Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tai Lam Country Park hike (Photo-essay)

Two Sundays ago, I went on my first hike with
Roz's Hiking Group (a friendly group of hikers that still bears its founder Roz's name despite her now living in Australia rather than Hong Kong). The actual walking part of this New Territories hike lasted a little more than 4 hours and took us from Tsuen Kam Au to Sham Tseng (where we loaded up on roast goose and other delicious food!) through a chunk of Tai Lam Country Park. Suffice to say that I enjoyed myself -- despite the dreadful Hong Kong haze obscuring what otherwise would have been grand views *sob!* -- and enough to definitely plan to go hiking with this group again before too long.

Before that though, more specifically tomorrow (The National Day of the People's Republic of China -- and therefore a public holiday over here in the HKSAR!), am hoping to go on another hiking excursion. Almost needless to say, also am keeping my fingers crossed that the current unhazy situation holds out so that tomorrow's hike will afford good views along with exercise. At the same time, am contenting myself with the following photographic evidence that even on hazy days, there still are cool things to observe and discover in the (relative) wilds of Hong Kong! ;b

With haze like this..., feels compelled to focus more on
nearby and smaller aspects of nature --
including wildlife like this actually quite large
spider hanging on its web...

...and this dragonfly which
obligingly posed for a time on a twig for me! ;)

As for flora:
some green bamboo
along with a bamboo thicket?

Also, here's a close-up of
some beautiful lotus flowers
in one of two lotus ponds
passed along the hike

A wider view of the other lotus pond --
both located in the vicinity of what looks to be
the largely abandoned (bar for one house)
village of Tsing Fai Tong

Natural running water ;)

Lastly, here's the piece de resistance:
a natural pond with water so clear
it allows for beautiful reflections
when viewed from certain angles :)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Original (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Now for something different for the Photo Hunt -- or should that be original? ;b

The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines the noun form of original variously as thus:-

1 archaic : the source or cause from which something arises; specifically : ORIGINATOR
2 a : that from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made b : a work composed firsthand
3 a : a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity b : a unique or eccentric person

And I firmly believe that the individual who is associated with the above photographed space and items most definitely is (an) original.

So who is he? Well, as it so happens, he's the focus of the cover feature of the next issue of bc magazine that's due out next Thursday (October 4th). And yes, I do plan to provide a link to that article -- which, by the way, has been penned by yours truly ;) -- when it's up on line. So if you're intrigued by this teaser, do please make it a point to visit again next week! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Festive 4-0

One of the center-pieces of the
Hong Kong Island Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival
held in Victoria Park this year

Close-up shot of the glowing dragon
at the top of that mega lantern structure

Advance warning: Firstly, that this is going to be a more personal post than the ones I've been writing lately. Furthermore, that this is going to be a rather schizophrenic post. I.e., the two photos bear testimony to it being written on the night of what's variously known to -- and celebrated by -- the Chinese as the Lantern, Mooncake and Mid-Autumn Festival. Also, my decision to include a dragon into the picture(s) partly stems from last night, tonight and tomorrow night also seeing the commemoration of a Fire Dragon Festival that I spent part of yesterday evening checking out.

At the same time, my main reason for posting this evening is to commemorate the fact that I've turned 40 (yes: forty!) today -- and to mark this occasion by taking some time to reflect a bit and recall where I was, and what I was up to (or felt), on a few of my more notable birthdays. (And, in the process, give some more evidence for how itinerant and international my life thus far has been...)

E.g., my 10th birthday was spent in England -- and strange as it may seem, my abiding memories of that day include watching a TV special about a then yet-to-be released (in the U.K., if not the U.S.A.) sci-fi movie entitled Star Wars, being taken to Brands Hatch to watch a Grand Prix (and while there, having my first crepe!), and being presented with a birthday cake that contained copious amounts of two of my favorite fruits (strawberries and bananas!) at a birthday party held in the back garden of the house in Beckenham, Kent that I was staying in at the time!

In contrast, my 16th birthday was spent back in my family home in Penang, Malaysia. Even more surreally, the only thing I remember about this birthday was waking up to see my father gazing at me amusedly and then asking a still not-completely-awake me: "So, how does it feel to be sweet sixteen?" And my feeling rather insulted by the idea that I, in my 16th year or at any other time, might be considered "sweet"! ;D

Then it was back to England for my 18th birthday. For some reason, I can't remember the exact details but I was probably at (boarding) school in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire on the day itself. On the other hand, remember well that the weekend saw the then budding foodie in London and getting taken out to a nice restaurant as a birthday treat by a family friend with whom I've since, unfortunately, lost touch. (To Mrs. Shelley Moore: if you somehow ever stumble across this blog, hope you're keeping well and thanks for the memories!)

The next year saw me celebrating my 19th birthday in Beloit, Wisconsin. The best memories of the day include the women's soccer (association football) team I was a part of at college beating the University of Chicago's women's varsity team by 4 goals to 1. And, after the game ended and the news somehow was conveyed to the people present in Strong Stadium, everyone proceeding to sing "Happy Birthday" to me!!! :)))

My landmark 21st birthday also was spent at Beloit. Strangely, however, it really wasn't as memorable as that which occured two years before! Instead, all I remember was feeling some regret that I was now a bona fide adult, yet still felt more like a gangly girl than grown woman... ;S

Now we fast forward to birthday number 30. Spent in Philadelphia -- and taking place in the wake of one of the most disastrous episodes of my eventful but still young life. Have to say that in contrast to just nine years earlier, I really felt -- if not old, then scarred and weary. And even if it's not taken me a lifetime to recover from what felt like a living nightmare for quite a while there, it has taken me more years than I would like... :S

Anyways, that's now in the past (thank goodness!), and here I am celebrating birthday number 40. If truth be told, it's not been very festive thus far; not least because it's the first birthday in years on which I had to work! At the same time, have to say that I'm not feeling as traumatized as I thought I would be upon hitting the big 4-0. (Not yet, anyways!) So, hey, surely that's something to celebrate? Oh, and the fact that I got/get to spend it as an official resident of Hong Kong, of course! :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Photo Hunt-inspired entry

Not what they initially seem... ;b

This week's Photo Hunt has "paper" as its theme, and I must say that there was a part of me that was tempted to include the above photograph in my Photo Hunt entry this week. After all, there are two paper boats in the referenced picture, right?

Except that they're actually
faux paper boats and, instead, permanent sculptures of paper boats. And yes, the ducks in the background aren't real either (and, instead part of the rather amusing sculptural assemblage that I came across near the bus terminal over in Sai Kung town when I went there last week!)

And before you ask: Yes, I did take a lot of photos while out there in eastern Hong Kong. Also, yes, it is indeed the plan to put some of them up on this blog for people to share at some point in the near future... :)

Paper (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

In my Photo Hunt entry last week, I wrote that plastic seems to be everywhere we look (and photograph). While this may be true, even a cursory survey got me realizing that I nonetheless turn out to have more photos of paper products and items in my digital photo collection. And so much so that it took some discipline to not go overboard with this particular entry! ;S

Instead, I'm just putting up three pictures for people to have a look at: with the top-most photograph being a close-up shot of some of what's on sale at the type of mini open-air newspaper and magazine shop, pictured in the middle photograph, that can be found on many a busy street over here in Hong Kong; and the bottom-most picture being of one of the more traditional of Hong Kong's shops -- that which sells joss sticks throughout the year but, during the days leading up to that festive time of the year variously known as the Mid-Autumn, Mooncake and Lantern Festival, also takes to offering up some paper lanterns for sale.

On a trivia note: Something which I've found to be an amusing as well as endearing commercial practice over here in Hong Kong is that when you buy a newspaper from a set-up like in picture number two, you almost invariably will be given a free mini-packet of tissue paper to go with your purchase. Consequently, I have accumulated quite the stock of these mini-packets and don't think that I will ever have to buy tissue paper again for as long as I am resident in this part of the world!

On a cultural note: When I was young, I read a charming Chinese story about a father with two daughters who, one day, bade one daughter to present to him wind in a piece of paper and the other to give him fire in a piece of a paper. After giving these tasks much thought, the former cleverly realized that she could do so in the form of a fan while the latter fulfilled her father's request by presenting him with... what else but a lantern! :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Plastic (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Plastic, as shown in this on-line dictionary definition (one of two -- one for an adjective, another for a noun -- that it has, actually), has many meanings. However, living in Hong Kong as I do, one specific type of plastic item immediately leapt to mind when I read what this week's Photo Hunt theme was: that is, bags made out of this malleable human-made material whose use is so widespread that it can feel that it's everywhere we look (and photograph)!

For a time, I toyed with the idea of taking a photo of some of the plastic bags that are so freely given out by Hong Kong shops and stores; and so much so that even I have accumulated far too many of. (And this despite my having taken to carrying spare bags around in order to help stem this flow of plastic bags into my hands; only, often times, I find that I'm not as fast at getting my own bag out of my backpack or trouser pocket as the person behind the counter is at putting bought items into a new one!) After thinking some more though, I've gone for something more culturally, if not visually, interesting...

For those of you who don't recognize it: the durable red white and blue plaid material shown covering a Macau building -- and thereby protecting it from the elements -- is more often seen on bags which originated in the Chinese-speaking world (some say Taiwan; others say Hong Kong; but, in any case, they now also are made -- and used a lot -- in
Mainland China) but now can be found elsewhere, including African countries like Ghana. Known as the amah bag, its design has even been coopted by at least one famous Western fashion designer! And, unlike with the flimsier plastic bags that tend to be freely handed out, they tend to get used over and over, for a long period of time, and thus could be said to be more eco-friendly... :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dragon's Back redux (another photo-essay)

A little more than two weeks ago, I posted
my first Dragon's Back photo-essay. For those who enjoyed it, here are more photos. Again, apologies for the haze in some of them -- but, hey, they still do give a fairly good sense of what's out there to be seen when out hiking in the (relative) wilds of Hong Kong, right? :)

"Better to be safe than sorry"
appears to be the Hong Kong authorities'
approach to many matters, including hiking!

This being said, sometimes they do
have a point there... :b

Different types of vegetation --
including, I imagine, those planted by humans
along with others that are more natural
along the Dragon's Back

Hazy but still panoramic view that takes in
luxury housing on the Red Hill Peninsula

and -- in the distance, over on the right --
the big and beautiful Tai Tam Reservoir

Every once in a while, I'd pause
to catch my breath, look around and take photos,
including of nearby things as well as scenic vistas

A small waterfall that we passed by
early in our hike (which,
for those wishing to replicate it,
started near the prison at Mount Collinson)

As I told my hike companions,
these look like the kind of nuts and acorns
that Totoro likes!

Speaking of my friendly hike companions:
There they are, walking ahead of me, in this final photo... :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Article links from a movie-heavy issue of bc

A disarmingly open and polite young man
who I've now interviewed
twice over the space of just two months!

Tomorrow, another issue of bc magazine will hit the streets of Hong Kong. The following are links to some of the pieces in it that I wrote:-

i) Dragon Flames -- a feature article about the fire dragon of Tai Hang;

ii) The Son Also Rises -- an interview with Jaycee Chan about The Sun Also Rises (in which he stars along with Zhou Yun, Anthony Wong Chau-San, director Jiang Wen, Joan Chen and Kong Wei);

iii) The Sun Also Rises -- a review of Jiang Wen's third directorial effort;

iv) Forever Lucnica -- an arts article about the Slovak National Folklore Ballet troupe that will be coming to Hong Kong to perform Forever Young;

v) Exodus -- a review of director Pang Ho-Chueng's latest;

vi) Naraka 19 -- a review of the Carol Lai film which stars my favorite TWIN, Gillian Chung;

vii) Contract Lover -- a review of the comedy that's made me a fan (no pun intended!) of Fan Bingbing; and

viii) Editor's Diary -- lest people still need proof that Hong Kong is not a cultural desert...! ;b

Enjoy? I do hope so! :)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Music (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Last Saturday, I went to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre over in Tsim Sha Tsui to attend a performance of David Harrower's Blackbird (a Theatre du Pif production which I previewed here). As I entered the building -- which is not the greatest to look at on the outside but more than makes up for this with the great facilities and quality shows that are to be had inside of it -- I discovered that one of its many free performing arts events was taking place. So there and then, I got to snap shots which I think you will agree are ideal to display for this week's music-themed Photo Hunt!

For the record, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre regularly plays host to a Saturday Arts Delights programme. And what you're looking at in the photos is the Hong Kong Youth Music Orchestra entertaining a large and appreciative crowd with some Chinese orchestral music in the foyer area of this public facility. (Also, yes, like many others of my fellow Photo Hunters, I wish you could have heard the exquisite music whose musicians and (part of the) audience I managed to capture in my photos but not the sounds and tunes themselves... ;S)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dirty (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I have to admit that I seriously contemplated not taking part in the Photo Hunt this week; this because, much as I enjoy getting visits from other Photo Hunters and checking out others' blogs, I don't particularly want to dirty my blog with aesthetically displeasing pictures that I didn't care to particularly take as well as put up. But then it occured to me that I had an opportunity here to highlight one of my pet peeves: air pollution -- something that the Pearl River Delta area (which includes Hong Kong along with Macau) suffers from quite a bit, albeit more some days than others. So...

This week's panoramic views of Macau were both taken from an upper floor of the 388 meter high Macau Tower (and, for the record, with the same camera). The first one dates back to April 2006 while the second was taken in June 2007. Although what might particularly strike viewers of this pair of photographs is how there are more buildings in 2007 than 2006 (and that one of those newer structures is a really tall and rather funny shaped edifice), what I'd like to ask you all to focus on is the stuff in the background and thereby discern how much more and further you can see in the 2007 photograph.

This is because on my April 2006 visit, the air pollution was so bad that many a professional photographer -- I was there on a press junket! -- complained that they couldn't take pictures that had the sky in the background as it came out looking a rather dull white or dirty gray rather than clear blue. And I don't think it entirely coincidental that I caught bronchitis and had to spend some time in hospital shortly after returning to Malaysia either. Additionally, while on my June visit, the air did seem less polluted, what I'd really like to see on one of my future visits to Macau are truly clear -- and consequently all the more beautiful -- views of a part of the world that I generally do think has much to offer visitors...