Monday, June 28, 2010

Spiritual Rain

I am a self-professed weather wimp. I never liked rain unless I was inside, warm and dry preferable with a good book to read or a new dvd to watch. But sometimes that isn't possible and one has to dig a little deeper.

So it has been raining here. At first this was a welcome change to the heat and humidity but what to do in it? I was hoping to go to some of the outlying islands, but, oh, well. I recall my sister's graduation gift to me way back when, we went to Martha's Vineyard for a long weekend. It rained, and I mean pouring rain, from the moment we arrived until just hours before we left. We made the best of it and that is what I am doing here. In fact, we had a really nice time.

Back to Hong Kong, my options? Explore unexplored shopping malls (really pointless for the non-shopper), go to museums--finally got to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum on Sunday. But dodging the rain is already feeling old, so today I decided to go to Chi Lin Nunnery and Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple. I would have preferred to walk between the two but this wasn't the day.

I was surprised at not only how many people were at the temple but that it was just as many worshippers as tourists. Kneeling on plastic bags, praying under umbrellas, some with their barely lit incense sticks their devotion was impressive to me--one who was brought up to kneel on a padded bench in a usually comfortably dry and temperature controlled church.

As you can see from the pix, the surroundings at both locations where not diminished by the rain, in fact it felt like a more spiritual experience somehow. Despite this spiritual connection with the rain today, I am looking forward to it clearing up enough for me to at least go to Lamma Island before I leave on friday morning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ding Ding!

From my fav spot on the tram (Kennedy Town)


Democracy in action (Central)

North Point market

A great way to see some parts of Hong Kong at a leisurely speed is the tram or the Ding! Ding! I spent a whole afternoon going from Wan Chai to North Point, North Point to Kennedy Town and finishing up at Western Market. I would have continued but my bladder had other ideas. The tram isn't air conditioned but there was an enjoyable breeze.

Today was my last class. I am officially at the Intermediate level. Which stills seems like I know so little but it is progress.

This week I hope to get to the New Territories and a couple of the outlying islands to escape the heat of the city and just basically relax. Instead of counting weeks, it seems like all of a sudden I am down to counting days, I leave early in the morning on the 2nd. So only 6 days left in Hong Kong.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot Sunday

Okay, not my wisest move to go to the Hong Kong Zoo and Botantical Garden on the hottest day I have been here thus far. But in my defense, it was my friend's idea. Yeah, bad defense.

Later, we went to see what Cat St was (a shopping street with all sorts of souvenirs) and Man Mo Temple.

That was enough heat for me for the day. My friend was headed to Ladies Market for shopping, I passed on that to go cool down.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Random Observations

A close up of Bank of China (I can't decide whether to feel sorry for those window washers or not, scary job but clearly plenty of work)

It's me at Madame Tussaud's ;)

Hong Kong Park

Times Square -- can you see Buzz Lightyear? Lots of promo for the new Toy Story film in this mega shopping centre

The third most expensive street in the world, Russell St.

You never know when you are going to come across a lion dance ... this happens to be in WanChai between Lockhardt Rd and Hennessy

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still here

Construction Hong Kong style

Bonham Road walk, maybe Caine Road at this point?

Bonham Road, this is what I consider colonial architecture

@Museum of the History of Hong Kong

@Museum of the History of Hong Kong

Sorry, I haven't been posting. No excuse, busy, yes, but ... whatever.

I had a busy weekend with my fellow Andy Lau fans, there were two events this weekend. Several of them were here just for the weekend and besides the events, they had shopping to do. I am not much of a shopper. I got a lesson in how efficient, experienced shoppers get around Hong Kong. We went from Megabox, to Mongkok, to Tsim Sha Tsui by taxi so that we could speed up the process. We were looking for packaged foods, dvds, designer bags and sweets. In a few hours they had big bags full and were quite pleased with themselves.

Back on my own I went to the History of Hong Kong Museum, thanks for the recommendation. And I took a walk my Fodor's book suggested in order to see Colonial architecture. One takes the bus to Hong Kong University and walks downhill to Western Market. It was an interesting walk, definitely, some of it I had seen before, but either I don't really know what Colonial architecture is or my book is out of date.

Today I tried to go to Aberdeen and ended up in Stanley. I had been debating which place to go see the dragon boat races and decided on Aberdeen since I had just been to Stanley. But I missed my stop and the next stop was too far and too difficult looking of a walk to go back. And that would have been the better place to be it seems because there were colorful boats in the water and a huge crowd. Even the locals were craning their necks as we drove by.

Stanley was fun the second time around because I did it more my own way. I saw more things, even went to the beach. I bought some souvenirs for my family. I had a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants. And I was early enough to go into the temple dedicated to Tin Hau. But the only trace of the dragon boat festival that I saw was the Sun Life folks handing out goody bags (they were sponsoring the event in Stanley). So I guess I was too late for that. Being a public holiday it was quite crowded but I didn't think much of it but as I was leaving I heard this couple behind me complaining at how ridiculously crowded it was.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Humbled by Hot Pot

I have had hot pot twice before, in the US, with other friends who really don't know what they are doing. Sure we know you wait for the broth to boil, then you cook your food. But I really am not fond of hot pot because it requires too much coordination for someone who barely cooks. Here I have to cook, then eat and cook ... and I actually don't like my food to be that hot when I eat it. Even when I get pizza, half the time the guy behind the counter tells me that it isn't warm enough yet and I say it is okay because they usually warm it so much it burns my mouth.

So why? Why did I go for hot pot? Honestly I am not sure. It could be that I have been eating a variety of food, Thai, American, Italian, Indonesian, Singaporean, even vegetarian so I was feeling as though I should eat something more Cantonese. And the Cantonese do seem to love their soup.

Anyway, because I was alone they seated me at a bar facing a wall. Which was fine but I say this because I couldn't watch the other people for hints on what to do. The staff first had to explain how to order the ingredients. Even with his help I was confused when the food came, did I really order all that? The spices and sauce were lost on me since I couldn't identity what was what--several green options, yellowish option, red option--got that one--hot peppers!

But the fun part came with putting the food into and then taking it out of the pot. I was so uncoordinated that one staff person, bless her, kept coming up to help me especially after I dropped a glob of freshly cooked noodles. And she clearly felt I needed to use the sauce on some things because she did that for me too. I bet they had a good laugh when I left and I don't blame them, I found it comical and was laughing at myself throughout the experience. I think I actually did better the previous two times, I really was at my most uncoordinated last night.

In the process it was necessary to use an extra plate and an extra set of utensils, and I left a really big mess because I dropped soup and food several times. Luckily no one sat on either side of me, so no one else suffered because of me.

I did enjoy the food and the experience, despite feeling somewhat humbled by it. But I think there is plenty of other things in the Cantonese cuisine that I am better suited for.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Class days

Sculpture outside the museum

Poster for Wu Guanzhong's exhibit outside the museum

Wu did a painting of Victoria Harbor and the museum has superimposed a rendition of it onto the windows facing the harbor

Two swallows - the artist says this is his most important work

One of Wu's more modern works

I am really glad that I didn't take the CUHK course. I am enjoying my class but I feel I haven't absorbed one day's lesson before I go to the next. Taking class every day is intense enough for me. And actually I know a lot of the vocabulary, so it is the structure of the language that I am working on the most. It is on one hand good, it is making me realize how much I know. But on the other hand, there is still so much vocabulary I don't know. I am trying to add to this by asking specific questions, like how do I go to the movie theater, ask for a ticket, pick my seat, etc.

One of my big problems is constructing sentences. I was advised by a fellow blogger to work with patterns so I am trying to apply that to the individual sentences they are giving me in class and within the dialogues in the text. The more I absorb the patterns, the easier it will be for me to think in Cantonese I am told.

My class is in the middle of the day which I find awkward. II am doing my best to work around it. I take my time going and coming, trying to take various routes so as to take the Star Ferry (my favorite form of transportation). I had an early lunch with a fellow blogger and new friend on tuesday, wednesday I went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art afterwards and today I went to the Hong Kong Space Museum today.

Am I speaking Cantonese? Well, my record is spotty I admit. It is really too damn easy to speak English here. So it depends on my mood or my level of confidence which can vary immensely in a short space of time. In one restaurant I might order in Cantonese and in the next in English. Yes, they speak to me in English most of the time, but if I am feeling confident I just continue in Cantonese.

The space museum was interesting because it was a different perspective of the history of space exploration--in other words, not American-centric like one would get in the U.S. The only point I quibbled with was one of the first things I read, it was about how the Romans based their gods on the heavens and mentioned the goddess of the moon and yet didn't mention her name? How hard it is it to say her name was Diana? HMM? But since the Romans acquired (or stole, depending on your perspective) their gods and goddesses via the Greeks and the Greeks got no mention at all, I guess I need to let the Diana "dis" slide.

The Museum of Art has some really cool stuff. The contemporary art display had a variety of types of art, sculpture, painting, video. There was one video which is an elevator door opening and closing, each time you see different people in the elevator. No one gets on or off, you just see these people reacting or not reacting to the door opening. The pottery was beautiful, I had no idea there were so many different styles. I especially liked the Wu Guanzhong exhibit, he seems to have found a Chinese way to do modern art. I can't exactly explain it but it feels a bit like Hong Kong to me, a blending of East and West.

If you are interested I will tell you about my humbling experience in a hot pot restaurant next time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Great Weekend

Saturday I met up with another blogger now friend. We had a lovely brunch in the Mid-Levels at The Phoenix then went gallery hopping and saw some really cool art. I used to gallery hop in NY, although the art might be just as interesting, the snobbery of the scene itself can take the fun out of it. Here I felt appreciated for stopping in.

The Mid-levels escalator or "travelator" was fun to ride. I wanted to do my Faye Wong imitation at one point but restrained myself. This is such a hilly area, I wonder how someone with a disability would function here.

Since we were in Central at the end of our urban hike :) I went to Marks and Spencers to see if there were clothes there that would fit me. I saw some nice stuff and at prices that I would be comfortable with but after trying a few things on--well, I am just out of range, but closer than I had expected so I am encouraged by this. If I moved here, this would be important to know.

In the evening, I headed to Monkok to see Fa Yuen Street and Tung Choi (Goldfish) Street. I kind of felt sorry for those fish who were in those plastic bags. But then again, when I had goldfish as a child, was the fishbowl any bigger? Probably not.

Sunday I went to Tai O with the friend I was with last sunday. She must have been tired or in a bad mood because she wasn't much fun to be with. But Tai O is beautiful. The first thing we did was take the boat ride to see the houses on stilts and then the pink dolphins. But the pink dolphins were not in a cooperative mood because we didn't see any.

They have a little museum there of clothes, fishing nets, tools, really quite interesting. And then there is the town, which had all sorts of food, especially fish for sale--fresh or dried. We didn't go outside the village, so I didn't see much of the countryside there. Maybe another time.

After dinner at Sweet Dynasty we said goodbye and I went off on my own to the Symphony of Lights and walk the waterfront. It was a beautiful night, with a slight breeze. I couldn't pass up the cuttlefish vendor without trying it out. I was surprised there weren't more vendors there and very glad too, I was really able to just enjoy the nice weather and the waterfront. Unfortunately my camera (or is it me?) doesn't take night photos well. I actually thought the photos I took with the proper setting "night scenery" came out worse.

Friday, June 4, 2010

21st Anniversary

Another blogger told me about this anniversary demonstration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I got there early and before I even got to Victoria Park, there were people commemorating the day. At the park, more protestors with t-shirts for sale or just soliciting funds as well informational booths on the way to the main event, the roped off area with a stage. Maybe I was too tired by that point, I am still dealing with some residual jetlag but all of a sudden I felt like I was intruding, like I was at a family funeral of a mere acquaintance. I could also feel the emotion and the unity--it brought back memories of the days when I was more active politically.

The crowd was growing bigger and bigger and I was swimming against the current trying to leave, I wasn't the only one, but we were definitely the minority. But I managed to push my way thru the crowd and head out. It wasn't even dark yet so the main event, the candlelight vigil hadn't started. Even at the MTR station, I could see more and more people were still coming. I was already impressed, and even though I didn't stay, I am glad to have been there to see it for myself.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3

Subways are either sandwiches or trains that go underground in NYC but here they are a safe way to get across the road. Since almost daily I endanger my life by not looking in the right direction as I am trying to cross the street I really appreciate these subways.

Market at Yau Ma Tei. I think I recognize about 10% of the food that they sell. I have lived a sheltered life :)

Temple Street. If was really daring I would have taken a picture of one of the fortune tellers who line a nearby street (anyone remember the name?) but I decided it was unwise, just in case ...

Funny, cool looking and heartwarming. Not bad for what is technically a cast of mostly "has beens."