Friday, August 31, 2018

Five observations about Penang that probably can apply to Malaysia too ;)

from within the temple grounds

A modest (but good!) durian stall in Balik Pulau

A sight that's evidence of how multi-cultural and -lingual Malaysia is

One month after spending a fortnight in Spain, I returned to Penang to visit the parents and eat more durians.  While back home, I also made a day trip to Ipoh (which I last visited last year with my mother and my German friend) and Teluk Intan (which I had never previously been to).  In addition, for parts of this visit, I was joined by a friend each from Hong Kong and South Africa, both of whom had never previously set foot in my home state.

Like my South African friend must have felt when I went back with him to his home country late last year, it is really interesting to see one's own native land in the company of foreign visitors and hear them sharing their impressions of it.  Certain things about it that a person growing up in Malaysia can take for granted/doesn't think is all that worthy of comment can be quite novel and/or a big deal if one is not familiar with them.  At the same time, it's also noteworthy when certain of your own thoughts and feelings about a place, its people, etc. also end up being shared by people encountering them for the first time.

The following -- in no particular order -- are five observations my friends made about Penang which I think can be stretched to include (much) of the country, and reckon may make for interesting reading on Malaysia's 61st Merdeka (Independence) Day:-

1) There sure are a lot of schools in Penang.   

To be honest, I'm not sure that there are more schools in Penang -- and/or Malaysia at large -- than in most other parts of the world.  Upon returning to Hong Kong though, I've got to realizing that there do seem to be more schools located on main roads in Penang than in the likes of Hong Kong, Philadelphia or London.  I'm not quite sure why this is -- but it does make them more easy to spot and can end up giving the impression that education is something that Malaysians prioritize by putting front, right, left, and center! 

2) There sure are a lot of religious buildings about too, and quite the variety of them to boot!

Despite not being especially religious, I will readily acknowledge that quite a number of Malaysians would identify themselves as being members of a religious community.  In addition, there indeed are a variety of religions practiced in Malaysia.  So I guess it's true enough that Malaysia may have more religious buildings than many other countries -- and it's also a source of pride and joy to Malaysians that places of worship used by people practicing different religions can be located close to one another, like along Penang's Street of Harmony.

3) There also are so many eateries around the place!!

Whenever friends in Hong Kong ask me where is the best place to eat Malaysian food, I tell them that they need to go to Malaysia.  Yes, there are Malaysian restaurants in Hong Kong but the fact that they all invariably have a variety of dishes on their menu makes them suspect to me because the very best food in Malaysia is produced by cooks that specialize in just a few dishes or sometimes even just one particular dish.  And with such specialization as the norm, this makes for there being quite the number of small but very good eateries sometimes seemingly everywhere in Malaysia!

4) Eating is a super popular Malaysian past time

There's no two ways about it: Malaysians love to eat.  And as I've shared on this blog, I honestly didn't realize that there were people in this world who eat to live as opposed to live to eat until I spent time living in Tanzania.  On a related note: I found in Tanzania that what people ate frequently had a lot to do with what they could afford and what they considered prestigious.  In contrast, Malaysians just are happy to eat whatever they consider delicious -- which can be quite the range of things since Malaysian food draws upon a variety of culinary traditions: not just Malay, Chinese and Indian but, actually, Sumatran, Kelantanese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Nyonya Baba (aka Peranakan Cina), South Indian (particularly Tamil), North Indian, "Mamak" (or Indian Muslim), etc., etc., etc.! 

5) Malaysians have quite the sense of humor!

After a Japanese friend in Hong Kong asked me about whether Malaysians are allowed to be polygamous, I told her (and the other friends we were with) about my favorite Malaysian cartoonist and his cartoons addressing that matter that segued into my favorite Lat cartoons.  And when my South African friend visited my family home, I took the opportunity to bring out my collection of Lat books and share them with him.

Something else that got him laughing out loud was my mother and I regaling him with our memories of school rivalry that resulted on our saddling rival schools with some not so nice, and sometimes pretty sassy, nicknames based on their initials.  So, while, say, the boys of St Xavier's Institution liked to think of themselves as "Smart X Intelligent", pupils at other schools preferred to label them "Stupid X Idiot", and how the pupils of Convent Pulau Tikus and Penang Chinese Girls High School hated people telling them that they attended the Centre for Prostitute Training or were Prostitutes and Call Girls for High Society respectively! ;D

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The kind of sights that get me out into the Hong Kong hills on a very hot day (Photo-essay)

The summer of 2018 -- and, for that matter, late spring -- has not been seen few days with optimal weather for hiking.  The past couple of weeks have been on the wet side.  Earlier on (and earlier than usual, since we had an unexpectedly hot May), there were so many "very hot weather warning" days.

I'll readily admit that it can be difficult to get myself out of the air-conditioned indoors to the baking hot outdoors.  But once I manage to drag myself to a well-forested part of Hong Kong, where there's lots of shade courtesy of the vegetation and beautiful plus interesting sights to behold, I often find myself feeling less regretful that I'm out sweating like crazy in the heat and more that I don't go out hiking in Hong Kong's country parks as often as I could... ;b

There are days when I love being in the city and others where I am happy 
to have such easy access to the countryside here in Hong Kong :)
 
More so than smelling the flowers, I love catching sight of -- 
and snapping photos of -- butterflies perched on them :b
 
The top of Tai Mo Shan (Big Hat Mountain) is often
obscured by clouds -- but not on that sunny, hot afternoon! 
 
As the name of this blog indicates, I do have a thing for webs 
and do reckon that some of them are really gorgeous! :)
 
Spot the stick insect? :b
 
One of the fatter bodied dragonflies I've seen anywhere!
 
A beautiful seasonal sight in the Tai Lam Country Park
 
Signs of civilization peaking through the greenery 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hong Kong characters!

Spotted on a man's back in Wan Chai earlier today :)
 
Spotted in a woman's hair in Causeway Bay last week! :O
 
 Spotted on a woman's head and in her arms 
in Victoria Park late last year ;b
 
While going up an escalator in Wan Chai MTR station earlier this evening, I was taken aback to see what appeared to be the face of a giant smiley cartoon cat in amidst a sea of humans.  A few seconds later, the crowds parted to reveal a man carrying a big cat plush in his backpack, the head of which was allowed to stick out of the bag.
 
The sight of it got me smiling and thinking how cute it was -- and fishing out my camera to get a quick snap for posterity.  It also got me thinking of the woman I saw with a giant teddy back on her shoulders in Shing Mun Country Park on New Year's Day -- and how it's actually not all that rare for me to come across some rather startling sights while out and about in Asia's World City!

As an example: just last week, while heading over to do some grocery shopping in Causeway Bay's Times Square, I caught sight of a woman with curlers in her hair and a dress that easily could be a nightgown strolling about as if this was a completely normal way for her to look!  Adding to the bizarreness of it all is that when I told some of my friends about this encounter, one of them passed me a link to a newspaper article written by a woman living in the USA who has worn curlers and her bathrobe in public, and insinuated that this may well be a new cultural/fashion trend, while a couple of others immediately got to thinking of the kick-ass landlady in Kung Fu Hustle who thought nothing of being seen in this -- to my mind -- eccentric ensemble!
 
Another time when I wondered whether I was on the Hong Kong equivalent of Candid Camera was one fine afternoon last winter.  While strolling through Victoria Park, I found myself walking past a woman taking a couple of her pets out for a walk.  Now, although the idea may seem strange to people in many other parts of the world, it's actually not considered all that bizarre here in Hong Kong (and other parts of the Chinese-speaking world) for people to take their pet birds out for a walk or just some fresh air.  However, they tend to have their birds in cages when they do so -- rather than in their arms and perched on their heads like a certain surely eccentric lady had opted to do!

Although they may initial appear on the freaky side, like with the creator of the colorful sculptures that used to greet hikers at one section of Wilson Trail Stage 3 (but which a friend has told me has sadly been removed from the area), I tend to look upon these characters as adding color and even charm to Hong Kong.  I also think that it speaks well of the tolerance level of a society that these individuals can have a place in it -- and if nothing else, I must admit that my sightings of such folks blithely going about their business do add a modicum of welcome novelty to my day and put a smile to my face. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Men on the Dragon steers an unconventional course and succeeds against the odds (Film review)

Men rowing on the Shing Mun River flowing through Sha Tin 
(kind of like what you get to see in Men on the Dragon) ;)
 
Men on the Dragon  (Hong Kong, 2018)
- Sunny Chan, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Francis Ng, Poon Chan Leung, Tony Wu Tsz-Tung, Jennifer Yu, Kenny Wong

This is one of those movies that I get the feeling that its distributors didn't have much confidence in.  The directorial debut of scriptwriter Sunny Chan, it's listed on the Hong Kong Movie Database (at least at the time of writing) as a 2017 production and had just a couple of screenings a day at inconvenient hours at a number of cinemas during the first couple weeks of its theatrical run here in Hong Kong. 

Against the odds, Men on the Dragon has managed to not only stay in cinemas for a third and fourth week but its number of screenings per day actually increased in the third week.  In addition, I've heard a few friends talking about it, and positively too.  So off I went earlier this week (a few days before viewing Crazy Rich Asians) to see the underdog movie which appears to have won the hearts of a number of Hong Kong movie viewers.

Revolving around three lowly middle-aged male employees of the Pegasus Broadband company which seems to constantly be laying off staffers and their equally middle-aged male boss, Men on the Dragon has unlikely heroes but also likeable ones.  After their company decides to form a dragon boat team for an upcoming race that it plans to  broadcast live, frazzle-haired Lung (Francis Ng), Wong Suk-Yi (Poon Chan Leung) -- whose name sounds more like a woman's than man's -- and the intense William (Tony Wu Tsz-Tung) find themselves in the same boat (literally) as their hated boss, Tai (Kenny Wong). 

There should be enough dragon boating (and training) scenes in the movie to satisfy fans of dragon boat races.  But quite a bit of action in Men on the Dragon actually takes place out of the water and in the homes of the men, which range from old tong lau to public housing to a luxurious (by Hong Kong standards) private flat.  

Put another way: the film spends a surprising amount of time on the domestic lives and concerns of the men.  And while the initial impression one gets of them is that they're on the insensitive side, they all turn out to most definitely have feelings.  In fact, one of them is so prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve that the reason why he wears sunglasses so much of the time is to hide his eyes that are swollen from his crying so much!   

Under normal circumstances, a movie with so much emotional content would prominently feature females -- and Men on the Dragon does have its share of female characters.  For the most part, however, their roles and appearances are not all that memorable; with the major exception being that of the dragon boat team's strict and committed young coach, Dorothy (Jennifer Yu)!

The impression I get is that the movie's depictions of middle-aged Hong Kong men has struck a chord with Hong Kongers in general.  Hence its surprising box office performance.  For my part, Men on the Dragon wins me over primarily because it actually defies lots of movie conventions -- and in so doing, steers a course that's entirely, admirably its own.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why Crazy Rich Asians got me tearing up (as well as laughing out loud)

Something I must have whenever I'm back in Penang
(and whose appearance in Crazy Rich Asians got me teary-eyed!)

 A lovely lady I had the pleasure of
meeting 10 years ago :)

Crazy Rich Asians, the Hollywood romantic comedy that was number one at the American box office last weekend, opened in Hong Kong cinemas today.  The cultural discussions about, and revolving around, the first Hollywood movie to have a predominantly Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago, got me interested in checking it out even while my sense was that the film's target audience was probably out in the West rather than the East.

So off I went this morning to a screening of the movie, hoping that I would be able to like it even while preparing myself for the distinct possibility that I would not do so.   Happily, I found myself warming to it pretty early on.  Still, I didn't expect that the film would actually cause me to tear up at times even while also laughing out loud at jokes geared towards a general audience but also moments which require such as the knowledge of the Hokkien language to appreciate! 

Among the weirdest things about viewing Crazy Rich Asians for me is that I found myself teary eyed over the depiction of food in the movie!  In all honesty, I can't quite explain why the sight in the film of people enjoying ais kacang, satay and chili crab, tables laden with goodies such as Nyonya kuih, and durians galore in a quick cut-away shot impacted me in this way, and so much. Perhaps it's to do with my realizing that my culture (passing for Singaporean or -- okay, I'll be generous! -- shared with Singaporeans) was being beautifully represented in a Hollywood movie being shown on big screens all over the world.  Or maybe it just got me thinking of home.  In any event, it came across as a good thing. 

Also unexpected, and wonderfully heartwarming to my mind , was the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack including songs that weren't only in non-English languages but were sung by the likes of Grace Chang (aka the Mambo Girl!), Teresa Teng (whose The Moon Represents My Heart is the unofficial anthem for the Overseas Chinese) and Sally Yeh (one of the three female stars of my favorite movie of all time).  More than incidentally, I found it interesting that, like with a many Hong Kong movie, the lyrics of the Cantonese- and Mandarin-language songs that play in the film aren't subtitled in English; and neither was a certain naughty Hokkien phrase that got me laughing out loud -- and because I was in all probability the only person in the cinema who understood it -- all on my own!   

Like many a Hong Kong movie I enjoy, I found that Crazy Rich Asians rewards you for your cultural knowledge of its millieu by letting you appreciate it on a number of levels.  On an Asian film fan note: I enjoyed watching Michelle Yeoh -- who led me into the amazing world of Hong Kong cinema all those years ago -- playing the mother of the main male character (who, incidentally, is portrayed by an actor with a a shared Malaysian background).  Last but not least, it really was a treat to see the truly legendary Lisa Lu Yan, whose screen credits include The Joy Luck Club along with Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, Li Han Hsiang's The Empress Dowager and The Last Tempest, and Cecille Tong Shu Wen's The Arch, gracing yet another movie with her presence!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Critter spottings and green views up on The Peak (Photo-essay)

A couple of weeks have passed since I last went hiking and it's been even longer since I last put up a hiking photo-essay.  Since there's no time like the present to resume doing the latter again, here's going ahead and offering up snaps taken on a hike with a friend that began and ended near the Peak Tower on Victoria Gap, and saw us going along Lugard Road and then The Governor's Walk all the way up to where Mountain Lodge, the Governor's summer residence on the Peak, used to be.

Like the first hike that I went on up there, I spotted a number of interesting looking critters along the way.  This time around, however, I knew to also expect to see quite a few other people up there since there's a road up there on which cars can go.  Still, the area is an oasis of calm compared to often over-crowded Victoria Gap, with its Victoria Peak Garden being a hidden treasure that few people seem to know about (for now)...
 
 Thanks to my having made various caterpillar spottings in the area,
I've come to look at The Peak as Hong Kong's Caterpillar Central! 

One of the fattest caterpillars I've ever seen!
 
 
 
The oasis of greenery and calm near the top of Victoria Peak
that is the Victoria Peak Garden
 
Part of me realizes that I should have let this pair have some privacy
but I couldn't resist snapping a photo of a couple who look
to have a sense of fun as well as romance ;b 
 
On the subject of couples: what price this shot of 
a pair of coupled grasshoppers? ;D
 
 Last but not least: the requisite landscape shot 
of urban Hong Kong from the Peak :)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Winged creatures at home in Hong Kong!

Chirping birds and greenery in the middle of the city!
 
What are you looking at?!
 
A more exotic bird looking equally even more
at home in the city!
 
A little less than two years ago, I moved from the apartment that I had lived in for some eight years to another apartment around just 10 minutes' walk away.  Since their buildings are pretty close to each other, I didn't expect that the surroundings would feel all that different.  But very early on, I got to realizing that the sounds I hear and have come to associate with each of these apartments do vary quite a bit!
 
After I moved into my old apartment, I realized that its location on a road along which buses (as well as minibuses, taxis, lorries and cars) go along meant that I would be hearing traffic going along it all day and night long.  And since my bedroom faced the road, I also would see shadows from the light of moving vehicles playing on its walls and ceiling.  (Yes, I could have pulled my curtains completely closed but I actually like waking up to natural sunlight flooding through the windows and into the room.)
 
Rather than disturb me, I actually got used to this state of affairs pretty quickly.  As strange as it may sound, I liked that I could sense that the city I had chosen to live in was (is) very much alive and pretty much constantly on the move.  And conversely, whenever things got quiet, that would be a signal that a typhoon was visiting town (since buses stop running after Typhoon Signal Number 8 gets raised!).      
 
Compared to my old apartment, it's generally quiet around my current apartment.  Whenever visibility gets on the low side in Victoria Harbour though , I can hear fog horns being sounded as I'm a couple of blocks closer to the harbor now then there previously!  Even more surprisingly, I often wake up these days to the sounds of birds singing (or, at least, chirping).  For even though I'm still living in the city, I've now got a bedroom that looks out on a (podium) garden whose trees quite a few birds appear to like hanging about in very much!
 
In view of how small it is and also how built up and densely populated a good chunk of it is, it can be pretty surprising to discover that more than 530 species of birds have been spotted in Hong Kong.  As things stand, one can expect to hear and also see some of these avian creatures when out hiking in one of the territory's country parks (and special areas).  And although one's chances of seeing the more unusual bird species are higher at the Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve or Hong Kong Wetland Park (or, if you're fine with seeing them in a caged setting, Hong Kong Park's Edward Youde Aviary or the Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden), it's also the case that quite a few winged creatures appear to feel right at home right in the middle of the most urban parts of the city! ;b    

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Less than positive experiences in the second most-visited country in the world

Artistic depiction of a smelly habit

Allergens and allergy medication abounded
in Spain this spring!

Not the kind of conditions I expected to encounter
in the main airport of a first world country's capital city

Earlier this month, a heatwave hit Spain that was so bad that it claimed the lives of several people.  Even before this news came along, I had known not to visit this country -- which attracted 82 million visitors last year, making it the second most-visited country in the world -- in the hot summer months.  If only I had known that springtime also is not an ideal time to visit the parts of Spain that I did; this because spring is prime hay fever season and Andalucia and the central areas of the country (where, say, Madrid is situated) regularly have high olive, plane tree and grass pollen counts!    

As it was, my allergies kicked in pretty early on in my May Spain trip and my eyes were all watery, my nose all itchy and runny, and I was sneezing so badly that in the middle of my visit to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, I developed a nosebleed which I feared that I would not be able to stem for a time!  With no fever having developed, I figured (correctly) that I had hay fever: for the first time in a decade and a half (because, ironically, I don't react as badly to the air pollution in Hong Kong!); and which was made worse by so many people -- women as well as men -- smoking like chimneys in the streets, while strolling about or when seated in the outdoor sitting areas of cafes and restaurants.

Things did not get better after my German friend and I left Madrid and headed over to Andalucia, with an antihistamine spray I got in the Spanish capital not helping much at all.  Fortunately, things vastly improved -- and pretty quickly too! -- after I got some 24-hour anti-allergy tables from a pharmacy in Sevilla a few blessed hours before our visit to the city's Real Alcazar.  Sadly, that was the same day that my German friend came down with a bacterial infection (whose symptoms included red eye and prolonged bouts of coughing) which I managed to stave off when I was in Spain but then was overcome with a couple of days after I got back to Hong Kong!

Partly because of our health problems, my German friend and I weren't able to enjoy our vacation and appreciate Spain as much as we would have liked to do so.  At the same time though, there were aspects of our trip and things about the country that I honestly think that, even if we were in the best of health throughout, we would not have been happy with.

Among them are the over-crowdedness of certain attractions and parts of the towns and cities we visited.  With regards to this: Cordoba was by far the worst; and so off-putting were my experiences there that I ended up opting not to go to the even more celebrated Toledo, which had actually been top on my list of places (along with Granada's Alhambra) to visit in Spain prior to my trip.  And things were not helped by many of the super crowded spaces -- including Madrid's Puerta del Sol -- often feeling like prime petty crime (specifically pickpocketing) territory.     

A note on Spain and pickpocketing: before our trip, both my German friend and I had heard horror stories about and got warnings to watch out for it from various people.  And while walking on a street near the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina SofĂ­a on my final day in the country, after I felt pressure on my backpack and quickly spun around to see what was going on, I saw a woman with a large plastic bag walking quickly away from me -- and feel pretty certain that she had been planning to steal stuff from me!   

Continuing with the tales of theft: on my plane out of Madrid later that day, the two women seated in my row (who, suspiciously, were the only other Asians on the aircraft!) told me about their backpacks having been slashed and stuff having been taken from them while they were walking along the Camino de Santiago!  And they too had heard stories of other fellow travellers having been victims of pickpockets and were inclined to conclude that tourists are specifically targeted by Spanish petty criminals.

Living as I currently do in a part of the world where one's personal safety and security tends to be assumed as a matter of course (so much so that I feel perfectly able to be out late at night), it can be quite unsettling as well as disheartening to feel obliged to be on one's guard against being taken advantage of by others.  Also rather upsetting was my seeing as many beggars on the streets in Spain, particularly Madrid, and also the buskers and itinerant street hawkers who seemed far more like panhandlers than bona fide entertainers or vendors.                 

I had read about the Spanish financial crisis but thought that the country was on the road to recovery.  In my short time in Spain, however, I saw plenty of signs that quite a few people and institutions remain financially strapped and economically troubled, and my general impression is that this is a country whose glory days are way past and is a shadow of what it used to be (and may still perceive itself to still be, especially vis a vis countries located in others of the world's continents).

For these reasons, among others (that I don't want to go into, at least not in this post), I actually came away from my Spain trip thinking that it will be my final as well as first visit to the country.  And this despite my having seen some really amazingly beautiful sights (created by Muslims and pagans as well as Christians who lived centuries before) in various cities and also my having tasted a variety of dishes that got me thinking that Spanish food may well have become my favorite European cuisine. :S  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Positively reacting to snowy sights in Spain this past May!

Snow on the mountains visible from Madrid's Palacio Real!
 
 Lots of snow visible too on the Sierra Nevada range when viewed 
from atop the Alcazaba's main tower at Granada's Alhambra
 
Still more snow visible on the peaks of mountains -- 
this time from a viewpoint by Segovia's Roman Aqueduct 
 
Growing up, as I did, as a small child in a country situated very close to the Equator, the closest thing to snow that I saw or touched in real life was the frost in the freezer section of the refrigerator.  Little did I know then that there would come a time in my life when I would see snow so regularly and in such great quantities that I would get sick and tired of seeing that cold white stuff and decide that if I never ever saw snow again, that would be fine by me.   For as it turned out, I ended up spending four years attending college in a part of the US known to many as "the Siberia of America", where winter comes with the Halloween Ghost and leaves with the Easter Bunny!  
 
The first winter that I was in Wisconsin, I was happy and excited when the first snow fell.  But it kept on snowing and snowing and snowing for a number of months.  And long before spring finally came along, I not only got fed up of seeing so much the cold, white stuff on the ground and roofs of buildings and such but also being asked whether I was happy and/or excited at the sight of the snow.  (With regards to the latter: I took to responding in a world-weary tone: "No, because I'm an Eskimo"; which apparently was so convincing that it prompted many of the questioners to apologize for having mistaken me for, well, someone from warmer climes who wasn't used to seeing snow!)

After garduating from Beloit and moving to Philadelphia, I continued to see snow regularly each winter.  And while there was far less of it in that part of the country, the authorities seemed to be far less able to deal with it -- with the result that roads were often more hazardous in winter and the snow often didn't get cleared for days and, consequently, often turned gray with dirt or yellow as a result of many a dog in the neighborhood getting walked out to pee on it!

 
In Spain this past May, I found myself viewing snow-capped mountains on a number of occasions, one of which happened to be the Old World's Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Rather than be alarmed or annoyed by those snowy sights, I found them to be pleasingly picturesque.  Consequently, I've now amended my "not ever wanting to see snow again" stance to one where I do think it rather pleasant to catch sight of the white stuff every once in a while, albeit from a distance, and without having to set foot on it and feel the icy cold temperatures that are required for it to stay for a time on the ground. ;b

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cheung Chau charms... even in the hot summer months!

View from a table at a seafood restaurant on Cheung Chau
 
View stretching from Cheung Chau's Tung Wan Beach
over the water to Lamma and Hong Kong Island 
 
Late afternoon Cheung Chau Wan panorama
 
Before I came to call Hong Kong home, I used to happily visit the Big Lychee in the summer as well as the cooler months of the year.  This was something that puzzled a Hong Kong-based friend of the family who actually took to spending as much time as she could away from this part of the world during the hottest times of the year.
 
Since pretty much every territory that I care to visit also is pretty hot during this time of the year, I've not followed suit and, instead, tend to stay put in Hong Kong in the summer.  With each additional year that I spend in the Big Lychee, however, it does seem like my tolerance for the summer heat and humidity has been decreasing.  Indeed, I've found it to be more and more of a challenge to drag myself out to go hiking in the summer -- and, after a battle with my conscience, decided to temporarily put the Cheung Chau beach clean-ups I organize on hiatus until the end of next month (when the heat will feel more manageable than it has been in recent months).  
 
Rather than stop going to Cheung Chau outright though, I've still been averaging a visit a month to it this summer.  This is because this Outlying Island remains one of my favorite places in Hong Kong to bring friends visiting from abroad along with expat friends who haven't explored the Big Lychee as much as I have; this not least since it really does have a pretty cool combination of colorful culture (think such as the Bun Festival and related Piu Sik), nice scenery, tasty eats and -- if you don't go on a busy Sunday or public holiday -- laidback atmosphere.
 
Happily, the people I've introduced to Cheung Chau in recent months seem to all have been charmed by it too.  An old college friend from the US took tons of photos on the island while her son jumped into the water off Tung Wan beach without much invitation and probably would have stayed there the whole afternoon if given the option to do so!  On another visit, an expat South African friend and I enjoyed a seafood lunch, a stroll in the hot afternoon sun and drinks to combat the heat at an old beach bar with idyllic views that also was a big hit with a family from the Netherlands (or, more accurately, the parents -- as the teenaged son found the ginger ale ordered too, well, gingery!).
 
Just 35 minutes away from Central by fast ferry (and about 50 minutes by "ordinary" ferry), Cheung Chau really can seem a world apart from the skyscraper city that many people mistakenly think that Hong Kong entirely is.  On my most recent visit to the island, I even got to noticing that there's at least one single storey building there -- a rare (and precious) sight indeed in the Big Lychee! ;b  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

My 10 favorite movies (for the moment?)

A screenshot from one of my 10 favorite movies
-- this one a 1986 offering from Hong Kong :b

A screenshot from another of my 10 favorite movies 
-- this one a 1992 offering from Japan :)

For the past 10 days, I've been posting images related to my ten favorite movies on my Facebook account timeline.  (Yes, I finally joined about a year ago; and no, I don't go by YTSL there.)  Opting to go with screenshots rather than movie posters, it was intriguing to see whether my choices of movies could be identified by others; this particularly since I decided to also go with the "no explanation needed" part of this meme that a friend had nominated me to take part in.

Pretty much right off the bat, there were six films that I absolutely knew that I'd be including in my list while a number of other movies completed for the remaining four slots and my finding it quite difficult to limit my choices to just 10 in the end!  With the caveat that these are my 10 (current) favorite movies (rather than the 10 best films I've ever seen), here's going ahead and sharing my list here:-

Peking Opera Blues (Hong Kong, 1986)
Ashes of Time (Hong Kong, 1994)
He's a Woman, She's a Man (Hong Kong, 1994)
Here's to the Young Lady (Japan, 1949)
Chariots of Fire (Britain, 1981)
Mukhsin (Malaysia, 2006) 
The American President (U.S.A., 1995)
Swordsman II (Hong Kong, 1992)
Porco Rosso (Japan, 1992) 
Under the Moonlight (Iran, 2001)

As those who know me will know full well, I could easily have named just Hong Kong movies for this list -- and I know that if I had done so, not all of them would have had cross-dressing women in them!  Also, yes, I actually consider it rather admirable that I only had three films starring the great Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia (aka Lam Ching Ha) and one starring Setsuko Hara -- that wasn't directed by Yazujiro Ozu to boot! -- in the mix.

While I will continue to adher to the meme's "no explanation needed" directive, I'd like to share the following observations I made about my selections over the course of my compiling my 10 favorite movies list (and do welcome comments about them):-

1) Six countries are represented in the list.  Of these, I've lived in four of them, visited another more than 20 times now, and have never set foot in the last (but am indeed interested in doing so at some point);  

2) 57 years divides the years of release of the oldest film in the list and the newest (which is 12 years old already this year).  And half of my 10 favorites having originally release dates in the 1990s, the last decade of the 20th century appears to be my favorite cinematic decade; with the 1980s coming closest in this particular "race".

3) I definitely do have a proclivity for films with strong female characters, if not female protagonists.  At the same time, a lack of major female characters won't put me off a movie if there are other things about it that I like/love and can relate to.  And while people are inclined to assume otherwise, there actual are films out there that give females plenty of (quality) screentime even while they are directed by males!

4) I am reliant on subtitles to help me understand the majority of my 10 favorite movies.  I really do feel that my movie diet would be so much more poorer if I just stuck to watching films in languages I can understand -- and especially so if I limited myself to watching movies from my home country.

5) Over the years (and decades), I've viewed a number of films I rate really highly but found so traumatic that I don't feel like I want to ever watch them again.  Some of them would make my "top 10" list but since I took "favorite movies" to mean movies I'd happily watch more than once (and have indeed done so for the vast majority of them), those weren't included -- and I think that thinking has played a part in my having zero war films in the mix and quite a few more romance-themed offerings than I thought there would be! ;D