Thursday, May 30, 2013

A bargain dinner at No Reservations-featured Long Kee Noodle Shop

Long Kee Noodle Shop -- so old school that
its Chinese characters are read from right to left!
 The braised pig knuckles and egg noodles in soup I ordered 
was super tasty -- a true foodie delight! :)

Thank you once more Anthony Bourdain!  Back in 2007, his No Reservations TV show had a Hong Kong episode that gave a really wonderful view of the Big Lychee's food scene.  
In the years since, I've gone and eaten at a number of eateries featured in that episode, including Tung Po (the seafood place in the cooked food market), Yat Lok (the roast goose place), Ping Kee (the bamboo noodles place), Lin Heung Tea House (the raucous dim sum place) and Bo Innovation (Alvin the Demon Chef's place).  (One other eatery -- Four Seasons (the claypot rice place) -- my mother and I had discovered on our own years before!)
And last month, I finally went to the eatery run by four muscular brothers where Anthony Bourdain had -- and enjoyed -- a bowl of beef brisket noodles in soup.  Rather than have the same thing he had though, I opted instead to have a bowl of braised pig knuckles and egg noodles in soup, and shared a plate of tung choi (morning glory) drizzled with fermented tofu sauce with my dinner companion.

The vegetable was pretty tasty but it was just a side dish.  The main event was definitely the bowl of braised pig knuckles and egg noodles in soup -- and boy, was it all really delicious.  More specifically, the braised pig knuckles were melt in your mouth good, the egg noodles were nicely textured as well as tasted really right, and the soup that I normally look upon as just a liquid to keep things from getting dry was so wonderful that I actually ended up drinking all of what I was given in that bowl!
As a bonus, this eatery was actually not all that crowded and busy -- so my dinner companion and I felt free to linger longer than we normally would in this kind of place, and especially one located in Mongkok to boot!  So much so that my friend felt free to order a second portion of noodles to leisurely enjoy... And for the record, all that plus a can of soda and a packet of chrysanthemum tea added up to a less than HK$100 (~US$12.88) bill!! :b

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Descending down along the southern side of Cloudy Hill (Photo-essay)

"To be continued! :)" That's what I promised at the end of my photo-essay showing my ascent up Cloudy Hill nine blog entries ago.  But I somehow forgot that I hadn't done so and moved on last week to putting up a photo-essay of the Hong Kong Island hike I went on the week after going up Cloudy Hill instead!

But a promise is a promise.  And I do have some more photos from a hike that I felt a sense of achievement completing to share -- what with Cloudy Hill being a respectable 440 meters high (and thus Hong Kong's 69th highest peak).  So here's finally proceeding to do just that...

A sign confirming that Cloudy Hill does have steep cliffs
-- and that one should take care when descending down it
 The railings along some sections of this trail weren't helpful
that wintry afternoon because they were too cold to touch! :O

As shown in the above photo, however, it's actually
not a straight descent down but a bit of up
in order to get down down along its southern side

Cloudy Hill is the rare Hong Kong hill with more than one 
trigonometrical station -- with one at its 440-meter-high 
peak and another at the 288-meter-high mark

Signs pointing to different locations but not to the large 
urban space in the background of the photo that is Tai Po

Not all of this particular trail is stepped or paved...

Still, it had some creature comforts along it -- such as
this nice looking rest area complete with benches and a pavilion :)

Visibility towards the end of the hike was way better
than up at the top of Cloudy Hill -- just our luck, eh?
Or just Cloudy Hill living up to its name! ;b

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Art Basel - Hong Kong musings

one of the Hong Kong-based galleries that 
took part in the international art fair this year

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's brightly colored 
creations remain major crowd favorites 
among Hong Kong art lovers 

I also am a fan of British-born Chinese artist
Gordon Cheung's floral art
 Mainland painter Li Tianbing's more somber 
Scene d'Opera was one more work that caught my eye

Years ago when I was undergraduate, I had the good fortune to spend a summer interning at the Museum of Mankind (the Ethnography Department of the British Museum that used to be house separately in premises in Burlington Gardens prior to moving back to the main British Museum in Bloomsbury).  Among the things I learnt during that instructive stint was that museums and art galleries loved rainy days -- because people were (are) more likely to visit them then than on days when it's fine and dry outside!
So when I woke up to more dark skies and rain yesterday morning, I got to thinking that it'd be a veritable zoo at Art Basel -- Hong Kong, the mega annual art event that previously was known as Art HK (and which I attended last year as well as in 2011, 2010 and 2009).  Only, as the blogger behind The Fragrant Harbour -- with whom I attended this year's art fair -- wrote in her Art Basel report, the turn out actually appeared to be on the relatively low side.  
And with "just" 170 galleries represented this year (compared to 266 last year), this year's premier Hong Kong international art fair really was smaller than last year's final pre-Art Basel-takeover-and-renaming edition. Interestingly too, despite fears to the contrary, I actually noticed more representation -- and greater spatial prominence -- given to some of the smaller local Hong Kong art galleries (including Alisan Fine Arts,Sin Sin Fine Art, and Anna Ning Fine Art -- all of them female-owned in the bargain!) than in previous years.
Still, even while local artists like cut paper artist Bovey Lee and  fine-brush (gongbi) painter Wilson Shieh had works on show at this year's Art Basel Hong Kong, the truth of the matter is that the biggest splashes were made by international artists.  It's not just that the likes of Pablo Picasso, Juan Miro, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Opie and Damien Hirst have bigger names and reputations.  Instead, there also were more works by them on display at this year's Art Basel Hong Kong -- this being particularly true with Picasso, Miro and Basquiat, whose works were being exhibited by more than one gallery taking part in this art fair.
Among galleries, the ones that had the most impressive collection of works on display were London's Alan Cristea Gallery (which exhibited works by Julian Opie, Miro, Picasso, Gordon Cheung and so many more) Tokyo's Ota Fine Arts and London's Victoria Miro Gallery (which co-presented a solo exhibition of the works of Yayoi Kusama), and New York's Van de Weghe Fine Art (which displayed works by Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder and Rene Magritte, among others). 
Something else that was very noticeable this year is that, whereas in previous years, the best art appeared to have been spread out over the two different floors that the art fair took up in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, this year, the art on display on the third floor was distinctly more eye-catching -- and, I'd venture to say, higher priced -- than the works on show on the first floor.  (And for the record: all the galleries I mentioned that had the most impressive collection of works on display in the previous paragraph had their booths on the third floor...)
If I had known this, I'd have started my tour of the art fair on the third floor rather than the first one.  As it was, I felt a bit rushed for time -- and also like I was prone to "art overload -- when going through the third floor.  Still, it's a measure of the greater overall quality of the art on the third floor, to my mind, that I still got more out of touring the third floor than the first floor -- which did have some gems but also a lot of works that, frankly, left me unimpressed and even downright cold.
Ah well, one lives and learns.  And next year, I definitely will pay far more attention the names of galleries when deciding which floor of the show to head over to first!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Copper and A special texture (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

In my previous blog entry, I wrote about the unusual weather we've been having this week.   (I woke up this morning to find heavy rain once more after two beautiful days of clear sky and air days.)  What with the unusually heavy downpours we've been having, I guess it's inevitable that I'd get to thinking about when Typhoon Vicente came over to pay a visit last July.

On the night of that Severe Typhoon Vicente (to give it its full name!) roared into town, the Hong Kong Weather Observatory raised signals to tell people to take care, stay indoors, etc.  While I did stay indoors for the most part as the strong rain lashed and winds blew, I couldn't resist venturing out for a few minutes to better see and feel the effects of the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong since Typhoon York 13 years previously. And yes, I took a few photos for the record too!

What I saw (as well as felt) was a neighborhood transformed.  Visually, the overall color was black but there were also interesting effects caused by the lights that were on in the streets.  Directly under a street lamp, a big yellow blob appeared on the surface of the road.  Drawing back to take a larger view, it seemed like things turned more copper colored.  And at a crossroads, the orange and red colors of the traffic and car lights combined to create glowy copper orange-red streaks on the wet surfaces of road and sidewalk that made for quite the artistic sight.

All in all, I think Typhoon Vicente conferred a special texture to the Hong Kong landscape that night -- one that I'm glad that to showcase for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts this week. :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hiking a couple of days after a super rainy day in Hong Kong

Hong Kong waterfall

A waterfall encountered while hiking along 
Wilson Trail Stage 7 this afternoon

Parts of Wilson Trail Stage 7 itself looked like 
it was turning into a stream, if not quite waterfall!

This has been an unusual week for Hong Kong weather wise.  For while it's accepted that May is generally a month that's generally rainy as well as humid and hot, it's still not all that usual to have the kind of rain that we had on Wednesday, where the Black Rainstorm Warning Signal was issued for the first time since July 2010. Put another way: it rained so much this past Wednesday morning that schools were closed for the day and the opening of the Hong Kong Stock Market was delayed!

Adding to the extreme weather was there being over 18,000 lightning strikes reported in the territory on Wednesday morning alone.  On a personal note, I was woken up by how much light there was outside my bedroom windows at around 4am -- light that was caused by what seemed like an almost continuous lighting up of the sky by lightning strike upon lightning strike.

In contrast, it hardly rained yesterday.  Instead, what was unusual weather wise was how beautiful the day was -- with bright blue skies, puffy white clouds and visibility gauged by the Hong Kong Observatory as being as far as 45 kilometers in some parts of the Big Lychee!

Believe you me when I say that it was pretty frustrating to be at work indoors yesterday.  So I was really happy when I had a day off from work today -- and found that it still was a pretty clear day in terms of not much rain and good visibility predicted.  And this especially since, after seeing that showers and squally thunderstorms are predicted for this Sunday, I got two friends to agree to go hiking with me today rather than this Sunday!

Suffice at this point to say that we had a good afternoon of hiking today -- one that involved going up 647 meter high Grassy Hill, Hong Kong's 14th highest peak.  Among the sights on view today were grand vistas (especially from the top of Grassy Hill) but also lots of earthworms (dead and alive!), a small brown snake (that I initially mistook for a large earthworm, until I looked closer and saw its triangular head and then also the way it moved), a couple of skinks, a number of butterflies (most of which did not want to pose for pics), some caterpillars, a whole tree full of slimy looking butterfly cocoons, and a number of waterfalls and streams that aren't visible -- or simply don't exist! -- in drier weather!

In particular, people thinking of hiking Wilson Trail Stage 7 in the next few days should be aware that at least three parts of the trail have turned into streams, if aren't super waterlogged.  And while they are not super difficult to pass over, one still has to be careful that one doesn't slip and twist one's knee or ankle, if not fall and get wetter than one might like to be on a fun day out in Hong Kong!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A wagyu heavy -- as well as heavy, period! -- dinner feast!

Wagyu meat heaven!
 The wagyu being prepared as sukiyaki 
The memories flood back as I see this photo and 
I find myself wishing to have this dish again soon! :b

Last week, I had the good fortune to be invited by a friend to what amounted to a veritable wagyu feast.  And before anything else, yes, I know that 'wagyu' literally means "Japanese cow" in Japanese -- so, if one were to be proper, one would be more specific in stipulating what kind of beef one is referring to.  
The problem though is that I don't know which particular region of Japan the amazingly delectable beef I had at dinner that evening comes from.  Maybe it came from Kobe, maybe it didn't.  All I do know is that it was pretty amazing tasting and of a quality far above most other beef I've ever had.  And that it was referred to as (just) 'wagyu' on the menu of the Japanese restaurant that we were at.
At the multi-course dinner that evening, we also had wagyu sushi and wagyu teppanyaki.  If I had been asked before we got to eating how I'd like the wagyu to have been cooked, I'd have opted for teppanyaki.  But because we had the wagyu teppanyaki at the tail end of our filling dinner, I felt unable to appreciate it as much as I might otherwise have done.

Instead, it was the wagyu sukiyaki that was the star of that evening's culinary show.  The thin slices of decadently fatty beef were melt-in-your-mouth delicious by itself but all the more incredible tasting when eaten with the rich yellow yolk-y raw egg dipping sauce provided.  

At the same time, I have to admit that it really was too much to consume three helpings of that wagyu beef dipped in raw egg sauce -- or even the two and a half that I had at dinner that evening.  (I ended up splitting what would otherwise have been my third portion with a friend.)  As it was, I really did need the Asahi beer that I ordered midway through dinner to help "cut" the taste somewhat.

In retrospect, I should have ordered the beer right at the beginning of the meal.  And ideally, we should have been served "just" the wagyu sukiyaki -- minus the wagyu sushi, wagyu teppanyaki, and also the appetizer platter (which was totally unmemorable), the less than special tasting tofu and other ingredients that went into the sukiyaki and the assorted tempura that was ordered on top of it all!
At least the salad and tsukemono that we also were given to eat helped to cleanse the palate somewhat.  And the refreshing yuzu sorbet we had at the end of the meal almost revived me to the point of being ready to eat more wagyu that night -- but that's the rub: at the end of it, having consumed so much wagyu, I actually ended up wishing that I could have had some more of it... along with less of some of the other ingredients served at that admittedly generally super indulgent dinner that I won't be forgetting in a hurry! ;b

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From Wan Chai Gap to Wong Nai Chung Gap via Hong Kong Trail Stage 4 (Photo-essay)

Since I've been on more than 100 hikes in Hong Kong now, it stands to reason that I've gone on certain trails more than once.  But while some might expect that the trails I've decided to go on more than once are especially scenic or special, that's actually not the case with that which is covered by Hong Kong Trail Stage 4 -- yet I've been on it not just twice but three times now (see here and here for previous photo-essays of this trail).

The thing is that it's really convenient -- seeing that it's on Hong Kong Island and both its beginning and end points have bus stops really close to them.  But beyond that, its route really is quite pleasant in terms of being not too taxing, yet also not being too easy -- and covering a nice distance (i.e., 7.5 kilometers) that's neither too short nor too lengthy for those days when I want to have some exercise, but don't want to over exert myself because I've got a film or concert to go to in the evening!

As it so happens, each time that I've been on this trail has been with different hiking friends as well as different times of the year.  So on each occasion, there has been something different to the experience -- and the different photo-essays can also attest to there being different sights that caught my eye along the way each time! :)

At Wan Chai Gap, follow the trail into Aberdeen Country Park 
near the Water Department building down to the Hong Kong Trail

It doesn't take much for Nature to reclaim areas 
that humans had tried to wrest away from it 

A military ruin/relic visible along the trail serves as a reminder
that battles were waged in this area during World War II

 I honestly can't remember what's the source
of that round reflected light in this photo!

 Alternatively, pictures like this help to remind me how foggy 
it was that day -- and also how cold (so cold, in fact, that
 I had breath vapors coming out of my mouth that afternoon!)

And yet some plants seemed to think that
spring was coming -- or even had arrived!

A memorial lies near hike's end at

Ten men of the St John's Ambulance lost their lives at 
Wong Nai Chung Gap during the Battle of Hong Kong -- 
but the memorial erected there more generally honors all of the 
St John Ambulance personnel who perished in World War II

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hiking up (and down) Needle Hill on a hot and humid Sunday

Do we really want to go up that?!

Yes, because by that point, one's already climbed up
pretty high up Needle Hill already!

And yes, there really are beautiful views to be had 
atop the 532 meter hill that's 

Last week, a friend and I tried to hike up Mount Hallowes, only to have to abandon our bid to go up Hong Kong's 100th highest peak some three hours into our hike.  Truly though, it wasn't the hill that beat us but the combination of bad weather, not great visibility and trails that just were too difficult to make out and correctly follow.  As proof, I offer the fact that just one week, that same friend, another friend and I successfully made it up a close to 150 meter higher hill -- and on a hotter and more humid day to boot!

The big difference is that Needle Hill is along a section of the Maclehose Trail that's well marked (as well as considerably more trafficked than Mount Hallowes).  And while I have to admit that, because sections of the trail up and down it don't have much coverage, this hill that lies within Shing Mun Country Park is not the most ideal one to hike up on a hot, sunny day, I still opted to go up there this afternoon rather than a cooler one like we've had in previous months because this was one with blue skies, something I've not regularly seen for some time now, and (relatively) good visibility too.

Suffice to say that the views from the top of Needle Hill -- and, actually, on the hike up and down it -- were pretty cool.  To the west, a fog shrouded Tai Mo Shan dominated the landscape.  Down below -- first to the south, and then on our left for most of the hike -- was Shing Mun Reservoir.  Visible on our right side for much of the hike, then south, were the Kowloon hills, including Lion Rock, while Shatin was visible as a lengthy urban sprawl for much of the excursion.

Unusually for a hike in this area, we didn't see even one monkey this whole afternoon!  Although I do usually welcome critter spottings while out hiking, I can't say I'm all displeased by today's lack of monkey sightings though.  For, frankly, I feel that I've already seen my share of monkeys while out hiking in Hong Kong -- and was pretty horrified to see one far from their usual range in Hoi Ha last Sunday!

On a different note: Today's hike got me realizing that we're firmly back in a hiking season where I will need to bring at least 1.5 liters of water (and Pocari Sweat!) with me -- whereas for many months now, I often don't even end up drinking 1 liter of liquids over the course of a hike (that averages 4 to 5 hours each time).  Put another way: summer's arrived in Hong Kong -- and sure enough, upon checking the Weather Underground of Hong Kong website, I've found that only The Peak and Ngong Ping didn't have a maximum temperature in the 30 degree Celsius range today! :O

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Glass and Show hands (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

This was one of those weeks where I had lots of photos for Sandi's chosen Photo Hunt theme (Glass) and Gattina's (Show hands) but not all that many which combined them.  But after hunting through my photo archive, I've come across at least three -- and I didn't even have to use a magnifying glass when searching! ;b

Re the top-most photo: Here's more proof that Hong Kong has a kawaii streak that can rival Japan's -- this time courtesy of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and the warning signs it plasters on its glass doors and barriers, floors, etc.!  Re the characters: it's interesting that they sometimes don't have legs but they always have hands showing along with faces!!

Re the middle and last photos: yes, they are of sizable spreads -- that also did involve alcoholic drinks served in glass vessels.  Re the hands shown in them: I find it amusing that I didn't even realize that they were in the frame when taking the photos because I was focused so much on the food on the table.  But their presence has made it so that these photos work for this week's Photo Hunt combo -- and I'm really happy about that! :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Responding to a reader's query about Christmas Rose :)

From left to right: Xia Yu, Charlie Young (aka Charlie Yeung),
Aaron Kwok, Kwai Lun Mei and Chang Chen

The same people -- and more -- appear on a big screen
at the same event and venue

The occasion: the gala premiere of Charlie Young's
first film as a director and scriptwriter, Christmas Rose

On the comments thread over on the Tuesday, May 14, entry on this blog, a fairly faithful -- teehee! -- follower of this blog, Samson, wrote: "Nice Pics, YTSL! Now onto a topic totally unrelated to this post (sorry): your score for Christmas Rose went up from 3 to 7 on re-watching. Was it a new cut that you got to see, or did you really like it a lot more on 2nd viewing?"

The following is my response to his comments about the film by Charlie Young that stars Aaron Kwok as a prosecutor in a court case involving a respected doctor (portrayed by Chang Chen) being accused by a wheelchair-bound patient (essayed by Kwai Lun Mei) of having raped her:-

Firstly, Samson, thank you for paying attention to the "Most recently viewed movies" section of this blog.  And here's confirming that I did originally rate Christmas Rose much more lowly than I now do.  Also, that I did watch two different cuts of the film.

More specifically, as I only learnt yesterday afternoon, it turns out that I had seen the first cut of the film the first time that I viewed it.  It's not just that it was not fully finished -- with that version of the film most noticeably not having any background sound and mood-affecting music in it -- but, as I discovered yesterday evening, the film subsequently had been re-edited in such a way that it was shorter, seemed faster paced and had a more "commercial" (as opposed to art house) movie rhythm and feel to it, and had the order of a few scenes changed around!

Suffice to say that I think that the film's editor did a very good job indeed -- and that the final, finished version of the film does its director-scriptwriter as well as the rest of its crew and cast proud.  All in all, I now think that Christmas Rose makes for a very respectable directorial and scriptwriting debut from a woman I've long liked as an actress, and now -- after having recently had the privilege to meet her -- look upon as a really sweet, charming lady who I have much admiration for. :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hiking up Cloudy Hill from the area around Lau Shui Heung Reservoir (Photo-essay)

After writing about a hike where I wasn't able to get to the top of a hill with the kind of name that had struck my fancy and made me want to go up it, here's writing about a hike where I was able to do what I had set out to achieve!  More specifically, here's finally putting up a photo-essay of the hike that took two friends and I went on up Cloudy Hill one cold (by Hong Kong standards!) day -- one that was made all the more special by the clouds having parted after we got up to Cloudy Hill to reveal a pretty cool view showing the panoramic scene below... :)

There was plenty of dew on the ground 
near our hike's start in the vicinity of 
Lau Shui Heung Reservoir that afternoon 

 Look how green is my Hong Kong! :)

 A quick glimpse of the reservoir was all we had time for 
as we were focused on getting up Cloudy Hill that afternoon

There's a paved path leading up Cloudy Hill but its 
cracked condition makes me think not many vehicles use it

I don't know the name of this flower but I know
that it definitely added welcome color to 
the largely gray landscape that day :)

There most certainly are times when Cloudy Hill
really deserves its name

this was the non-view that greeted us when we got
to the top of Cloudy Hill!

As we began our descent, we noticed that it had
started to clear a bit though...

To be continued! :)