Monday, September 30, 2013

The News That Matters in Macau

The gambling industry's large presence in Macau is unmistakable. So I was not greatly surprised by the choice of the Macau Daily Times for its front page headline several days ago:

copy of Macau Daily Times with the headline "Gaming consultant advises "post-Olympics" casinos in Japan"

As reported in Bloomberg, Japan being awarded the 2020 Olympics has:
... fueled speculation Japan will approve casino gambling since the development would add hotel capacity and entertainment venues that could be used during the games.
However, the online version of the Macau Daily Times article with the above red headline reports the suggestions made by Takashi Kiso, "CEO of International Casino Institute and consultant to the Japanese government on gaming". He thinks Japan should wait until after it hosts the 2020 Olympics before developing casinos because:
Japan would need resources and large numbers of construction workers over a short time span [for the Olympics], and building the [integrated casino resorts] with the aim of opening at that point would mean competition for those resources and potential duplication of infrastructure.
If eventual approval for the casinos is likely, many in Macau may have other reasons to support Kiso's recommendation and would welcome any delays. Casinos in Japan could possibly attract gamblers who would otherwise spend their time (money) in Macau. Of course, owners of Macau's casinos who desire to open other casinos in Japan would have a different perspective.

The decision is in Japan's hands, but Macau is watching.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beer Speeding Through Macau on World Tourism Day

Many may consider the Macau Grand Prix to be the highlight of the year for racing in Macau, China, but for others another race may matter more: yes, Macau's traditional tray race which is now held in conjunction with World Tourism Day on September 27. This year more than 200 people who represented more than 24 hotels and restaurants in Macau participated. A tray race is nothing without something to put on the trays, and a local sponsor provided a suitable item: Macau Beer.

Macau Beer booth for the World Tourism Day Tray Race in Macau
I prefer Macau Beer over typical Tsingtao Beer, but you can't get it in a bag.

Since the theme of this year's World Tourism Day was "Tourism and Water – Protecting Our Common Future" the message seemed loud and clear: protect your beer too.

The teams all sported different costumes. Clearly looking for an inspirational and aerodynamic advantage, the Grand Hyatt team affixed images of the Macau Grand Prix to their heads:

participants in the Macau tray race wearing cutouts of racing scenes on their heads
Definitely my favorite costume

The race began at the steps of the iconic Ruins of St. Paul's. First, the female teams lined up.

young women lined up in front of the Ruins of St. Paul for the Macau tray race
Preparing properly is key.

After long minutes of great anticipation, the ceremonial horn sounded.

the start of the 2013 tray race in Macau
That moment of "this might be harder than I expected"

After the start, the race quickly funneled into a narrow pedestrian street.

tray racing
Some racers chose a walking pace. At least they improved their chance of having a beer at the end.

Then the male participants collected their beers and lined up.

several young men proudly lifting their bottles of beer
Light non-drinking revelry

As with the female race, photographers captured the historic moment.

photographers doing what photographers do best as the ceremonial horn blower looks on
Note the ceremonial horn blower ready with the ceremonial horn

And again the race began with the mellifluous sounding of the ceremonial horn.

a tray race beginning with at least one person already holding his beer bottle to keep it from falling over
The racers were warned any cheating would be noted by observers.

tray racing
The ceremonial horn blower already looking forward to next year's race

I must now disappoint readers with the fact that I chose not to chase after the racers to follow the action. What was the point without a beer?

Later, though, I stopped by where the race finished at Largo Senado (Senate Square). At the Macau Beer booth I inquired as to whether I could join the festivities by purchasing a bottle of Macau Beer. They had a better option: free beer would be available in 10 minutes.

I wasn't at first sure how to spend those 10 minutes, but before I knew it I found myself being tattooed.

young woman putting a temporary tattoo on my arm
Who says no pain, no gain?

Macau Beer temporary tattoo on an arm
I'm not sure they had prior experience with hairy arms.

Not long afterwards, free beer flowed like a waterfall, well, a stop-and-go waterfall into small plastic cups.

two people pouring samples of Macau Beer
No shortage of people with a desire for free beer

After collecting a shot (or two or three or four) of beer, some people chose to be photographed with the Macau Beer mascot.

young woman in sunglass posing next to the Macau Beer mascot
She had photographs taken both with and without sunglasses.

Even though they took occasional breaks, mascots possibly inspired by substances different from beer could also be found.

there Macau tourism mascots
The mascot in the middle remained in that exact position for several minutes.

The young woman who looks oh-so-thrilled to be photographed with the mascots explained to me that they were intended to welcome visitors to Macau and were not taken from any TV show, movie, game, or nightmare.

Although this is a light post about a lighter side of life in Macau, I realize that all of this together might be overwhelmingly stimulating. So I will stop here. Congratulations to Leong Mei Fong representing the Galaxy Macau and Liu Yan Song representing the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel for winning the women's and men's tray races, respectively. I hope you enjoyed your well-deserved beers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cross-Cultural Fun for Kids

Sometimes the differences matter most. Sometimes the similarities matter most.

a barefoot girl with a with box over the top of her body playing on a a sidewalk in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A girl I saw playing earlier this year in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

boy with a box over the top of his body and a barfeoot girl playing on a pedestrian street in Zhuhai, China
A boy and girl I saw playing recently in Zhuhai, China

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More of Cheung Chau

I have introduced Cheung Chau -- one of Hong Kong's outlying islands -- before here, so I will skip the formalities and simply share a few photos from a recent weekend outing that complement the set in the earlier post.

Looking out towards the sea

An alley with many shops

Flowers and greenery

Bike training

Basketball at the Pak Tai Temple Playground

Cheung Chau's harbor

Monday, September 23, 2013

An Original Claim About Smog in Hong Kong

I previously shared an example of an advertisement in Beijing which included a smog filled scene. In Hong Kong, another city where air pollution is problem, as I walked by a store selling cosmetics made by Origins, a US brand, I saw smog being used in a more explicit manner to promote a product:

Displays at an Origins store in Hong Kong stating "Turn city smog into pretty skin"

The Smarty Plants CC SPF 20 Skin complexion corrector featured in the display is available elsewhere, including the US. On its US website Origins claims that "Our super-smart antioxidant infused formula helps neutralize skin damaging effects of city smog and pollution." Of note, the site does not include the image of smog apparently transforming into flowers and the statement "Turn city smog into pretty skin" that can be found on the Hong Kong website and in the above scene (also seen in material for Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan):

As I walked away from the store what I most thought about was not the claim that smog could be turned into pretty skin but instead the implications that the display was a sign of how much pollution has become a part of everyday life in Hong Kong.

And it may also be a sign of how some people are trying to approach pollution pragmatically. Sometimes you just have to make the best out of a situation. As they say, "when life gives you smog, make smog flowers".

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hiking the Dragon's Back in Hong Kong

Two recent posts included urban scenes from Hong Kong's Mong Kok and Tsuen Wan districts. For a change of pace, one day I decided to seek out somewhere greener. In Hong Kong that is very easy to do, even on Hong Kong Island. In this case I decide to go to Shek O County Park and hike the Dragon's Back trail. As mentioned by the Hong Kong Tourism Board:
Hong Kong is remarkable because you can step from busy urban areas into peaceful countryside in less than an hour. That's particularly true for the Dragon's Back trail which Time Magazine declared as the Best Urban Hike in Asia (22 Nov 2004 Asia Issue). The trail is "the city's finest and most surprising ramble", the Time article says. "The glory of it all is that you're so close to the city, but could hardly feel farther away."
It is indeed amazing how quickly one can go from one of the densest urban regions in the world to lush green mountains where at points I walked for over an hour without passing anyone else (more easily done during a weekday). Below are a few photos from the Dragon's Back portion of my hike. Looking at them now, it's hard to believe an urban jungle is so nearby.

Dragon's Back trail in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back trail in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back trail in Hong Kong

view of mountains and the sea from Dragon's Back trail in Hong Kong

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Day of Mooncakes

Happy Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

Last night at Macau's Largo do Senado

If you have any mooncakes, enjoy them. I have tasted many flavors but it seems there are always new varieties to try, including Godiva's.

Now I'll head outside to see if the full moon is visible and if I can get some more mooncakes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Elevated Walkways of Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

At the northern end of the Hong Kong metro's Tsuen Wan Line and about half an hour from Hong Kong Island is, maybe not so surprisingly, Tsuen Wan. During the past 100 years Tsuen Wan has gone from a small village to an industrial area to a dense residential & commercial area.

The Sam Tung Uk Museum there provides an opportunity to learn about Tsuen Wan's history while visiting a restored 200-year-old walled village. No museum is required to see Tsuen Wan's modern side, and it can easily be explored by foot. This is made particularly easy by elevated walkways, many of which radiate out from the Tsuen Wan metro station and connect a number of buildings, including a variety of shopping centers.

To provide a glimpse of Tsuen Wan, I will share a few photos I took while on the elevated walkways. Not only do the photos provide a sense of the walkways' extensive reach and heavy use, but they also show some of the activity that can found on Tsuen Wan's streets.

people crossing a road in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

A Wellcome delivery truck passing under an elevated walkway in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

people walking on an elevated walkway in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

elevated walkway crossing over a road in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

minibuses in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

road between the Citywalk shopping centers in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

heavy foot traffic on an elevated walkway in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

people crossing an intersection with a 7-Eleven in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

people at a pedestrian street shopping area in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

people eating outside on a pedestrian street in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

Monday, September 16, 2013

Flying Over and Through Urban Hong Kong

As I looked up at some buildings in Hong Kong the other day, by chance I noticed an airplane which presumably had departed from Hong Kong International Airport located far outside of the city center.

view between two buildings of a plane flying above

It brought to mind the more dramatic views of airplanes in city scenes that were a regular occurrence in Hong Kong when its Kai Tak Airport was open in central Kowloon. Kai Tak is now a cruise ship terminal but mention of the airport can still stir the memories of Hong Kong natives and visitors. For more about the airport, Hong Wrong compiled a "visual history" of Kai Tak, Unforbidding City detailed the challenging approach facing pilots landing at Kai Tak, and CNN interviewed Hong Kong resident and aviation photographer Daryl Chapman and shared several of his photographs of planes in Hong Kong.

And finally, a recent tweet reminded me of a video that shows some of what made Kai Tak special accompanied by music from the fictional 1964 British Second World War film 633 Squadron:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pondering in Hong Kong

In Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong

That's all for this week. I expect to be posting more frequently next week with topics ranging from online services in Hong Kong to the air in Beijing.

There is plenty to ponder.

PBR in an SAR of the PRC

If you are in Hong Kong and like Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, you're in luck.

man unloading beer from a Pabst Blue Ribbon truck in Hong Kong
On Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong

More about PBR in China when I'm in the mood for a war story (really).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mongkok Scenes from Mong Kok

Mong Kok is a densely packed district in Hong Kong. Its name can also be found written in Latin script as "Mongkok". Even government websites can be conflicted about the format of the name, sometimes using both forms within a single address. The Hong Kong metro and the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post both regularly use "Mong Kok", so I will go with that.

Whatever the spelling, the area holds much to discover and a single block can contain a dizzying array of culture. The Hong Kong Tourism Board provides this description:
Mong Kok is Hong Kong’s most congested shopping and residential district, but don’t let that scare you away. The neon-bathed historic streets that wind through one of the densest parts of the world are worth visiting - just for the ‘peoplescapes’ alone. It just so happens that the shopping is excellent too.

The neighbourhood includes one of Hong Kong’s most popular markets, the Ladies' Market, and also has a ton of shopping streets, which are a common feature in southern China. Conveniently, these are where a cluster of merchants sell one type of product on a single street. Mong Kok has entire streets and street sections dedicated to the sale of goldfish, flowers, birds, sneakers, kitchenware and wedding dresses.
I have been there on numerous occasions and would list Mong Kok as a must-see place for visitors to Hong Kong or those seeking to ponder humanity. The strong impressions Mong Kok has left make me wonder if its single-word spelling would be well suited for a new adjective.

I had the opportunity to visit Mong Kok yet again just a few days ago. Below is a set of photographs in the order I encountered the various scenes. They represent just a sliver of life there and do not capture the streets when they are especially jam packed with people or provide a sense of how a large number of stores, offices, restaurants, guest houses, and residences can compactly fit inside a single building. But together they still give me a feeling that is so... mongkok.

Above-ground view of one of Mong Kok's streets

Above-ground view of one of Mong Kok's street markets

A section of Mong Kok's most extensive elevated walkway

On the elevated walkway

Parked minibuses

Fish for sale at the Fa Yuen Street Market

young woman wearing a shirt with the message "This is me This is who I am I've finally learned to LOVE myself. Wohooo"
A shirt with a message

No lack of advertising

Street-level advertising

An almost quiet alley

A relatively quiet moment at a busy intersection

Freshman participating in a flash mob song and dance for a university orientation activity

Posing for a professional photographer

Crossing Portland Street

Colorful buildings

A high-level view inside the architecturally intriguing Langham Place shopping mall


Another street

Fruit for sale

More fish for sale