Fotoeins Fotopress

One photo at a time – one journey to last a lifetime

Posts from the ‘Asia’ category

At the Lo Wu gateway: almost China, but still Hong Kong

True clichés in Hong Kong

Lockhart Road at Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is represented by 香港, or “fragrant harbour”.

It’s an understatement in two Chinese characters.

Near the mouth of the Pearl River, the city has a very active port with the movement and shipping of trade: by sea, by air, or by surface.

But then, so it is with people: by sea, by air, by rail, and by car. Internationally they come, from Shenzhen, on ferries from China or Macau, or on big planes from Asia and around the world, pouring into the glass halls at Hong Kong International Airport.

A cacophony of sounds comes from all sides at any hour of the day.

Drivers honk their horns, the screech of brakes by trams on the surface-rails, people on their phones in conversation shouting at the top of their lungs.

Seven million people in a relatively small and enclosed space is always going to be about finding new and adventurous ways to defining and redefining terms of individuality and personal space. It’s no wonder why some escape to the New Territories or to the outer islands for a little bit of peace and quiet.

A symphony of lights comes out nightly at 8pm, like a game of neon-sign ping-pong across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong and Kowloon.

Bright gigantic lights and signs stream their company, product, or logo. It is hard not to stare.

No sign is too large; some are the buildings themselves. Reaching ever higher into the sky, buildings cannot be ignored at night, their illumination staking out their claims: “we are here, and don’t you ever forget it.”

O'Brien Road overpass over Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Smells hit you from every corner.

Cars, trucks, and busses belch out exhaust from their tailpipes. Rotting bins of garbage line up on the sides of alleys. Sweet scents follow you in the Flower Market and from fresh fruit and vegetable stands. Your nose catches that complex whiff of an outrageous blend of aromas from barbequed meat to seafood to dried herbs, fungus, roots, and berries; from egg tarts to noodle soup to smoky temple incense.

Herbal Street, Ko Shing Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

It can be inviting, that you cannot help but taste the food that you know you can get from just about anywhere. The smells lure you inside; you may be at a restaurant, a food centre, or a tiny shop by the corner; and you’ll happily tolerate getting squeezed into a table shared with three strangers. You know it’s just right when the world opens up when you take your first bite and slurp of a dumpling or a fried noodle.

It all seems very banal.

Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Joy Hing Roasted Meat, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

I made all of the above photos in June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

HKG Dragon Boat Championships in Stanley

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

As a boy to Chinese parents in Vancouver, I remembered looking forward to the middle of the calendar year, because there would be plenty of sticky-rice dumplings (粽), which CantoDict describes as a “glutinous-rice dumpling or tamale, made by wrapping the rice in broad leaves of reeds and boiled for a few hours, usually with other ingredients such as meat, oysters, beans, etc.”

A very popular Chinese holiday surrounds the Duanwu Festival, which occurs on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in the Chinese calendar; the big festival day occurs on 23 June and 12 June in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Along with the consumption of rice dumplings, the festival is known as the Dragon Boat Festival with the racing of dragon boats. Tradition tells the story of boats set out to retrieve the body of poet and scholar Qu Yuan who drowned himself (278 BCE) after false accusations of conspiracy forced him into exile.

On a June-weekend, thousands congregate to the south portion of Hong Kong Island, all there to attend the annual Dragon Boat Championships. On 23 June 2012, my sister and I head out to Stanley by friends’ invitation to witness the spectacle and party from the comfort of the Horwath HTL boat in Tai Tim Bay. This turns out to be a big bonus, as the weather in June is oppressively hot and sticky. Instead of being stuck in the midst of huge crowds on dry land, we find ourselves in the middle of the bay, surrounded by countless ships of all shapes and sizes in relatively calm conditions. With occasional breezes blowing through, we sit next to the bow with nibble and drink, watch over the entire proceedings, and chat with people associated with Horwath HTL.

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Spectators, participants, volunteers

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Spectators

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Rest and shade

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Air Canada crew

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Gotta love the Dutch …

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

龍 is the Chinese character for “dragon”

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

“Finish”

Festival crowds on land

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Waiting for the water-shuttles

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Big boats on the bay

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Our shuttle approaching the Horwath HTL boat

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Vantage point in the bay

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Another water-shuttle

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s finest maintaining law & order

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Boats on lanes 1 and 2 on their way

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

“Rock the boat”

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

A race begins

Sun Life Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, Hong Kong

Another race ends

Horwath HTL bought time on the boat, operated by a long-time local couple who live on and rent out the boat to corporate and private functions. In brief (Cantonese) conversation with the woman who’s the “brains”, I discover she’s organizer, cook, caretaker, and all-around “mum” for the day; she paces up and down the boat, ensuring everyone’s needs are met.

There is a lot of food and drink, respectively, to fuel and to quench.

There are some fast dragon-boat races with strong competitive crews representing many nations.

There seems to be an impossibly large number of people crammed into narrow strips of beach and on the flotilla of pleasure-boats in the bay.

To hear my sister tell it, it sounds like another typically torrid June weekend-afternoon in Hong Kong.

Located in the southwestern corner of Hong Kong Island, the town of Stanley is easily accessible by car and by bus. CityBus services 6, 6A, 6X, 66 and 260 travel from Hong Kong’s Exchange Square, which is situated above MTR stations Central/Hong Kong. Citybus service 973 travels from Tsim Sha Tsui East (MTR Hung Hom station) through Kowloon over to Hong Kong Island and Stanley. From Causeway Way, Green Minibus 40 is a community-shuttle service to Stanley.

I made the photos on 23 June 2012; this post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

8 ways to say happy birthday, Hong Kong style

April 8 is my sister’s birthday, and I wanted to mark the occasion with eight memories of a month in Hong Kong during my year-long around-the-world journey.

Why not ‘four’ for April? Among Chinese, there is general consensus of an “unlucky” use for “four” (四), sounding very much like the word for “death” (死). That’s the case in Cantonese, and you may find a general absence of four in public places, including elevators.

On the other hand, “eight” (八) rhymes with “success” (發); the latter is used prominently in New Year’s greetings to express “congratulations and prosperity” (恭喜發財).

Here are a few unique examples of moments representing my time in Hong Kong.

Happy birthday, sis! 生日快樂,啊妹!

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

1. On board Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour, approaching Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong

2. Elgin Street at Shelley Street, Mid-Levels, Central

Western Market, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

3. “Das Gute” bake-shop, Western Market, Sheung Wan

Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

4. Long smoky shadows at Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan

King's Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

5. King’s Road & Westlands Road, Quarry Bay

Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

6. Looking west along Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay

Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong

7. Signage over Sai Yeung Choi Street, just south of Argyle Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon

Lei Yue Mun, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong

8. Fishing off the waters of Lei Yue Mun, on the typhoon shelter at Shau Kei Wan

The eight locations are indicated in the map below.

Hong Kong

Because my sister asked, who am I to say no – I include this photo of us, suitably framed.

Except the final photo from my sister, I made the other photos above in Hong Kong between 6 and 21 June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

In-town flight check-in at MTR Hong Kong

MTR Airport Express

MTR Airport Express line, in dark green. Excerpt from Flickr, Joanna Cheng

Chep Lap Kok airport, otherwise known as Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), opened for service in 1998, replacing the smaller Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon. HKIA operates 24-hours, and is one of the busiest airports in the world by passenger numbers, aircraft movements, and cargo traffic.

As the airport is located over 30 kilometres (over 20 miles) from Hong Kong’s “Central” business district and city centre, transport options include taxis, buses, coaches for major hotels, or the MTR.

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) Airport Express route is a reasonably quick and inexpensive choice with trains running every 10-12 minutes between the city of Hong Kong and the airport in a one-way trip lasting under 30 minutes. As of posting, the cost for one adult is HKD$100 (less than USD$13) for a single journey, same day return ticket, or with an Octopus card; additional information about fare-, ticket-, and travel-options with the MTR Airport Express can be accessed here.

Upon landing in Hong Kong, one of the first things I’d highly recommend is purchasing an Octopus card with which many retail transactions can occur, including fast food, cafés, shopping, and local public transport. The card can be recharged at one of many 7-Eleven or Circle-K convenience stores in Hong Kong or with an automated machine at any one of the MTR stations throughout the region.

Check-in the City, Before Boarding

But now you’re leaving and flying out from Hong Kong airport, and you’ve got luggage to check for your flight. Is there any way you can check in before arriving at the airport?

The answer is “yes”!

Depending on the airline, there is In-Town Check-In service at the airline counters on the ground floor of MTR Hong Kong station. Check-in for flights can occur from 90-minutes to one full day before the scheduled flight.

For example, I flew Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and I checked into my flight at MTR Hong Kong station well before the scheduled departure time. I received my boarding pass; my luggage was checked, tagged, and on its way to the airport. It felt a little unusual not having my luggage with me on the train, and at the airport, I had to remind myself that not only did I have my boarding pass, but that my luggage was also on its way to the plane’s cargo hold and onwards to Saigon airport.

MTR stations: “Hong Kong”, “Central”

MTR Hong Kong station is located below the IFC Mall linking to 1IFC and 2IFC buildings. There are two MTR stations in the same vicinity: “Hong Kong” and “Central” which may be confusing to visitors.

MTR Central is a station on the Island train-line and the southern terminus station for the Tsuen Wan train-line. MTR Hong Kong station is the eastern terminus station for the Tung Chung and Airport Express train-lines; to avoid confusion, these two lines are accessed on two different floors in the station. An underground passageway links “Central” and “Hong Kong” stations, and the walk between stations is less than ten minutes. Location maps and physical layouts for each station are located here. The area also includes Exchange Square or Hong Kong Station Public Transport Interchange, providing connections to local and regional bus services; and Central Ferry Piers at the harbourfront, providing ferries to Kowloon and the outer islands in Hong Kong.

Even with a myriad of transport options, leaving Hong Kong for the airport doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

As the Airport Express line makes one of two intermediary stops at “Kowloon” station, the same check-in policy also applies at Kowloon station if you’re staying on the north or mainland side of Hong Kong harbour.

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

MTR Hong Kong station

I made the photos above on 18 June 2012. Acknowledgements go to Amos Struck who recommended I write this post which naturally appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

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