Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bright (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I have to be honest: I almost decided not to take part in this week's
Photo Hunt -- not because the theme was too difficult, mind; but, rather, due to my having discovered within the past 24 hours that some photos I had previously posted up on my blog have been stolen by -- and even had copyright claimed on them! -- by a bright spark (not!) of a blogger.

But then I got to thinking of how much I've enjoyed taking part in tnchick's Photo Hunt, and for more than a year now. (In fact, upon checking, I find that my first Photo Hunt entry -- 60 entries ago! -- was back on April 13, 2007!) So here I am, with another pair of photos -- this time on the theme of bright -- which I hope you guys and gals will enjoy checking out:-

Bright sunlight creates a sparkly effect
on the waters of Victoria Harbour

Spotted while on a hike that took in
Sai Kung East Country Park's Pak Tam Chung
Nature Trail and Sheung Yiu Country Trail
back in March -- bright red flowers
of the ivory coral tree that blooms in the spring

(Oh, and do please do excuse me if I'm a little slower in doing my visiting rounds this week(end) as I'm actually travelling during much of it! And yep, that's also why this entry is up earlier than usual and chances are high that I'll be on a plane when some of you are reading these very words... ;b)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Picture theft notice

Early on in my blogging 'career', I blogged -- among other things -- content theft after
I discovered that some other bloggers had copied verbatem a popular blog entry of mine. Sadly, feel obliged to report that I've discovered that it's happened again -- this time with some photographs I took while out and about in Hong Kong.

Now, I have to admit that in my early days of blogging, I too was a bit uncertain about what constituted public domain, etc., with regards to photos. But never at any time would I take more than one photograph from a single website (other than my friend Brian's who has told me he's okay about my doing so!), never mind single blog entry -- unlike this blogging copycat -- who apart from taking photos of mine and putting up on another blog, also has the temerity to then claim copyright for them!!!

Oh, and by the way, you thief, that's not Sai Kung pier and the photos weren't taken on an Easter Weekend; rather, as my earlier blog entries that you took the photos from indicated, it's Wong Shek Pier and I visited around the turn of 2007/2008. Now that you've been discovered, I dare you to admit your guilt, take down those photos and/or apologize (preferably all three but even two out of three would satisfy me).

And to others: Sad but true, I have to admit that discoveries like this does make me wonder whether it's worthwhile, etc. posting up my photos to share with friends and friendly visitors since I risk being disappointed by some others of our fellow humans while doing so... (Oh, and for those who wondered, I was unable to leave a comment on that blog and there's no e-mail address posted there for one to contact the blogger. Hence my resorting to doing what I'm doing here on this blog entry.) :(

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...!

Rain clouds (and the Lion Rock in the distance)
can help make for quite the impressive sight

Normally, on a Wednesday morning like it is right now, I'd be out at work. Right now, however, I'm sitting in my apartment writing this blog entry. Why? Because, currently, as has been the case for the last 12 hours or so, Typhoon Warning Signal 8 is in effect. Indeed, the last time (i.e., a few seconds ago) that I checked at the Hong Kong Observatory's website, I saw the following:-
Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it?

From what I can myself observe through the apartment's windows and the balcony's glass door, though, indeed, there's quite a bit of rain falling. But, surprisingly, not that much wind -- nothing at all like could be seen battering Hong Kong in sections of Mud Child, a wonderful film from 1976 that's part of the Hong Kong Film Archive's ongoing as well as invaluable Care for our Community programme -- even if I can see the aerials on a nearby building moving more than usual!

Indeed, about the major indicator that things are not normal is that it's so quiet on my street and the one next to it that I can also see. Few people out and about and even fewer vehicles, especially public transportation (since bus service, etc. has actually been temporarily suspended!). Yeah, they sure do take their weather warnings seriously here...!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hedonistic Osaka, ascetic Shosha-Zan Engyoji (photo-essay)

Should you have thought that the Osaka Aquarium photo-essay was the last you'd see from my recent Japan trip, here's one last one that I hope continues to give people a different view of Japan from the usual stereotypes conjured up by visions of the chrysanthemum and the sword, the geisha and the warrior. For better or worse though, have to admit that the pictures in this photo-essay nonetheless can't help perpetuate but certain other stereotypes: i.e., of Osaka being a foodie haven, and there being amazing pockets of Zen in the country -- like Shosha-Zan Engyoji (aka the Engyoji Temple on Mount Shosha)...
You know you're on Osaka's Dotonbori
when you see
Kani-doraku's giant crab! :b

And you know you're in Kani-doraku when
you're presented with crab dishes like this one...

...and this delicious, rich plus creamy mix  

of baked cheese and crab roe :)

There's more than one fugu-ya (complete with a big
puffer fish mock-up to let you know it!)
along Dotonbori

 -- but Zuboraya is the one that got my patronage

The Nio Mon gate along the pilgrimage path
up on Mount Shosha

Early 14th century Shoro (bell tower)
on Mount Shosha that's one of Japan's oldest
(and considered an "Important Cultural Property")

Buddha statue in the Engyoji temple grounds
that brought to mind the
Great Buddha of Kamakura

A splash of color in the vicinity of the area of Engoyji
known as the Three Temples which
includes the 10th century Daikodo (great auditorium)

and 12th century Jikido that originally served as priests' lodging

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Water (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

After a few weeks where I had to scramble about for appropriate photos for the tnchick-led Photo Hunt, here comes one for which I have plenty of pictures to choose from! Indeed, I have so many photos of water -- like I have so many photos taken while out hiking in Hong Kong that I've yet to put up -- that I had to narrow things down and did so by deciding to put up just this trio of shots in which water prominently figure in the picture, all of which were taken during each my three most recent Hong Kong hikes (all undertaken within the last two months).

For those who are not content to just admire the visuals and, instead, want to know what areas of Hong Kong the hikes took place and what you're seeing in the pictures, what's shown in the pictures (from top down) are:-

i) One of the 10 or so streams that the Lung Mun (Dragon Gate) Country Trail -- that goes through Tai Mo Shan and Shing Mun Country Parks, and which a couple of friends and I followed last Sunday -- passes over (as in this case) or through (as in others!) ;

ii) One of the scenic views -- this of a southeastern portion of Hong Kong Island -- that one is privy to when hiking on the Pottinger Peak Country Trail; and

iii) View looking out from Tung Lung Chau (East Dragon Island) looking north up to Clear Water Bay, the Clear Water Bay Peninsula and the New Territories beyond.

(And for those who haven't realized it yet: Yes, Hong Kong really does have its share of natural areas and beauty spots! :b )

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Octopi in Osaka

An Osaka favorite -- takoyaki (octopus balls),
made from bits of octopus together with batter, etc.

A giant octopus, complete with
takoyaki improbably affixed to one tentacle,
spied on Dotonbori!

I've just returned from my favorite eatery in Hong Kong -- not one serving Chinese food but, instead, a yakitori joint where I treat myself to sticks of tasty eats (including quails eggs, squares of tofu, portions of pork's neck, pumpkin, and asparagus wrapped in bacon along with a variety of different chicken parts) that go very well with some hot sake. So hot on one more experience which reminds me once again how much I love Japanese food, here's posting up another Japanese food-related blog entry: one which while not quite the Osaka Aquarium specimen and Dotonburi eats pairing I had threatened a couple of days back, still makes for an interesting photographic pairing! ;b

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The amazing Osaka Aquarium (photo-essay)

The following may sound sick but if I had to describe in a nutshell what I did during my recent visit to Osaka, it's first go and see lots of fish and other aquatic life at the incredible Osaka Aquarium that is Japan's largest (with a water volume capacity of 11,000 tons) -- and surely best? -- and then follow that up by heading to the justifiably famous Dotonburi and eating a lot of relations of what we had ooh-ed and aah-ed over at the aquarium!

Even sicker is the fact that I toyed with the idea of doing a photo-essay that showed some of what I saw at the aquarium along with some of what I ate on my Dotonburi visit... But, as it turns out, have enough pictures from the aquarium to make up its own separate photo-essay. Consequently, you're spared what might have seemed to some to be a rather twisted set of snaps... ;b

View from the world's largest ferris wheel,
including of the Osaka Aquarium's colorful building

"What are you looking at?",
a large California sea lion looked to be asking me

Can you spot the fish in the picture?

How about with this one?

Alternatively, this whale shark,
and the school of fish that seemed to want
to go wherever it went,
is pretty much impossible to not notice!

After we saw how they looked from the bottom,
we got to calling the sting rays and their ilk
Caspers (as in 'the Friendly Ghosts')!

While still on rays: Is it just me
or does this manta ray bring to mind
some kind of alien space ship?!

Confirmation, if needed, that
the Osaka Aquarium contains hundreds,
if not thousands, of water creatures!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

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

"Don't talk politics or religion at the table, etc." Thus goes an old piece of advice that I'm sure many of us has heard someone attempt to dispense at some point or other in our lives. Why? Because these two topics are likely to get emotions running high, to the point that some people -- with whom you may hitherto have thought you had a lot in common and liked a lot -- will get inflamed.

Still, for this week's emotion(s)-themed Photo Hunt, I'm taking the liberty of posting photos that represent precisely those two taboo topics: with the first photo being of a pro-democracy march through, cum political demonstration in, the streets of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China that took place in October last year; and the second being of the state mosque of my home state of Penang in Malaysia... ;b

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gushing about Lisa Lu (the Empress Dowager), etc.

As you'll be able to tell from my article on her,
it was a genuine thrill to meet and interview
this acting legend

There's no two ways about it: Working on this latest issue of bc magazine, I experienced both major highs and lows. The negatives came in large part by way of my having -- partly because of illness, partly because of my having gone on holiday to Japan -- just a week to produce the writings that I was responsible for doing and a series of factors having contributed to that week being the longest, most energy-sapping work week I've had since moving to Hong Kong.

On the other side of the coin, the positives, came from my two interview subjects proving to not only be leading representatives of their field but also amazingly nice and fun to talk to. And when one of them is Lisa Lu, whose film credits include The Arch, The 14 Amazons, The Empress Dowager, The Last Emperor, and The Joy Luck Club... :)))))))

Anyways, without further ado -- bar to point out that this may well be the first time in its close to 14 year history that the magazine's put an 81-year-old woman on its cover... ;b

i) Lisa Lu and the Empress Dowager Ci Xi -- the legendary actress plays the imperial personage once again, this time in the fourth revival of a Hong Kong Repertory Theatre classic;

ii) Red, White and... Lilac! -- The Hong Kong Ballet's Artistic Director, John Meehan, talks about the company's upcoming Tricolor;

iii) This issue's Editor's Diary;

iv) A review of The Incredible Hulk;

v) A review of Lawrence Lau (aka Lawrence Ah Mon) and Scud's City Without Baseball; and

vi) A review of Shaolin Girl.

And while the following weren't written by yours truly, I do think that they'll also be of interest -- especially to Hong Kong movie fans :) :-

a) My helpful friend Michael Wells' review of Johnnie To's Sparrow; and

b) My colleague Rachel Mok's article on Silver Ko, whose singing credits include Election I's end song.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Osaka Snap x 2

"Roll up, roll up!" urges Kuidaore Taro,
the mechanical clown
in front of Osaka Meibutsu Kuidaore,
the city's oldest restaurant department store
-- which, sadly, will close on July 8, 2008

The Dotonbori Canal which runs parallel to
the famous Dotonbori food street

For those who worry that I might: Don't worry, I'm not going to give Osaka short shrift. Japan's third largest city may be derided by some as the Japanese urban equivalent of the Elephant Man but I thoroughly enjoyed the far too short period of time I spent there; this not least since Osaka is a truly superb place for foodies! :b

More than incidentally, someone else who has been to Osaka recently and seems to have a good time (sometimes frequenting the same places I did -- as this photo essay on her blog shows!) is one of this blog's regular visitors, sbk. I hope she'll put up more photos of Osaka and Japan in general on her blog... and hope that there are others out there hoping the same of me. ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Himeji Castle (photo-essay)

In a blog entry yesterday, I intimated that
Himeji Castle -- which I visited together with the nearby Koko-en Garden, and the Shoshazan Engyoji (Engyoji Temple on Mount Shosha) on a day trip from Osaka -- really brought out the shutter bug in me. After seeing the following photos of the magnificent 17th century edifice also known as Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) because its brilliant white exterior resembles a white heron in flight, I hope that you'll understand why it did:-

No doubt about it -- the seven storey
main castle keep (Daitenshu) dominates
the landscape of Himeji -- castle but also town

At the same time, it seems to play peek-a-boo
with the visitor making his or her way
along a suggested tour of Himeji-jo's expansive grounds

But all gets revealed as you get into the central area

And yes, visitors are allowed into the main castle keep
-- albeit only if they deign to remove their shoes
(in order to help preserve its original wooden floors)

Also, to get views like this,
one has to climb many flights of stairs as
there are no concessions to modernity like lifts
in this UNESCO World Heritage Listed-site

The Osakabe Shrine on the Daitenshu's top floor

Lest it be thought that only the Daitenshu
has aesthetic charm

Truly, the artistry apparent in so much of
Himeji Castle's architecture

can take one's breath away

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Himeji-jo up close

All those architectural angles and decorative details
were like visual nectar to this shutterbug!

For those who were wondering: Yes, I most definitely will be posting more Japan photos soon. In particular, I hope that you folks won't tire of seeing photos of Himeji-jo as I really did go snap happy when visiting the most spectacular as well as largest castle still in existence in that land. And for those who think the structure looks familiar: Among the films in which it has featured are Akira Kurosawa's Ran and Hollywood's The Last Samurai.

For myself though, have to admit that I saw the magnificent Ran so long ago -- more than 20 years, in fact! -- that, even while I definite still retain memories of that film, I couldn't recognize Himeji-jo as that castle in the cinematic masterwork. As for The Last Samurai: Suffice to say that, like with Memoirs of a Geisha, its trailer put me off wanting to watch that recognizably Orientalist movie.

As a result, one could say that I visited Himeji Castle with eyes unblinded my cinematic memories and (mis)conceptions. All the same, I soon was put in awe for it truly is a magnificent edifice... as I hope that this blog entry gives a sense, and my pictures of it will (continue to) show. :)

Something not seen often (thank goodness!)

Flooding in the MTR!

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the crown jewel of Hong Kong's wonderful public transportation system -- which generally operates, unlike its Malaysian equivalents, with few glitches. It even continues to operate during adverse weather: e.g., even when a Typhoon 8 warning is in effect. I know this because I was in Hong Kong last year when a Typhoon 8 signal was raised. The 'funny' thing though is that although at the time the Typhoon 8 warnings got me pretty worried, the worst weather I may have encountered to date in Hong Kong was two nights ago and late into yesterday morning when a thunderstorm warning was in effect together with a black rainstorm warning.

What this translated into observable terms included lots of thunder, lightning and many inches plus centimeters of rain. And flooding... including in the Wan Chai MTR station! Fortunately, this was an isolated case and, also, one that occured near the surface (and one of the station exits, in fact). But, still... especially when it's considered that there are three different MTR routes that go under the significant body of water known as Victoria Harbour... :S

Update: For colorful confirmation and more details about the recent deluge, go over here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sapporo by day and night

Summer is not the season that most people would choose to visit Sapporo. After doing so for a few days in late May, I would have to concur with the majority opinion -- not because this means one missing out on attending the Sapporo Snow Festival but, rather, because, like with Hong Kong, summer seems to be the wettest time of the year there. (And although I learnt to ignore rain more towards the end of my Japan trip, that wasn't the case in Sapporo. Hence Hokkaido's largest city getting short shrift as far as my photographing tendencies were concerned.)

Something else I'd recommend is that people don't spend a Monday in Sapporo since that is the day of the week that many of its attractions -- including the Historic Village of Hokkaido, the Ainu Museum and University's Botanical Gardens -- are closed to the public... Despite my doing so (and in a summer month to boot), this is not to say that I didn't manage to have a good time in that northern Japanese locale. And I hope that the following all too few pictures manage to give visitors to this blog a sense of that:-

The Sapporo Beer Museum --
one attraction that's open every day of the week!

Inside the beer museum -- decorative metal work,
including a large vat that's no longer in use

I wonder how many people took to
eating the hops before they installed those signs... ;b

Stained glass window that's one of many unlikely
beer-themed items -- including beer-flavored ice-cream
and chocolates with liquid beer centres! --
on view at the Sapporo Beer Museum

Sights like this got me realizing that
the Japanese are really into owls as well as
confirmed their liking of that which is kawaii ;)

Susukino -- where neon but also eateries,
brothels (or 'soapland's as they're called in Japan),
bars and beer abound

Obligatory food photo --
this of the tasty ikura, uni and mushroom bento
I ate on the plane flight out of Sapporo/Chitose
enroute to Kansai International Airport and Osaka

So... still hungry for some more after? I sure do hope so! :b

Monday, June 2, 2008

Genghis Khan in Japan!

So... am I successfully whetting your appetite
-- for more Japan photos, that is? ;b

Long before Japanese heart-throb Tadanobu Asano starred as Genghis Khan in Mongol, Genghis Khan was already very popular in one part of Japan. Genghis Khan -- the culinary dish, that is! For in Sapporo, when you talk about Genghis Khan, people tend to think you mean barbecue -- particularly lamb.

At the Sapporo Bier Garten (and yes, I detect a German influence/connection there!), my mother and I opted to feast on fresh lamb and lamb butt(ocks?) -- together with a side portion of vegetables -- barbecue. To go with what turned out to be a most delicious spread indeed, she opted for some Coca Cola (which came in a beer mug) and I for a supposedly medium-sized mug of Sapporo draft beer that turned out to be close to -- I kid you not! -- 1 litre in size!

The amazing thing is that for all of Japan being reputed to be a super expensive place to visit and live, the whole pretty substantial as well as delectable meal -- plus drinks -- for the two of us came to around 3,500 Yen.

On an additional interesting linguistic plus cultural note: For some reason, 'all you can eat'/buffet arrangements are called 'Viking' in Japan... And yes, at the Sapporo Bier Garten, one has the option of "going 'Viking'" -- either with just food alone or a food and drink combo! ;b