Monday, July 31, 2017

An exploratory hike in the area around the Mount Butler H.F. Radio Receiving Station

One day, I'll get over to that trigonometrical station...
For now, I'll content myself with my having been up
that unnamed hill topped by interesting rocks nearby ;b
Another hike highlight: coming across a lovely looking
rock pool filled with clear fresh water from a hill stream :)
Some day (soon), I'll find it: i.e., a path that will lead me from the trailhead located behind the St Joan of Arc Secondary School on Braemar Hill Road across the area bordering the northwestern border of Tai Tam Country Park (Quarry Bay Extension) whose main landmark is the Mount Butler H.F. Radio Receiving Station over to Siu Ma Shan Bridge.  Hopefully it'll be third time lucky after my failed attempt earlier this month and my failed attempt earlier today on what was only my second hike of the month (due to such as bad weather and a trip back to Penang for durian!). 
Whereas the last time, I ended up going all the way west to Wong Nai Chung Gap largely along the western section of Sir Cecil's Ride, today's hike ended up taking me along another section of that former bridle path favored by Sir Cecil Clementi when he was Governor of Hong Kong over to Mount Parker Road and down to Quarry Bay.  But in between traipsing along sections of Sir Cecil's Ride, I also ventured onto unfamiliar ground in the form of a few kilometers worth of overgrown -- and possibly also in some cases unmarked -- trails that took me up and down a couple of different unnamed hills in the vicinity of the aforementioned radio receiving station and also Braemar Hill.     
Although I did have the correct Countryside Map with me this time around, I must admit to having decided to let visuals -- in particular, one of the radio receiving station's tall antennae -- guide me for part of the way.  But while I did manage to get up close to that particular antenna, I discovered upon getting up the hill on which it's located that there wasn't a discernible trail leading in a straightforward manner from it to Siu Ma Shan Bridge!
Instead, I found a trail with ribbons left by fellow hikers marking the way (rather than signs posted by the relevant authorities) that led me further into unknown territory, through tall brush which left me with scratches and I prayed wasn't hiding snakes and other creatures that I really didn't want to encounter at that point in the hike.  Moving in a direction that I figured would mean my connecting at some point with either Sir Cecil's Ride or Mount Parker Road (in the event, it was both!), I first was led to, up and over a hill with interesting large rocks -- one of which resembled a fossilized dinosaur head to my mind! -- and then to a scenic hill stream whose fast flowing water I could hear long before I caught side of it.
Adding to the paradisical feel of this area was a natural rock pool that looked plenty inviting to jump into on this very hot (even if not as bad as yesterday, when temperatures soared up to 37 degrees Celsius in parts of Hong Kong!) day.  Somehow, I managed to resist that impulse; making do instead just with dipping my cap into the cool, fresh water with then cooled as well as wet my head when I put that cap back on!     
As I sat for a bit on the side of the hill stream, I spotted only the fourth person I came across after getting off the green minibus that had deposited me near the trailhead close to two hours earlier.  Deciding to accord him some quiet time on his own in that beauty spot, I went down the trail which I had seen him come up on and found that this area that I had previously never been in is actually located just a stone's throw away from a morning walkers' garden that I have passed by a couple of times before!     

Back on familiar ground, I decided to extend my hike and end it down in Quarry Bay.  Walking along a largely unpaved but wide and flat trail, I now looked forward to spotting some interesting critters -- and was rewarded by the sight of a number of Golden Orb Weavers.  Put another way: it's the season for big spiders once more! ;b

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Feasting on Penang durian during what's turned out to be a late, short and not particularly bountiful 2017 season!

A pair of customers wait for their durian to be opened
and the fruit packed up for them
 A close-up shot of the durian being carved up and prepared

A beautiful sight as far as durian lovers are concerned ;b
In July of last year, I flew back to Penang to feast on durians.  And when I was back in Penang last May, I asked my mother to let me know when the durian season for came along this year so that I could consider doing the same again in 2017.   
Unlike in many other parts of the world (or even other parts of Malaysia), there's only one durian season a year in Penang.  In years gone by, this spiky seasonal fruit would be available in May -- and even as early as April.  So I had hoped that I'd be able to sample some durian on my May 2017 visit.  But while I did manage to eat well then, the king of fruits was -- alas! -- not on the menu.  Instead, I had to wait -- like last year -- until July to get my hands on some durian (which, yes, I proceeded to eat with rice bathed in coconut milk and sprinkled with gula melaka).           

The late arrival of both the 2016 and 2017 durian seasons has been ascribed to the rains having fallen at the "wrong" time of the year.  In other words, durian connoiseurs in Penang have become all too aware that climate change really is a thing.
As it turned out, this year's durian harvest also has been way smaller than normal.  Stories have been told of trees having had fewer flowers than usual and many of the flowers not having borne fruit.  Indeed, so bad was this year's yield considered to be that at least one Catholic mass was held in Balik Pulau -- where Penang's best durians are grown, and a Catholic congregation was established and a church founded as far back as the mid 19th century -- to enlist divine help for the durian trees and their owners!
In addition to this year's being a disappointingly small harvest, the 2017 durian season also has been shorter than usual: lasting just one month or so rather than the more usual two or three.  So it was with some urgency that on my first full day back in Penang this month, my mother, a family friend and I went hunting for durian at a couple of places that were located quite a distance from each other as well as could be said to be off the beaten track (since they aren't located in Balik Pulau per se, Macalister Road (where many tourists now go) and Anson Road (where one particular seller famously hawks the notoriously expensive Musang King)! 
At the Jelutong Market stall that my mother favors, we were told that this might well be the last week for durian -- or, at least, those from the favored old trees that the sellers had access to.  As it was, the crop that was left, while good, yielded fruit that was on the small side -- and they had no more ang heh (red prawn), my favorite durian, available.  
And while we did find -- and buy -- one red prawn durian at a stall in Kampung Pulau Betong located close to the eatery where I had lunched on fresh seafood with my German friend, my mother and a group of my mother's friends this past May, we -- including the seller -- were shocked to find that the admittedly small-sized durian only had two seeds within it!  Adding to the improbability of it all was the second durian that the seller opened having just three seeds in it -- rather than the usual five, six and more than one expects to see when opening a durian!   

It may seem like small consolation but I must say that quite a number of the five durian in total that we ended up buying was actually pretty tasty.  And I happily feasted on durian that evening and the next; only foregoing doing so a third night in a row because the "heaty" fruit caused me to have a sore throat after my having had just two durian dinners, during which I consumed 11 seeds worth of durian (but, actually, just the pulpy fresh surrounding the seeds but not the actual seeds) over the course of those two meals! ;b

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hello Kitty shows its appeal to all ages at the Hong Kong Book Fair!

Hello Kitty books for the very young

Hello Kitty fans for the young at heart?

In the space of less than a week, not one but two friends have voiced their surprise at finding out about my Hello Kitty adoration.  I think part of the reason for this is that both of them live in the US, where the target audience for Hello Kitty is way younger than I now am and also much more into the color pink than me.  

Out here in Hong Kong (like in Japan), however, there's little doubt that Hello Kitty appeals to old and young alike with a wide range of products available to interest people -- particularly but not exclusively those of the female gender -- of pretty much every age.  Taking the products available at this year's Hong Kong Book Fair as examples: There were Hello Kitty books that were clearly geared for children but also, as was the case last year, Hello Kitty-themed craft books on offer along with those for fans of popular Sanrio stablemate, Gudetama.   

The cute cat character was also the Japan Pavilion area which actually was much more about tourism promotion than book selling; with opportunities for people of various ages to dress up in Hello Kitty garb and have their photos taken, and the furry feline character's visage also being visible on such as paper fans tucked into the cloth belts of yukata-attired tourism representatives who hailed from the land where Hello Kitty was created (if not supposedly born).  

This shouldn't come as a surprise to those folks who remember that -- and no I am not kidding! -- some years back, Hello Kitty was appointed as Japan's goodwill tourism ambassador to Hong Kong (and Mainland China) by the Japanese government.  And while we're on the subject: here's pointing out that earlier this year, a retired Japanese policeman -- yes, a man as well as adult! -- was announced as the owner of the world's largest Hello Kitty collection; and that links to this piece of news was separately forwarded to me by not one but several friends! ;D

Friday, July 28, 2017

Political and cinematic associations at the 2017 Hong Kong Book Fair

A selection of books for sale at my favorite booth at
this year's Hong Kong Book Fair

My four book haul for this year

Before I went on my most recent trip out of Hong Kong, I made sure to spend some time at this year's Hong Kong Book Fair.  Having discovered last year that bargains abounded at this annual event (and, also, that there are more booths selling English language books than a look at the fair map would have one thinking), I was undeterred by the prospect of super packed halls and ended up joining the crowds gathered at the relevant sections of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the first day of the fair.

As I walked along the place, I got to noticing a distinct lack of political tomes being hawked this year in contrast to just one year ago.  Kudos, then, to the folks at HKU Press for overcoming fears and opting against self-censorship to go ahead and continue selling as well as publishing books such as Stein Ringen's The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century (which prompted one review that includes the following summation: "Stein Ringen shows how the Chinese state has used both fear and material inducements to build a “controlocracy” of a size and complexity unprecedented in world history. Perfect as a dictatorship, but brutal, destructive, and wasteful") and 2012's Liu Xiaobo, Charter 08 and the Challenges of Reform in China (originally priced at HK$195 but marked down to HK$80 at the fair).

Along with that Liu Xiaobo book, I bought Chan Siu Jeung's East River Column: Hong Kong Guerillas in the Second World War from the booth whose publisher is part of the same University of Hong Kong whose graduates include Sun Yat Sen, Anson Chan and Umbrella Movement activist Yvonne Leung.  After spending some three hours at the book fair, I only came away with another two books -- that, like with the one on the East River Column -- actually have some cinematic associations!

Of the trio, the book with the most obvious film connection is Shusaku Endo's SilenceFirst adapted into a movie in 1971 by Masahiro Shinoda, it also was adapted for the silver screen last year by Martin Scorsese (who supplied an introduction for this English language edition of the 1966 Japanese book). The American filmmaker's Silence was screened in Hong Kong earlier this year but I was loath to watch it: not only because it's 161 minutes long but, also, because it's been given a different (Hollywoodized?) ending from the novel.  So I'd prefer to watch the 1971 film but, in all likelihood, am more likely to end up reading the the book rather than viewing a film adaptation of it; this especially since I now own a copy of it!

As for Fannie Flagg's Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: it's the author rather than the book itself that has a movie connection.  Back when I was still living in the US, I saw a film adaptation of Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe that quickly found a place in my heart, prompted me to get the origininal soundtrack on cassette tape (yes, it was that long ago!) and -- truly! -- made me pine to sample some fried green tomatoes (something I only managed to finally do a few years ago).

As for East River Column: I'd actually heard about the valiant resistance group that's this book's subject some years back and have done such as hiked in areas of Hong Kong where its members hid out.  And if I had more easily made the connection between the East River Column and the Dongjiang guerilla unit spotlighted in Ann Hui's Our Time Will Come, I'd have more quickly realized that the Hong Kong film doyen's latest offering is much less of a Chinese propaganda movie than its official poster made it look like it'd be and, instead, be one of those archetypal -- and laudable Ann Hui movies where "ordinary heroes" (and heroines) abound!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sick jokes at the expense of those on both sides of the Hong Kong-Mainland Chinese border who seek democracy and dignity

the others is in danger of meeting the same fate
And even being Hong Kong's "king of votes" may not be able
to save Eddie Chu Hoi Dick from the same fate :(
The Hong Kong and Communist Chinese governments appear to be combining to making sick joke after sick joke at democracy's expense.  On Bastille Day last Friday, it arranged for the disqualification of four elected lawmakers on technicalities. On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law in Taiwan, news came from across the Mainland Chinese-Hong Kong border that Liu Xiaobo had been denied a burial on Chinese soil and, instead, had had his ashes scattered into the sea

Their supposed crime?  Would you believe that it's not having taken their oath of office, as can be seen by their adding words at their swearing-in that ranged from slogans calling for true democracy, self-identifying as a Hong Konger and demanding the resignation of then Chief Executive, Leung Chun Ying to a proclamation that the Umbrella Movement had lost but not died to calls for democratic self-determination for Hong Kong and the death of tyranny?  And if you think this all sounds pretty farcical, join the crowd!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hiking in a quiet, out-of-the-way part of Hong Kong (Photo-essay)

As hiking becomes an increasingly popular activity in Hong Kong, it's become rarer and rarer to feel like you've got the trail to yourself.  As I've found to some surprise though, it's still actually possible; this especially if you venture along a hike route that's not a part of any of the territory's famous four "long" trails (i.e., the Maclehose, Wilson, Lantau and -- especially -- Hong Kong Trails).

Take, for example, a section of a trail on Lantau Island that's not a part of the Lantau Trail which a friend and I chose to hike along one Sunday afternoon a while back, during which we didn't see another single person!  Part of the unpopularity of this trail on the Chi Ma Wan Peninsula stems from its trailhead not being near any bus stop, minibus stop or MTR station.  And while one can catch a ferry from or to a public pier located on the eastern side of the peninsula, the limited service makes it so that you have to time it right; otherwise, you're faced with a rather draining trudge back to civilization!    

As it so happened, we got to the pier too late to catch the ferry we were hoping we'd be in time to take us out of the peninsula that afternoon because we had spent so much more time stopping to admire the stunningly quiet scenic views to be found along our hike.  Consequently, we had no choice but to walk all the way back to Pui O.  But even though my pedometer showed that I ended up walking over 25,000 steps that day, I still will maintain that all that (extra) effort  actually felt worth it -- and I'm trusting that my hiking companion that day felt similarly! ;b      

Looking out onto a peaceful scene at 
the southern edge of Pui O beach
Yes, there really are parts of Hong Kong that are 
on the distinctly rural side and bereft of crowds! ;b

My secondary school art teacher was so right when
she told us that the sea isn't just one shade of blue...
 So far away was that Macau ferry that we could see
but not hear it speeding along to its destination
Back in the 1970s, the Sea Ranch development came about
because it was thought there'd be a market out there for people 
to live in splendid isolation on Chi Ma Wan Peninsula...
On the water's edge at Shap Long Irrigation Reservoir
The pier, with its lights on, located near two now disused
correctional institutions, and from where we'd have 
caught the ferry if we had been on time! ;S
Lights on and tide in at Pui O on our way back there!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Politics and beer in Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong's days as Hong Kong's 
Party Central look to be behind it...

To be sure, stereotypical party-goer types can be found among

But in the main, the crowd and mood is mellower 
these days than previously :)

Back in the fall of 2014, when sections of Hong Kong were being Occupied, I accepted the invitation of a friend to go to a Hong Kong celebration of Oktoberfest.  Even while I enjoyed my friend's company as well as the food and drinks on offer at the event, part of me felt guilty for being at it rather than out in "Occupied" space.  

To make me feel better, my friend agreed to head over with me to the protest areas at Central and Admiralty after we had our dinner.  There we found a lot more people that evening than had been the case at the Oktoberfest event; prompting my friend to ask me whether this made me happy -- to which I replied with an emphatic "Yes!"

Those memories came back to me last night as the route for the candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo took participants (including myself) close to Lan Kwai Fong, where I knew this year's beer and music festival was going on.  And I got to thinking about them once more when I headed over this afternoon to what used to be a crazy party area that I avoided like the plague for years but now has become a mellower place that's home to my favorite bar in Hong Kong and an annual beer and music festival which I had fun chillin' out at last year.   

After three days and nights of high emotion (and political activism), I felt a need to decompress.  In view of bad weather being predicted for today and also my having walked over 19,000 steps yesterday, I figured that a hike wouldn't actually be the answer this time around to my de-stressing needs.  And although part of me wanted to just stay at home and maybe even lie in bed all day, I decided that it would actually be psychologically healthier for me to venture out to enjoy good company -- and also some alcoholic beverages -- at this year's Lan Kwai Fong Beer & Music Festival.

As it so happened, I spent pretty much all of my time at the fest at just one stall: that operated by Sake Bar Ginn!  Ideally, in a setting and event like this, I'd have been drinking ice cold Kirin Ichiban beer topped with frozen beer foam.  In its absence, I made do by alternating drinks of Kirin Ichinan beer with frozen sake mojitos -- and found it to be a cooling combination that also successfully got me pretty relaxed over the course of the afternoon!

Something else that helped put me in a good mood was that there appeared to be fewer people at this event than had been at yesterday's candlelight march!  For one thing, I don't like crowds as a rule; and at events and venues where alcohol is in the mix, my sense is that the mood tends to be more mellow and pleasant when there's ample space to move, breathe, and for sound to be able to travel without people needing to shout.  

For another, it confirms that the turnout at yesterday's candlelight march was actually really respectable.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that it was pretty impressive; with at least one respected news outlet having underlined its importance by noting that last night's march was the only -- not just most -- large-scale commemorative event for Liu Xiaobo on Chinese soil and the fact of it having taken place actually sends a powerful message to Beijing that the rulers there may not want to hear but can't help seeing. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hong Kong's candlelight march in memory of Liu Xiaobo

I lit a candle for Liu Xiaobo at Chater Garden this evening
In the company of thousands of others, I walked candle in hand 
from Chater Garden to the China Liason Office
It may not be an eternal flame but it's been
captured for posterity by my camera
Earlier today came news that the ashes of the late Liu Xiaobo were scattered at sea in a move widely seen as the Chinese government seeking to deny those who loved and admired him a place of pilgrimage.  For many people, it further confirmed the Communist Chinese regime's heartlessness and I totally would not be surprised if it angered people and gave a number of Hong Kongers (further) motivation to turn up for this evening's candlelight march in memory of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Arriving at Chater Garden half an hour before the march got going, I was surprised to see this space get filled to the brim by the time the assembled crowd began moving out along a designated route that would take us from Central through to Sheung Wan all the way to the China Liason Office in Sai Ying Pun.  And while I normally would be able to complete that walk in less than an hour, the fact that I was walking along with thousands of others -- and consequently subject to crowd and traffic control by the police that ensured that there'd be lots of stops and starts along the way -- made it so that I didn't get to the (temporary) memorial space set up for Liu Xiaobo in front of the China Liason Office until close to three hours after I began my journey.
So long did the candlelight march take that my candle got way too short and its light burned out just before I rounded the final corner to the march's designated end point.  Also, I have to admit that my candle's flame was snuffed out two times before then; no thanks to the strong breezes that occasionally blew our way but were no way the worst bits of weather that we had to deal with -- instead, that'd be the rain that I initially dismissed as mere showers before it got to absolutely pelting down as my group of marchers stood waiting to pay our respects before we concluded our march.
In retrospect, I find it symbolic that the candle I lit for Liu Xiaobo was not able, like him, to fully complete its planned journey while alive -- but, hopefully, still may be able to achieve its goal with the help of another.  As for the downpours this evening: I see the rain as the tears shed by heaven for a highly principled individual who had the misfortune of living under a regime whose rulers felt so threatened by his ideas that they decided to view him as a criminal rather than patriot.  
In their treatment of Liu Xiaobo (and also his wife, Liu Xia), the Communist Chinese government have shown how heartless and despicable it is.  Shame on it!  And may Hong Kongers keep on opposing and resisting its attempts -- be it using soft power, what are effectively monetary bribes or menacing intimidation -- to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city, where such as the freedom to protest and the freedom to be critical of the government (in an effort to make it better) is no longer allowed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Disappointment in Hong Kong one day after tragedy struck in Mainland China

A space to mourn Liu Xiaobo's premature death set up 

in front of "Civic Square" this evening 

This afternoon, I went to the China Liason Office in Hong Kong to pay tribute to the late Liu Xiaobo.  Or, rather, I went to the area set up in front of the Liason Office for mourners that has been bedecked with white flowers and signs urging people to remember the Nobel Peace Prize winning pro-democracy activist and demanding his widow, Liu Xia's freedom, and where a condolence book also is available for people to sign.

Not surprisingly, a rally was organized this evening to protest the decision and also to show support to disqualified lawmakers "Long Hair" Leung Kwok Hung, Nathan Law, Law Siu Lai and Edward Yiu.  With many of its speakers being the same ones who also had spoken at another rally this past December, I couldn't help reflecting sadly on how the mood has changed.

Then, there was jubilance in the air since that event at Chater Garden had come in the wake of Leung Chun Ying's announcement that he'd not be seeking re-election as Hong Kong's Chief Executive.  This time around, at the rally in front of the still closed 1,000-square-meter forecourt to the Central Government Offices at Admiralty popularly known as Civic Square, there were notes of defiance struck but along with Liu Xiaobo's death casting a shadow on things was a sense among the assembled crowd that the battle for democracy for Hong Kong is not going to be won anytime soon.

This is not to say, however, that people in Hong Kong have decided to give up the fight.  Especially considering that tonight's event was effectively a one and half hour press conference and had been organized and announced at pretty short notice, the number of people who turned up was surprisingly high.  

One of the folks who turned up to voice their disappointment and unhappiness at what's happened today in Hong Kong was quoted in a Hong Kong Free Press report as follows: "There is no point in protesting when an oppressive government won't listen to you. But I still felt that coming here, contributing to the headcount, was better than staying at home and typing up a status on Facebook. At least I was here."  To which, I'd say, "Hear, hear -- and that's the (Hong Kong) spirit", at least to the latter part of that statement!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

RIP, Liu Xiaobo -- and free Liu Xia!

A great man died today.  Rest in peace, Liu Xiaobo.  And we won't forget you, Liu Xia!  Among other things, it's not something her husband would have wanted.  Remember what he said about his beloved: "Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you." 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dealer/Healer serves up a seemingly tall tale that's actually rooted in reality (film review)

Detail from an artwork located in Kowloon Walled City Park
highlighting the high density of the walled city once located there

Dealer/Healer (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2017)
- Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon), director
- Starring: Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Gordon Lam Ka Tung, Jiang Yiyan, Max Zhang Jin

While I was away in Malaysia and Indonesia this past May, a Hong Kong movie I first heard about more than a year ago and have been eager to check out opened in Hong Kong cinemas.  Eager to view it upon my return to the Big Lychee a fortnight or so later, I was rather perturbed to see that screenings of it had already been gone done to one a day at just a handful of theaters. 

We're talking, after all, of a dramatic offering helmed by a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Director nominee and starring a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor winner.  And, actually, post viewing it, I'm also surprised that Dealer/Healer did not feature in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival; this since I truly do feel that it is a good deal better in quality as well as possesses a more compelling narrative than 2017 HKIFF entrants The Sleep Curse and Love Off the Cuff. 

Telling the story of a drug dealer turned drug rehab worker (who also takes to mediating between rival Triad factions, and underworld figures and the police on the side), Dealer/Healer's tale may seem like a unbelievably tall one if not for it being based on the biography of its executive producer.  Set in the 1970s and 1980s, the film focuses on a couple of eventful decades in the life of Peter Chan Shun Chi -- or, as he's referred to in the movie, Chen Hua. 

Portrayed for the most part by Lau Ching Wan, this product of the Tsz Wan Shan public estates is shown developing from being a playground terror (who headed a group that called themselves the 13 Warlocks of Tsz Wan Shan) into a mid-level gangster whose turf extended to the Kowloon Walled City, but then was undone both by his trying to help out two long-time buddies Bullhorn (played by Gordon Lam Ka Tung) and Cat (essayed by Max Zhang Jin) get some of the drug-dealing business controlled by his bosses and having become addicted to the narcotics he would have done better to just sell.

In retrospect though, his getting found out and slapped into prison for five years actually turned out to be the making of Chen Hua rather than his undoing.  Genuinely reformed while behind bars, he emerged from the correctional facility vowing to not only stay clean but also help others to kick the habit.  Against the odds, he also looks to reconnect with the love of his life (played by Jiang Yiyan) -- and befriends his former enemy, a crooked cop turned powerful drug lord (portrayed by Louis Koo).

Also rather improbable on the face of it is what director Lawrence Lau and co managed to accomplish throughout Dealer/Healer: that is, transport this film's viewers back in time by way of surprisingly detailed and authentic-looking period visuals, and also into parts of Hong Kong (notably the Kowloon Walled City) which actually are no more.  Ironically, however, these aesthetic accomplishments may actually have negatively affected the movie's appeal: because, let's face it, the 1970s and 1980s were pretty stylistically awful decades!

Another paradox laid bear is that whereas it's gratifying to learn about a bad guy genuinely turning into a good one, people who behave badly often are more colorfully and interestingly portrayed in movies than the virtuous.  Put another way: the scenes of Dealer/Healer featuring the pre-reformed protagonist were a good deal more exciting and interesting than those taking place after he found God and got redemption.  Consequently -- and I realize its makers (and executive producer, in particular) may not be happy to hear it -- I honestly felt that this movie actually worked quite a bit better as an entertaining crime drama than as a morality tale about a man whose story genuinely is admirable! 

My rating for this film: 7.5

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tai Po's atmospheric Man Mo Temple looks like the kind of place seen in many a Hong Kong movie one of the most incense-filled temples I know in Hong Kong

...and also is home to one of the most impressive 
Tai Sui (60 Year Cycle Gods) displays I've seen around

For a good part of the time that I've lived and worked in Hong Kong, I had to regularly commute between the part of the Big Lychee where I resided to Tai Po.  Since that would take up at least two hours of each day that I did this, I'm sure people can understand when I say that I'm so very glad that those days are now behind me.

At the same time though, this doesn't mean that I've been giving Tai Po a miss since!  For among other things, Tai Po Market MTR station is where the avid hiker can catch buses or -- more often, actaully -- green minibuses to (or from) a number of trail heads.  Also, it's where I get the green mini-bus to Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve.  In addition, nice bike paths can be found in the vicinity of Tai Po that can take one all the way up to Tai Mei Tuk and the Plover Cove Reservoir if one's so inclined or, alternatively, down south to Sha Tin, Tai Wai and Wu Kai Sha.   

In addition, there are area culinary attractions such as Yat Lok's hard-to-resist roast goose (which, ironically, I very rarely got to visit during my lunch breaks when I worked in Tai Po because my office was located too far away from the town center where the eatery is located).  And I've even indulged the inner train spotter in me and paid a visit to the Hong Kong Railway Museum housed in the old Tai Po Market Railway Station that's within easy walking distance from the present one. 

As for Tai Po's markets: these days, there's more than one of them.  I wouldn't go all the way up to Tai Po from, say, Hong Kong Island just for them.  But when coupled with, say, a visit to Fung Yuen, the Hong Kong Railway Station or Yat Lok, I actually think it's worth the trip -- and this especially when you also throw in a visit to the Man Mo Temple in Tai Po located in the vicinity of Tai Po's oldest and most picturesque market, and also a stone's throw away from the Hong Kong Railway Museum.

Built in 1891, around the same time as the nearby market established by a group of area villagers, this particular Man Mo Temple may not be as old as the more famous one over on Hollywood Road -- but I find it a good deal more atmospheric as a result of there being fewer tourists milling about the place and its location close to a genuine working market frequented and patronized by local folk.  And like the far more well known temple dedicated to the gods of war and literature over on Hong Kong Island, it's got its share of faithful devotees -- as can be seen by the numerous offerings, including coiled joss sticks, to be found within it.

As I often tell people: because I came to love Hong Kong by way of my love of Hong Kong cinema, I often find myself viewing Hong Kong not only through rose-colored lens but also in terms of X or Y place looking like it was like a movie set.  In the case of Tai Po's Man Mo Temple: I don't know whether filming ever took place within or around it but I so would not be surprised -- because, truly, my first thought when I saw it was that this place looked like it had popped out of a Hong Kong movie! ;b

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hong Kong's shop cats

A regal looking Hong Kong shop cat
Much loved members of this elite group of felines?
My recent Malaysia-Indonesia trip series of blog posts finally came to a halt last Thursday -- but it doesn't mean I'm quite done mentioning my German friend (who was my travel companion for much of that time) just yet!  A case in point: these days, pretty much whenever I see Japanese Fortune Cats (Maneki Neko) on sale in a store, I think of her: because on one of her trips back to Hong Kong, she was tasked by two of her German friends to get them Maneki Neko.  
When she asked me where she could go about purchasing one, I had to confess to having had no idea where to do so.  One reason why is that it's not at all often that I've bought a Maneki Neko for myself.  And when I've done so, it's been in in their country of origin rather than Hong Kong!  
Almost inevitably, I've since got to noticing Japanese Fortune Cats being sold in a variety of stores here in the Big Lychee.  At the same time though, I'd maintain that one is more likely to come across real life cats in Hong Kong shops than Maneki Neko available for sale or placed by the store owners to attract luck, wealth and/or customers!      
Their official role may be that of mouse-catchers rather than good luck charms or store mascots but the way they loll about and stride around the places where they are to be found, and the affection they generate, makes many a Hong Kong shop cat's status come across as significantly more elevated than many of the human staff!  In recent years, a number of them have gained prominence by way of such as a popular photobook entitled -- what else? -- Hong Kong Shop Cats; and until the newspaper shop where he hung out closed down last year, many a cat-lover would make pilgrimages to the East Tsim Sha Tsui store to catch a glimpse of the famous British shorthair known as Brother Cream.   
Although my love for a certain Hello Kitty is considerably greater than for any live feline, I must admit to not being immune to the latter's allure.  And yes, I too have been known to stop in my tracks upon glimpsing a particular striking looking Hong Kong shop cat.  Often times, it's to admire a particularly magnificent example of this category of animal.  But there also was the time that I did a double take upon realizing that one of those (admittedly distant) cousins to the likes of lions, panthers and jaguars had been fitted out in an outfit festooned with kawaii heart patterns! ;D