Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day Scenes in Hong Kong

Yesterday was not only the last day of the Lunar New Year celebrations, it was also Valentine's Day. Hours after visiting the Kwun Yum Temple, I stopped by Hong Kong's Harbour City Mall which had decorations incorporating both holidays. For a small taste of Valentine's Day, holiday fusion, and the entrepreneurial spirit in Hong Kong, below are Friday evening scenes in an area reaching from a mall entrance to the nearby Star Ferry Pier at Tsim Sha Tsui. The pink lanterns were one of the fusion decorations. See if you can spot at least one other. Some of the sights, such as musical performances and people taking selfies with iconic Hong Kong skyscrapers in the background, could be seen on many other days, but the less common Valentine's Day spirit was unmistakable.

pink lanterns combining the Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day holidays
Over 500 pink and purple lanterns

young couple taking a Valentine's Day selfie
Many were taking Valentine's Day selfies under the lanterns

parents taking a photo of a little girl
Plenty of posing kids

to young women inquiring about purchasing colored flowers which light up
Deciding whether to buy more Valentine's Day items

people selling balloon animals
Enthusiastic ballon sellers

two girls posing for a photo next to a heart balloon sculpture
Posing with a Valentine's Day ballon sculpture for a price

pink Chinese lanterns
More lanterns

two young men laughing while selling balloons
Ballon sellers enjoying themselves

couples taking selfies with the Hong Kong Island skyline in the background
Relatively decent air for a nighttime photo including Hong Kong Island

costumed young woman making large bubbles
One bubble-wand seller repeatedly yelled "Only tonight!"

people selling balloons
More balloons for sale

young man wearing carnival mask selling signs reading 'I miss you' and 'No.1 boy friend'
Masked man selling Valentine's Day flowers and signs

music group performing in front of the Star Ferry Pier
One of the musical performances in the area

young couple holding 'I love you' balloons posing for a photo while a clown watches
Posing with a bunch of balloons before purchasing one from a clown

Finally, although many sellers in the area were targeting couples out for Valentine's Day, some people were trying to give a bit of cheer to everyone for free.

high school girls excitedly holding signs reading 'Hug Me' and "free hugz'
Very outgoing high school students

The Kwun Yum Temple in Hong Kong

On Friday, the last day of the Lunar New Year's celebrations, I visited the Kwun Yum Temple in Hung Hom, Hong Kong:
Kwun Yum or Kwun Sai Yum (觀世音) [has been] known for centuries as a deity of sympathy, compassion and mercy, hearing the pleas of those who are suffering. She is worshipped by people of both the Taoist and Buddhist religions. Kwun Yum in the earlier times was a male divinity, but evolved to be a female deity in Tang Dynasty (唐朝). Arising from a saying that Kwun Yum studied Taoist teachings on lotus blossoms, some Kwun Yum Temples are also called Lin Fa Kung or Palace of Lotus Flower (蓮花宮). Temples dedicated to Kwun Yum are often alternatively known as Shui Yuet Kung or Palace of Water and Moon (水月宮), which stands for all that is quiet and peaceful and detached from the material world.
The inside did feel detached from the world outside. People prayed, made offerings, and had their fortunes told. The scenes especially contrasted with others I saw later in the day regarding a holiday not so detached from the material world--the subject of the next post. But first, below are a few scenes, most of which include incense burning or being lit, from a temple full of people, smoke, and spirit.

people entering Kwun Yum Temple in Hong Hom, Hong Kong

incense coils hanging in Kwun Yum Temple

people lighting incense sticks in Kwun Yum Temple

people lighting incense sticks in Kwun Yum Temple

large incense sticks burning in Kwun Yum Temple

flowers in Kwun Yum Temple

candles burnings in Kwun Yum Temple

people lighting incense sticks in Kwun Yum Temple

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Chinese New Year Holiday Spent Atop Shanghai

I previously shared a photo from near the top of what was then Shanghai's tallest building. Vadim Makhorov went higher. Much higher. And there is not an elevator to where he went.

He recently wrote:
I dreamed to visit Shanghai for a while. One of the main sights for us was Shanghai tower, a huge skyscraper in the city center, which currently is under construction. The height of it will be 632 meters. When the construction will be completed, the tower will become the highest building in China and world’s second high building after Burj Khalifa (if not to mention TV tower in Tokyo, which is only 2 meters higher).

Ten days ago, during the celebration of Chinese New Year, the entire country was resting – all the people had vacations, so as the builders. Everybody was squibbing in their neighborhoods and enjoying the holidays. For us, it was perfect time to climb the tower and a crane jib above it (the highest point is about 650 meters).
That many people were away for the holidays is key. According to his video, Makhorov did not take a conventional route into the building.

And he did not take conventional photos.

Photo by Vadim Makharov from here

See Makharov's posts here (HT to Evan Osnos) and here (HT to Andrew Webster) for more of his story and photos. The dramatic video is worth watching in HD.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where I Was Going With "Where Are You Going?"

Dots on a pedestrian bridge window

Several recent posts shared a similar format: a questioning title followed by a single photo of a scene from Hong Kong. When I first looked at the photo of a ship with an ancient Chinese design sailing towards modern buildings, "Where are you going today?" immediately came to mind. This usually straightforward question now seemed to be asking something deeper. I also found it striking that the photo's effect on me was so different from experiencing the scene in person. Perhaps some of the feelings the boat's design evokes can be dampened by the sound of the boat's motor. Similarly, more mundane events occurring nearby may provide a grounding context. And heightened awareness that the boat is likely providing a very local tour could take one's imagination away from distant places or times.

The photo of a winding High Street in the second post brought to mind the same question but with a different spin. In this case, the potential destinations appear more restricted, though the two levels of roads suggests a significant choice was made earlier. There's also an added sense of mystery with the elevated road disappearing between the buildings. A video by Anil Maharjan reveals where the elevated road leads. Based on the video's perspective and it ending at a bus stop, I would guess it was taken from an upper-level front seat of a double decker bus--rather appropriate for what some describe as a double decker road. Even if you don't care where the road leads, the video provides a good ride:

Hill Road Bypass in Hong Kong from Anil Maharjan.

The third post asked a slightly different question--"Where do you want to go?" For me, this question was implicit in the earlier posts, and the scene of a man sitting alone on a large rock provided a setting to raise the question explicitly. I don't really know what the man was thinking about at the time, though. He may already be exactly where he wants to be.

The most recent post asked "Where do you want to play tennis today?" and included a scene from one of Hong Kong's many residential complexes. It mostly resulted from a bit of humor & self-mockery. But like the other posts, many different interpretations are possible.

The different interpretations possible for all of the posts are part of the reason I didn't say any of this before. I didn't want to lead people's experience of the photos any more than I already had. We often have our own places to go. Even now, new thoughts arise when I look at the photos. It reminds me that you don't need to move a single inch to see something different. Sometimes all it takes is a change of focus.

View of Kwai Cheong Road in Kwai Chung, Hong Kong, through a pedestrian bridge window with dots

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Where Are You Going Today?

junk boat with red sails in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

Lunar New Year Fairs in Hong Kong

Leading up to the Lunar New Year holiday, Hong Kong holds fairs in 15 different locations for a period of 7 days. A section of the fairs are dedicated to flower markets but much else is also sold. A large number of stalls are run by college students to gain sales experience and to hopefully make some money.

I recently visited two of the largest fairs--one at Fa Hui Park in Sham Shui Po the night of the opening day and another at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay several days later. I also briefly stopped by a smaller fair in Kwun Tong. The Hong Kong fairs reminded me of a Lunar New Year fair I visited in Guangzhou 3 years ago. However, some of what I saw in Hong Kong reflected a culture specific to there and one set of stalls in particular was strikingly unlike anything one could expect to see at a fair in mainland China. I'll save that topic for a later post.

Below are assorted scenes capturing a small taste of the Hong Kong fairs. The first 10 photos are from Fa Hui Park and the second 10 are from Victoria Park. The fair at Victoria Park was larger and, at least when I went, the crowds were far denser. In some sections it required a significant effort simply to cross an aisle from one booth to another. Several Hongkongers said that's part of the experience which draws them there.

four female college students wearing large read bows on their heads and holding bags and stuffed toys
These college students at the Fa Hui Lunar New Year Fair tried their best to sell me a stuffed toy.

little girl hugging a stuffed toy
Fortunately, they found a more appreciative potential customer.

male college student making a Magic Goo balloon
If stuffed toys weren't your thing, perhaps some German Magic Goo would do the trick.

stall selling spicy XO sauce
Locally-made spicy XO sauce

stall selling kimchi
Also spicy: Korean kimchi

purple orchids at the Fa Hui Lunar New Year Fair in Hong Kong
A small sample of the flowers for sale

colorful pinwheels
Pinwheels are a popular part of the holiday.

seven college students holding stuffed toys
If you wanted a giant "no smoking" stuffed cigarette, this was your place.

large food stall with signs for Vitasoy
Like an American fair, food was available.

large pot of Chinese style meatballs
Although many of the options differed.

dense crowd at the Victoria Park Lunar New Year Fair in Hong Kong
Sections of the Victoria Park Lunar New Year Fair seemed completely packed during the day, but one vendor told me it would become even more crowded that night.

little girl sitting on a mans shoulders
High perches were needed by some.

woman at a stall selling and demonstrating Nano Diamond Coating
One of the more pragmatic offerings

man demonstrating a shower water filter
Shower water filters

woman looking at flowers
More flowers

two college students hold stuffed toys
And more stuffed toys

a stall sign with Barack Obama's head on a horse body
Many of the signs and names for the students' stalls incorporated a horse theme in recognition of the Chinese zodiac sign for the new year. In this case, they also played on the fact that Barack Obama's name in Chinese includes the character for "horse".

young woman selling signs reading "NEXT STATION UNIVERSITY", "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE", "EXCEED THREE EXPLODE FOUR", etc.
Some college students sold their own creations which they said reflected Hong Kong culture.

man with blue dyed hair holding an item while many people in a crowd reach out their hands
A blue-haired man handing out free items had no problem drawing a crowd.

high school boy and girl holding and wearing pink inflatable items and a pink stuffed animal
Two friendly high-school students seeking customers in a less crowded area

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Lunar New Year Contrast in Hong Kong

Due to the Lunar New Year holiday, many places in Hong Kong are far quieter than usual.

a mostly empty Reclamation Street in Hong Kong with many closed stores
Reclamation Street near the intersection with Waterloo Road

But some are not.

many people around the open Lunar-New-Year-decorated entrance of Langham Place in Hong Kong
Langham Place Mall