Saturday, May 31, 2008

Japan vignette (photo-essay)

Last weekend, for the first time in quite a while, I didn't take part in the weekly Photo Hunt. The not so good reasons included my having the kind of stressful as well as busy work week that left my feeling in desperate need of a holiday break as well as so run down that I came down with a cold. On a more positive note, I did manage to arrange to get away for a few days -- starting early last Sunday -- and head over to Japan, the land of Hello Kitty, Totoro, great food and so much much more.

Over a course of five days and a trip that began in Sapporo before also taking in visits to Osaka and Himeji, I managed to snap more than 100 shots as well as partake of a lot of delicious local delicacies, imbibe some delicious draft beer, check out a few interesting places and take in some memorable experiences. The following photo-essay hopefully provides some idea of how I enjoyed myself in the Land of the Rising Sun along with a fair sampling of choice shots of Japan's various faces and attractions:-

Blue skies over New Chitose Airport --
a welcome sight that,
alas, I didn't see enough of
in rainy Sapporo as well as
don't see enough of
in air pollution-ridden Hong Kong

Penguins in Osaka -- more specifically,
wonderful Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) that is
Japan's largest (and, I'd imagine, best and most beautiful)

The world's largest ferris wheel
at Tempozan Harbour Village, Osaka

A bird's eye view of Osaka (including the Osaka Dome)
from atop the ferris wheel
(one of many, incidentally, that we saw in Osaka!)

Two culinary dreams fulfilled over the course
of a single evening: One being a visit
to the eating establishment-lined Dotombori;
the other being to sample -- among other delicacies --
some fugu sashi (i.e., thin slices of raw blow fish)! :b

The main tower of the very impressive as well as historic
Himeji-jo, Japan's largest castle and
UNESCO World Heritage Listed site

Fish and stone ornament in the Kokoen --
a complex of 9 reconstructed traditional style
Japanese gardens
located in the shadow of Himeji-jo

The Engyoji Temple complex atop Mount Shosha --
an amazing place I wish I could have spent more than
the little more than one hour checking out

Self (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Having missed last week's Photo Hunt, looked forward to returning to taking part in this Saturday -- and often into Sunday as well -- activity. At the same time, as many regular visitors to this blog know, I'm not at all keen on taking or putting up pictures of myself on the internet -- so this week's Photo Hunt theme looked to pose a bit of a problem for me. And how much can be seen by the above grainy photo being the only snapshot I've ever conscientiously taken of (a part of) myself!

Re the photo itself: The story behind it is that there's a cinema over here in Hong Kong with a particular art-house reputation and accordingly art-house type lighting in the corridor that you go into on the way out of a theatre into the street. In particular, the overwhelmingly green lighting reminds a friend of mine and me of that which prominently features in Wong Kar Wai's Fallen Angels; and so much so that we wonder whether one got the lighting idea from the other! In any case, it can make for quite the cool visual effect, don't you think? ;)

Friday, May 30, 2008

latest bc magazine linkorama

The very personable director
The Pye Dog and The Moss

My apologies for being late with regards to the latest bc magazine linkorama but I only returned from a (way too short but nonetheless wonderful) holiday in Japan yesterday. And yes, you can expect several Japan-themed photo-essays in the not too distant future. But in the meantime, here are heads up and links to the following articles:-

i) Juggling Jerome -- The Compagnie Jerome Thomas' juggling Rain/Bow show;

ii) Moss Appeal -- Derek Kwok talks about his sophomore directorial offering;

iii) Baroque Joy -- Baroque dance choreographer Beatrice Massin talks about her Let My Joy Remain and general love of music (*And it's Bach in the hard copy, don't know how it became Back in the online version of this piece!);

iv) The Editor's Diary for May 29 to June 11;

v) Review of Thai film, Ghost of Mae Nak; and

vi) Review of Derek Kwok's The Moss.

Enjoy? Hope so! :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Festival Time in Shau Kei Wan (photo-essay)

At the beginning of this week, I got pretty snap happy at the Tam Kung birthday parade in Shau Kei Wan, a local festive event that tends to be overshadowed by the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and Buddha's Birthday that take place on the same day as it every year. One day, I will make it out to check out the Cheung Chau Bun Festival but, if truth be told, the thought of the sure to be huge -- and potentially ovewhelming -- gathered crowd for this much hyped up event put me off heading over there this year and also last.

(As an aside, that's one of the great things of the
Tam Kung birthday celebrations: It really felt so communal and untouristy -- and thus all the more authentic and enjoyable to someone who may have got out of anthropology some years ago now but still feels like there's quite a bit of the anthropologist in her still...)

Starting close to where we left off:
with Taoist priests and disciples -- this time around
also with a symbol-laden mock-up boat in tow

 A portable shrine, complete with what looks to be
a Taoist baby god, temporarily at rest

in the middle of Shau Kei Wan Main Street

 It's rest-time too for a pair of unicorns
while they wait for their time to gallivant and shine

The colorful dragons, on the other hand,
are happily on the move,
doing such as
chasing after an equally brightly-colored ball they weave expansively along the parade route

The dragons are so eye-catching that
I simply can't resist including another shot of one! ;)

Lions at play on nearby Tam Kung Temple Road

Near journey's end -- big headed creature by Victoria Harbour
waiting to pay tribute at Shau Kei Wan's Tam Kung Temple

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Candy (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Do these delectable egg tarts with a creamy coconut filling -- encountered in a restaurant on my most recent trip to Macau -- qualify as actual candy as well as foodie eye candy? I'll be the first to admit that I'm not completely sure.

On the other hand, post tasting them, I can most definitely vouch for them being very sweet -- and, in fact, the sweetest things I, who tend to go for savoury rather than sweet snacks, have a photograph of! And since 'sweet' is the equivalent British English term for the very American
candy as well as the word for a particular kind of taste, I hope tnchick and co will indulge me and allow me to submit this delicious looking image for this week's Photo Hunt... ;b

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prostitute Dramas, Solo Ho Show and more!

The stars of Call Girl '92 --
one of my favourite films from a genre
that I care for a lot more than many might think

Back in July last year, I wrote an article that ended up being kept as a back up because it was non-time specific. For a time, I feared that it would never see the light of day. But now, I'm very happy to say, it finally has -- along with quite a few other pieces more recently written by moi -- in the latest issue of
bc magazine! And yep, that article in question really is about prostitute dramas... and is one I hope you'll enjoy together with the other writings that I'm providing links to in this blog entry:-

i) My Name Ain't Suzie -- Hong Kong prostitute dramas;

ii) Solo Ho Show -- Not what you think but, instead, about a play entitled Ho Chi Minh in Hong Kong whose premiere I attended earlier this evening! :D ;

iii) An Adventurous Frame of Mind -- The Etha Dam dance company's Aduna, Land of Adventure;

iv) Two By Two -- Interview with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong's artistic director, Leanne Nicholls, and its new chief conductor, Jean Thorel;

v) It's Not the Years, Honey, It's the Mileage -- Indiana Jones returns (soon)!;

vi) This issue's Editor's Diary;

vii) Review of Wong Jing's My Wife is a Gambling Maestro;

viii) Review of first-time director Stanley Tam's Breeze of July; and

ix) The magazine's inaugural Macau section.

Additionally, although it's not written by me, I reckon that more than one of you will find it worth checking this feature article by Rachel Mok on the Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tam Kung B-day Parade in Shau Kei Wan (photo-essay)

Today was festival day in Hong Kong -- what with it not only being the day that Buddha's Birthday is celebrated in this territory but also the Cheung Chau Bun Festival as well as the less well known Birthday of Tam Kung. At first, I hadn't planned on witnessing any of these festivities but this morning, found that at least one of it would be pretty hard to ignore.

To wit: I had meant to sleep in as it was a public holiday and I had had a late night last night... However, I wasn't able to do so for as long as I would have liked since at some point in the morning, I was woken up by the sound of lion dance drums being played! Getting out on to my balcony, found that lion dance troupes were passing in open roofed trucks on the road down below!

Photo taken from my balcony! ;b

From the direction that they were heading, surmised that they would be part of the parade in Shau Kei Wan to honor Tam Kung. And this afternoon, when I visited that part of Hong Kong Island, I was proved right with quite the remarkable and colorful as well as festive sight of dancing lions, dragons and unicorns parading in the streets... :)

One of the first sights that greeted me
a female drummer
surrounded by different colored lions
Just One Look, anyone?)

Is it me or does this dragon look like it's grinning?

Ditto re this lion

...from its impressively high vantage point!

A dragon sailing through the air
in Shau Kei Wan Main Street

How would you like for a parade like this one
to take place on your street? ;b

Colourful when viewed from the back

...but even more impressive
when viewed from the front?

Admit it Hong Kong movie fans: It's impossible to
not think of
Mr Vampire and Lam Ching Ying (RIP)
when faced with this sight, right?

So... enjoyed and want more? If so, do please let me know as, to put it mildly, I kind of went snap happy this afternoon in Shau Kei Wan! ;b

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Share any photo (This week's Photo Hunt theme)


For this week's Photo Hunt, tnchick decided that we could share any photo. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But when you've amassed quite the collection of photos like I get the feeling most of us have... And to make things more difficult for myself, I really have decided to stick to the singular and consequently share just one photo this week. Also for a change, I've gone this week with a photo taken in Penang -- where I was born and my parents still have their home -- rather than Hong Kong -- where I currently live and work.

The funny thing though is that when I look at this Penang photo now, I get to thinking of how Hong Kongers would look at what's in it. More specifically, I get the definite sense that they'd think, "how great it must be to live in a place -- high up on a hill -- with that view"! Whereas when I visited, that house from which I took this photo was vacant and it looked like it would be a fair while before it would attract any buyers -- because even while Penang Hill does have a few luxurious residences and well-to-do residents, living up it just doesn't have the attraction for many Penangites that living up on Victoria Peak has for many Hong Kongers...

One reason for this is that even while Penang Hill has its hill railway that can remind one of Victoria Peak's Peak Tram, the former's operating hours are shorter and its trains much less frequent and consequently packed than the latter's trams. Also, while there are public roads and buses connecting Hong Kong Island's highest peak to its more populated sea-level area, there are no such equivalent things on Penang island.

In short, lack of public transportation makes for an inconvenience that really can't be ignored in Penang. And as I've told many of my friends and family members many times, one of the reasons why I love Hong Kong so -- and over Malaysia, for all of it being my official homeland -- is that thanks to its plentiful public transportation (options), here I do often feel free to roam in ways that I just don't in many other less convenient -- as well as safe -- parts of the world...

So, to sum up: A room -- or even home -- with a view may seem great to some. But give me a place with convenient public transportation over it any time! ;b

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Northeast Hong Kong hike, Part I (photo-essay)

Like I detailed in an earlier blog entry,
I went on a hike on the first day of Chinese New Year 2008. Two days later, I followed this up with another longer hike to a more remote part of Hong Kong. As I trust that you'll agree after viewing this photo-essay, this hike also went through a much more beautiful part of the territory. Indeed, as one of my hiking companions (who appears to rather regularly checks out this blog) and I decided even before we reached the half-way point of this hike that took us from Wu Kau Tang eastwards to Sam A Chung, then up north a bit to Sam A Tsuen then back west -- but along a different route -- almost all the way back to Wu Kau Tang and then finally to the Mirror Pool and legendary Bride's Pool, I would have pictures for at least three photo-essays! ;b

So, without further ado, here's the first of -- yes, really -- what should be the first of three photo-essays of this hike in northeast Hong Kong that definitely ranks among the top two that I've thus far gone on in Hong Kong in terms of scenic views afforded, other interesting sights and pure enjoyment:-

A body of still, clear water
near the hike's starting point

...and a shrine near that body of water

The first of more than one quaint looking village,
many of them abandoned, that my hike companions
and I passed by over the course of the hike

...and another --
this one completely abandoned

Amazingly, many of these abandoned dwellings
still contain many furnishings
and what some would consider
precious personal items like old photographs

An overgrown as well as abandoned old playground
near one of the abandoned villages
that looked like it'd make a good set for a ghost movie!

Still, lest you got to wondering whether
this hike would take in some views
of nature
as well as old dwellings... ;b

Ending (for now) on an even greener note! ;b

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Super kawaii movie character cushions?! :b

Totoros (O and Chibi) and friends


Before anything else, yes, it's true: Hello Kitty is not the only kawaii critter that I adore. Rather, I also love My Neighbor Totoro's Totoros (especially big and gray O-Totoro) and although I don't like the Stephen Chow movie for which it's the eponymous character all that much, I did come away from my viewing of the film reeeeeally wanting a CJ7 of my own...

...and now I do!!! Granted that it's a CJ7 cushion rather than an alien pet but truly, don't you agree that it's veeeery cute?? At the very least, will say that it is by far the cutest of the CJ7 merchandise I have seen being sold since the movie was released back during this year's Lunar New Year period. And yes, should you wonder, it's veerrrry soft to the touch too. :)))

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Olympic Torch in Wan Chai

See who was an Olympic Torch Relay
runner in Hong Kong today...
(And yes, you can see enlarged versions
when you click on them) ;b

Earlier today, the Beijing Olympics Torch Relay was run in Hong Kong. As an added bonus for this blogger, this historic event didn't only pass through Wan Chai but also along the very street where my office is located! Initially, I was thinking it might be good enough to watch the relay from our office but as the crowd began to gather in earnest, a few of my colleagues and I decided that it would be a better experience to go downstairs and join the massed ranks.

Observing the excited schoolchildren and other people around me who were caught up in a celebratory as well as festive sort of spirit, I'm glad I did so. And that feeling increased exponentially when the torch relay for our leg was unveiled and it turned out to be... Eason Chan!

A great choice, I thought, considering how I've come to associate Wan Chai with -- not The World of Suzie Wong but, instead -- the truly sublime Crazy 'n the City that stars Eason Chan alongside fellow singer-thespian Joey Yung. And how I've come to associate Eason with Wan Chai, not least because the icing-on-the-cake coda of last year's affecting Hooked On You (starring Eason and Miriam Yeung) also takes place in this district of Hong Kong Island.

So while I can see how it's weird that there were so few sporting figures among Hong Kong's Olympics Relay torchbearers, there's also a part of me who thinks it's pretty cool that entertainment and performing arts figures -- Hong Kong Sinfonietta Music Director Yip Wing Sie as well as Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Kelly Chan and Eason Chan among them -- were among this group. And judging from the reaction of the crowd around me to Eason's appearance, I'd say that many of them definitely agree... ;b

Excited and happy schoolchildren...
and this was even before they were interviewed on TV
as well as
caught sight of this section's
designated Olympic Torch Relay runner

With faces like these around one,
it was hard not to get caught up in the spirit of things :)

Yes, it really is Eason Chan,
and he looked pretty excited and happy too! :)))

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hong Kong moves

It may not be visually impressive but this was
the quiet street on which I lived until recently... ;)

It's not often that I write two blog entries in a single day but I think that today merits it -- not only because May 1 is a holiday and I can make hay while the sun shines but, also, because it happens this May 1 happens to mark the 1st anniversary of my moving to Hong Kong. Yes, you read right, I've now been living -- and, as of tomorrow, working -- in Hong Kong for a year now!

In honour of that move and also my recent one from one apartment to another on Hong Kong Island, here's writing out a list of 25 things I've come to learn about Hong Kong housing (hunts as well as in general) which might serve those of you thinking of making a similar movewell:-

1. Residences on the 4th, 14th or 24th floor (regardless of whether you count it in the British or American way) are not considered attractive by native Hong Kongers.

2. Ditto re those near cemeteries, crematoria and pretty much anything with connections to the dead (though Happy Valley might be an exception to this rule!).

3. Ditto some more with buildings considered as old -- which can be just 25 years old.

4. Alternatively, places with a view of a body of water -- including Victoria Harbour, which for property (agents') purposes, is considered to be a "sea" (as in "sea view") -- are often considered very attractive by many Hong Kongers.

5. Something else which appears very popular -- and prestigous -- is to have a residence on a hill or a hill slope. Indeed, it seems as though to be high up, be it naturally or on a high floor of an apartment block, is much valued. (As a property agent told me, there supposedly is less noise and general pollution the higher up you are.)

6. Property agents can be very localized indeed -- as can be witnessed by their walking (as opposed to driving) you to properties they've picked for you to view.

7. There's a large range in terms of the quality of buildings and apartments, even when they're in the same price range.

8. Calculated property sizes include public areas/spaces in the buildings. And what with new buildings tending to have larger lobbies and such than older ones, it often is the case that what are supposed to be same size apartments in a new and old building actually is so that the apartment in the new building is smaller than the one in the old building.

9. It can seem like every apartment, even those whose sizes people in other territories would think are more akin to closet space (I've seen apartments advertised as being around 200 square feet in size!), comes with air-conditioning.

10. Alternatively, there still are quite a few apartment blocks (including, I've heard, some with as many as 13 floors) that are without lifts/elevators.

11. There is a transportation charge for items you buy and have delivered to your apartment if yours is in a building without a lift/elevator... :S

12. On the subject of size: It's not just that apartments are on the small side in general -- so too (and maybe especially relative to what many non-Hong Kongers are used to) are the toilets/bathrooms! :0

13. Also, many toilets are "wet" toilets -- i.e., there's not even a shower curtain to separate the shower area from its other sections!

14. Some apartments have outer walls which seem like they're only 6 inches thick at most!

15. Gas still can come in gas canisters -- like those you see exploding in movies, and yes, I now have them! -- rather than via pipes... :S

16. When you go on and apply for broadband services, the company will ask you for your address so that they can find out/make sure that your building is one where you can have broadband.

17. Property prices in Hong Kong -- even areas of it that are not particularly fashionable -- can make the renter (not just buyer) feel like hyperventilating upon seeing them!

18. If you have an apartment on the top floor, you are liable to have use of the roof. (A favoured spot for barbecues in the summer, etc.).

19. People can get pretty excited when you tell them that your apartment has a balcony even after you add that your balcony's on the narrow and small (tiny) side.

20. Life in Hong Kong being so busy and people often being out and about, it's rare to see -- and, even more so, speak -- to one's neighbours.

21. There's a certain cachet to saying that you live on Hong Kong Island (even if it's an unfashionable area of Hong Kong Island) as opposed to Kowloon or the New Territories. (One reason for this, according to a Hong Konger friend of mine, is that there's only one public housing estate on the whole of Hong Kong Island.) (Sunday, May 4 addendum: Another Hong Kong friend of mine -- who reads this blog -- just e-mailed me to tell me that, actually, there are more than 20 public housing estates on Hong Kong Island. Still, I think my point about the cachet stands.)

22. The most notorious areas of Hong Kong to live in -- notably Tin Shui Wai (dubbed 'the City of Sadness' and latterly the subject of movies like Besieged City) but also Yuen Long (where Triads are often shown operating in Triad movies) and Tuen Mun (which gave its name to an infamous serial rapist) -- are in its western portion.

23. As a fellow Hong Kong movie fan friend once remarked, those of us who love Hong Kong movies may consider certain areas of Hong Kong attractive (to live, hang out in, etc.) than other people -- including some native Hong Kongers -- would not. (One notable example: super-high density and notoriously Triad-filled Mongkok. Another: Prostitute and Triad-filled Yau Ma Tei.)

24. More than one friend might ask whether they can help you move -- which is nice... except that you'll liable to realize that few, if any, of your friends actually owns a car. (What happens when you live in a place with great public transportation...!)

25. Even if you live in a small apartment, you can accumulate (and store) a lot of things -- as you'll find when you have to move! ;S

A second Lawrence Lau interview and much more!

The female star and director of Besieged City

Happy May 1 to you -- especially if, like in Hong Kong, it's celebrated as Labour Day and thus a public holiday! For some reason, am feeling fairly awake early this morning. So rather than treat myself to a lie in, here's bringing you links to my contributions to the May 1 issue of bc magazine:-

i) Troubled Youth in the City of Sadness -- Interview with Besieged City's director, Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon) (On a sidenote: If anyone had told me a year ago, that I'd meet and talk to the director of Queen of Temple Street, Spacked Out, My Name is Fame, etc. thrice within a matter of months...! ;b);

ii) Harlequin on a Hike -- Chinese Opera meets Commedia dell' Arte;

iii) Stage Struck -- Indian playback singing superstar Sonu Niigaam;

iv) Utopia -- 40 Years On -- May '68 films and memories;

v) Macau Arts Festival Dining Guide -- Macau cultural eats;

vi) The Editor's Diary for the period covering May 1 to 14;

vii) Happy Funeral review and short interview with director Barbara Wong Chun Chun;

viii) This Darling Life (Angie Chen, director) review;

ix) Besieged City review; and,
special to the internet (since we ran out of space in the hard copy version of the issue!),

x) a Love is Elsewhere review.