Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I went to Hong Kong. And Macau, a little.

November 5th through 19th. That's why I'm making this. There will be many, many photographs I took, plus my notes and comments, mainly for my family and friends, although you don't have to go away if you're not in one of those groups. I'll be posting pretty regularly and should have everything that's at all interesting posted by the end of December January February March May whenever I get around to it.

For those of you unfamiliar with reading blogs... the newest stuff appears at the top, the oldest at the bottom (except for this post, which I'm sticking to the top so you can read it first if you want - so the newest stuff will be just below this). Click on "Older posts" at the bottom of the page to move back to earlier pages, or use the "Blog Archive" at the right side of the page to navigate to posts you want to see. Only the beginning of a post shows up on the page - click "Read more" to see the rest of it. You can click on the blog title at the top of each page to get back home to the front page.

Now click "Read more." Right there, below on the left. That's it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Head in the clouds: International Commerce Center

Tallest building in Hong Kong, fourth tallest in the world. So of course I had to go up there. At least, to the 100th floor observation deck (there are 118 floors total). Two regrets: that I didn't go up earlier so that I could have seen the sunset, and that I forgot the mini-binoculars I'd borrowed from my mom (hi, Mom!). Oh, well - next time.

Here you go, proof that I was actually in HK and I didn't just steal these pictures from other people off the internet:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our house is a very, very, very fine house: Sam Tung Uk Walled Village Museum

A few old Hakka walled villages around HK have been restored and turned into museums. Sam Tung Uk  was founded in 1786 and populated until 1980. Below is an aerial photo of the village from one of the museum placards.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Part Deux

Tang clan ancestral halls for the remembrance and veneration of the family forebears - these were built in the 19th century, although they were preceded by older ones on the site as early as the 16th. The Tangs were/are prominent in the Hakka community in this area and a lot of the sites on the trail are connected to or built by them. To the left of the photo there was a booth run by an old couple selling homemade snacks and candies, including a delicious sesame seed candy that I munched on for the next few days. Wish I'd gotten a photo of them. Wish I'd bought more of that candy.

Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Part 1

HK has several "heritage trails," mostly in the New Territories - signposted routes that take you through a series of traditional Chinese buildings and sites left from the centuries before urbanization, when the communities were rural and isolated. Supposedly this was one of the best and most easily accessible, so I took the train out to the suburban "New Town" settlement of Tin Shui Wai, which is the jumping-off point. (More info on the trail here from your friend and mine, the HK Tourism Board.)

My Rough Guide says, "this New Town shows how badly city planning can go wrong if it leaves out the human element: with no central focus, it's an alienating, depressing forest of anonymous concrete high-rises and main roads, all life and activity hidden away inside bland, faceless shopping malls." The little I saw as I passed through on my way to the trail didn't contradict this assessment, but it was a great trip anyway.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rainy Wednesday at the Museum of History

Really good museum - definitely a worthwhile stop if you're ever in town. I'm not really big on taking pictures of museum exhibits, but there are some pretty spectacular ones here, and everyone else was doing it, so here you go. Below is a mockup of a home of a family of "boat people" who used to live out most of their lives on the harbor.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rainy Wednesday: Photogenic children and photogenic clouds

Gloomy and drizzly, good day for a museum. On my way to that of History just off the Kowloon waterfront, I encountered photogenic schoolchildren, see below. I would love to know what Tiny's story is.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tourists in the temple

In the 19th and early 20th century, temples in Hong Kong were at least as important for their civic functions as their religious ones - the Chinese populace mistrusted, or were just shut out of, many of the official institutions of the British colonizers. Temples were community centers and law courts, and were particularly active in raising money for hospitals. The Man Mo Temple in Hollywood Road (there are lots of Man Mo Temples around) was built in 1847 and still funds a hospital, with the donations left by worshippers and visitors going towards that. Its central location and historical significance make it a big tourist draw, plus it isn't far from my hotel, so I was drawn.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I get around: The ding-ding tram

The award for most charming transportation mode goes to the old-fashioned, double-decker electric trams that have been ambling up and down Des Voeux Road on tracks through the north shore districts of Hong Kong Island for over 100 years. They're known locally as the ding-ding, from their gently clanging bell - their practicality is limited by their small range and slow speed, but if you have the time, they're great fun. For so little money they may as well be paying the passengers, you can hop up and go up to the front of the top deck. If the weather is balmy and the windows open, it's like a magic carpet ride - hovering along quietly above the street, looking down on the passing scene and out into second-story windows, a warm breeze ruffling your hair. I took them as much as possible. (Also, they're good for advertising love sales, if you're having a love sale.)

I get around: The subway

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) puts New York's subway system to shame with its spaciousness, speed, efficiency, ease of use, cheapness and cleanliness. Of course, that's to a great degree because it's much newer, having mostly been built since the '70s. NYC's system is over 100 years old and there's a  limit to how much retrofitting can be done to upgrade it. And it has more character, local color and history - so there are always tradeoffs. Still, we could take some lessons. Particularly in the cleanliness department.

Yes, New York, that is a subway station. Not an airport terminal or a Bond villain's lair.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Living in a light show.

At night, the wall of mostly fairly ordinary skyscrapers near the waterfront become dreamlike with neon and other colored lights that make my eyes so happy I don't care if it's garish or tacky. As if that's not enough, every night at 8:00 there's the Symphony of Lights, when they pulse on and off and shimmer in time to electronic music piped over P.A. systems, with spotlights and lasers shooting into the sky. I'm not making this up.

Night wandering (and foraging)

Maybe my favorite thing to do was just wander around the streets, especially at night. A sampling here from just one evening, with more to come.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Walk on the not-so-wild side: Around the Peak

A leisurely five-minute walk away from the malls and souvenir booths and swarming families is a lovely, quiet path around the Peak. 

Ain't no mountain high enough...

... but this one will do for now. Victoria Peak, or just "The Peak," towering over the middle of Hong Kong Island  - the central fact that the island's urban planners, architects, real estate developers, etc., must contend with. I went up three times over my two weeks there, at daylight, sunset and night. This is the first time - the weather wasn't very cooperative - it was mostly cloudy, and rained off and on. But that could only make a dent in the seismic awesomeness. Below is my own take on the classic picture-postcard view. Do an image search for "Hong Kong" and at least half of what comes up will be variations on this shot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Signs and wonders

Amazingly vivid and sometimes bizarre signs are all over Hong Kong like rhinestones on Michael Jackson's glove. I especially like the public service announcements exhorting residents and visitors to all sorts of safe and proper behaviors. You would think commercial advertisements would be more heavily soaked in often incongruous cutesiness and perkiness, but the government PSAs have them beat. One of my HK friends thinks this is probably an instance of Japanese pop culture influence. Below is a sample - more to come later.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The most crowded place on earth

For neon-lit, beehive insanity and just sheer Hong Kong-ness, nothing beats the streets of Kowloon at night. The Mongkok neighborhood, where a number of the pictures below were taken, is often cited as the most densely populated area on Earth - I read one estimate of 500,000 people per square mile. The signage alone makes it worth wandering around. The only thing I can compare this to in my experience is Times Square, but Mongkok is less sanitized and (relatively) less corporatized, and still contains a lot of local, daily life as part of the mix, instead of being given over completely to tourists (although there's no shortage of them).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Up Nathan Road through Kowloon

The epic traffic and shopping thoroughfare Nathan Road, which runs for miles north through the heart of Kowloon. This is not even remotely the road at its busiest.

Tsimshatsui waterfront and the Avenue of Stars

A quick ferry ride across Victoria Harbor drops you off at the waterfront in Tsimshatsui, the southernmost neighborhood in the Kowloon district. From here, you get the most famous postcard views of the northern shore of Hong Kong Island and its skyline. The four photos below are from the viewing deck up above the pavement.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Party in Central and everyone's invited! Especially if you're from the Philippines.

According to one account I read, the largest foreign population in HK is Filipina domestic workers. Sunday is their collective day off and they flood into Central for picnics and general camaraderie, taking over much of the public space, sitting on blankets or mats or whatever. Below are a few shots I got on the Central walkways. That's quite a clash of worlds below... Western tourists on the left, emigrant maids on the right.

The Star Ferry

Along with the Mid-Levels Escalator and the Central tram (pictures of that to come), the Star line is one of the great sightseeing bargains of the world - about 25 cents American for the top deck, for a roughly 7-minute ride between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, with the warm sea breeze blowing through (on a good day) and great views of the skyline on both sides and the harbor.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mid-Levels Escalator

As I said in a previous post, my favorite thing in Hong Kong might have been this chain of covered outdoor escalators and walkways that stretches between Central and the Mid-Levels, providing easy transport on foot up and down the side of the mountain. The escalators run down in the morning until about 10:30 and then switch direction and go up until shutting down at midnight, with lots of on and off points along the way. The escalator hooks up with the Central walkways, allowing me to make a leisurely 30-minute walk from the street where my hotel was down to the ferry piers at the waterfront, while hardly setting my foot on ground-level sidewalks or having to dodge traffic or wait to cross a street. I went down it almost every morning and back up almost every night.

An election on a Sunday?! Madness!

I had no idea that district council elections were scheduled for my second day there. My first clue was when I woke up Sunday morning to the shouts of these protesters across the street (the college next door was a polling station). Wish I'd gotten a shot of a woman towards the right end breaking away from the protest area and running down the street a minute later, yelling and waving her sign, pursued by the cops.