Posts from the ‘Hong Kong’ Category
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.”
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.
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.
I made all of the above photos in June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
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.
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.
April 8 is my sister’s birthday, and I wanted to mark the occasion with eight memories of my month (June 2012) with her and her husband in Hong Kong.
Why not the number four for April? Among Chinese, there is general consensus of an “unlucky” use for “four”, as the word “four” (四) sounds very much like the word for “death” (死). That’s the case in Cantonese at the very least.
On the other hand, the word “eight” (八) rhymes with “success” (發), a word which is used prominently in a New Year’s greeting to express “congratulations and be prosperous” (恭喜發財).
The following are a few photographic examples of memories representing my time in Hong Kong, and of things likely to be seen only in Hong Kong.
Happy birthday! 生日快樂,啊妹!
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.
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
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.
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.
There are plenty of activities to keep one entertained in Hong Kong. But if you find yourself at a loss, particularly on a Wednesday night, you might consider going to Happy Valley for Happy Wednesdays at the horse races.
Established in 1845, the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) rebuilt the Happy Valley Racecourse in 1995 to its present-day facility. Horse racing at the Happy Valley Racecourse occurs Wednesdays, and is open to both public and members of the HKJC.
Through the help of contacts within the organization, we obtain a couple of passes to the air-conditioned venue “Adrenaline“. As the weather in mid-June is already hot and moist, the evenings also become unbearable in the humidity. Being inside “Adrenaline” complete with some nibble and drink provides big relief from the sticky evening outside.
I’m admittedly not much for gambling, although cheering for an “underdog” and watching that horse come from behind for a photo-finish win is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of betting money here, and I imagine it’s related in a way to how casinos in nearby Macau make several times more money in yearly gambling than Las Vegas’ annual take. Aside from the people’s insatiable desire for instant fortune, I think what’s particularly telling is that on the racecourse’s concourse level there are queues for the ATM/cash machines near the betting counters.
But in all, it’s a festive atmosphere. For those who can’t go up “on deck”, there’s music, food, and beer, naturally at the beer garden at track-level. There are a lot of people here on Wednesday evening having a good time, drinking some beer, shooting the breeze with friends, and occasionally bet on a horse race. In many ways, it reminds me of what a baseball game can be like in North America: go out to the stadium with friends, have some beer, shoot the breeze, and occasionally or diligently follow the game. Coming out to the horsetrack is a lot of fun, especially getting to hang out in the cooler confines of “Adrenaline”.
I made the photos above on 20 and 24 June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).