filled with fish, into which an artificial waterfall flows along with representations of the Chinese zodiac along with other animal sculptures that are distinctly cutesy in nature!
If not for my German friend being around on my most recent visit to Malaysia, I'd not have found out about this place for probably a few more years.  And I have to thank her too for getting me to finally check out Ipoh's Sam Poh Tong (and its award-winning ornamental garden), Nam Thean Tong and Perak Tong.  
All in all, as I told her near the end of her visit: especially when you also throw in our visits to Borobudur (including Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut), Prambanan (including Candi Sewu) and those other ancient religious structures on the Prambanan Plain (such as Candi Sambisari, Sari and Plaosan), I think that we've now gone together to at least as many religious places in Malaysia and Indonesia as we've been together to biergartens and brauhauses in Germany! ;b

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Batik in Penang

A batik artist drawing the outlines of patterns 
by applying molten wax onto the cloth
Colorful dyes being painted onto the fabric by another batik artist
Thicker brushes are used to applied the same colorful dyes
into the background sections of the designs
On the first day that my German friend and I met up in South East Asia, she told me of her plan to get at least one batik shirt during her visit.  Hearing of this, my mother suggested that she focus on making batik purchases in Yogyakarta since it -- together with nearby Solo (AKA Surakarta) -- are considered to be the major historic centres of this traditional decorative art.  And we did spend time browsing in a few batik shops during our sojourn in that Central Javanese city.

At a batik shop with a factory in the back, my German friend purchased a batik shirt made of cotton and featuring a traditional Javanese print design.  And at another batik shop with a factory in the back, this time in Penang, she bought a very different style batik blouse: this one featuring hand-drawn designs and dyed with far brighter colors than those found over in Indonesia. 
Venturing first into the factory part of the Penang Batik Factory, we got to see several batik artists at work on hand-drawn and -painted pieces as well as craftsmen going about block-printing other pieces of batik.  Watching the batik being created, particularly the hand-drawn and-painted versions, seemed rather magical to us even while all that work really did seem pretty run of the mill for the artists we saw going about their business rather nonchalantly as well as surprisingly swiftly.  
And for those who think batik's just for tourists: my father actually has a bunch of batik shirts which he happily wears to formal functions.  Especially for those Malaysian men who get all hot and bothered when asked to wear Western-style suits and ties, it's quite the boon that batik lounge shirts qualify as formal wear in the eyes of many and thus are considered suitable attire for such as formal dinners! ;b

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On the occasion of Funassyi's 1879th birthday :)

A Pear (Fairy) that moves so fast 
it can look like just a blur in photos...

 A Pear (Fairy) so hyper Ozzy Osbourne felt obliged to 
ask it to calm down at one point during their 
famous meeting at Ozzy's Beverly Hills pad! :O

A Pear (Fairy) that's quite the rock star itself! :)

As Americans gear up to celebrate their country's 241st birthday, the part of the world where I currently reside has just a few minutes to go before it's no longer July 4th -- the day I celebrate more for it being my favorite Pear Fairy's birthday than the USA's Independence Day!

Although Funassyi has only been an actual physical presence since April 2012 (something which is being currently being celebrated in terms of 2017 being the 5th anniversary of it descending to Earth to bring joy and laughter to our lives), it supposedly came into being on July 4th, 138 (which is now known as nashi no hi: i.e., Pear Day (note: 7 can be read in Japanese as "na" and 4 and as "shi")).  So today happens to be the adorable character's 1879th birthday

One year on since it celebrated its 1878th birthday, the Pear (as the Pear Fairy is often affectionately referred to) can look back at a number of remarkable milestones in its "career" and life.  Considering how much of a music lover this yellow creature (which some of my friends have mistakenly mistaken for a mango, banana and Twinkie) is, I wouldn't put it past it considering its having headlined a concert at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan to be its greatest achievement this year, maybe ever!

From the astounded reactions of my Japanese friends, for whom the Budokan is akin to a sacred venue, I got to realizing how amazing it is for Funassyi to have performed there.  But what's even more impressive for me is not only that the Pear has since gone on tour with fellow gotouchi chara (which has been memorialized by way of a Ketsugubuo Tour DVD, which I feel so privileged to have a copy of) but also that this incredibly admirable as well as adorable character actually donated his appearance fee and all the royalties he earned from the Budokan and associated Osaka-jo concerts to Kumamoto earthquake relief
On a personal note, a few days after Funassyi celebrated its previous birthday, the Pear actually came over to Hong Kong -- and not only did I get to see the Pear perform live but I actually got "high fived" by it!  Then, a few months later, I went on a pilgrimage to Funassyi's hometown of Funabashi, during which I -- along with my mother and a fellow Funassyi fan -- went an ate the Pear's favorite sauce ramen at his favorite ramen-ya as well as did some shopping at the flagship Funassyiland branch over at Lala Port-Tokyo Bay.  

Among my acquisitions that day was a replica of a nice-sized Funassyi plush that I had seen at the Harajuku branch of Funassyiland when I visited there some months earlier.  Reluctant to buy it then because I worried that it'd not fit into my luggage, I had consequently been consumed with much regret at not having taking the plunge and acquired it.  So when given a second chance, I didn't hesitate to go for it and take possession of that wonderfully detailed plushie that comes with such as a Funassyi name tag, an "Illusion" (as well as a "Red Hole"), and even large stitches on the soles of its feet -- and some months on, I'm so glad I did as I love this Funassyi plushie as well as the real Funassyi so! :)