Saturday, July 28, 2007

Creative (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

The Hainanese Temple on Muntri Street near the center of the old part of George Town, Penang's capital city, is formally known as Thean Ho Keong (trans., "Temple of the Heavenly Queen"). Founded sometime before 1866 (though no one is certain when exactly), that which is dedicated to the Taoist goddess known as Mah Chor to the Hokkiens (and, evidently, the Hainanese as well) -- but Tin Hau to the Cantonese who also have built many Tin Hau temples in her honor in Hong Kong and Macau -- actually is not Penang's oldest temple. (Instead, that honor goes to the Kuan Yin (i.e., Goddess of Mercy) Temple which dates back to 1800.)

And although many of you viewing the photographs of it -- specifically, one of its front facade and three close-up shots of some of its many intricately carved decorative stone panels that I'm sure you'd agree make for an impressive testament to human creativity -- on this entry may not be able to believe it, neither is it the most highly decorated traditional Chinese building on the island! (Instead, that honor has to fall to the Khoo Kongsi (i.e., the Khoo Clan House) which I have to admit that I've no photographs of to share -- but, should you be curious, you can go here to check out some photos of this ultra-elaborately decorated structure.)

Something else that some of you might be surprised to find out: Although they're very traditional looking, the carvings actually were only done in 1995. So, yes, however ancient the artistic tradition may look and be, the fact of the matter is that it's one which also is very much alive and well -- albeit not in Malaysia...since the sculptors involved in the creative enterprise had to be especially brought from Mainland China to Penang to carry out the work.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Photo teaser and links to articles

Another beautiful section of
the Tang Dynasty-style Nan Lian Garden
that was featured in the 'Shiny' Photo Hunt entry
(and gets a mention in the
Stopwatch section
of the current issue of
bc magazine)

For those who like what you've seen thus far of my shots of Nan Lian Garden: I'm indeed planning to put up more photos of it together with some photos of the neighboring and similarly majorly aesthetically attractive Chi Lin Nunnery on this blog some time in the near future. In the meantime, hope you enjoy checking out the pieces I wrote up a while back but now am providing links to below:-

i) Return to Peach Blossom Land -- Interview with Stan Lai, director and playwright of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land (AKA The Peach Blossom Land and Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring);

ii) Wacked-Out Winnipeger -- Interview with Canadian musical comedian (or is it comic musician?) Al Simmons;

iii) Puppet-terra -- Interview with Dutch puppeteer Theo Terra;

iv) Jaycee Charmed -- Interview with Jaycee Chan;

v) Review of Hooked On You;

vi) Review of Wonder Women;

vii) And for those who wish to know what one can see and do, etc. in Hong Kong, there's also the Editor's Diary for your reading pleasure.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tiny (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Before people start screaming "cheat!" upon beholding at my entry for this week's Photo Hunt, here's pointing out that -- as more than one of my socio-cultural anthropology professors were ever so found out of observing -- everything is relative. Or, as this entry's second image shows particularly well, it's all a matter of perspective...! ;)

Alternatively put: An aeroplane, including the commercial aircraft plane that transports hundreds of humans and tons of luggage like the one I saw flying among the clouds and managed to take a photo of one Sunday morning, is something that we generally consider to be a pretty large object. But when far away from us and compared to other things (including the clouds in the sky), it does indeed appear to be pretty tiny.

Also, as we all undoubtedly know, it doesn't matter whether one is looking up or down so long as there's plenty of room in between us and what we're looking at. At the same time, it must be said, things do tend to look quite a bit more dramatic when you're looking down rather than up -- like in the second photograph; one that I took while standing on the section of the 338 meters tall Macau Tower's Observation Lounge that boasts a glass floor. (And for the record: Those are indeed my Doc Martens-clad feet looking huge relative to such as the vehicles and such 223 meters below!) ;b

Monday, July 16, 2007

Out of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail II (Photo-essay)

Back when I was in Penang and was more regular and methodical about updating this blog, I tried to space out my photo-essay entries and consequently have only one photo-essay every seven blog posts at minimum. Since moving to Hong Kong, however, not only have blog postings become less frequent and regular but, well, sometimes, there are more things I want to share in the form of photographic images than text. So here's submitting my second Ping Shan Heritage Trail-focused photo-essay following
last week's. Enjoy? (I hope so!) :)

When in heritage buildings like the Tang Ancestral Hall,
it pays to take some time to check out and admire
the smaller things and details
(in this case, some ceramic tiles
the side rooms of the inner-most of its halls)

Similar ceramic tiles in the adjacent Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall

Another stop on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail
(and what surely must have been
an inspirational place in which to study) --

the visually impressive Kun Ting Study Hall

The unassuming exteriors of, among others,
the Kun Ting Study Hall (in the center of the picture)
and the adjoining Ching Shu Hin guest house
for prominent visitors and scholars (in the foreground)

At the other end of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail
from where I began --
the Old Ping Shan Police Station (constructed in 1899)
that's now home to the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery

cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre

Panoramic view, including of some nearby graves,
from the Old Ping Shan Police Station
that's situated on top of Ping Shan
(More than incidentally, "Shan" is Cantonese for "hill" ;b )

Another panoramic view --
this time looking further west,

and including high-rise portions
Tin Shui Wai new town

Admit it: You wouldn't have guessed that
this peaceful-looking and greenery-filled photo --
and, actually, pretty much all of the photos in this photo-essay
-- had been taken in Hong Kong if I hadn't told you, right? ;b

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Shadow(s) (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

For this week's Photo Hunt, I'm putting up a self-portrait of myself; or, more accurately, of my shadow. Looking at that photograph, memories come flooding back of the day I went hiking in Penang National Park with some friends some months back...

Okay, at this juncture, I'm going to throw out a couple of meta-blogging notes as opposed to the usual and more informative texts that I try to include in my photo hunt entries:-

1) Although I've felt rather privileged -- as well as intimidated -- to have a "head shot" of myself be put up on the blog of someone I greatly respect, this by no means mean that I'm inclined to follow suit and put up pictures of myself on this here blog by which other people can recognize me. Chalk it down to shyness or, at least, wanting to preserve some privacy (even while sharing a lot of my thoughts and experiences on this blog).

Also, to my disagreeing with the reader who posted comments on
this blog's sole entry (thus far) that's badminton-focused to the effect that there wasn't enough on the blog for him to be able to form a picture of who I am (and what I do) because I don't tend to include all that many details about my "profession, bit of family and friend network, and...opinions on topics that touch [me, like] life, work, politics, religion, etc." But, well, even if you agree with that reader, there you have it, and that's that on the subject!

2) I get the feeling that most, even if not all, Photo Hunters who are good enough to visit my blog don't seem inclined to check out the non Photo Hunt entries -- even those that are picture heavy. Is this true? If not, here's encouraging you to also leave comments on those other blog entries that you visit; this not least because, for better or worse, I tend to use the number -- and quality -- of comments per post as a measurement of which posts are more popular and which less so.

Thank you, and now back to regular programming(!):-

The day that I went hiking in the world's smallest national park, it was a super-hot day. Although this made for a more tiring hiking experience than it otherwise would have been, there was at least one bit of compensation: that is, and especially when our group reached our destination of Pantai Keracut, a beach deep inside Penang National Park that's considered to be the furthest beach from "civilization" as represented by the urban and densely populated portions of Penang Island, the bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies that came with the hot and humid weather made for the landscapes that unfolded in front of our eyes frequently turning out to be a photographer's delight.

To get a taste of what I mean, take a look at the second photograph in this Photo Hunt entry. And for those who haven't previously seen them, should you feel inclined to check out more photographs that I took on that hiking trip, here's where you should go to do so... :)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Out on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail (Photo-essay)

Some people, it is said, are content to live in Hong Kong for years -- decades even -- without venturing beyond the more expatriate-friendly areas like
Central, the Midlevels, Wan Chai, Sheung Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui. To put it mildly: I intend to be somewhat different from these folks.

Thus it was that this week has seen me venturing out to places as far apart and diverse as: Tsz Wan Shan up in the northern section of Kowloon, and Sheung Shui up in the northern section of the New Territories (the latter courtesy of a wonderfully scenic and cheap -- at under HK$10! -- ride on bus number 270A from the Kowloon MTR station) this past holiday Monday; Kowloon Bay after work yesterday; and the Ping Shan Heritage Trail in Yuen Long district over in the western part of the New Territories earlier today.

Particularly while out on the often quite picturesque Ping Shan Heritage Trail, I got a bit camera-happy (by my modest standards). To be precise, over the course of around just four hours, I ended up snapping close to sixty shots! So the following photographs that I'd like to share with you really are but a small sample of what I took this afternoon. Hope you enjoy viewing them, especially since they make up just the first of two photo-essays that I plan to devote to this heritage trail! :)
The over 600-year-old Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda
(trans. Pagoda of Gathering Stars)
located at one end of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail
-- and near Tin Shui Wai New Town --
is Hong Kong's sole surviving ancient pagoda

An alternative (i.e., more close-up and,
to my mind, more aesthetically pleasing!)
view of the same pagoda

Outside the main entrance
into the still inhabited walled village
of Sheung Cheung Wai

Not the kind of sight one generally expects to see
when turning a corner in Hong Kong --
the Yeung Hau Temple over in
Hang Tau Tsuen
(AKA Ha Tsuen; Tsuen = village)

A sight I've really not seen before --
ceramic idols
seemingly oh so casually arrayed
placed outdoors and thereby exposed to the elements!

The main ancestral hall of the Tang clan
who are residents of the Ping Shan area
was built over 700 years ago but looks newer than that
as it has recently undergone major restoration

Ancestral tablets have the place of honor
at the altar located in
the triple-hall building's end hall

Next to the Tang Ancestral Hall -- so close that
their roofs can look like they're touching -- lies the newer
(by a couple of centuries) Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall

Sunday, July 1, 2007

In Hong Kong 10 years after the Handover

Panda-themed 10th anniversary
illuminated display in Victoria Park ;)

On June 30, 1997, I was one of millions -- maybe billions even? -- who watched on television the Handover ceremony that saw Hong Kong being returned by the British back to China. Little did I think that ten years on, I'd be in Hong Kong on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR); never mind interviewing people like superstar singer-actress Miriam Yeung, indie films director and cultural commentator Evans Chan, filmmaker Barbara Wong Chun Chun and renowned cellist Trey Lee in the days leading up to July 1, 2007, and getting their thoughts about this historic milestone along with some related events.

But, as I've discovered all too often and well, over the past decade, one's life-path can -- for better or worse -- take one to places that one never imagined, let alone planned for it to go. Also, that even as certain goals stay unfulfilled (or even end up getting abandoned), other dreams -- including those which one might have thought were more likely to be mere "castles in the air"-type fantasies than anything seriously concrete -- can become reality.

Returning to earth and in any event, the following are some of my contributions to the latest issue of bc magazine:-

1) Interviews with the lovely Miriam Yeung and bubbly Barbara Wong (along with a review of Simply Actors) can be found over here (scroll down for the Barbara Wong interview and Simply Actors review);

2) An interview with Evans Chan which I think provides quite a bit of food for thought;

3) An interview with Trey Lee; and

4) A feature article on Mainland Chinese archetypes in Hong Kong movies that's provocatively entitled...Crook, Whore, Fallgal, Cop!

And although I didn't write it, here's also recommending that people check out this piece by resident columnist, Spike -- who happens to be the self-described lao wai (trans. "old guy") behind the Hongkie Town blog.

Happy reading to my readers -- and happy 10th anniversary, Hong Kong! (And should anyone wonder about my plans for today, suffice to say that it includes a big-screen viewing of Project A II -- one of ten films in the special 1997, Before and After: Commemorating Ten Years of Reunification programme at the Hong Kong Film Archive.) :)