Recently in Asia 2005 (Mostly Hong Kong) Category
Leaving for my
food trip to HK-in-Canada in less than an hour. Couldn't sleep with all this excitement; but that's not true, it's more b/c I've been used to sleeping at 5-7AM for the past week... In other news, I watched all sorts of depressing stuff on TV, before deciding to do something constructive. Including: disasters of biblical proportions in the Deep South, a documentary on orgasm, and on the same channel right after, a documentary on the (less-than-orgasmic) 2000 US election... (dot-dot-dot)
Ok! Let's go with the food! (Sadly, I forgot half the names of the places I had this food... it's pretty generic (and still good), so no loss)
One of the first days in HK, but the last for uncle ah-Pang, who usually owns/manages the Perle something (d'Orient?) restaurant on Des Sources in DDO, but returns to HK for a month every year. So he decides to invite us for... I forgot, safe bet is Chinese food? Including fish, and we ordered that shao xing wine I kept looking for since tasting it in Shanghai in 2002.
The morning after, we get some regular noodles with fish balls or what seems to be pork, in a little eatery near the MTR station of Wan Chai. A bowl for about 15HKD. Side orders of fried salmon skin are favourite fillers.
Miam, Cafe de Coral! The #1 Cantonese fast-food chain in HK. I had a BBQ pork and duck on rice here, with my favourite, the HK-style milk tea. <3
This is actually in Macau, but food (besides the Portugese specialties) is pretty much the same as in HK. This is a beef brisket noodles I got at a well-known restaurant on Largo de Senado (the territory's central plaza), facing the McDonalds and beside the Starbucks. Couldn't dare order the thing before 2002, but now it's a once-in-a-while delicacy...
Another place in Wan Chai, between the Southorn Playground and Morrisson Hill... Famous for its delicious congee, and flavours "boiled" into it. Rice dumplings (zong) are favourite too. ^^;
Tofu au gratin at a branch of a fancy Japanese restaurant chain in the new Kwun Tong shopping mall (was it Watami?), my uncle Rene and family took me to. They've all sorts of other "cool" plates like crab meat sashimi salad and eel sticky rice, in a chic environment (you get to sit at those tables with a deep gap under them to dangle your naked feet over).
Two weeks later, same uncle and family take me to fancy Hunan-style restaurant (owned by the Maxim group?) in friggin Central. This is a piece of delicious fish with a nut-like-based sauce. Never was able to understand what it was made of, but quite novel to me, so all good. :D
Some of the cutest baby choy I've ever eaten, from that same restaurant.
The day after (May 14th) was the day before the Cheung Chau bun tower climbing competition. As a tradition, the whole month before is the Bun Festival, and residents must eat zai (vegetarian). To follow the trad, McDonalds only offers the incredibly disgusting McVeggie.
Sai Kung, a little town in the Eastern New Territories, and one of HKers' favourite weekend places, boasts a large number of seafood restaurants in its downtown, and seafood peddlers selling their goods directly from the boat (fresh or not, it's still moving! But is for tourists really; any local big grocery chain has their "live" seafood/fish).
My aunt Nat takes me and cousin Nic to fancy Japanese chain restaurant in the basement of Times Square. We get a bunch of sushi, extremely Japaneasy-tiny dishes, and these onigiris...
At the airport, as I was going to leave on a Dragonair flight to Guilin with a HK tour (China Travels)... the only affordable meal you get is from big fast-food chains. And Ajisen Ramen is one of them, selling their meals at the same flat price than in other branches in the city. This is their "Ajisen Ramen" (eponymous, eh), which has about everything you expect for Japanese ramen, the preserved veggies, the hard-boiled egg, and the fat pork.
Early June, this is a weekend day I got bored and decided to eat at random places by myself. By then, I'm used to life in HK, and dare return to restaurants I've been taken to (eventually, I'd even try new restaurants, I think?). Shown are "xiao long bao", a variety of Shanghai dumplings, filled with pork (a variant puts crab fat and meat in them), have a thin skin, are made with wheat flour, and if well-made (as they are in China but not in stupid Montreal), has pork juice in them (pierce and drink before eating the whole thing!), from one of the best-known chains of Shanghai-style food, Crystal Jade (Fei Chui).
HK is also an international city, and it doesn't have a farming industry to protect... So clearly imported saucisson and goat cheese (you can find saucisson locally-produced in Montreal, but it's miles away from the real thing - funny, I thought to myself, that I had saucisson in Asia...).
Another rediscovery (b/c I probably tasted a lot of those traditional plates, while going "meh" when younger) was the drunken chicken, made with teh shao xing wine. Chicken is different in China, meat has more consistence, which makes or breaks this sort of dish.
At the same restaurant (in Causeway bay, on the street behind Sogo) my aunt took me to, we're in mid-June by now, a few yummy non-Cantonese dishes, including some fatty pork leg.
Another evening by myself, I decide to try Cafe de Coral's main local competitor, Maxim Fastfood. Had the salty baked chicken combo on special.
One evening in a hurry, my aunt and cousin meet up with me, and we're whizzed into this fast meal restaurant in Causeway Bay. There, we had a few cha chan teing quick dishes, eggrolls, lime pork chops, fried tofu...
...and also, something called "choy fan" (veggie rice), the simplest tastiest specialty. Just cut some bak choy finely and mix it in with your rice, right before it's finished cooking.
At another Shanghai-style restaurant, behind the Sogo in Causeway Bay... Was meant to be one of my last meals in HK, so we had what I liked the most, xiao long bao, ... and a bowl of chicken broth with dumplings.
I'm going to have a wrap-up post of HK and South China at some point, eventually, lah.
Not usually seen by tourists or casual HKers, are the newer new towns, those in Tseung Kwan O (opened mid-90s?) for instance. This is the new district of Tiu Keng Leng, which sounds so much like "Tiu Keng", as in "hanging oneself" for the good reason that it was the original name, "Hanging ridge" (see story on Wikipedia) (while it currently probably means something like nice view ridge, whatever).
One of the newer MTR stations of Tiu Keng Leng (but in fact, all MTR stations look boringly the same, except those maybe that are over the ground).
MTR wagons are so wide... (and there goes another Freudian dream)
Shenzhen, an endless ugly Chinese city. I don't think I've seen other Chinese cities as large and ugly. I mean, endless rows of skyscrapers, as if Shenzhen was some Coruscant, on the ugly side... Shanghai Pudong might be endless, but at least it won't be ugly until a few decades... Or never it will get as earlier-stages-of-capitalism way of building speedily and functionally rather than for the future generations kind of stuff.
A HK flag (and three small hand-wavable flags not shown). <3 (And my room becomes the Chinese Central Govt Branch of Montreal)
HK swimsuit chick with impossible physics. I thought the text besides the pictures (inside the book) was cute ("Just because someone doesn't / love you the way you want them to / doesn't mean they don't / love you with all they have"), until I realized it was prolly copy-pasted from an e-mail forward. >_> (After I blogged about it, my mom seized the book and is arguing whether the girl is Taiwanese or Mainlandese)
I gathered a lot of those free newspapers, and the Sunday magazine edition of the SCMP, and a few Economist copies.
A bottle of chewing gum, of course. :P
Funniest shit (if you're really into burlesque HK comedies, and mahjong - a pre-req for this one).
Disneyland Hong Kong is opening its doors on September 12th, and Giordano is its bitch, selling Disney-themed tees at 80HKD a pop.
Uniball pens are made by Mitsubishi? Anyways, it's got cool parallel-market-product-ness.
I didn't particularly like mooncakes, but peer pressure had the best of me. -_-;
To me, the biggest news this morning is Japan's Upper House vote against the privatization of Japan Post, that big behomoth keeping the equivalent of 3 fucking trillion US dollars in assets. I don't know anything in economics, but I understand it's meant to protect election money, and a sign of holding on to old institutions. Unlike in most countries I'm used to, Japan's postal system also sells insurance and offers financial services. In fact, a post office in Japan looks more like a sort of bank / government welfare office (in that it's not necessarily all well-decorated, at least not those I've been to, like I've come to expect from banks), than your regular post office which deals only with sending letters and packets to the right people.
In some more fantastic manner, I see it as a turning point of Japan's decline, versus, say, China's rise. Maybe it will create a backlash towards reform, if the LDP are set to lose the upcoming elections. (more on BBC)
Anyways, I always read my news from the SCMP. In Friday's edition...
Hong Kong residents seeking to work in the mainland and their employers would have to pay extra taxes, money for health benefits.
The Kissel case, a weird murder case of a banker-husband who allegedly abused his wife. At first they suspected the Fillipino maid, and then the eyes turned to the wife, who was then said to have had an affair with a Vermont repairman (where the couple had a house). On top of abusing wife, the banker-husband was said to be a drug addict, sexual delinquant. Passioned the HK public for months.
Harry's View, one of the Post's caricaturists, and my favourite of them all (3 or 4 four of them, splitting the job of illustrating the editorial page), as being the most caustic, with its depiction of a chicken-teeth HK Chief Executive Donald Tsang with a bigger-than-his-head trademark bowtie, the Central government represented as some mean-looking pandas, and a Mickey Mouse into the shark's fin commerce. This one talks about Mr Tsang's controversial decision to send HK ministers to Beijing, and the frontpage about a rise in health-related costs for HK workers on the Mainland. Just like during Tung Chee Hwa's tenure, the current HK CE is seen as Beijing's lackey, even after working many years as a highly-placed public servant for the British Colonial Government.
I went to the beach on Thursday last week (and sent most of you a postcard from there), but that week was marked by a strike by the lifeguard corps, to protest against the government's intention to outsource their jobs to what the government lifeguards see as under-qualified personnel. Laurent pointed out to me that HK beaches, facilities are free, whereas ours in Montreal aren't (I would've never known, for not having been to a beach here since probably half-a-decade). Not to mention how beautifully South-China-sea they can get (no clear water - but still white-ish, albeit artificially gathered, sand). The photo with the article is actually taken in Repulse Bay beach, where I was, arguably the nicest beach in HK, and surely one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in on the HK SAR territory.
Starbucks' Canadian version of the Green Tea Frappucino tastes like shit. They add melon flavouring. Still the same buzz/diabetes-inducing sweetness to it, with an aftertaste like banana-flavoured antibiotics I was taking as a kid.
Otherwise I'm fine. I just came back from lunch in Chinatown with Grandma and parents. Then hung out at Fairview Shopping Mall, in its empty suburbbish vastitude.
In summary, I feel boredom of a city like Montreal seizing up on me. And as I suspect, it's a bit my fault, and a bit of Montreal's, for not being an island of occident in a sea of orient, but rather just a island of some occident in a sea of some other occident. Bleh, whatever, I'm making this up, I'm in denial of my own identity, cue-in identity crisis.
At the same time, Hong Kong is not a place that welcomes me. I am a non-Cantonese speaker, who has lived all his life in North America. Wanting to establish oneself in it comes across more as a fetish, than something "normal". As my aunts/uncles ask, well, if we grew up in Hong Kong, there's a reason we wanted to come back to live. But you, who cannot speak the language, and has no ties with the place from your childhood, why do you want to stay there? And the answer is probably that something different is a lesser evil than continuity, if continuity doesn't satisfy you. Or said in a more happy tone, change is good, and it's not a bad thing to abuse of it.
I hate Montreal. I don't hate Montreal. I pretty much like Montreal. It's great, it's bilingual. It's like being married for too long. The twenty-something questionning. I don't know. And Hong Kong is that new girl you just found, and want to have an affair with, just to get out of monotony.
I don't know. I wanted to come back, because it was going nowhere. Without a job, what can I do in a foreign city (spend all your money by having fun). I'm confused lah.
A few things actually happened in my last few days in HK. There was a Comics Festival in HK, which is at the same time a Game Fair (the dream of any Fan-girl/boy out there - complete with product-promoting chicks and cosplaying). I went on the last day of an event spanning a long-weekend (Friday to Tuesday, last week), and didn't have to queue up for at least an hour (the queue could circle up all the way from the HK Convention Centre to Great Eagle Centre, nearby Wan Chai ferry). I am far from being a fanboy, by any standards possible. But I read/watch manga/anime, and enjoy the culture, as if it was mainstream (which it really is in the Far-East).
In short, b/c I am not a fanboy, the only marking thing I get from the Comics Festival is the experience of being stuck in crowds and crowds of fanboys/fangirls flocking from booth to booth in search of things to buy.
Home, I am! Etc, etc, I am very tired, I'm 12hrs-lagged, can't get worse than that, yadadi yadada.
Ok. Plane in 30 minutes. Gate is just a two-minute walk, so I'll type an entry.
I'm tired, for not managing to sleep yesterday night. It must be my one-hour lag with HK time. :P
(Those freakin Japanese keyboards... almost like the US one, but just not quite, and therefore extremely annoying.)
First, I read the news, the NHL feels very weird with all those free agent signings.
Anyways. I bought a modelized Boeing 747-400, the plane I took to get to Japan yesterday (and perhaps the same I need to take for Chicago?). Also, weird thing, they didn't want me to keep my largish umbrella unboard the aircraft, so had it checked-in for me...
I'm in Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong. My flight for Tokyo leaves in about 1 hour, and tomorrow night, I'm back in Canada.
Right now, I wish I wasn't so nervous, anxious, sleep-deprived, b/c I would've like to have appetite (just for a last real meal in HK - a siu yok fan at Cafe de Coral, is really what I'd like).
I had 228HKD in my wallet before entering the bookstore, close to nil upon leaving. I bought some magazines for men (you won't find those in Mtl for less than 20$CAD), a copy of The Economist, a South China Morning Post, a few TVB-ish magazines, one fancy fashion mag called Jet with Sun Yanzi on it. I guess I can find a good use to my 15,000yen over at Narita.
Hand-carry is extremely heavy. Actually, all was heavy. My aunt helped me carry my luggage on the bus. We took the 14M minibus instead of catching one of the 11 Citybus, or even less conspicuously, the 21M minibus. Instead, we circled up on Jardine's Lookout, and came all the way down from the Eastern flank (near Wan Chai) of Causeway Bay, just to be caught having to walk 100 meters with 32kg + 20kg + 10kg worth of luggage under the sun. All for the adventure - just like how all this has started.
Now venturing back into the recursion. Japan is the next stop, for a day. What can you do during a night transit?
A day I started in Repulse Bay and Stanley, showing my friend about some of the calmer places in HK. Then it's an intense buying spree, which included a dinner for my Aunt Nathalie's birthday at Uncle Jimmy's restaurant, the "Red Pepper" in Causeway Bay (Northern Chinese cuisine, for Westernized tastebuds), some intense mooncake buying, and a camera for Wee (which I will be using to "try out" - I have a gig to document the way home). I bought a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. I bought some goggles with prescription. I emptied my pockets. I owe 33.000-something HK dollars for four months of intense consumerism. :(
Basically, you can greet me at the Dorval airport. It will make me feel better. It's going to be a AA flight from Chicago, arriving at 15:11 in Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau International Airport.
Anyways. It's the end of a great adventure. The start of another, I hope. I like Hong Kong more than any other place; but it might just be a symptom of "hating home". I wouldn't travel to another place. Except perhaps Tokyo. Europe is cool, if I wasn't responsible for paying for it, but it isn't my cup of tea. It's cold, and old, and Western. I need Oriental. In China, I see more than my country of origin. I see a source of pride. A part of me (but just a part of me). I like reading the South China Morning Post - the news are interesting to me, whereas any Canadian newspaper makes me fall asleep (or want to rush to the Maison de la Presse Internationale or Chinatown). Take skin magazines for instance. Well, anyways, that's background. The food is also pretty fabulous, and I feel stupid to have forgotten about it. Can you get a BBQ Pork Rice for 26HKD at your local fast-food shop? Or even just Xiao Long Bao that have soup inside them. Sigh. How about Made In China clothes starting at 30HKD a t-shirt at Giordano or Bossini or Baleno? Whatever... Or "seuil fo" electronics for a fraction of the regular price, and no sales taxes? And teh bargaining...
Indeed this time I've brought back stuff that made me long for HK starting three years ago. It's impossible. I don't know how I can live like this. It's a dream. Like dating the girl of your dreams. There might be so many great things about her, but can it really work out?
So it's set. I have a ticket for Friday the 5th flying me to Narita at 14:35. And then stay overnight, and 12 hours flight to Chicago, and finally in Montreal. Arrival at Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau at 3PM-ish on this Saturday the 6th. Yeh~~
Ok. Just as I thought. If I'm not getting a phone call from my parents, or an e-mail in my Inbox from my agent, that means I am not going home today. In different circumstances, I would've liked staying here, but now it's a different story. For instance, I would've liked finding a job here, but it's difficult for someone like me, who doesn't have a qualification a local doesn't already have, and who doesn't speak the local language good enough for the working world. That's how I see it. And we're not even mentionning the warnings family and friends give me about cut-throat-society HK, but I guess I already understand a bit of it.
In the meanwhile, Laurent is improvising a trip from his Tianjin, where he has been learning Chinese for the past year, to Hong Kong (and then Yunnan - I might join or not, depending on budget and time). Actually, he told me on Sunday, and I am supposed to meet him up later at the Causeway Bay MTR (we didn't say where, or what time exactly, so I guess it takes all the meaning of improvisation!).
Also, in the meanwhile, I stop pondering, and just want to let out all that I've absorbed from Hong Kong, good or bad. I don't know. But is Western Civilization on the verge of collapse? Or at least, about to be passed in front by Asia? So many questions. In a sense, Hong Kong has rejected me, but it's possibly because I have not tried hard enough. Or that we're not made for each other. Or something like that. Sometimes, you just can't force things to happen: they just happen. Some relationships are like that. Or actually most my human relations are like that anyways.
I've become quite good at talking. I talk to the blog. It wouldn't be very different if I had someone in front of me to talk with. So, for what I lacked in self-expression during childhood, I now catch up with it in young-adult age.
Anyways, I must be one of those foreigners/tourists with the most familiarity with HK. It hits me that now I need to take a big breath out, or I'm going to choke pretty soon.
That will be for an undetermined date however. Off for more adventures in the Fragranced Port! Whee.
I'm "babysitting" my cousin Nicholas at the HK Central Public Library in Causeway Bay, right down the hill where my Aunt Nathalie lives. I've not yet seen the Grande Bibliotheque of Quebec in Montreal, but this library I'm in is pretty huge, and tall.
I'm now on one of the LAN Workstation - the same ones I used back in 2002 for most of my postings.
I'm still prepping up to go back home. I just checked my baggage allowance on JAL - it's got a section about "carry-on baggage", and another about "free baggage allowance: checked baggage". At first, I understood that I could have one carry-on of 10kg, and two check-in of 32kg ea.; but that sounds a bit excessive - especially when Asian airlines, for inter-Europe/Asia/Africa flights, only allow you 20kg of checked-in stuff... Excessive indeed. I need to call them.
I'm to leave the territory at any time. My uncle invited me over to his flat, along with Nat and Nic and perhaps uncle Peter if he can make it on time from the factory in Shenzhen.
My feet smell like HK again (it was meant to happen - even after 3 weeks spent in the drought), and both sides neighbors peeked at me when I tried putting my right foot up on my left leg...
I don't know. I liken this to the end of a relationship. Hong Kong is rejecting me - but it could be that I am rejecting Hong Kong, just by lack of true enthusiasm and go-getting-ism. Having stayed here almost 3x the length of last time, I could probably expect the effects to be even more long-lasting that last time. But what if I did everything, and this was just the fling I needed to get over it?
I've mentally prepared for coming back. My bags are packed (roughly stuffed - but I know I have space), and I'm almost ready to go. I've sporadically job-hunted back in the country of the cold, but I could probably find something: I assume that the job market must be pretty good, since noone is mentionning it in the news. And I have friends I want to see. And I have the feeling Montreal is not so bad, when you're enthusiastic about it. All a question of how much you can self-motivate.
Anyways. Wasting time all the time is not an easy thing to do (on a small budget).
Seen today between Yau Ma Tei and Jordan MTR, some of the sketchier areas of HK on the Kowloon side.
BREAKING NEWS - Hong Kong, China - My agent now says my August 2nd flight can't be confirmed. So he tries August 3rd. And so on, until I get confirmed. Meaning that bc of peak season, I'll possibly be stuck here until mid-September? I don't know whether I should laugh or cry? (or plan another trip abroad XD)
Laurent, who's currently in Tianjin, says he got a surprise vacation from work, and is now planning for a trip to Yunnan, with a beginning or an end in Hong Kong.
Edisode 2: Getting to all the right places while not doing the right thing.
That is, ask for the damn flags, because they are not on display (me and my Canadian reflexes of assuming everything that is to be sold obviously is on display - but I should've known better, counter space, even in large 百貨公司 (department stores), is a premium in HK). So anyways, I went around the whole town, wandering and feeling a bit ackward, either because of the raw salmon in that sushi cornet purchased at the Causeway Bay Park 'n Shop, or is it because I really feel as if I've seen everything in Hong Kong already?
The moment outside the HK Convention and Expo Centre, and later on the Star Ferry, was totally out of Lost in Translation (except that Cantonese is just a language I've lost somewhere on my way out of childhood). But it's a choice to visit the city like I do. I like it this way, and it'd be even more ackward if I had to follow someone or a group of someones I'm not totally comfortable with (as in, sharing relatively the same interest, and outlook on life).
No pictures of Egypt, I protest.
I actually bought:
- A set of 12 postcards of HK at night: 25HKD
- 2 x HKU Umbrellas: 35HKD ea.
- Photobook about Hong Kong Tramways: 100HKD
- Shaolin Mahjong DVD for my cousins: 69HKD
- Mini-mahjong set for my brother (comes in a regular box, along with die, tokens, season indicator): 98HKD
- 2 x 50g Pouches of Genki Sushi matcha: 35HKD ea.
- The Economist (July 30th to August 5th Issue: How China Runs The World Economy): 47HKD
I consider or should be buying (for myself and others):
- Promotional Disney T-Shirts at local Gap-ish chain Giordano: 80HKD ea.
- (Not for myself) Canon IXY55 and 1 gig SD card and case: 2,080HKD + 550HKD + 100HKD
- Skin magazines
- Food (a given)
- One of those new Sony Flash Memory MP3 Player (but it's cheaper to buy in the States with our fantastic CAD/USD exchange rate and some really highly fixed suggested retail price over here in HK): 200-320CAD
- Initial D live action film DVD, if it comes out in time...
- Japanese hairgel (b/c it's probably made for Asian hair...)
- HK Flag
- Something in Chinese usually found in French/English in Canada, such as a World Map
- 512 Mb of ordinary computer RAM: 395HKD, but the prices seem to have risen by a uniform 40-50HKD everywhere
Note: The exchange rate is currently approximately 6.3HKD per CAD (or one HKD is worth some 15-16 cents), and the Hong Kong dollar is pegged within a range comprising 7.8HKD per USD.
My travel agent is incommunicado (as soon as someone doesn't reply within the day, he's incommunicado). Therefore it still appears possible that I get stuck in Hong Kong until the peak season calms down (in September -_-) and that I get confirmed on the Narita-O'Hare segment.
Anyways, I'm back in Hong Kong after a gruesome flight from Cairo via Dubai and Singapore. I left Cairo at 2PM on Tuesday, and suddently it's 5PM in Hong Kong - the day after. But it feels good to be "home" (my aunt's tiny appartment that's still worth a few millions here), especially after feeling nauseous from above the Nicobar Island and on (the Dry Vermouth, white wine, Bloody Mary, Bailey's, and Cointreau - even over the span of 8 hours - must not have helped). But it had the symptoms of what my cousin caught on Sunday, although now I am perfectly fine after a good hot shower and the prospect of a late afternoon *horizontally-taken* nap.
My brother and cousins are all excited (even if they discard it as potentially boring) about Egypt. I am too, in a sense. dot-dot-dot. Ok, not really, I am not excited. Being in vacation for three months makes you feel desensitized about just anything supposedly "fun". I hope it's going to be just seeing them all (family, cousins, aunts, uncles, gramps) for a get-together, rather than the beginning of the end. The prospect of being based in Hong Kong rather than Montreal still exists. I don't know whether I should be excited about it or not. I guess life is an adventure, and Montreal has been an anti-adventure, thus why I like HK so much. It's a psychological simulation, I know things don't need to be that way.
Monopoly, Hong Kong Edition
I'm bringing this to Egypt. And the picture could spawn an entry on the cut-throat property market... The kids in suit selling flats on the side of Tai Hang Road? Their numbers doubled during the weekend (imagine a mountain-side Tour de France stage, but with cars instead of the bikes, and, err, young men and women in suit as crowd?), they were there under the noon sun; well, they were still there at 9PM... _O_ Things like that make me think people really take it too easy in North America...
Want a flat? Starting at CAD2.5million. :P
Not waiting for the bus.
The march usually for democracy, but also the National Day of venting-out about just anything.
I didn't mean to participate in the march, really. My aunt said, as I have lunch with her and my cousin, that I already missed the flag-raising ceremony, which commemorates the handover of Hong Kong back to the government currently in power in Beijing. It was by chance that I "bumped into" the march, as I finally decided to get out of the flat at some 4PM, by direct bus 11 to Wan Chai. I noticed that the bus didn't take the usual path through Hennessy Road, but rather passed by Harbour Road (I wanted to enjoy a coffee at the Pacific Coffee in Central Plaza - and get my Economist for free). Walking back down to the heart of Wan Chai, I saw some folks on Hennessy Road waving a Taiwanese flag... Hmm, a march that late in the afternoon?
Totally improvised, but I decided to follow the flow of people. I meant to go to Admiralty anyways (the only competent newspaper stand I know of that had foreign magazines *on time* is in Admiralty - going from Wan Chai to Admiralty is just like walking from McGill to Concordia). There were a few Westerners, including a pair of dudes waving signs that said "one person, one vote, one country", or "democracy equals strength". Along the road, a bit passed Pacific Place and the Lippo Building, a bunch of organizers-like people announced we were only 20,000 people... (Indeed the mood seemed a bit down, with all those black clouds looming, and the lack of critical mass)
Sir Donald Tsang ate my hamster, but I can't vote him out of office...
One of the most bizarre moments occurred as we hairpinned back up the hill to the end point of the march. I used to follow Hong Kong politics during my high school years, particularly the stories of the last British governor, Chris Patten, and especially, then-leader and founding chairman of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee Chu-Ming. In fact, they were the two people I knew. As we climbed up the hill, this British-looking man smiled at a tall slim-faced Chinese man slightly behind me... He wore a regular white t-shirt with "Voter Express" written in behind (everyone wore white - but I kept my red linen shirt, still celebrating Canada Day (in my head). They exchanged a few words in English, and the Chinese man kept walking, keeping this smile tagged "famous person" all over. "Looks familiar... Can it be who I think it is", as I access the few memories I had of readings done on the middle-age-of-a-Internet that it was pre-1997. Probably, or certainly, when people along the way starting posing with the man.
So, is that him in the bottom left corner of your screen? o_O Anyways, enough bizarreness on this trip to make my head go bam.
So I marched up. And that was it, the end of the march. The crowds were brought to the top of that hill, and asked to disperse either down to Admiralty, or Central.
Not even worthy of local news.
The problem was that it was raining. Apparently 12,000 people gathered for the same party last year, which I suspect was helped in its attendance numbers by the fact the next day is HK SAR Establishment Day, a public holiday ^^. Anyways.
In the rain, me accompanied by my new friend, the hat from Western Canada that has nothing to do with Ontario/Quebec Canada. But still from the Canada we all like. <3
Lan Kwai Fong celebrating Canada D'eh. The organisers, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, is the largest foreign Chamber of Commerce here, and probably one of the largest Canadian-run ones outside of Canada.
Promoting Sunday portable phones? Sure... of course I would want one... if I didn't already own one.
Littering Lan Kwai Fong, but a full bottle is nowhere to be found. Actually, yes, but at 38HKD (6CAD). :P
When I miss home, I go to City Super. One time, I went home with three pieces of swordfish to cook for my "adoptive" family, which set me back for around 120HKD (20CAD). The time before, I craved for food we didn't even have at home, the U-shaped French saucisse sèche (80HKD/12CAD) (and with it, a freshly baked baguette (15-20HKD/2-3CAD)). Which is fine, because the saucisse lasted for a whole month (which never happens at home), and the baguette almost as good as the one we get in Canada.
My dinner tonight was a bright idea I had that wasn't so bright after all. I bought a half-loaf of "pain paysan" (as the label says), which doesn't toast at all, and is probably as authentic as it can get. So in order to finish that, I thought, oh, let's buy some cold meats at the cold cuts counter. So there I go, and spend 10-15 minutes at the counter, as the girl employee in training slices and asks me if the pieces are thin enough. But 22.90HKD (3.70CAD) for two slices of white ham? That beats me. I know it's expensive, but that's at least twice as expensive as in Canada!
The good thing is the saucisse seche, probably a fruit of relaxed import laws, heritage of HK's past (and present?) as a duty-free port (right?), because it isn't even available in Canada, and I'd pay the 12CAD for a taste of it every now and then.
Just downstairs from City Super, still within the Times Square shopping mall in Causeway Bay, there's one of the 200 McDonald's outlet in the territory of the HK SAR.
McDonald's is cheap, with my Canadian salary, thanks to the drop in the value of the US dollar (to which the HKD is pegged to at 7.80 per USD). A combo meal costs between 20 and 25 HKD, that's 3.30 to 4.15 CAD. No GST, wooh.
Food is of course not always as cheap. Competing in the lunchbox market, traditional "siu lap" outlets in Causeway Bay will sell for 28HKD. It's a few dollars more than in other places, 'cause of the rent, but if you take prices at the Maxim's or Cafe de Coral, it's also 26-ish, 35 with the milk tea. Ajisen Ramen (un-Googleable, but it's still the most visible Japanese noodles franchise (and it's HK-based too, despite the name, just like Aji Ichiban)) has noodles in the range of 32-45HKD, not cheap, but plays in the more sophisticated, if Japanese equals sophisticated, often the case with young people here, as much as it is back home.
Ajisen Ramen. Corn noodles, with Japanese char-siu, egg and veggies, and side-order of dumplings for approx 40HKD (6.70CAD).
Maxim's Fast-food. Yim Kook Cai (salty baked chicken) set, which comes with the rice, a yummy MSG broth, boiled lettuce and jasmine tea. Trashy Chinese fast-food, I thought to myself, for about 35HKD.
Threesome: a McDonald's stacked over a 7-Eleven over a Cafe de Coral Hmmm.
Tap water is safe to drink in Hong Kong, says Wikitravel, but my habits have been changed, I take fun in boiling the day's portion of water. >_> Funny, but that's how the rest of the world population lives (if they can find potentially drinkable water at all).
A beautiful day yesterday prompted me to hitch a hike on the peak tram to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, and the most postcard-able panorama of Hong Kong.
(Oops, not a representative picture of CUHK, but it's the best one showing buildings too... The campus is behind, and you need to take the shuttle, which I didn't want to do...)
CUHK has the reputation of being second behind HKU, but it's surely the top Chinese-taught school in HK. Located along the KCR track between Shatin and Lo Wu (previously discussed), it has a vast campus in the middle of the HK-ese countryside... Like a MacDonald campus versus McGill I suppose in terms of campus. Has had its share of international notoriety during the SARS crisis alongside HKU.
The KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway) traditionally takes care of railway-based mass transit in Kowloon and the New Territories (with the lack of free space, they hardly have any prospects on HK Island). The KCR expanded a lot since the last time I came, with many lines in Shatin and the rest of the New Territories, some under-developed areas of the HK SAR, but its main line remains the line from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lo Wu, at the border with Shenzhen.
The Luohu crossing point, over on the China side. A huge plaza within Chinese proportions, and the shopping malls on each side of it. ;D
The Zhongshan suit!
Laurel Restaurant, in Luohu Commercial City. Cheap for Hong Kong shoppers with great service and well-presented food. About 100-150RMB depending of your appetite...
On all my trips to Shenzhen, I always went by the Commercial City in Luohu. Cultural shock to the Western-educated. All the hassling. So many secret passages. It's so obvious, you wonder if the hidden fakes shop do what they do for the marketing... (Always remember the shop number, no matter how hard you will try, this place rearranges at night - or rather, shops look so alike, and the lack of windows and its giant size make the task of remembering a shop topographically is an impossible one)
A curtains shop. Because it's much cheaper here...
Handbags. Colourful ones. Shenzhen is truly a shopaholic's crack. Just ask my aunt...
Sunday is the day where you have to realize that there are 5% or so (improvised statistic - I think that's what I read somewhere) of non-ethnic-Chinese living in HK. At least, some proportion of it is made up by Filipino, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian domestic helpers who get a day off and gather altogether in outdoor public places. Most notably, you will see them in Central, in the area around Exchange Square. Most middle to upper-class families employ domestic helpers, and they are surely one of the reasons why many many Hongkongers afford to work overboard overtime (so if I were ever ask to work overtime in the future, I'll shut my mouth and think of the folks down here).
On Sundays that I spent in Hong Kong (provided I go out that day...), I always noticed something new about those sit-ins. Last time in Wan Chai, it was those seemingly-maids, perhaps a hundred of them, gathered at the base of an emptied commercial building (when the yuppies take their weekly break on Sunday, the maids-on-break-too take over). By groups of a dozen each, they wore coloured team t-shirts, as if participating in some sort of rally.
This week, it was the helpers gathered in the lobby of the HSBC building in Central (that mass of people does *not* occur everyday!):
As I was taking the bus near my aunt's flat this early afternoon, I noticed those university-age kids in suit, on the side of the road, waving what seemed to be promotional fliers of some sort. Students on a end-of-term project? (Gosh, they were just in suits, with a purple-ish file in hand waving at passing cars...) Actually on my way back home, I had my answer from fellow bus passengers (they were still around, after a few hours in suit at 30 degrees centigrade, taking turns at waving and PSP-ing). Those kids were actually of the same race than those I encountered in that shopping mall three years ago (my cousin Sophie, surrounded with them, about to surrender): they are selling flats!
The housing market is teh competitive in HK, so what do they do to sell newly built flats? They send university-age kids in suits to older upscale neighborhoods like Tai Hang and have them wave promotional fliers at passerbys from bus stops on the side of the road...
I gave myself a kick in the arse, and went. I walked around, stopped in a Starbucks looking at people coming in and out, waiting for the party to start, and went back for another walk around. Lan Kwai Fong is a dead-end street (I thought it was a whole neighborhood), and is packed in one single block, one of the hottest party areas for Hong Kong yuppies. Actually, it's an outdoor party on a pedestrian street, like we have on Saint-Laurent in Montreal in the summer, with more bars and less improvisation.
I put on the clothes my youngest uncle gave to me: a pair of Armani jeans I was surprised I could fit in, and a John Henry "European Fit" checkered shirt. I was slighly over-dressed, so I untucked and rolled up.
After walking a few rounds, I stopped at a calmest of all bars, and ordered a full pint of Hoeggarden that looked more like a bucket to me.
(For the record, my brother's new Canon IXY55 was used and it is indeed party-environment-proven ^^;)
And the sun shone again. So it was today, unannounced, a relatively sunny day between the passing clouds.
(Take a camera, put it in a room with air-con overnight. Take it out into the heat, dampness. Take photo. Haze caused by instant condensation on the inner lense guaranteed...)
I took the tram down to Sheung Wan, and clamb the stairs up Mid-Levels. I reached the HK Museum of Medical Sciences, which had an exposition on the 100 days of SARS (two years ago, on June 23rd, the WHO took HK off that infamous list of infected cities). By chance, I caught a talk given by a Dr So, who was actively involved during the epidemic (if I came a week earlier, then I would've caught the head of the micro department of HKU).
But that was it. Not a very consequential day for a Saturday. My aunt just passed by me and reminded me I said I would be going out tonight, and which I don't currently feel like doing, because I'm tired and because there's nobody to accompany me (while everyone and their mothers tell me to experience HK nightlife... do I look like a social animal?).
It's a "red rain" alert, which means no school for the kids... After all those days of rain, and after exams period, does the meteological service in HK announce the alert.
The skies are actually clear as we speak, but dark patches loom in the horizon... Anyways:
Same pic as yesterday. Cuz nothing has changed.
(Re-)visiting University of Hong Kong today. So I was dropped off the side of the road (bus 28, running from Causeway Bay to Queen Mary Hospital for 8 dollars something), exactly where I was dropped off for my interview, the reason why I'm here in the first place. Two months and a half later, I had a 5 seconds of bitter reminiscence, and I was off to revisit the crime scene. Indeed. Queen Mary Hospital is quite boring, probably built around the 1970s, and as ugly as anything built in that period will get, especially wetted by the ambiant climate. Today's was particularly indicative of it.
Down the slope from QMH was what seems to be the new Faculty of Medicine building, soon to be renamed after the richest Chinese man alive, Li Ka-Shing (Mr Li). Hongkongers (or only the alumni) are outraged. In the newspaper, in the opinions section of the SCMP, an alumni says that what the HKU School of Medicine tried to do to distinguish itself as a British-style institution goes down the drain with the renaming. A Westerner will surely wonder to a "Li Ka-Shing School of Medicine" graduate: 1- Who the hell is Li Ka-Shing? and 2- You teach Chinese medicine at HKU?
I then proceeded to the main HKU campus, to the School of Computer Science, and then to various other similarly brown buildings. The institution ranks high in my esteem, but just as for McGill, why so much brown? :/ (Answer: b/c we'll be as annoyed in 20 years with all those aluminium and glass buildings being built since 5 years)
Cedric, happier than last time.
Queen Mary Hospital, one of the health centre attached to the HKU.
Well located on Pokfulam Road between QMH and HKU is the Pokfulam Road Christian Cemetary. I'd die anytime to be buried there. <3
Cafeteria in the HKU Student Union building. Free copies of the Internation Herald Tribune are distributed outside in the hall. Food is ultra-cheap by HK standards (and what I've seen on Canadian campuses).
The central point of the HKU campus, the Sun Yat-Sen Place (who's one more famous alumni...).
A beautiful Museum of Art on campus grounds towards the east end. Had a photography exhibit of HK Tramways, and works of Gianluca Miniaci on the theme of Nabokov's Lolita.
The Arts building.
Anyways, today's plan consists in getting an umbrella, and to take a bus up to Queen Mary Hospital. If not to far to walk, then I'll circle back to HKU, see the university museum, and then that SARS exhibit at the Medical Sciences Museum further down in Mid-Levels. That seems like a plan.
A quick look outside the window indicates that the weather still hasn't changed a bit: cloudy, gray, certainly raining. I saw the satellite map of China and East Asia the other day. There's this thick stretch of clouds going from Vietnam to Shanghai, wide like half of China, just hovering above all of Coastal South China (but it's clear outside on the ocean!).
Same pic as yesterday. Cuz nothing has changed.
It took two hours of bargaining, but we've got them...
The Canon IXY55/IXUS50/SD400, taken using the Panasonic.
The Panasonic Lumix DSC-FX8, taken using the Canon.
Panasonic DMC-FX8 in pink for my mother and the Canon IXY Digital 55 for my brother (otherwise known as SD400 in NA and IXUS 50 in Europe/Asia). The Panasonic feels cheaper, so does its interface. But ultimately, so I conclude preliminarily, it takes crisper pictures than the Canon (it's its "Optical Image Stabilizer" feature, which corrects the effects of hand-shake, my biggest headache with the S40).
One thing done. Now must satisfy my own techno-lust with some MP3 player (an iPod/iShuffle? :D).
... as if it were something new. At least it isn't getting any better. I haven't seen a clear blue sky since, um, ... (still thinking) a week and a half ago? So let's spread the joy.
Yeah, the tower we live in is being renovated (with drills currently drilling on the upper floors) and so the Chinese, or it seems to be a trend in Asia, always use bamboo supports and cover them with this oft-green loosely-knitted cloth/plastic material. It has been the view since April 9th, in fact, the morning after I arrived in HK (and was worse at some point when they painted the exterior and had the windows covered with plastic paper). Usually, of what I remember from 2002, the view of Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) is fantastically unobstructed at my aunt's flat. On the left-hand-side, you have one of HK largest sports stadium, and straight ahead is the back of the Causeway Bay district (perhaps Happy Valley (跑馬地), but I doubt it, kinda far), and on the right-hand-side is Causeway Bay, bordering on the area surrounding Victoria Park.
I came out of the flat at 4PM-ish, thinking I'd catch the end of the international dragon boat competition, but even (some) buses make you wait indecent amounts of time (albeit rarely the case in reality). So I took the 11 down to Wanchai, spent time walking around to find the nearest Pacific Coffee so I can catch up on reading. Then I had dinner at the Maxim's Cafe, a Salted Steamed Chicken (Yim Kook Kai), and walked to Causeway Bay to shop for VCDs.
I visited my ancestral village yesterday, from which my grandfather emigrated to Madagascar. Like many members of the peasantry, leaving your hometown must've been teh gamble one was ready to make for their offspring's benefit, pretty much like what many out-of-provincers in Guangdong and other richer coastal provinces are trying to do nowadays. what is it actually, to leave what you are familiar with in order to thrive for a better life? What is it? Must be what our parents, grand-parents, as North-American-born Chinese, have in common.
So, the said ancestral village (on the father side, as "tradition" calls), was always said by my family to be in the outskirts of the city of Shunde (In official pinyin; in Canto, you roughly say "Seun Tak" - written 順德), another big small city of a few million people - an hour or two drive south of the provincial capital of Guangzhou. I don't think we actually drove all the way down to Shunde, as we (my dad's cousin and I) first landed in Nansha (南沙) in the county of Panyu (番禺) in the Pearl River Delta, facing HK on the China side. We visited my uncle's (dad cousin is in fact "uncle" if both their dads are brother - that's how patriarchal China is/was) other factory in Nansha, and had their driver bring us all the way to Foshan (佛山), another small big city of a few million near where my mother's ancestral town is (my other grandfather also left Guangdong province to seek more favourable fortune overseas, in Saigon). We were driven to Foshan via Guangzhou. Geographically, Foshan is between Guangzhou and Nansha/Panyu, but the highway actually crosses the area with only a few exits, so is the layout of expressways (gaosugonglu - 高速公路) in China. (Rough map of the Pearl River Delta)
The region is said to be one of the ten most dynamic economic centres in the World, symbolized by the Guangzhou-Macau-HK triangle. I was expecting more out-of-provincers in the streets, wherever I went, but they were barely noticeable. I suspect that I went by all the places reserved to the wealthier (in their own relative way) like restaurants, shopping malls and transit centres. So where I went, people typically spoke Cantonese, as it is, after all, what was called the Province of Canton, in the colonial times. A bit like a Hong Kong, but somewhat more crude. After visiting China a few times, I can't stress how much more lawful and clean Hong Kong is (in its own relative way). I don't know how new it was, but piracy in HK is not at all rampant, you gotta look a bit before finding your usual pirated software and fashion items. But China? Pfff.
Our ancestral village is called "Cot'gn'on" (which I don't have the official pinyin or Chinese characters, so don't try to pronounce it in English/French, ok?). The nearest urban centre is called "Lecong" (樂從 - simply "Provenance of Happiness"), which is one of those small big burghs... well you get the picture...
Now the pictures (the rest of them are here, along with videos of the house):
Me smiling inside the house (while its state is no laughing business) in what seems to have been a sleeping room.
Indeed in a pitiful state: that's the state of the roof above the kitchen room. Not so surprising since no-one lived in it for several decades (I supposed not since the 50s).
Calm and peace during the hour or so we spent in the village while I ponder about several things worth my time, and pose in a narcissistic frenzy. It's a small village connected to the town of Lecong through a small road into the fields, I'd buy a chalet here if I lived in HK.
We left the village through Foshan, and revisted that weird skeleton of a skyscraper. It was said that not long after its completion, they found out it was built over a huge hole in the ground. So they emptied it as they could, poured huge amounts of cement into the ground, and left it like that. Dominates the Foshan skyline for some ten years plus now.
I know people back home have been complaining about the recent rain, but then they obviously never experience real tropical rain in a real tropical city.
Raindrops flowing down a window at my aunt's.
Raining, as I wait for minibus 21M from Tai Hang Drive to Causeway Bay.
More bad news for tomorrow (and next week).
April 1st: Nagasaki, on the side of the hill to Glover's Garden.
April 11th: Hong Kong, pictures taken at the Wan Chai visa bureau of the PRC in HK.
April 20th: Hangzhou, in the morning on a boat on West Lake.
May 2nd: Hong Kong, at South Bay Beach in Island South.
May 11th: Saigon, with a captured American tank at the War Atrocities Museum.
May 20th: Guilin, mountains and water (and city).
May 31st: Kuala Lumpur, the customary landmark shot.
June 11th: Hong Kong, at the Dragon Boat Festival on Stanley's Main Beach.
I counted how much I spent. Close to 7000CAD, which is about what I had spent in Asia in 2002. The exchange rate is better now, and maybe I saved a lot by knowing how to spend my money in HK and how to get unexpensive lodging/travelling abroad. Japan itself was about 90,000 yen in spendings, plus 50,000 in transport, and 25,000 in lodging. Then four trips from HK averaging 2500HKD. For almost three months of travelling.
But what am I saying? I decided to extend my stay abroad. Since my family is going to Egypt in July, I've now decided to meet them there instead of staying home alone in Montreal. Well, screw summer in Mtl, it's only good a summer because it's not wet and actually sunny (plenty of that in the desert). No Fantasia this year, but who gives when I can purchase the VCD for 15HKD (when it's not pirated)? I miss the daily life dearly, and all my friends' stories which can only by told in a bi-monthly bulk with a minimum 24-hour lag.
The Egypt trip, so I've heard, is a three-week trek including a 10-day stay in resort city of Hurghada, a cruise on the Nile, Abu-Simbel, and the Pyramids (and dead monarchs). And scuba diving for the first time in 7 years?
Indeed, I am at every local festival nowadays. This was the Dragon Boat festival, which I am particularly fond of b/c of institutionalized gulping of 粽子 (rice dumplings), which, in their salted pork variety (hmmm, pork fat), are my among my favourite foods.
Enough food, and so an account of what I did Saturday the 11th. I took bus 65 bound for Island South, the district comprising some of the richest properties on the territory of HK, and well-known for being one of those places outside of urban areas, and where the locals gather to on weekends and public holidays. Island South has places like Aberdeen ("Little Hong Kong"), Repulse Bay, Shek O, and Stanley. Of course, there's only one road going through the mountains to Aberdeen, Repulse Bay and finally Stanley, from HK's north side (the one facing the Harbour - and HK's traditional city centre). And with the Dragon Boat festival (a Saturday *and* a Public Holiday - since Hongkers, in their collective imagination, consider the weekend to be Sunday only), that means jam well into mid-afternoon, and an hour and a half trip that usually takes 1/4 of that time.
Murray House (down in the middle - that Neo-whatever bldg): this building was originally built in Central, and stood as one of the oldest colonial buildings in HK, until redevelopment (the famed Bank of China Tower took over its spot) had the best of it... The compromise (since some people still have a patrimonial conscience here in HK) was to cut down the building in pieces and transport it to Stanley... The thing is, they lost a few boxes in the process... and found them only a few years ago, and it was rebuilt in 2001 (I saw it when I came in 2002 as well).
This place swarms with Gweilos! They are paved with bars showing international rugby and the like. Population is extremely British Empire.
The Stanley Main Beach, to the opposite side of the peninsula where the village of Stanley is.
Dragon Boat Festival, what I came for. Was rewarded with this crowded beach!
Because I'm in HK, I *must* see at least one "yin cheung hui" (音唱会?) while I'm there, and then I read in the newspaper on the plane flying back from Singapore that Karen Mok was performing at the Coliseum this Friday... So it's not Faye Wong, or Stefanie Sun, but I've played Karen Mok's 'best of' album on the 'amp several times before. It was 200HKD, and it basically felt like being in one of those DVDs... HK shows are amazing, just like the entertainment business. Where else do they expect most artists to be as good singers, actors, dancers? I've not been to pop shows before (nor really watched any of those DVDs...), but is this type of performance (with its bits of acting, dancing, and singing) also the deal in the West? Andy Lau Tak-Wah also made an appearance circa 10:30PM, and I caught it on video...
Pre-show. HK Coliseum is smaller than it looks from the outside (data not shown), or in movies (see Tsui Hark's Time and Tide - my only other reference).
Closest thing I've got to a face pic of Karen.
The performance (really, one should really check the videos posted in the link above...).
Ok, so I was in Macau to visit my grand-aunt (my grandmother's sister on my father's side), and my grand-uncle. In Chinese, all this explaining of who's who ultimately reduces to one term (tai yi-po). It's complicated for a CBC like me to know all the possibilities that are currently not in use (such as my father's brothers potential sons and daughters, who're not just cousins, but "tong" brothers/sisters - so this paternalistic society and its corresponding language says). And multiple family names, if possible in Western societies, is totally unthinkable in the Chinese society. But I can see how one breaks a deal with his/her partner in crime, such as naming the first child after one of the spouses, and the second after the other, but how do you infirm filial relationship?).
This is me with my grand-aunt. She's that cute little 80-something lady who just can't stop chatting. She thinks I act like my father - which is only a natural way to describe a grand-nephew she saw for a few hours three years ago, and then previously as a kid, and a baby.
On the third or fourth shot from the video of this BBC news feed. I am dressed in orange, sporting spiked hairdo, reading my newspaper (HK Magazine, so either it was the interview with dissident Wuer Kaixi, or the "relationships" column in the classified - and most likely the latter ^^;).
Politics is like a spectators sport to me. This is like Game 2 of the Great Democracy championship. You can't or won't know what team I was cheering for. Or rather, as a Canadian, it's like getting tickets for a game between teams which are neither your home team.
When doing the classifying of my entry into categories, all the entries about/in HK fall under the parent category "Asia 2005).
Crossing on Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay, I feel like repeating myself, but this is freaking Times Square for Hong Kong. There's a shopping center called Times Square nearby, totally unrelated. It's great, 19% of Hongkongers think it's the greatest mall.
Another evening picture of Causeway Bay.
Symptomatic of what the few last days have been like... It's like, I'd rather stay in HK and do things as if I were home. But then, I must force myself to attend things or go to places I'll probably never come back to for many years. Of course, I say that, and two years after, I'm back, tada. Not this time I guess. So there you go, this was a June 4th vigil in memorandum of the massacre 16 years ago. I was sitting in the middle, straight ahead, near people who got interviewed and stuff, but got bored of the inaudible chantings and yelling in Cantonese. But like many Chinese, or heck, overseas Chinese, I don't exactly know what happened, and tend to think that to be greater, the Chinese govt should democratize, open up to more voices. But I also think that as long as there's economic prosperity and somewhat of better life for the average citizen, then all is good. I don't know what to think otherwise (other than, China is like its pop culture). I just like the Chinese nation, but I dislike the political system, and they're things totally conditionned by my North American education. I do think that Wen Jiabao is cool-looking, and that Hu Jintao is, well, an engineer...
I am about to go out. It's a bad habit to wake up at 11AM and then leave the house at 3PM.
I'm back in Hong Kong, finally, after two weeks trekking outside of the SAR. It's good to be "home", but I am still one or two levels below that stupid "am I home" recursion. What is home? HK? Surely not Japan. Montreal it's pretty sure. Well, no doubt it's Montreal, I mean, I am not that cuckoo. It's hard to declare myself homesick, because it isn't really that. I am enjoying HK a lot. I have time, and live HK like a Hongker (most of the time - when I'm not at the Arts Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui). So I even bought tickets in the HKD200 section for the Karen Mok show on Friday at the HK Stadium. Not a biggest fan of Cantopop, but Karen certainly feels more "indie" than, say, Joey, Kelly, and the rest of the troupe. And besides, I wanted to see what a HK show was like, for never watching any of those karaoke DVDs (actually I did, the Stefanie Sun one :D).
Yes. Well. Besides that, HK has been hot as usual. It might fall to the 10-15 during the winter, but as soon as summer hits, it rarely changes from its 28-32 standpoint. I do enjoy the climate, the humidity and everything, but only because the ubiquity of air-con makes it so much more bearable. It's also because of how close buildings are from each other, as opposed to in Singapore or KL. Walk in the streets, and you will feel the air-con blowing out from the shops (usually the pricier ones, like jewelry boutiques - I guess it's just another way to attract customers - like the CD/VCD/DVD shops have this annoying dude-announcer bombarding passerbys with "cheap CD/VCD/DVD, not expensive, 10 dollars each, come by and choose and look" -start loop again-).
There's a ton of things I want to do in Hong Kong, for sure, let's not waste one's time... I am a bit taken aback by my propensity to live "by the moment", and at this moment, I feel like completing a blog entry and posting the summary of Singapore and Malaysia. But I guess that will never come, so just click on the right-hand side icon that I haven't designed for nothing. :D
Shenzhen is the city bordering Hong Kong in China. I spent most of my time Monday, Tuesday in Dongguan, another city towards the provincial capital of Guangzhou, but only technically on the border of Dongguan with Shenzhen.
The city of Shenzhen. Like a cheap version of Hong Kong with more space between buildings. Even their MTR looks cheap in its green, and uses special token seemingly embedded with IC's instead of the Octopus...
My uncle Chi Tong, showing me the factory in Dongguan he shares with his brother, specialized in household electronics. He himself rarely goes to Dongguan, as he takes care of trading in HK. His brother manages/presides the production section on the Mainland.
My uncle Peter runs the family's business passed on from his father, and which started in HK until they did like everyone else and their mothers and settled in Shenzhen/Dongguan in 1993. They're primarily a metal company supplying some big names in Japan and the States.
I had a Zhongshan suit tailormade in Shenzhen later on Tuesday, as I shopped with my aunts. Wanted one for the longest time, so now I have it, for 700RMB, roughly 110CAD.
Someday, there won't be a need for a border anymore... You travel to Shenzhen, you suddenly feel the irresistible force that is China...
I'm in Shenzhen, for those who don't know, a "town" on the border of China with the HK SAR. I'm (slightly) in violation of my visa, because I'm not technically in Shenzhen, but on the outskirts of the Special Economic Zone, in Dongguan (which is really part of the Shenzhen agglomeration). The area has been pouring with money, I can so feel it. Well, ever since coming to China from Japan, this is what I've been feeling: money. I get a stronger sense of where money comes from, where it goes, and what it is for. Not in the sense of just getting a salary from work, but all the workings of the economy. It's not as if I'm suddently enlightened with the Spirit of Economy - more like a feel - or actually you can say something like that, the Spirit of Capitalism is really growing in China, and I can sense it (all the headlines about the yuan reevaluation must also be filtering through).
The girls in Shenzhen are hot. Hmm? It's just an observation. I think it's probably because you come to the city from outer province seeking for a better life, and that people from the Mainland are generally from the countryside, thus live less of a sedentary life than in industrialized countries/cities. It's an observation - like the one that in HK and Toronto and etc, not all girls are hot (to my cousins/brother's dissapointment), simply because if everyone was hot, then nobody would be hot. It's a nature's thing, I don't think you can make a lot of sense of it.
The most striking realization is that you can't think everyone's dishonest. Can't think that way. You can think of the World as being limited in resources, and people are just fighting their way to those resources, for themselves, or for those they are akinned with. As simple as that. It's how much you want something - or how much you think you need something - that will bring you to do something about it. Pickpockets? You are not born a pickpocket, but if it means choosing between starving or stealing a few hundreds from a stranger's wallet to survive a month... And otherwise, it's a fringe of the population. To me, the majority of the folks try to live a honest life, just like the majority of people in my own country.
I came back to HK from a four-day trip to Guilin. I am now jumping to Shenzhen (may the Force be with me when I try to get my visa) for two or three days. Then it's Singapore on Thursday morning.
Guilin is an hour by plane from Hong Kong, to its Northwest. Fabulous landscapes, and not to be missed if you're travelling to China.
I saw it. It was a 40HKD bargain, with people speaking and handphones ringing during the showing, and with only a handful of people who showed up, probably b/c everyone's working at 11:30AM, or that they already bought the VCD/DVD in Mong Kok.
I am in Chek Lap Kok airport, at the free Internet booth. I will not be staying in Japan, it costs too much (100 charge + 28 airport tax + 150 handling), so instead I'm supposed to stay one or two more weeks in the Land of Dreams or Opportunities (pick one). Which poses the question: where am I going to go, and what am I going to do? But I am fully booked until Thursday the 2nd, after coming back from Singapore...
Alright, it's been planned, I'm flying to Singapore on May 26th (arriving 2:20PM), staying up to the following Thursday (leaving 4:05PM)...
I am flying for Guilin on Thursday night, and probably will be going to Singapore sometime before returning home. Either the week starting May 26th (Thursday), or the one starting June 1st (Wednesday). I need to juggle visiting the Mainland and Macau in between. I can't think of other places I could afford going. It could be South Korea, or Taiwan, but I'm not so interested in other modern cities.
I want to see Singapore because I've friends there (and some who might not even be there when I go -_-), and it's one of those really "special" cities, in its obsessional cleanliness and reputation as a tightly-controlled city-state. I want to see how true it is. If HK is Chinese-run, and Singapore is also Chinese-run, how similar are they?
Chaung Chau is a relatively small island, south of the much bigger Lantau Island (where the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport in is located). It's got fabulous beaches, and a walking trail that takes about 2 and a half hour to do. So, every year they have the Bun festival in Cheung Chau, where enthusiasts climb on towers covered with buns (they used to be made of solid buns?). The last time they held the tower-climbing event was in 1978, because that year one of the towers collapsed.
Me on the ferry in Central, in direction of Cheung Chau. The trip will take an hour or so, passed pretty quickly while reading my copy of The Economist.
More bun towers!
The beach with scrubs in front.
The sea, on my way back to Cheung Chau village from the West Bay.
Yesterday, I went to Cheung Chau (長州), in preemption of the Bun Festival. I wasn't interested in the crowds there were going to be today. Funnily the McDonald's had a "vegetarian" menu, of course complete with mayonnaise in the McVeggie (not sold in Canada, so a first-time for me), and ever-good french fries pre-cooked in beef fat. I saw the beautiful beach, and wish I had company to check over my stuff, as I probably would've just bought a new pair of swimming pants for the occasion, on that superb sunny tropical afternoon.
Then I joined my aunt and uncle's families for dinner, and stuffed my face like I never did (it must've been from dejecting and rejecting of myself in the past few days...) with kwa soup, oily chicken, liver sausages, steamed fish, steamed baby bak choi, and three bowls of rice! The pics and videos have the area around which my uncle lives, and my 4 years old cousin (he's not content with being close to 5, that he already wants to be 6 years old) introducing the flat.
Booked tour to Guilin, from this Thursday, May 19th, till Sunday. And looking to go to Singapore, dirt cheap fare on Cathay, 1190HKD (+340HKD airport taxes), or equivalently 200CAD + 60CAD. :D
IFC tower number two. Briefly highest building in Asia, but certainly still the highest in HK. Photo snapped from the Bank of China Tower. (pic taken in 2002)
Connaught Road, the expressway on the side of the sea in Central.
Des Voeux Road Central, where the tramway passes on in Central and on towards the West.
And don't miss the 30 secs from a Korean drama, translated into "Dai Cheung Kam". And now, a beautiful postcard pic from HK taken tonight from Aunt Brigitte's super balcony:
A first view of Hong Kong. This is Causeway Bay (on HK Island), or "Tung Lo Wan" in Cantonese. I'd say it's like HK's Ginza. One of the most expensive advertisement spot in the world is in Causeway Bay, at the intersection of Hennessy Road and Jardine's, with the Sogo at the center of it. Currently Nicholas Tse is advertising some sort of amino acid based lotion, and three years ago, it was the Twins for their then-new album. My aunt lives up the hill from Causeway Bay, up Tai Hang Road. Seemingly a popular area for expatriates, as I heard German, French, Mandarin, probably Filipino, spoken on the minibus. Quite refreshing to feel that HK is also somewhat multicultural.
...and other Chinese-speaking people. XD
((There are actually other clips of me self-ridiculing))
Okok. So to make my trip more entertaining, I'm taking requests for pictures from HK (or wherever else I might go to). Anything, anyone? [Of course that sort of scheme never works, because nobody cares enough - I may suggest things like, um, take as many pics of the inside of garbage cans, or photos of taxi cabs, but don't ask me something like pics of beautiful girls in the street, b/c I dare not do that in my own country >_>]
In other news, I am turning off unregistered commenting, because of you-know-what suddenly sprouting. So have fun registering. If it doesn't work, then, eeh.
(I catch the local marks of hesitation pretty quickly, like "eto/ano" in Japanese, and "eh" in Canto.)
And flirting with history, I took the Kobe line three weeks ago, and wheezed past Amagasaki (recognizable b/c the kanji for "saki" is the same as in Naga"saki"). I thought I stopped there, but it was rather on the trip from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka that I left the rapid express and took a local (one of those beautiful mistakes).
Edit: And! The Nanjing Airport, probably the same one I used to China on Saturday is now used today (Tuesday) to ship the Taiwan Opposition chief on the Mainland!
Chek Lap Kok International Airport. About to board plane in direction of Shanghai/Pudong. 7 days trip retracing the steps from the first China tour I took in 2002. I will go to the Guilin English tour, at least get the info and book, when I come back. Will be re-posting when I can.
Not missing home. But surely missing the people home. Hong Kong might be a dream I don't really like, after all. Give it a chance. It's like with relationship (I wanted to plug that for the past month): looks terribly nice when you're not there, but reality is always more difficult than it seems. Must keep thought in mind and work on it. Why do people get married (so do successive reports in Asahi Shimbun, and South China Morning Post remind me)?
I was told it's only been a week I'm in Hong Kong. Although it feels as if I were here forever. Not particularly pleasant last few days, as the job stuff gets swirling into my head, along with stuff needed to be taken care of back home, home university that is. In all and for all, the weather's grey, and it perfectly reflects my current mood.
I have posted pictures up on Tacos. I am forcing myself to emit some visual data about myself only because it will be beneficial for myself in the future, so here we go.
大家樂! Hong Kong fast-food chain, "Cafe de Coral". A must. :P
Taken on Wednesday. Was dressed like this for the interview. I came to realize I overdressed, when seeing the other candidates. Oh well. >_>
Now pics from Macau, but first, pictures of Macau in 2002.
Worth comparing with the picture I took in 2002 at about the same place. The playground facing Casino Lisboa near the Portuguese school is in the process of being replaced by a brand new casino/hotel complex. American money is being invested in the area, with a newly-built Sands, and upcoming Venetian, and the rest.
Largo de Senado, acts as Macau's central square. The central post office is a few blocks away, so are a few of the American fastfood chains.
Yes, since going to Asia in 2002 and trying beef cartillages, I've been feeling "Ok" about eating beef flank noodles (22 patacas - noodles are a steal, with our Canadian budget, even at famous places like where we went, on Largo de Senado). It's really good when you stop thinking about it. When will I be like this for chicken feet?
"Loal" beer, said the menu. For 9 patacas (about 9HKD, so about 1.25USD), I thought it'd be a small personal bottle, but I should've known better from my experience with Chinese beer... It was kind of bland, but worth what it was worth. I guess it's brewed in Zhuhai, so the name would imply...
A few shops along the road down from the remains of Sao Paolo (which underwent quite a facelift - but it might be also possible that I just overlook the museum at the back, last time, as I was accompanied by my great-aunt).
Moorish-influenced Portuguese architecture in Asia. That's some good stuff.
Impressive on the outside, demonstrates all the vices and anti-glamour of gambling in the inside. My idea of Macau casinos shouldn't be based on this, says aunt, as the Lisboa is the first one to be established, and not quite renovated. With more competition on the horizon, I think Macau (like any other Chinese city) will have the resources to compete with its American equivalent, in a couple of decades...
So I already forgot what I did Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was the interview (they made me wear a mask b/c of my sickness, sigh) and doctor-seeing. And today (Thursday) was walking in Shatin in the New Territories. Tomorrow's Macau.
The thing about doctors in HK (if you never watch TVB dramas, then you don't know >_>) is that medication is included with the medical consultation (each physician has their own pharmacy within their practice) so it's a frequent thing that they give you about anything they can feed you with (so I had, hm, "Klacid" antibiotics, cough syrup, acetaminophen, vitamin C caplets, and bronchodilators). But I am slightly better, no fever or sore throat, just a cough that won't stop. Blah.
Not that hot today, or yesterday. It might be 20 degrees, but people are not thrilled about it in HK, and wear long sleeves and "winter" coats. So I start to have the HK reflexes, and wore my spring coat... Tomorrow, I wear pants, notwithstanding the weather, 'cause I'm going to a casino in Macau. :D
I decided to put on the brakes for pics-taking. After all, I *am* hoping to live here. And if not, I've like a month and a half to explore HK. For now, nothing new has been visited, except a new shopping complex in Kowloon, four or five MTR stations away from my uncle's place, where we went on Saturday evening. The rest is business as usual: Causeway Bay (chic popular district on HK Island), Mong Kok (crowded cheap deals and red-light district in Kowloon) and Teung Kwan O (residential area in the New Territories where my uncle resides).
I'm going to Macau with Juliette on Thursday. We looked at tours, and it seems like the 華東 (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuzi and Nanjing) will end up being our choice, as it's only 1400HKD, roughly a bit more than 200$, including the airline ticket, but not the tour guide's tips/salary and various spendings - 5 nights, 6 days. It's really the shit. But no possibility of staying behind. I'm likely going to take a Guilin (with Xi'an perhaps) tour by myself. And then probably a standalone trip to Beijing.
My cellphone in HK, which is quite an upgrade from the monochrome Nokia I had three years back. A Korean brand, Pion, but there are some simple things that are lousy to do with it, like speed dialing, or customizing ringtones. Better than my monochromatic Samsung, so I'm not actually complaining. Call me, it's just still going to be approx 5 cents a minute (it uses Sunday pre-paid cards).
One of the most expensive advertising spots in HK. But I had the impression it was more glamourous three years ago. Anyways. Everything seemed more glamourous anyways.
From the same spot, taking accross the street, as the pedestrian light turns green (but on other smaller intersections, Hongkongers rarely give a damn about traffic lights - unlike Tokyoites, despite the same sort of penalties I believe).
That's it. I'm getting grilled tomorrow afternoon at 2PM.
...that Canada's about to choose a new government. Or so the opinion polls say. What I think (and what I read) is that you can't necessarily trust them. Some said that the Conservatives were going to win by a fair margin at the last elections, but the Liberals still clang on to power. Back in Quebec, the Charest government pisses off 8 out of 10 Quebecers. But in both cases, it doesn't mean we're in for a change in government nonetheless. I can't think of the Parti Quebecois being back in charge, with Bernard Landry, yet again as Premier. God help us! Nor do I think Stephen Harper and his Stockwell Day's will pass the test of social left-leaners of Ontario.
Final minutes in Tokyo. My flight is at 1855JST, in 50 minutes... (there's a Yahoo Internet Cafe in the waiting area in Narita, free of charge too!)
Freedom comes with a price. It's loneliness to the extreme. Walking around cities, not knowing the language, the only dialogue you ultimately have is with your camera.
Things have been doing well. I've been feeling more new things this past week than for the whole previous year I believe. It's also a test I am giving myself, about whether or not I can take care of myself. Pretty much like on the previous trip, I've been rediscovering how ressourceful I can be. It's really saddening to discover all this on my own. Because I didn't plan my trip in advance with someone?