Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thankful (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

"Without man, no culture. Without culture, no man." Thus pronounced Clifford Geertz, the late, great anthropologist; one of whose other memorable quotes inspired me to give this blog its name.

Like most anthropologists, Geertz's definitions of culture involve more than just what they like to call "Culture with a capital 'C'" (i.e., the fine and performing arts that most people tend to associate with the term).

In any event though, this Photo Hunt allows me to go on on the record as being thankful that we have culture. Also, that many forms of culture -- high and low, popular and rarified, with or without a capital 'C' -- exist for our appreciation, edification and plain enjoyment. For I do indeed fall into the camp of those who view its very existence less as a luxury and more as integral to our lives and very humanity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cute (yet serious) signs

...and from the looks of this sign, it seems
that the elderly and young
are being encouraged to look after each other!

Get the feeling that Hong Kongers
need to learn to relax? ;S

Recently spotted at the Ponyo-themed mall exhibition :)

Earlier this month, I blogged about Funny Warning Signs. At the bottom of that entry, I mentioned that I also had been collecting photos of cute signs that I've spotted while out and about in Hong Kong, and openly wondered whether anybody would like to see them.

A couple of people were kind enough to state that they'd be interested in doing so. So Alejna and sbk, this post is particularly for you as well as my own good self! Still, I do hope that more than just the three of us will be amused by the sight of the amount signs.

Speaking of amusement: More than by the way, on my two most recent hikes (one of them I belatedly discovered was about 20 kilometers in length!), I came across some more funny warning signs. And yes, I do expect that sooner or later, they'll just have to be put up on this here blog... ;b

(Oh, and here's sending out a special "hi" to those visitors who are checking out this blog thanks to the Malay Mail newspaper being nice enough to feature it in its Cyberspot section! :) )

Monday, February 23, 2009

A taste of Cantonese Opera

The foyer of the Sunbeam Theatre, all ready
to host an evening (or more!) of Cantonese opera

The bright sight that often greets me
on the tram ride home from work

Earlier this month, Cantonese opera fans in Hong Kong received the welcome news that the Sunbeam Theatre -- the territory's sole dedicated venue for the traditional performing arts that the authorities are contemplating submitting for World Heritage listing -- has had its lease renewed for another three years at least; this after widespread expectation that it would have its last show in January of this year.

Fearful that I would not have a chance to do so before too long, I went and attended a Cantonese Opera performance at the Sunbeam Theatre a few weeks back. (Incidentally, Hong Kong movie fans might like to know that this is the main performance venue featured in Shu Kei's enthralling Hu-Du-Men; while heritage buffs should note that it's one of the few landmark locations featured in the movie that remain despite the film being less than fifteen years old!)

The experience was an interesting one that whetted my appetite for more Cantonese opera viewing; albeit preferably with English surtitles. This past Saturday, I got precisely that by way of the forward-thinking The Art of Cantonese Opera group's production of Tong Tik-seng's The Floral Princess (AKA Princess Chang Ping).

At more than three hours long, the opera was about twice as long as the John Woo opera movie that I viewed some time back. In all honesty, though, really did manage to enjoy the live performance quite a bit more; and so much that I can't quite believe that it's taken me this long to give full length Cantonese opera shows in all their colorful glory a genuine chance!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Warm (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives several definitions for the word warm, including one that very much suits this photographer's Photo Hunt needs: "A warm colour is one which is based on or contains a colour such as red, yellow or orange which suggests warmth."

As it so happens, those photos also happen to have been taking on a day last September when the weather was definitely not cold or cool but not completely hot either: i.e., warm! In addition, it was a day that I do have especially fond -- one might even say warm... ;) -- memories of; seeing as it was the Sunday after my birthday and I spent a significant part of it out in Tai Mei Tuk hanging out with my mother and a few good friends; and the sun fully co-operated in allowing me to take photos such as the above by doing such as bathing its rays on the waters of picturesque Tolo Harbour as well as the surrounding land. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shui Hau to Shek Pik, Part II (Photo-essay)

Last week, I put up the first batch of photos taken while hiking from Shui Hau to Shek Pik Reservoir. This Sunday, I hope to go on another Lantau Island hike. Sadly, the last time I checked, the weather forecast is for it to be misty (albeit "with sunny intervals") on the day. So unless things change radically, I'll not be able to take photos with views as clear and beautiful as I did back the most recent time that I went hiking on Hong Kong's largest island... :S

To recap: A friend and I began our hike
at the village of Shui Hau which can be seen
in the now far distance in this photo!

The lowest point we got to in the hike:
the beach at Lo Kei Wan
(which is home to an official AFCD campsite)

Not long afterwards, however, the trail took us to
higher elevation and an area with far redder soil

Skirting the coast as well as hugging hillsides,
we came by scenic sea views such as these

...and these (and for those wondering, that vessel's
one of the many that regularly ferries passengers
from Hong Kong to Macau (and back again))

When out hiking in Hong Kong, I see rocks
that, with a bit of imagination, can bring to mind
images of animals -- e.g., can you see
a prehistoric monster's head on the left of the photo? ;b)

If not, okay, try again here -- i.e., do you see
a simian's head in this photo? :)

Looking from still some distance towards
the hike's end destination of Shek Pik Reservoir
(and those are not resorts below it, but, instead
Shek Pik Prison and the Sha Tsui Detention Centre
that gets me thinking of Herman Yau's often overlooked
From the Queen to the Chief Executive)

To be continued... as yes, this was a really nice hike that I think -- and hope you agree... -- is worthy of not just one or two but three photo-essays!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo!!!

Not what one normally expects
to see in a mall, right?

Here's a Ponyo, there's another Ponyo!

This has not been the best of the weekends. Part of it is because one of my least favorite days of the year -- one which makes me feel like I shouldn't be happy to be to be single the way I usually am most days of the year, for quite a few years now -- came again yesterday. Part of it is due to it having been gray, foggy -- due to weather conditions but also air pollution -- and humid for the past few days. Work-induced stress -- there's no denying that there's a recession on these days -- also has played its part.

But as I think that regular readers of this blog realize, encountering the kawaii can make my day as well as lighten my mood and bring a smile to my face. Thus it was that I felt whatever funk I had was lifted upon my unexpectedly encountering a large Ponyo On the Cliff by the Sea display inside of a mall in Mongkok this afternoon!

For fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli who have yet to see this magical movie, rest assured that it's one more cinematic gem that you will love. As for those who have yet to check out these anime giants' charming creations, I reckon that Ponyo... -- with its lovable as well as irrepressible main character and some truly cool supporting ones -- would provide a pretty good introduction to their amazing body of work; though, of course, you should never stop at viewing just one of their films but, rather, ought to then go ahead and check out the likes of the enchanting My Neighbor Totoro, sublime Porco Rosso, etc., etc., etc. :b

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nautical (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I was born on an island (Penang) and currently reside on another island (Hong Kong). In between, have also spent several months on a third island (Zanzibar's main island of Unguja). These facts notwithstanding though, I've not been a person who's had much to do with things nautical for pleasure as well as work.

Thus, I've taken a cue from a few Photo Hunters whose bridge(s) efforts last week covered significant swathes of the area surrounding the ostensible focus of the Photo Hunt and opted for the above photos: ones that show off quite a bit of Hong Kong's (the territory as a whole, not just the Hong Kong Island) varied geography along with the different types and sizes of vessels that sail in its waters.

(And for those seeking details: the first photo was taken in Sai Kung and looks toward Ma On Shan; the second looks to Aberdeen Channel from near one of the entrances Ocean Park; while the third, of course, is from Tsim Sha Tsui looking across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another Lantau Island hike (photo-essay)

A couple of weeks after hiking from Ngong Ping down to Tung Chung Road, I returned to Lantau Island for another afternoon of hiking with a friend. This time around, the trail I selected took us from the village of Shui Hau (trans. "water mouth") to Shek Pik Reservoir (which, along with Shek Pik Prison, this Hong Kong movie geek will always associate with Herman Yau's affecting From the Queen to the Chief Executive).

Towards the end of our hike, I remarked to my companion that we had gotten a lot of bang for our (hiking) buck. She enthusiastically agreed that this was the case because this really was a very nice trail that, in a relatively short distance, offered up lots of varied and beautiful scenery as it led us to down a beach, back up to higher ground along parts of the coast and such as it wound along; something that I hope will be apparent when you take a look at the following photo-essay:-

Shui Hau village, a British army-built bridge
and some of Lantau's many mountains

Mountains, sea, greenery and mudflats
-- not what usually comes to mind
when people think of Hong Kong, right? ;b

A beach of sand rather than mud this time around

I know because the trail took my hike companion
(who also likes to take photos!) and me down there!

Just as I was thinking that my mother'd like this hike,
we came upon a series of steps up a hill... ;S

But, honestly, when they take you up
to places where you can take in
views like this one, it really can feel worth it! :)

Still, I didn't neglect to notice the flora --
but have to admit that I'm not sure if those
are fruits or flowerbuds of some sort!

As for fauna: lemme tell you from experience
how difficult it is to photograph butterflies,
especially a small one like this!

To be continued... but of course! ;b

Monday, February 9, 2009

The cute cat returns!

Hello Kitty (and friends) in the MTR once more!

Hello Kitty wishing people
a happy Chinese new year

on behalf of Hong Kong's MTR

I have to admit: the sight of this creation
left me speechless for a few moments! :b

Look away now, Hello Kitty haters -- because a new year brings... more Hello Kitty in the MTR! This particular display that I came across while walking in the underground area connecting the MTR's Central and Hong Kong stations looks to be festive-themed as well as connected to the on-going Hello Kitty promotion. Hence my thinking it appropriate to draw attention to it on the 15th and last day of Chinese New Year.

(And yes, I know that Hello Kitty is a Japanese invention -- and, in fact, Japan's current tourism ambassador to Hong Kong and Mainland China (even though she's supposed to be English). But believe me when I say that there are plenty of Hello Kitty-themed Chinese New Year paraphenalia to be found and also sights of such as Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel clad in traditional Chinese costume wishing people a happy (Chinese) New Year about in this part of the world!)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bridges (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

When people think of bridges, chances are they're thinking of bridges over water. To be sure, Hong Kong does have excellent examples of these, including the Tsing Ma Bridge that is the world's longest-span suspension bridge with an overall length of 2.2 kilometers and nearby Ting Kau Bridge (that optical illusion has caused to appear to be the larger of the two in my photo of them in this blog entry).

Hong Kong being a vertical-oriented (no pun intended!) city though, it also has more than its fair share of overhead bridges over broad and narrow roads and streets, especially in high density sections of the territory like Causeway Bay. So I figured that my Photo Hunt entry would be incomplete without a couple of pictures of these pedestrian walkways, however modest looking they may be. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Street food musings

Street food, glorious street food! :b

Earlier this week, sbk posted an entry on her blog with a photo that got my mouth watering. Thus I was reminded of the power of pictures! Then this morning, a comment by Glenn on the comments thread of that same blog entry got me realizing that it has been a while since I last put up some food photos over on this blog. So here's remedying the situation this evening with another photo filled with what Hong Kong is really good at: fried street food; this one taking from an overhead pedestrian bridge in Wan Chai (hence the inclusion of the stall's colorful striped awning in the picture)! :)

On the subject of street food: I have to say that I can't believe that Hong Kong as well as Penang is not on a World Hum Eight Best Cities for Street Food list. Or, for that matter, Philadelphia (whose hoagies, cheese steaks, soft pretzels and hot dogs come with a choice of sausages, including Italian sausage and Polish kielbasas)! And this from someone who's lived in one of those cities (though "city" is rather generous to describe Zanzibar Stone Town!) as well as visited -- and eaten -- in two others (Berlin and Istanbul)!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Funny warning signs!

Talk about a graphic sign!

And if the first wasn't graphic enough for you...! ;D

Last Sunday, while hiking along the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail (listed in guidebooks as being 12.5km in length but if you count the distance to get to its starting point from the nearest bus stop and from its endpoint to a mini bus stop, it's a total of 15km!), I came across the flash flood warning sign pictured above that caused me -- and a few fellow hikers -- to double up with laughter. One day later, while looking at which photos taken during my hike from Ngong Ping downhill towards Tung Chung to include in a photo-essay, I came across a landslide danger sign that I must admit to having being amused by, only to save putting it up for another day.

Well, here's figuring that today is as good as any other to be that day! And while I do so, here's also going ahead and suggesting that there genuinely is humor to be found not only in signs that mangle the English language or those that point to the existence of different perspectives on how to lead life but, also, those that seem designed, in all seriousness, to really get messages across to people -- by being in not only one but two different languages and coming complete with expressive pictorials that appear to be designed to be understood by those who can't read either Chinese or English.

Maybe next up at some point: Hong Kong signs with surprisingly cute graphics... And no, I don't just mean those that prominently feature Hello Kitty (like the MTR poster and stickers) either! Wanna see them? I sure hope so since, as it so happens, I've been "collecting" photos of them also... ;b

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lantau Island hike sights (photo-essay)

In the height of the summer last year, I took the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up the Ngong Ping plateau that is home to the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. After it got a bit cooler a couple of months later, I decided to go up there again (this time by bus) and hike down from there towards Tung Chung new town -- initially along the Ngong Ping to Shek Mun Kap trail but detouring midway to catch the Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail that promised to yield spectacular views.

But although my hiking companion and I were able to take in some good views on that afternoon of hiking on Lantau Island, a few other sights -- that should become apparent as you check out this photo essay -- ended up grabbing our attention more. In any event, suffice to say that there really is plenty to observe when out hiking in Hong Kong -- a place that yields far more of interest, both in terms of cultural along with natural sights, than many tourists, even those intrepid enough to leave the shopping malls to head out to visit Ngong Ping plateau, often realize...

Our hike began a little ways past
Po Lin Monastery's main gate and the Big Buddha

The older -- dating back to a time when
Chinese writing was read from right to left
(not left to right like nowadays) --
and less ornate Ngong Ping East Gate

It may not look like much in this photo
but that's actually one of the
largest butterflies I've ever seen!

The Po Lam Monastery (which feels much less touristy
than the more famous Po Lin) -- some of whose denizens
were working in the fields, seemingly to the
accompaniment of recording religious chanting

Close up of the upper part of the monastery's
main building and the nearby mountain peaks

A large rock partially covered by copper-colored moss
that caught this shutterbug's eye along the way

The biggest spider I ever seen about to tuck into
the unfortunate being that got caught in its web!

"But what about the views?"
To those who asked: this good enough for you? ;b