Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hong Kong street food

Fried and stick food heaven?

a type of waffle known in Hong Kong
kai taan chai (little chicken eggs)

As regular readers of this blog know, Penang -- where I was born and my parents still reside -- is famous as a foodie paradise. In particular, it's its street fare -- what Penangites call 'hawker food' -- that people in the know go to Penang for and that got it a mention in TIME Asia's "Best of Asia" list.

For its part, Hong Kong got a mention on that same list as having the Best Urban Hike in the Dragon's Back. But whither street food in Asia's World City? For all of its not being to the liking of some (and my still not being able to go past the stench of stinky tofu and make like Josephine Siao's character in Hu-Du-Men and eat it), I have to say that I personally find much of it to be pretty tasty.

To be sure, some of it may take some getting used to -- pig's ear, tongue and intestines or beef stomach, anyone? -- but I've developed a real taste for a few items: notably, curry fishballs like Wong You Nam's character hawked in Just One Look; non-stinky fried tofu and associated fried vegetables (e.g., aubergine (AKA eggplant) and fishball stuffed green peppers like can be see in one of the pictures in this Globetrotters entry about Hong Kong street food); and 'little chicken egg' waffles of a sort that I've only ever seen in Hong Kong. And, actually, pig's ear and tongue too!

More street snack than a single substantial meal, it can be quite the pleasurable experience to stroll parts of Hong Kong where street food vendors exist in droves -- like Mongkok (like where the two photos at the top of this entry were taken), Wan Chai and Causeway Bay -- sampling food from different stalls. Good for you? At the very least, that's debatable. But hey, the way I see it, better to enjoy life while you're alive then to make too many culinary and other sacrifices in order to ensure that you live just a few years or maybe mere months longer! :b

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Beautiful (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

As pretty much anyone who has checked out this blog knows, I love Hong Kong. A place that's full of energy and life, my experience also is of it being a place where beauty abounds -- and not solely in terms of Hong Kong Island's iconic skyline or Lantau's Big Buddha either. Although my photography often doesn't really do what I've photographed justice, I hope the three pictures I've chosen for this week's Photo Hunt entry will help give you some idea of what I mean.

And for those who would like a more concrete idea of what they're looking at, the above examples of pockets of eastern- and western-style along with natural beauty in Hong Kong respectively are of (from top down):-

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ngong Ping 360 and the Big Buddha (photo-essay)

This past Monday, I was supposed to start my new job (having departed from bc magazine even though its current issue contains reviews of Cyborg She and The Edge of Love by me). What with my having to wait until today for the authorities to approve my work visa extension, however, I ended up spending it at leisure -- over the course of which I decided to go up to Lantau Island's Ngong Ping Plateau on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to visit the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery (and then down to Tung Chung by bus and the rest of the way back home by MTR).

Although I had been up Ngong Ping before, this was some years back before the cable car service had come into being and other developments had taken place in the vicinity. Something that was of interest to me was how, post having gone on my share of hikes in Hong Kong, I now could see the start and end points for several hiking trails in the area.

On a more emotional note, while exploring the space inside of the Big Buddha, I unexpectedly came across tributes to the late Anita Mui and got to recalling that her tablet (and remains?) appears to be interred at that site. Rather than end on this sad note though, here's also pointing out that two Hong Kong movies that I positively associate the Big Buddha with are Infernal Affairs III and Three Summers -- both works that are interesting in their own way and, coincidentally, have a star in common in 'Little Tony' Leung Chiu Wai... ;b

Later in the afternoon,
I would descend by bus
on the road in the picture...

...but first up was the approximately 15 minute ride
by cable car from Tung Chung up to Ngong Ping

Among the more amazing sights from the cable car for me
was that of women hard at work
on the mountain edge!

Then there was the awesome sight of the Big Buddha itself

Although they're mere specks in the above photo,
these permanent devotees to the Big Buddha
are actually pretty impressive in their own right

View of the Big Buddha from Po Lin Monastery

View of the Big Buddha and the steps
to be taken to get up close to that colossal statue
from a circular altar that brought to mind
the imperial altar at Beijing's Temple of Heaven

One of the most close up shots I took
of the Big Buddha's impressive visage

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fuwa ...and corn?

Spotted at Hong Kong International Airport last week!

Seen more than once in Causeway Bay!

After capturing the attention of the world, the sporting extravaganza that was the 2008 Beijing Olympics has come to a close. Somewhat ironically, I personally found more people transfixed by the events which were taking place in various parts of China during my recent visit back to Malaysia rather than in Hong Kong (officially a part of China since 1997 and this Olympics' equestrian events host). At the same time though, there's no question that there have been more fuwa to be found in the Fragrant Harbour than those who have not been here in recent months can possibly imagine.

Seemingly in every corner -- or, at least, district -- of Hong Kong, there have been fuwa displays about. So I wasn't too surprised to see fuwa at Hong Kong International Airport upon my return to Asia's World City this past week. Passing the fuwa which lots of people -- adults as well as children -- were clambering to take photos with, I did end up doing a double-take upon realizing that what I had previously thought were mere large blow-up dolls actually had people inside of them; something made patently clear when I saw a couple of other fuwa being led by helpers as they made their way to join (or replace?) the fuwa I had seen capturing attention and putting smiles on people's faces in the airport's arrival hall moments earlier.

Setting aside the thought that it must be super-hot (and generally uncomfortable) inside those inflated suits, there's a part of me that got to reckoning that it must be kinda cool to have a job as a fuwa. Kind of like working in Disneyland (though, not necessarily Hong Kong's much criticized mini version of the theme park) -- corny, I know, but as a kid, I used to think it would be great to get a summer job at "the happiest place on earth" doing such as working on the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride -- which, more than incidentally, Hong Kong Disneyland does not have -- and being witness to all that anticipation and excitement of those going on that rollercoaster!

Speaking of corn: There's this giant corn cob -- okay, okay, a person dressed up as a corn cob! -- who can be occasionally spotted near the Sogo in Causeway Bay handing out advertising leaflets for a nearby eatery. Although basically just a more elaborate version of a human billboard (or sandwich man), I've seen happy kids going up to shake its hand and amused grown up folks asking to take photos with it.

So, again... if one had to do a low-paying job, surely that is among those that would be among the more satisfying? (Far more so, for sure, than the seriously mundane one I saw being carried out by a woman at a hotel on my most recent visit to Macau: one involving her using giant metal tweezers to pick up cigarette butts from an ash can's sandy surface and then a slice of cardboard to smooth the sandy surfaces of a series of ash cans installed in various sections of the hotel's reception area...)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Geeky or not?

Enough is enough! This past week, two friends -- one on his blog; another on a comments thread on this blog -- have taken to referring to me as their "geeky friend". And even though I admit to having variously referred to myself as an anthro geek, a beer geek and a movie geek, I got to wondering whether I really am geeky.

So, I went over to blogthings and tried out its How Geeky Are You? quiz with the following results:-

Your Geek Profile:

Academic Geekiness: Highest

Movie Geekiness: High

Internet Geekiness: Moderate

Geekiness in Love: Low

SciFi Geekiness: Low

Fashion Geekiness: None

Gamer Geekiness: None

General Geekiness: None

Music Geekiness: None

Now the question is: how geeky are you?? ;b

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wrinkled (This week's Photo Hunt)

As can be seen from my offering up just one photo (rather than the more usual two or three -- like with last week's sadly under-visited entry), this week's Photo Hunt theme is one that I don't have all that many suitable candidates for. To be sure, I could have gone and taken some snaps of the wrinkled clothing I have on account of my never haven't really mastered the art of ironing but I figured that would make for too mundane a sight! So, instead, here's offering up a photograph of one of the many gold colored and other statues that are to be found as one makes one's way up and down the hill that is home to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery near Shatin in Hong Kong's New Territories that I visited -- and went rather snap-happy at -- last August.

Rather than be one of the 10,000 Buddhas on display at the monastery, however, this statue looks more to be that of a Chinese sage -- albeit, one would think, one who has been suitably enlightened by Buddhism. Perhaps that is why, for all of his having a wrinkled forehead, he looks pretty happy and content -- an exemplar of it being thoroughly possible after all for one to grow old happily as well as gracefully! ;b

(*Weather update for those who've been keeping track: The typhoon warning signal hoisted is now down to 3 as Nuri has passed through Hong Kong and now up north.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wong Nai Chung Gap to Stanley (photo-essay)

Weather update: As I write this, the eye of Tropical Cyclone (more specifically, Severe Storm -- now relegated down from Typhoon -- Nuri) is passing directly over Hong Kong, causing a temporary lull that makes the air feel distinctly still, very humid and hotter than one might like. What with Typhoon Signal No. 9 still firmly in place, one has felt compelled to remain in one's apartment pretty much all afternoon... with the result being that I'm feeling rather cabin feverish and thus would like to look back, via this photo-essay, at a hike I took back on a beautifully cool day this past February from what has become a favorite hiking hub in Wong Nai Chung Gap through reservoir rich Tai Tam Country Park down south to the seaside town of Stanley.

Shortly after entering Tai Tam Country Park from
Wong Nai Chung Gap, my hiking companion and I found
what looked to be a fairly new route up
to a designated viewing point

From there, one was presented with views
like this one of the
Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir
that made the extra climb feel very worthwhile

A closer view of the Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir,
nearby bridge and all

Another, larger reservoir in the Tai Tam Group
passed along our hike -- this one known as
the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir

The Chekiang Machilus (Machilus chekiangensis) plant
whose new leaves bloom in early spring,
their red color getting them easily mistaken
for blooming flowers from a distance

Many a time had I ridden a bus to Stanley
without realizing that a few feet above the road lies
a catchwater that also makes for part of a hiking trail

Scenic view of Stanley peninsula along with town

Close to the end of the trail and just a few hundred meters
away from Stanley town with its bars, restaurants, etc.

Klang bak kut teh

An open air feast of bak kut teh and more
(including green veggies, sea cucumber
and complimentary Chinese tea)
* picture taken on my camera by Kit Liew! *

Any doubts as to why bak kut teh is so-called
should be banished from viewing this picture

The well-patronised bak kut teh restaurant --
one of several in the area -- that we opted to eat at
and have no qualms recommending to others

As I write this blog, another Typhoon Warning Signal No. 8 is effect [*update: yikes, it's now Typhoon Warning Signal No. 9!!!*], with the typhoon/tropical storm that's due to pass really close to -- or even actually directly hit -- Hong Kong later today bearing the name of Nuri.

But rather than worry too much about it (though, to be safe, I've done as advised and fixed adhesive tape to the large window panes in the front of my apartment and did some extra food shopping last night!), I'm going to cast my mind back to this past weekend and my visit with two friends -- including the blogger behind Falling Leaves Are Heavy -- to Klang, the Malaysian town known as the birthplace of bak kut teh (literally translated from Hokkien as "pork bone tea").

My childhood memories have it that bak kut teh tended to be consumed as a hearty breakfast by people after they had gone for an early morning walk or in the wake of a tai chi session. In more recent years (especially during the two years I lived and worked in Kuala Lumpur), however, I've found that it is also happily consumed for brunch, lunch or dinner, and without a hunger-inducing exercise session needed in order to whet appetites for this delectable dish that is one of quite a few Malaysian ones that may bear a Hokkien name but actually is not native to China.

For all of my years of experience consuming bak kut teh, however, this past weekend was the very first time I did so in Klang itself. For this, I have to thank my friends -- who are fellow foodies but, unlike me, love to drive! So I'll excuse one of them regularly referring to me as "my geeky friend" on his blog and make up for his being too shy to bring a camera and photograph the food by putting up photos of what we ate for brunch this Sunday. So... delicious looking, eh? And yes, it really was very tasty indeed! :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008


A sign at Hong Kong International Airport
that gives visitors a really good idea
how fast paced Hong Kong life generally is!


Back in the summer of 2000, my mother and I paid a visit to Hong Kong after not doing so for several years. Unused to Hong Kong's ways (and its particular style of English), my mother found herself being perplexed by a sign at the airport and asked me, "What is a relax train?" Whereby I, who had figured it out a few moments prior to her making the query, laughingly informed her that the sign actually was urging passengers to "relax[ -- i.e., chill out -- for the] train [was] coming" soon!"

In 2008, the signage near the train now more clearly reads "RELAX -- Train comes every 2 minutes". And Hong Kong does indeed remain a famously fast-paced city. So much so that almost every time I leave it, I tend to find the places I visit from there -- be it Taipei (as was the case last December) or Malaysia (most recently this past week) -- to be excruciatingly slow-paced.

With regards to Malaysia in particular: One of the Cantonese phrases I learnt from my two years of living and working in Kuala Lumpur -- which, for all of its being the capital of Malaysia, has the Cantonese as its largest ethnic/linguistic group -- was "mm sai kan cheong". But as I've found upon moving to Hong Kong, that which effectively translates into English as "no need to get uptight" (i.e., "take it easy") just doesn't have much use here. Indeed, try saying it to a Hong Konger and more often than not, you'll get an uncomprehending look -- and no, it's not just because I have a lousy (i.e., English accented) Cantonese accent either! ;D

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hong Kong Olympics 2008 (photo-essay)

Chalk it down to it due to my being
on the same continent as Beijing but try as I might, it seems like I can't avoid getting caught in the hype of the 2008 Olympics after all. And even though I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've been majorly gripped by Olympics fever, I've already ended up watching more of the Olympic Games coverage on television -- including not only the Opening Ceremony but also a few badminton and tennis matches, some gymnastics competitions and Yelena Isinbayeva's world record-breaking 5.05 meter pole vault -- than I thought I would.

In much the same way, while I don't think that the Beijing Olympics' fuwa are even half as cute as Hello Kitty, Dear Daniel, Winkipinki or the Totoros, I've belatedly realized -- as you will too post viewing this photo-essay -- that I've ended up taking quite a few photos of them along with other Olympics paraphenalia scattered about Hong Kong. (And if you didn't realize by now, not all of the 2008 Olympics' events are taking place in Beijing. Rather, the likes of Hong Kong as well as Shanghai and Tsingtao are among the other cities that are getting to host part of these sporting mega-event.)

The main word is Beijing but Hong Kong's
Olympic connection is made clear on another banner

Walking through the apm mall in Kwun Tong,
I wondered aloud what this countdown clock
was counting to
-- only to be informed that
it was for the Olympics, of course!

Inside Central MTR station is another countdown clock --
this one, as can be shown by its surrounding decorations,

more explicitly referencing the 2008 Olympics
the equestrian events for which Hong Kong is the venue)

Fuwas on display outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre

More fuwas -- this time
on a tram stop's billboard over in Wan Chai

There are no signs to explicitly announce that
this outdoor sculpture by the Hong Kong Arts Centre

is Olympic in nature but the colours, rings and horse motif
gets one thinking of the Olympic Games all the same

The Olympic Bridge in Causeway Bay
(which doesn't have space for mention
the Olympics after Beijing's!)

Weird as it may seem, I'm reassured to see that
not all of the Olympic visuals are polished looking
as well as commercial in nature :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Colorful (This week's Photo Hunt)

(N.B. I know that it's not yet Saturday but I putting up this Photo Hunt entry today rather than tomorrow as I'm due to be on the road quite a bit this weekend...)

When some people think of cities, they conjure up images of predominantly steely and stone cold gray landscapes. To these folks, I like to say -- and provide proof via such as the images offered up in this week's Photo Hunt entry (along with a previous Pink-themed Photo Hunt entry) -- that the metropolis that has been dubbed Asia's World City is most certainly much more colorful than that.

More specifically, the first photo in this entry offers up a shot of
Nathan Road that shows off the territory's many colorful neon signs while the second is of a particularly colorful example of the small stalls that line Pottinger Street, a steep, stone-slabbed stairway over in Central that Hong Kong cinema fans will recognize as having appeared in a number of local movies (including Johnnie To's recent Sparrow (2008) and -- unless I'm much mistaken -- Jackie Chan's often criminally overlooked Mr. Canton and Lady Rose (1989)). So... colorful but also pretty cool, right? :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Less Mao, more Sun?

Who do you think of when seeing this?

Which political leader do you associate most with China, especially modern China? Hu Jintao may be the current President of the People's Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen may be known to millions of Chinese as the Father of Modern China, and Deng Xiaoping certainly had an impact on the country but my definite sense is that for most people in the world, it's still Mao Zedong who they most associate with China.

Interestingly, however, it seems that Mao's grip on the imagination of the contemporary denizens of the state he had a major hand in establishing looks to be loosening somewhat recently. Put another way: if a major ceremony like August 8th's Beijing Olympics opener had been staged even just a decade ago, would it have been likely that there would be no mention of Mao whatsoever during it? As for the Mao jacket: According to a International Herald Tribune article from December of that year, those previously iconic pieces of clothing were already "just a memory" in Beijing 2004.

Then there are the comments of Chinese conceptual artist Sui Jianguo -- an exhibition of whose works is currently on at Hong Kong's Times Square -- in yesterday's Sunday Morning Post (which, like the rest of the South China Morning Post, requires a subscription to access it online) about his art works that more than one person has seen as referencing Mao jackets but which he maintains are meant to "symbolise Sun Yat-sen's revolution in 1911, and the Chinese's reverence for [Sun]" even while also noting that that particular piece of clothing is "part of our culture and tradition. Not everyone wears it now, but it's still in our soul and spirit..."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dark (This week's Photo Hunt)

When I saw what this week's Photo Hunt theme was, my first question to myself was: how dark can I really go? For, frankly, night shots are most definitely not my forte. Put more bluntly, many of the shots I've attempted to take at night just haven't come out too well, if they have come out at all!

Consequently, the best I feel able to offer up is a pair of photos containing dark silhouettes: the first featuring a weather vane that I snapped on a day trip to beautiful Nan Lian Garden (that, funnily enough, also supplied me with photos for the 'shiny'-themed Photo Hunt along with that for 'heavy'!); and the second taken on a ferry going across Victoria Harbour around dusk a few weeks ago. So... good enough? Sincerely hope you folks decide that it is so! :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hello Kitty, Telford Plaza and Beijing 2008?! (photo-essay)

As I write this blog entry, it's the eve of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Something which I'm also very aware of -- but people outside of Hong Kong probably aren't -- is that the territory that has HK as its initials is in the throes of another Hello Kitty promotional wave that includes Hello Kitty Messenger dolls currently being on sale at McDonalds. But while this latest Hello Kitty promotion doesn't relate to the Olympic Games and Beijing, one surely couldn't say the same of an earlier one in the spring that turned a section of Telford Plaza into a small slice of heaven for Hello Kitty aficionados like yours truly -- one that I think it's now as good a time as any to present a photo-essay on... ;b

Are we ready?

Ready, that is, for a whole lot of Hello Kitty-ness!

What's this I hear -- that you can only spot
Hello Kitty's friends but not her Kittyness in the photo?

There she is -- in Chinese footballer
(or soccer player in American speak) mode! ;b

Hello Kitty as Chinese ping pong player
(with a panda head cover to really
emphasize the Chinese connection!)

Hello Kitty in champion medalist mode

For some reason, though, it's Badz Maru
-- rather than the champion cute cat
who looks to have been awarded the honor

of being the Chairman Mao equivalent of Sanrioland!