Sunday, May 30, 2010

Art (fair) in Hong Kong

Kawaii-neh?! Takashi Murakami's smiley flowers
(on display at the Gagosian Gallery booth)
put a smile on my face

Also colorfully catching the eye was this work
by Finnish artist HC Berg (on display
over at Galerie Forsblom's booth)

A smidgen of the crowd at the art fair
in the vicinity of
Douglas Young's sculptural pieces
that were
inspired by Hong Kong tenements

As quite a few of my friends (including some visitors to this blog) know, my Sundays in Hong Kong are often reserved for going hiking or, at the very least, out and about to some place greener and less central and filled with crowds than those areas which can be found on Hong Kong tourist maps. However, rain was forecast for this Sunday -- and the forecast actually has turned out to be correct -- and then there's the not insignificant fact that this is the weekend of Art HK 10, the third edition of an international art fair that this year has over 150 exhibitors from 29 countries.

Art HK 10 opened to the public on Thursday (and today is its final day) but, as gweipo has reported, its vernissage was held on the Wednesday evening before that. Like her, I had my first taste of this year's edition of the international art fair that Wednesday evening -- but, put off by a crowd filled with people who looked and acted as though they wanted to get more attention than the art on display, I decided to leave after just an hour at the event that evening.

Fortunately, I also had a ticket that gave me unlimited entry for the rest of the time that the art fair was open to the public. So I returned yesterday for a few hours and again today for another couple of hours to enjoy viewing the art on display -- which, even if not uniformly great (or even, if truth be told, good), also was by no means all bad.

On a cultural (as opposed to Cultural) note: I found it interesting to see how international the art world really is. For one thing, it wasn't just that the majority of the participating galleries are located outside of Hong Kong but, also, that establishments from places like Scandinavia and Turkey were among that number rather than elsewhere in East Asia or London and New York. For another, rather than only offer up works by artists from their home territories, galleries such as, say, Istanbul's Galerist also showed works by Korean artists and Welshman Julian Opie, whose works also featured at last year's Art HK 09.

Something else that I found really cool was the number of children attending the international art fair -- as well as how large the crowds were for the event as a whole. And yes, I realize that an art fair is a commercial art event -- and that one indisputable measure of its success is how much of the work on display manages to find buyers. Still, it doesn't mean that those who don't (have the money and/or inclination to) buy can't enjoy viewing what was on display while they were on public display too, right? :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Recently on my blog, I've been posting photos galore of rocky Po Toi, Hong Kong's southernmost island where I went on a hike some months ago that yielded various interesting views and sights. Although it wasn't a hike per se, another scenic walk that yielded a plethora of photos to share with this blog's visitors was one that I took along the walls of Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress on my Korean vacation back last October.

A fortress dating back to the late 18th century that also was built as a memorial by a filial son (King Jeongjyo of Joseon) to his unfortunate father who was ordered to be sealed alive in a rice chest by his own father (Jeongjyo's grandfather), it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. Measuring some 5.74 kilometers (3.57 miles) in length it total, it more or less encircles the Suwon old city center (which includes a palace, the Hwaseong Haenggung, that is another noteworthy attraction in and of itself).

On a beautiful fall day like the one I was fortunate to be greeted with on my visit to Suwon, the walk is a very pleasant one indeed. Those thinking of doing it should be forewarned though that it begins with a bit of a hike up a hill and then follows a path alternately atop or alongside the fortress walls that undulates somewhat along the way.

So, the easy way to see what's there is to check my photo-essays #1, #2 and #3 of Hwaseong Fortress. But my visit to this superb memorial that has now stood for over 200 years yielded so many other photos, including the pair in this Photo Hunt entry that I had not previously put up of and, I reckon, well shows the fortification's strength and beauty. (For the record, the second photo is of the fortress' Seojangdae (West Command Post) in silhouette at sunset.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Po Toi once more (Photo-essay)

And so it goes...
my documenting via photo-essays of my visit to Po Toi, that is!

And should anyone wonder: yes, I really do think that this island with a total area of just 3.69 square kilometers does merit so many photo-essays on this blog. Furthermore, I not only hope that after viewing my photos, you'll think so too but, also, that those of you who are not afraid of a bit of an uphill trek might be inspired to set foot on this southern Hong Kong island whose visitors are urged to -- as Martin Williams reports on his Hong Kong Outdoors website -- "remember to open your heart and let your imagination fly" in order to get the most out of their time there... ;b

Not far away from Tortoise (aka Turtle) Rock
can be found Supine Monk Rock

The patterns in the sea off Po Toi
may not resemble anything
in particular
but I found them interesting all the same

Large ships in the sea nearby act as a reminder
contrary to how it can feel,
one is
not in the middle of nowhere!

The summit of the 188 meter high hill that is
Po Toi's third highest peak
(and no, there aren't
any trails up to the island's two higher peaks)

Are these wispy things found near the top of the hill
flowers? (And yes, I really would welcome answers
from botany-minded readers!)

And what of this insect whose body
got me thinking
of bees but whose wings
look like they should
belong to a butterfly's?!
(Update: see comments thread for ID courtesy of dragonstar!)

One thing's for sure though --
that which is known
as the Rugged Trail
certainly is well named!

Ending this photo-essay with another shot
of an interesting rock formation --
this one looking like a cross between an elephant
and a loaf of bread to me!

And... er... hope this blog's readers aren't bored yet of Po Toi because I really am thinking there's enough for one more photo-essay from that day's excursion!! ;D

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hiking again with my mom

My mother on the Lamma Island Family Walk

Sunset view on the ferry back to Central from Lamma

One week after my mother and I visited Cheung Chau, she was eager to check out another of Hong Kong's outlying islands. Up until this morning, I was thinking that we might not be able to until her next visit (she leaves tomorrow) because the weather forecast had been for rain but the heavens decided to cooperate and offer up generally cloudy but rainless skies this afternoon.

So off we went to Lamma Island and an easy hike that took us from Sok Kwu Wan northwards to Yung Shue Wan that yielded some pleasant views along with fresh air and breezes and a generally nice day out.

Still, what really made this hike special for me was that it was the first one that my mother and I went on since she underwent triple bypass surgery on her heart last July. And this despite her telling me a few months after that experience that the hike up in Sai Kung's Wan Tsai Peninsula that we went on the previous May may well be the last one that she would be able to go on in her life.

Instead, there hopefully -- touch wood! -- will be many more green walks that she and I can go on together on her future visits to Hong Kong. Now I just have to research and find more hikes in Hong Kong that are on the easy side and -- to be truly safe -- where there is mobile phone reception throughout... something that, as a couple of the PTU teams in Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms famously -- and amusingly to those of us who go hiking in Hong Kong -- were shocked to discover, one cannot assume to be the case in all parts of the Big Lychee! ;b

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monthly (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's Photo Hunt theme is one that had me racking my brains to represent in a nice way because I seem to equate monthly with matters mundane and not so pleasant like rental payments and female periods! And upon typing the word into Google, I found that the search engine was "thinking" in similar terms -- but also did throw up something else -- references to astrology whose Western zodiac is by month (rather than by year like in the Chinese case).

So here's opting to stretch a little this week and put up photos of a Hong Kong landmark -- currently occupied by the Legislative Council (popularly known as LegCo) but built to be the home of the territory's Supreme Court: on one of which can be seen a physical representation of my astrological sign; and the other of which shows demonstrators and protestors out in force in its vicinity earlier this year. And yes, in the process, I get to reveal yet more facets of Hong Kong that people elsewhere in the world don't normally equate with "Asia's World City"! :b

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Hong Kong's southern most island (Photo-essay)

Although there is indeed a Hong Kong Island, the territory of Hong Kong is far more than just one island. Instead, that which has been a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China since 1997 geographically consists of a peninsula (Kowloon), the New Territories and 236 islands (including Hong Kong Island, Lantau, Cheung Chau -- and Po Toi).

That which is Hong Kong's southernmost island is by no means its least well known. In international literary circles, it has a place in the sun courtesy of a climactic section of John Le Carre's The Honourable Schoolboy being set there. But among Hong Kongers, Po Toi is probably best known for its interesting natural rock formations, some of which you'll see, as previously promised, in the photo-essay below:-

Before, we get to the rocks, here's a reminder that
Po Toi is an island where pretty scenery is abundant

Also on the island, my hiking companion and I
spotted dragonflies behaving as... ahem... naturally

as certain butterflies and grasshoppers before them ;b

Still, on this rocky island, there really is little question
that it's geological wonders
which most abound

One of Po Toi's star attractions: Buddha's Palm Cliff

Still, there's no doubt that Tortoise Rock (aka Turtle Rock)
was the natural formation that most bowled me over

...and this even more so upon seeing that this is
how the same rock formation -- no lie! -- looks

when viewed from another angle!

For the best views of Tortoise Rock, approach it
from the south along the path that goes up
to the lighthouse on Po Toi's south-eastern headland

Ending this photo-essay with one last view of
Tortoise Rock along with hints of
what else was to come on our hike...

To be continued... for Po Toi may be small but really has oh so very much to see (and that captured this shutterbug's attention)! ;b

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just one look (or two) at Cheung Chau's now disused cinema

The old disused cinema that Riley Yip's Just One Look
made into the Hong Kong equivalent of Cinema Paradiso

How that which was the ticketing area
looks in May 2010

Some years back, before I moved to Hong Kong to live and work, two friends (including SBK) and I decided to spend one of our vacation days on Cheung Chau. For the most part, we were content to wander around fairly aimlessly and soak up the atmosphere to be found on this quiet -- especially on a week day -- island that's located just 10 kilometers away from Hong Kong Island but really can feel like a world apart from the busier and far more populous part of The Big Lychee.

At the same time however, the Hong Kong movie buff parts of SBK and myself also made it a point to visit locales that had become familiar to us via Riley Yip's charming coming of age movie that also works very well as a paean to Chinese cinema (Hong Kong but also Taiwanese). Thus it was that we were uncommonly thrilled when we did such as stroll along a Cheung Chau lane and suddenly come across the very place where Shawn Yue's character glimpsed Gillian Chung's walking along with an umbrella in her hand or feel that we had successfully located the place where Shawn Yue's character hailed a sampan to go in pursuit after another that Gillian Chung's had boarded and was taking her back to the local nunnery where she made her home.

As it so happens, some movie locations were easy enough to locate -- notably the Pak Tai Temple outside which Shawn Yue and Anthony Wong Chau San's characters had their fateful duel (which also happens to be the very local landmark on whose plaza the Cheung Chau Bun Festival's Bun Tower Scrambling Competition takes place).

However, it took quite a bit of effort for us to locate the cinema building whose cinema was already no longer in operation even at the time that Just One Look was filmed. (Indeed, back in 2002, there were reports of Cheung Chau residents being quite excited when the building was repainted and such as they thought that the island would have a cinema again -- only for their hopes to sadly get dashed.)

Even some eight years after the movie's release though, the structure remains easily recognizable to those of us who are fans of the film... which makes it all the more painful, really, to go up close and realize that the structure is not much more than a shell these days, with even parts of the building that had been revamped for the film now being in a major state of disrepair.

Still, we'll always have Just One Look -- and the warm feelings that movie engendered... even for those of us who hail from territories hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from Cheung Chau -- some of whom have never set foot on the island, yet have good vibes about it courtesy of what we saw of it on celluloid or home video and the magic of the movies in general and power in cinema as a whole.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Cheung Chau five days before the Bun Festival

Workers fixing buns onto the bun tower ahead
of Friday's Cheung Chau Bun Festival

...while nearby, other folks test their
bun tower climbing prowess as part
this year's Bun Tower Climbing Fun Day

...and still others (including my mother and I)
opt to spend time relaxing at the beach
(And if you're wondering -- yes, that is indeed
Hong Kong Island in the distance!)

"Hong Kong. A world of celebrations." Thus goes the slogan of the Hong Kong Tourism Board's Festive Hong Kong 2010 publicity campaign. And while some of its vaunted "key festivals and events" can seem on the lame -- or, minimally labored -- side (cf., Wine and Dine Month), it's also true enough that Hong Kongers really do celebrate quite a number of traditional Chinese festivals in some style.

As regular visitors of this blog know, Tin Hau's Birthday was celebrated just two Thursdays ago. And while today was not a traditional festival day, this coming Friday will see the celebration of not one but three festive occasions: i.e., Buddha's Birthday, Tam Kung's Birthday and the Cheung Chau Bun Festival; with the third tending to be celebrated in the most spectacular way of the three -- and its celebrations attendantly tending to attract the largest crowds in Hong Kong that day.

Because of its infamously large crowds, I thus far have been content to just view visuals of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival via video clips shown in movies like My Life as Mcdull (2001) or that are on exhibit over at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. But while I probably will forego attending the festival proper again this year, I did go ahead and take my mother -- here visiting once again -- over to the dumbbell-shaped island to check out a Climbing Carnival taking place today as well as other of the island's attractions.

As it turned out, one highlight of our day spent on the island I will always associate with the sublime Just One Look (2002) was seeing people preparing for Friday's festival by doing such as assembling the bun tower but also baking the thousands of buns to be attached to the bun tower in small bakeries scattered around town. Another high point was the blue skies that opened up over the island for a large part of the day -- and were such a contrast to the misty (or was it just plain polluted?) skies that we saw on Hong Kong Island before we headed over to Cheung Chau and again upon our return there.

Additionally, weather-wise, while today was the hottest it's been in a while, the beauty of being on Cheung Chau is that for much of the time that we were there, we found ourselves being cooled by lovely sea breezes -- so much so that I can't help but sigh with happiness once more at the memory of them and the day out as a whole! :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Half (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

"Good things come in pairs," my father likes to say. I'm not quite sure why he likes that saying so much or where he got that idea from -- but the sentiment seem to echo that of the Chinese custom (dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907)) of putting up images of a pair of door gods on twin doors or the sides of entrances of homes and businesses as well as temples or clan ancestral halls.

To get an idea of what the door gods look like, here's offering up images of the pair that can be found at the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall that is the architectural jewel of Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail up in the northern New Territories of Hong Kong. And in accordance with this week's Photo Hunt, here's doing so in the form of one half of the imposing pair each per photograph! ;b

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

To and on Po Toi (photo-essay)

Last Sunday, I went on my 61st hike since moving to Hong Kong a little more than three years ago. To give you an idea of how far back I am in chronicling them on this blog, this photo-essay is of the early part of hike 45 on the list I've been compiling -- one undertaken on a beautiful day that had my regular hiking companion and I exulting over the fact that it was finally cool enough again (after a long, super hot summer) to attempt harder hikes. So, without further delay and ado...

To get to Po Toi island, one has to take a kai-to ferry
from Stanley's Blake Pier (which stands
near Murray House)

The ferry passes by small, uninhabited islands
before getting to Hong Kong's southernmost isle

Land ho! And yes, your eyes do not deceive
Po Toi really is a very rocky island

After landing on Po Toi, my hike companion and I
headed south-wards from the pier on Tai Wan

(Po Toi's main bay and township) -- initially
a coastal trail that skirted the sea

The overgrown ruins in the foreground caught our attention
but we found that quite a few bird watchers
equipped with mega camera lens) were far more
in the bird-attracting tree in the background

Yes, the railing police were here...

... and further along the way as well

But from early on during our hike, my hiking companion
and I found our attention being caught more
by interesting rock formations -- does this one look like
a turtle or dinosaur-type creature to you? --
than anything created by humans...

And should you wonder: you ain't seen nothing yet with regards to the amazing natural rock formations to be found on this island. So do most definitely return to this blog at a later date to view the second installment of the Po Toi photo-essay series! ;b

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Monga (film review)

People go to pray, some in the rain,
one wet day in 2007 at the Lungshan Temple
in Taipei's Wanhua (aka Monga) district

Monga (Taiwan, 2010)
- Doze Niu Cheng Tse, director
- Starring Ethan Ruan, Mark Chao, Ma Ju Lung, Rhydian Vaughan, Alice Ke, Doze Niu Cheng Tse, etc.

Some years ago, I watched Hou Hsiao Hsien's The Boys from Fengkuei (Taiwan, 1983) with my mother. At the conclusion of our viewing, she turned to me and said she had liked the coming-of-age film but then added with a sigh that she wished the young men at the center of the movie had been more handsome.

Viewing this involving 141 minute long work directed by one of those then young men who had starred in that decades earlier Hou Hsiao Hsien movie, I got to wondering if at least one person had said something similar to him in the intervening years. Because even while he does appear (in a small but significant role) in this offering which he also co-scripted and -produced, the young thespians at the heart of it sure are very good looking (as well as mesmerizingly charismatic and obviously no slouches in the acting department)!

As much a tale about friendship and growing up as well as that of gangsters, Monga (which takes its title from the old Taipei business district where much of its action takes place) starts off telling the tale of a young man (Mark Chao) who grew up without a father and, until late in his school life, without friends. Having lived an unsettled life with his single parent mother, he had attended too many schools at which he had been picked on and bullied as new boys are apt to be.

But just when it seemed like the cycle would get repeated at what would turn out to be his last school, four schoolmates intervened and invited him into their close brotherhood. Grateful for their extended hand of friendship, he accepts -- and thereby also enters the gangster fraternity that rules the Monga district because, among other things, it turns out that one of his new friends (Rhydian Vaughan -- who, for the record, is Eurasian and looks it but is completely fluent in both Mandarin and Taiwanese) is the son and heir to the Monga's reigning gangster chief (Ma Ju Lung).

While all of the above mentioned actors acquit themselves well in their meaty roles, the truth of the matter is that once and whenever the top-billed Ethan Ruan is in the picture, it's hard to keep one's eyes off him. His close-cropped head is an immediate visual contrast to the more era-specific hairstyles of others in this movie that's set in the mid 1980s (and thereby also includes such as a clunky Sony Walkman, garish clothing and discos in the overall set up). But what truly sets him apart is a sense that there's this fire within that's slowly burning but intense and could just erupt out from him and set the whole world ablaze -- maybe in a good but more likely bad way -- some day.

Still, I'd not go so far as to say that he steals the show from everybody though because the sense is that he is a very giving actor and Monga is really an ensemble show. All this is actually very much to the film's credit -- because whenever people have to choose sides, the choices are shown to not be made easily and in ways that makes the audience members see how many, if not all, of the sides actually do have their attractions.

My rating for this film: 8.5

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's Photo Hunt theme looks to have been planned to coincide with this weekend's Mother's Day commemoration in many -- but not all -- parts of the world. But like tnchick, certain other events in my area have inspired me to opt for a less conventional approach to the theme than I am thinking many others will take.

In my case, it's not so much natural disaster than a festive commemoration of a legend: that is, the birthday of a female deity variously known, among other things, as Mother Ancestor along with Heavenly Queen. In Hong Kong, she's known as Tin Hau; in Macau, A-Ma -- and yes, Macau actually derived its name from the goddess who is particularly popular with seafarers and fishing communities as far afield as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia (and has temples dedicated to her even in Australia and the United States of America).

I blogged about my visit to Joss House Bay on Tin Hau's Birthday in the post preceding this one. But I took so many photos this past Thursday that I wanted to share more of them on this blog. At the same time, because Hong Kong's Chinese Temples Committee forbids photography inside of the temples it administers (including the 13th century Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay) by non authorized personnel, here's first putting up a photo of an effigy of the deity from Macau's A-Ma Temple (where no such photographic restrictions are in abeyance) -- taken, coincidentally, four Tin Hau/A-Ma birthday celebrations back in 2006!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tin Hau Birthday Celebrations at Joss House Bay

It may say "ordinary ferry" (i.e., not high speed)
on the ticket but it's for a ferry service
that's only runs on two days each year

On board the ferry, passengers toss paper offerings
into the sea for The Goddess of the Sea

View from the temporary ferry pier extension of
Joss House Bay's festively decorated Tin Hau Temple

Lions dance while flag bearers and others
surround them in front of the temple

A few months back, a post on Gweipo's blog inspired me to write my own Before you leave (Hong Kong)... list -- with number ten on it being: "Attend a local community festival (e.g., Tai Hang's Fire Dragon Dance or Shau Kei Wan's Tam Kung Birthday Parade)". And today, two years after I wrote about it for a bc magazine feature article, I finally made it out to Joss House Bay, the location of the oldest temple in Hong Kong erected in her honor, on Tin Hau's Birthday!

Since Tin Hau's Birthday regularly falls and is celebrated on a week day, I had to take the day off from work in order to do this. And maybe it was due to this festive day falling on a week day and also not being a designated public holiday (*and* the heavens threatening to open and pour down with rain for much of the day) that Joss House Bay was far less packed with people than I expected.

Still, the lack of a huge crowd hardly meant that there were a lack of interesting sights to behold at the temple and its surroundings -- and even the ferry ride there and back. Also, I have to say that there's something really wonderful about how local and plain untouristy many of Hong Kong's traditional festivals continue to feel and be -- even with the Hong Kong Tourism Board's efforts to provide information about them and incorporate them into its Festive Hong Kong 2010 campaign! :)