Thursday, August 30, 2007

13 Good Things about Hong Kong, and more

The kind of view of the 'Fragrant Harbour'
that many people are most familiar with

A new issue of bc magazine -- which has now been published for 13 years -- is out on the streets today. And here are (the links to) some of the articles within it that I wrote:-

i) 13 Good Things About Hong Kong -- and, actually, I could have listed several more, if needed!;

ii) Bridge-building Blossoms -- an interview feature with Dean Gilmour, the Canadian director and one of the stars of Lu Xun Blossoms, a 'physical theatre' adaptation of selected works by the father of modern Chinese literature;

iii) Of Dancing Dreams and Angel Falls -- an interview feature with Raymond To, the director and scriptwriter of the Hong Kong Dance Company's Angel Falls (as well as scriptwriter of Hong Kong movie masterpieces like Peking Opera Blues, Shanghai Blues and Hu-Du-Men);

iv) Mobile Phone Hell -- interview with Carol Lai, director of Naraka 19 (which is due out in Hong Kong cinemas on September 6th); and

v) A review of Blood Brothers.

Also, it's not written by me and actually was in the issue before this one but here's taking the opportunity to highlight an article entitled Tasting Hong Kong which I reckon is another which gives a good idea of the territory's charms. And if its author is reading this: Marissa, miss you but nonetheless hope you're happy back on the other side of the globe! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hong Kong's Dragon's Back (photo-essay)

Back in 2004, in their annual Best of Asia survey, TIME magazine voted Hong Kong's Dragon's Back trail as the continent's Best Urban Hike. And this past Sunday, I got the chance to see whether it was as good as its reputation. If truth be told, we (i.e., two friends and I) could have picked a better day to do hike the Dragon's Back.

For one thing, the amount of pollution in the Hong Kong air that day ensured that my panoramic photographs aren't as clear as I would have liked for them to be. For another, the sun that managed to shine through the pollution ensured that we all ended up with a good amount of sunburnt skin at the end of a hiking day that, to be fair, had been on the long side and also had taken in treks to and around Big Wave Bay -- where we had lunch and checked out the ancient (c. 3,000 year old) rock carvings in the vicinity -- and both of Shek O's beaches.

Nonetheless, I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all involved. And that I found the Dragon's Back cool and attractive enough to think that: my Sunday trek was very much worthwhile; it would be very much worth hiking again -- albeit on a day with clearer air and skies than this time around; and I still managed to take some nice photos that are worth sharing with this blog's visitors. So, without further ado:-

Yes, folks, this is Hong Kong --
and Hong Kong Island, to boot! :)

And yes, the Dragon's Back does involve
climbing up (and down) some steps

More steps along with lots of greenery

Lest there be any fears about getting lost,
note that it's all pretty well sign-posted

Also, there are benches to sit on
and rest in some really scenic spots

Furthermore, along the way,
you get to behold scenic views --
like this one of Shek O
and the surrounding environs...

...and this one of Big Wave Bay

To be continued? (Once again,
I'll await some signs from interested visitors
re whether to do so!) ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Hello Kitty mania continues!

The Hello Kitty MTR Heroes Collection
a complete set of which has
unexpectedly come into my possession! :)

To put it mildly: It's been an interesting, almost well nigh on surreal, last 36 hours or so. Starting off with two non-Hello Kitty bits: Firstly, yesterday morning, I met and interviewed a charming man who has scripted a number of my favorite Hong Kong movies of all time. (His identity will be revealed about a week from now -- I promise!) Then, in the evening, I attended a glamorous premiere of a movie that I spent part of today reviewing. (The review should be up on-line next Thursday, after which I'll provide a link to it on this blog.)

In between, my editor and I received an e-mail whose body of text I'm now proceeding to more or less quote in full (but with personal names withheld and cleaned of typos):-

This is ___ of Muse's Network LTD, the official PR Agency for Sanrio Wave HK Co., Ltd.

It has been a big surprise for our team and Sanrio Wave plus its headquarters in Japan. We like to take this opportunity to thank you for featuring Hello Kitty in your 16th August 2007 issue. Once again we like to thank you on behalf of Sanrio and we are looking foward to working with your magazine again.

Keep in touch and if you want to have more on information on Hello Kitty, please feel free to call. Thanks.

Have a nice day :>

Sweet, ain't it? But that's not all! For this morning, I had a big package delivered by courier to me at the office, and when I opened it, I found it to contain a hard copy of the e-mail -- only this time, with an addendum which read as follows: p.s. Small Gift, Big Smile to _____ -- Full set of Hello Kitty x MTR Heroes Collection -- plus said wonderful collection!!!!!!!!! :)))))))))))

To which I could only conclude: Only in Hong Kong, and from people imbued with the spirit of Hello Kitty (gift-giving)? ;b

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hello Kitty rules Hong Kong, and more!

Hello Kitty in the MTR!

Tee hee hee hee and bwahahahahaha! Hello Kitty rules the world!!!! :b

Okay, maybe not quite -- but I have to say that I have finally accomplished what I've wanted to do for some time now: i.e., help to put Hello Kitty on the cover of a magazine -- in this case, bc magazine. (And yes, it is the first time in bc's close to 13 year history that Hello Kitty has been its cover cat!) :))))))))))))))

To read my article on the cute cat, go here. And while we're at it, other links of interest to pieces written by me are:-

1) Bonni(e) Blackbird -- a feature article on a controversial play that was a major hit in Edinburgh and London and soon will have its Asian premiere in Hong Kong (cum interview with the very personable lead actress of the Hong Kong edition of the play, Bonni Chan;

2) A review of Flash Point -- the visceral action movie directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo and Collin Chou (AKA Ngai Sing); and

3) An interview with Alexi Tan -- the director of Blood Brothers, an upcoming movie starring Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, Hsu Chi, Chang Chen and Tony Yang.

Enjoy? I certainly hope so, perhaps more so this time around than usual! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

10,000 Buddhas Monastery redux (Photo-essay)

A quick recap for those who need it: Last Sunday, I paid a visit to the
10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Shatin and put up my first photo-essay devoted to this religious establishment. And after at least two kind readers expressed an interest in seeing more of my photographs of this statue-filled place, here's obliging one week on with another photo-essay that, I hope, will contain images -- and accompanying comments -- that prove to be of interest. :b

Restarting with what I reckon are
enduring image(s) from the last photo-essay: i.e.,
row upon row of gold Buddha (and/or Lohan?) statues!

A conversation piece -- and yes, I do reckon that
the pictured quintet look like they might well be
deep in conversation there! -- that serves as a reminder

that not all of the monastery's statues are gold colored ones! ;)

A point along the path where the gold colored statues
met the more multi-colored ones

This photograph has
the main monastery complex in the background,
with some more statues in the foreground

The building in the background of this photo
is the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery's
main building
while in the foreground lies its Kwun Yam
(aka Goddess of Mercy and Kuan Yin) Pavillion

A more close-up shot this time around
of the gold-leaf- plus lacquer-encased corpse
the monastery's founder, the late Rev. Yuet Kwai
located in pride of place inside the monastery's main building

Another close-up view inside the main building:
This time, a giddy-inducing one that shows
how the temple's walls are filled with row upon row of
a total of 12,800 small Buddha statues altogether

These figures stand out from the others by way of their being
the only statues I saw
on the paths up (and down from)
the monastery that look like an actual pair

(as opposed to the others that tended to be situated
equal distances apart from one another)
-- Are they a celebration of friendship?
I think it'd be cool if that were indeed the case... :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Row (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's Photo Hunt entry boasts photographs from two different parts of Asia. Picture number one is of a row of picturesque and very well-maintained pre-Second World War row houses on Bangkok Lane over in the Pulau Tikus area of Penang, Malaysia -- the part of the world from where I originally hail.

Fittingly for a place where time seems to move slowly, Penang -- or, if one were to be specific, its capital city, George Town -- has the largest number of pre-Second World War buildings in Southeast Asia; with many of them dating back to the 19th, not just 20th, century. What this means visually is that when I think of rows of buildings with regards to Penang, it's of rows that are horizontal rather than vertical.

In contrast, Hong Kong -- where the second and third photographs were taken -- is a city of buildings that get you thinking more of vertical than horizontal rows. Alternatively put: High-rise buildings predominate here -- and also new structures to the extent that unlike in, say, Penang, mere 30 year-old-buildings are considered to be seriously old in this busy, bustling section of Southeast Asia!

At the same time though, as I hope to have shown with photograph number three (which also includes rows of palm trees in the foreground for good effect!), just because a building is a high-rise and new, it doesn't necessarily mean that its architecture style will lean towards the anonymous and colorless. Indeed, as a friend of mine observed, many a Hong Kong building's painters and/or owners seem to go for colors that are quite a bit brighter and more holiday-minded than one might expect of a land of veritable workaholics! ;b

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The 10,000 Buddhas Monastery (Photo-essay)

Should anyone wonder (especially if they've been checking out quite a bit of this blog), I don't consider myself to be an especially religious person. In fact, I reckon I'd be considered pretty a-religious by many people's standards.

All this notwithstanding, I came to the realization some time back that I really like visiting and checking out religious structures (be they cathedrals and churches, temples, mosques, etc.) because I often find myself being very appreciative of the buildings' architecture and the art within their walls. Consequently, I've gone ahead and made artistic pilgrimages to many a religious place over the years.

Earlier today, I paid a visit to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery that's on a hill overlooking Shatin, one of the New Territories' major towns. There's a fun plus detailed description of the place over here. Rather than repeat what has already been written by others, here's just going ahead and sharing some of the many photos I took there, albeit with accompanying comments cum captions... :)

"You ain't seen nothing yet!" is what the first Buddha (statue)
the visitor to the Monastery of 10,000 Buddhas encounters
if (s)he goes up the path that starts off
near the Shatin Government Offices appears to be saying!

Buddhas, Buddhas, and more Buddhas
-- some of which look like they're enjoying
seeing people sweat as they walk (stagger?) up
the circa 500 steps up the hill to the monastery proper!

Get the picture yet that there are lots of Buddhas
in that there monastery? ;)

More seriously though, one of the amazing things
about these Buddha statues

is how each one of them is so physically
different from, and distinct vis a vis, the others

Females are represented along with males
-- though I must say that I'm not sure
whether these divine beings
actually are considered to be Buddhas

Seeing a figure like this one makes me realize
how little I know about Buddhist teachings and lore
(Alternatively put, I've never ever seen
a Buddha figure like this one before!)

...and I don't know the story behind this figure either! :(
(So would appreciate it if anybody could enlighten me about him;
but, hey, at least after seeing him, people will know that
not all the statues at the monastery are gold in color! ;b)

Yet more gold statues
-- this time inside the monastery's main building --

along with the gold leaf encrusted body (corpse!) of
the monastery's founder, the late Reverend Yuet Kwai

To be continued? (But only if requests for me to do so are forthcoming...!) ;S

Movie-related article links

Remember the spunky girl who played Wong Fei Hung
Iron Monkey (1993)?

Well, look at Angie Tsang Tze-Man now
(and also do go read my article about her)!
(N.B. Thanks to Angie and Sidney for that photo)

Apologies for the lack of updates this past week. It's not so much that I've been particularly busy at work this past week as that the previous week was so tiring -- to give you some idea: I didn't get out of the office until 10 pm on Thursday, 11:45 pm on Friday and 5 pm on the official half-day, Saturday -- that I'm still slowly recovering from it all now... :(

On a brighter note though, here are some of my contributions to the issue of the magazine which came out this past Thursday:-

i) From Wong Fei Hung to Wushu Champion -- Angie Tsang Tze-Man: child actress turned policewoman as well as world champion wushu exponent! :)

ii) Flights of Familial Fancy -- An interview with The Flying Karamazov Brothers (a(nother) movie connection: They appeared with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in The Jewel of the Nile (1985)! ;b)

iii) Review of Invisible Target (action-packed Benny Chan movie starring Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Jaycee Chan and Wu Jing)

iv) Review of Secret (music-filled romantic melodrama directed by, starring and original story by Jay Chou)

Oh, and while I didn't review it, here's highly recommending Ratatouille, a wonderful movie that I got to check out at a sneak preview early last week. :)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Funky (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Boy, those Photo Hunt themes sure do seem to be getting more and more challenging! And in the case of this week's, I have to admit that it had me: first getting all panicky (another word for which, I've since learnt, can be funky!) and feeling compelled to consult the Merriam-Webster online dictionary to figure out what the word actually means; and then having to scratch my head for a bit before coming up with two photographs that do fit this week's theme quite well.

More specifically, the first picture is of an architectural structure that I think it safe to say can be fittingly described both as "odd or quaint in appearance or feeling" (one of the definitions of 'funky' that I've seen) as well as "unconventionally stylish" (another definition of 'funky' according to the same dictionary); while the second image is of another building in the same part of Hong Kong that has been castigated by more than one critic as being "lacking style or taste" (yet one more definition of 'funky' given by Merriam-Webster).

I have to rush off in a few minutes to catch a Kenji Mizoguchi double-feature at the Hong Kong Film Archive. So I don't have time to put in any links until later*, probably sometime tomorrow. However, I trust that the following descriptions which I've got from Jason Wordie's informative Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong University Press, 2002) will prove sufficiently helpful and interesting:-

Re St. Mary's Church (i.e., the building in the first photograph): This Anglican church was built in the early 1930s and designed by the Franco-Belgian consortium Credit Foncierre d'Extreme Orient. This firm was responsible for a number of other religious buildings constructed elsewhere in Hong Kong at this time as part of an expansion programme by the Roman Catholic Bishop Valtorta... Designed to look as Chinese as possible, so lessening the cultural gap between the Christian religion and the everyday Chinese, St. Mary's Church is one of Hong Kong's most eclectically styled buildings -- religious or secular -- tucked away on an obscure backstreet in Causeway Bay, the ornate facade is lovingly maintained.

As for the building in the second photograph (i.e., the Hong Kong Central Library): Something of a misnomer for a book repository located in Causeway Bay, the new [in 2002] Central Library has magnificent holdings, state-of-the-art facilities and helpful staff, all housed in what must surely be one of Hong Kong's most hideous modern buildings... Hong Kong Central Library's somewhat eclectic design was approved by a committee of the now defunct Urban Council. One can only assume that the 'style' chosen somehow reflects the decorative tastes and preferences of its members themselves, and at least one prominent architect has remarked that if this building represented the very best that the councillors could achieve with the resources at their disposal, then on those grounds alone it was high time that the body was disbanded!

* Postscript: As should be obvious from the number of links now in place: "Later" has come... ;)