Tag Archives: harbour

Day 4: 11 January, HK

I think I might have skipped breakfast and instead had an early lunch on Fuk Yuen St in the alley under the foot bridge, where the old ladies sit outside their recycle shop at night and play cards, and where the homeless have built homes around the public benches, out of cardboard sheets, old mattresses and blankets. There is a waffle shop, a fresh fruit stall, and  hole in the wall veggie eatery. I think I went to the veggie place, where the owner spoke great English, but the food was a bit dull.

Afterwards I get the tram to Sai Wan Ho and look for the HK Film Archive, here I pick up info about a film festival and spend a long time viewing an exhibition about special effects in HK movies. The exhibition readily admits that techniques in HK movies were inferior to those in Hollywood and in most cases were pale imitations: multiple exposing, matting, back projection, models. The one area that HK has excelled in and exported to HW and transnational collaborations is wire work (just think of martial arts fight scenes).

I’m hungry and follow Hungry Cows in search of Golden Veg on Shau Kai Wan Rd. This is a delight. Really good venue, well cooked tasty food and in spite of limited English smiley, chatty friendly staff. I learn that many people who come to this place (and other veggie places) do so once a week in an effort to be “healthy”. The waitress I chat to (I wish I could remember her name) is a buddhist and committed vegetarian. She is impressed by my 31 years of vegetarianism. This topic is often a good entry point for a conversation.

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The rest of the evening is a long intriguing walk back to Fortress Hill: along the busy Shau Kai Wan Rd, full of photo opportunities: reflections, iconography, tinted glass doors, and general bustle; the shores of Quarry Bay park. A relaxing contrast from the claustrophobia of Kowloon. People have the space and opportunity to have a more leisurely lifestyle. There are women practising Tai Chi, men rehearsing movements with swords, groups of enthusiastic joggers, dog walkers. And the fresh breeze off the harbour. It feels good to walk. Back in North Point, Java Rd is closing down. The last remaining open store is a pet shop: puppies in glass boxes in bright shop windows, cooing couples cuddling kittens inside…..

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Day 2: 9 January, HK

This is really the first day of the trip, and it’s one where I’m very much guided by my instinct and on-line maps, and reading stuff on the internet. rather than KK. It’s quite a solitary time here, in which each day I struggle to get up and out, having no awareness of the outside from my cell. It’s not until I get out descend in the lift and exit the lobby that I know what the temperature and weather are like, and if there is anything going on on the streets. Today I am concentrating on the local. My goal, or perhaps my meaning whilst I am here, is to work with photography and soundscape. I have set myself the task of using a fast portrait lens to explore the layers of colour, shape, information, movement and behaviours that are stacked up in the canyon-like streets of HK. The technical aspect of this are a challenge. Working with these parameters  and shallow focus, the margins for error are very small, and as the lens refocusses as I look through the layers of crowds, with people criss-crossing in the foreground, to an interesting face. It means I am not as reactionary and more a sniper than a gun-slinger. Sure I miss decisive moments, and probably I will things to happen in front of me. Perhaps the faces I photograph, to some extent, are ones that already know they are being watched and have been tracked in my sights. I look back at these photos and wonder if it is me that is on their minds, and if so what their feelings are to me. Sound is something I havent worked with before and my handheld recorder could do with a wind guard. I find myself lingering on the fringes of conversations and product demonstrations  on street corners, in a language I dont understand. It is the music and texture of the voices, and later the machinery (trams, subways, lifts), that attracts me. If only there was a way to record the smells of a place, as I feel these are often so distinctive and evokative: in this case, the heady herbs and spices of the Chinese medicine shops and steaming buns.

I feel a bit like a spy and there is a sense of loneliness and isolation in my existence here. I go and get a glass of soya milk from a congee shop. I use my drilled rehearsed Cantonese to ingratiate myself “Mm goi; yi go ne go”. This is interesting: I get what I want but I have no idea whether the sounds I produce are perceived as Cantonese, Gweilo grunts in some unfamiliar language or just unintelligible noise. I wonder does it even matter that I try to produce sounds. We find when we travel and have low local linguistic ability that we use basic stock phrases where probably you would achieve the same results just by pointing and persisting. Sometimes I don’t bother, sometimes I make the effort. Another area of marginalisation. It’s the same when I consider my subject matter. We will never have a conversation about how they feel and who they are. These narratives are the narratives which I project onto these people and attempt to draw out when others look at my pictures. I am very uninformed. I miss many details. I’m not sure what it is that draws me to my subject: it certainly isn’t an understanding of them. Perhaps it is the impenetrability I experience in looking. Imagination and fancy play a big part.

Today is spent in Northpoint: the Kiu Fai Mansion under the State Theatre; I peer through the doors of elderly homes like the one in “A Simple Life” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2008006/

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the mirrored lobby of Sunbeam Theatre on KIng’s Road; the market around North Point Rd; a crowd of housewives watching a guy demonstrating some magnetic window cleaning device, some face-mask clad women stacking the bamboo poles used in scaffolding buildings here, supervised by a scrawny bare chested tattooed leader; the covered multi-storey market on Java Rd; the rows of jewellers with windows full of gold ornamentation.

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I spend time watching construction and road diggers around Wharf Rd and Tong Shui Pier rd. I spend time on Tong Shui Rd pier, beneath the sweeping flyover of the East Island Corridor. There are sparrows, an old guy comes to feed them. Other retirees with nothing to do pass time on the benches. Another performs stretching exercises. Ferries, fishing boats, freighters and container ships share the channel in front of me. Dusk falls, and the sun glows feebly as it sets.

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I had lunched in 3 Virtues on Kings Rd, a spacious dim sum place above a small mall. Round tables, white table cloths, mandatory pots of tea, and groups of elderly set for the afternoon to nibble, gossip and sip. The waitress is gracious and attentive, not pushy and advises me on which noodles to order. This is quntessentially HK. This is the kind of place KK doesn’t like.

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I think I had dinner at Ahimsa Buffet behind King St. A place I frequented before and usually quite late in the evening. It seems popular with 20-something educated types. There is a good choice of food, but having got there late I have to rush before the hot buffet is cleared away. I ask for a discount because of this, and the young guy who holds court with his friends, performing tea rituals, happily obliges me. Somehow he reminds me of Erique.

My evening continues as I go back to my room and begin to process, sort, edit and delete photos. This is a ritual that becomes a time-consuming and obsessive habit each evening.

People Sangkhlaburi

Children are brushing the verge in front of their school with straw brushes, like a little militarised unit. The Thais seem to be obsessed with brushing up leaves. Maybe it's meditative.

A group of orange clad monks, two white robed shaven headed nuns in tow. They move graciously and with dignity in public presence. When it gets dark I pass them on the second bridge smoking and browsing their phones.

Small boys diving from the flat bridge still in their khaki school shorts. The older ones are plunging from the 30m mon bridge.

In the market a woman with bad teeth chews on a cheroot and tries to sell me some sweets. I buy a bag of black rice from another mon woman, yellow ash daubs on her face.

At dusk a raft boat is towed out into the lake. Full of monks. Maybe going for a few days of peaceful meditation afloat on the water.

Two boys play a kind of cricket. Wickets a kind of tripod of twigs. The ball is a punctured yellow plastic one, the bad a stick. One of them is wearing a Man Utd shirt.

On the flat bridge a small group of Thais are dangling string with balls of bread in one of the gaps between the bamboo struts. Small children look on at their fishing.

In the dark on the bridge a teenager is listening to some western rock music on YouTube.

A policeman on a garishly lit Harley revs up illuminating the banana pancake man. His small daughter is standing on a box fingering the balls of dough.

I see women making handicrafts in doorways, whilst the men swing in hammocks.

Sangkhlaburi day 2

Quite a chilly sleep, thankfully the karaoke on the other side of the creek stopped by 11.

I'm quite excited to get up for sunrise over the lake. Monks on the bindi baht are crossing the bridge. Long tail drivers are prepping their boats and cruising out into the golden water. A schoolboy dressed in Boy Scout type uniform is with his mother selling little fish in bags of water, to be released for merit making. I guess that's his job before school. I forget how early it is. 6 am? 7 am? The village is getting up. Mon women with yellow ash daubed faces with baskets balanced on their heads are selling tea and snacks. Across another small bridge, under which locals are tilling their vegetable gardens, I'm now in a more rustic environment of typical mon houses, bamboo platforms with thin woven walls. There are a lot of women with babies. At a store I drink some water and a guy on a motorbike generously offers to take me to the wat. It's burmese and very ornate. On the land next to it is a campsite. Tents for monks. There is a road which is strewn with dry leaves, rustling in the cooling breeze. This leads to a gilded stupa, next to which is a souvenir market. Here I see a small group of monks committing taboos: handling money, smoking, shouting to each other. Buying food and ice creams…I understood their food was from donations. In the road a small mangey pup has just died. A pack of adult equally scrawny and few ridden dogs aggressively police the small corpse.

 

 

 

 

Day 03 – Last One in Singapore

Haven’t slept that deeply for a long time: was it the jet-lag or the equatorial fugue after I turned off the air-con? Can never sleep with it on, chilling me, sounding like a fridge too.

Those bites on my calves seem to be similar to what I got in the Cameron Highlands last year. I think it’s some kind of allergic reaction. The anti-histamine is turning them into bright red plague spots. At least they don’t itch, but I’m conscious of something under my skin. I’ll give it one more day before I seek a pharmacist.

Today the sky was blue…for a short time and with it very hot sun. This was what I had expected. That meant I got no further than the Sultan Mosque at the end of our street. Wrapped in an electric blue gown to make my legs more acceptable to the prophet, I spent a cool 30 minutes or so admiring the carpet, the inscriptions and neon score boards.

Keeping to the shade I walked 10 minutes to the Sin Lim Square mall to research camcorder prices. Here I met 2 methods of sale: the first one gave up when I told him my price ceiling, the second, between expecorisations, offered me a better and better deal, telling me that they needed the money to fix the ceiling to the shop and carpet it (better for dropped cameras!). I don’t like pressured sales, and even if the price was really good and there were freebies thrown in, I managed to walk away. I had only wanted to find out prices after all, and certainly needed to shop around.

By now hungry. I found a veggie Chinese restaurant and made the mistake of ordering from the menu instead of taking stuff from the buffet as usual. It turned out disappointing and small and a bit boring (mock chicken fried in oats with mango). Then, the waitress tried to give me another dish of sushi rolls that I hadn’t ordered and she didn’t have the English to understand the situation (luckily a guy at the next table translated for me). At least there was a view: passing shoppers, although all smart and good looking, strange how unassuming and characterless they all look. Got into another confusion over the bill, but walked away finally, still a bit peckish and having spent too much.

The sky was clouding over and the humidity dropping a little. I hopped on a bus for Kent Ridge, my plan being to walk the Southern Ridges and find the crazy bridge I had seen in Lonely Planet.  The ride was long and it transpired that Kent Ridge is a hill  with a large number of Christian schools and a university campus. The terminus at the top of the hill was hot, and there was no obvious place to start a walk, so I bought some water and got on the next bus into town.

In China town I went to the People’s Park Complex. This is the mall and square and court where the Chinese go to eat and shop. The other side of the road on Smith street and Temple Street is where the tourists go.

It’s cleaner, more expensive and not so buzzing. The food court at the People’s Park sells frog stew, pig’s intestine soup, and many other Chinese delights. I got myself some almond pudding (like a milk jelly in a cup), and watched the faces. There were guys in front of department stores demonstrating a new kind of mop, cobblers sitting under umbrellas (it had started to spit) gluing soles and hammering heels, old men playing majong. Great photo subjects.

My next plan was to get among the skyscrapers of the finance district, and jaw-dropping they were. I crossed over to the reclaimed island of Marine Bay and was underneath the building I had seen on the post cards and only glimpsed from the bus. The Marina Bay Hotel: three non-identical, non-vertical towers of 60 or so floors and plonked on top is what looks like a squashed airport fuselage or barrage balloon, which happens to be a sky garden. The shopping mall in front of it was like an immense railway station with its elegant arched curving glazed roof. The hotel itself was even more immense inside. The whole ground floor space being a massive public space with fancy restaurants, a 50m ceiling from which was suspended an Anthony Gormley wire sculpture called “Drift”. The outer walls were beautiful: kinetic surfaces of little metal plates which respond and move and shimmer in the breeze, or to the dribbling stream of water on the side face.

The $20 for the roof-top view was a bit too much, so instead I caught dusk over the bay looking at the finance towers of Citi and Maybank and many other hi-tech edifices, dwarfing the Victorian customs house and the colonial Fullerton Hotel, probably the only survivors of that time on the harbour front. The light was just right and my camera battery lasted just until then to get the picture i had wanted and to see the Singapore we all imagine. In front of the Marina Bay Shoppes is a floating glass pavilion which seems to be a Louis Vuitton showroom. Behind it, flooded with red light and a Cartier logo is the amazing sight of the Science Museum which looks like some giant concrete opening lotus flower. As I reached it I could see a guard of honour of liveried men in red bell-boy hats and jackets and a procession of black-tie-evening-gown couples striding in as if to some film premiere.

The high-tech illuminations on the water didn’t stop there. Next I crossed over the river on the Helix Bridge, which has to be the coolest bridge I’ve ever seen. A graceful enclosed footway with swirling twisting chrome lit with Christmas lights, on each promintory stood on guard a 2.5m reindeer adorned with purple lights. Sounds tacky? not at all.

On the city side of the bay the full scale of the Marina Bay Hotel came into view and it served as the backdrop and platform for a rather half-hearted son et lumiere: Louis Armstrong having all the time in the world as laser beams shot out from the roof of the hotel, the Shoppes roof flashed and glowed a medley of colours and some water jets went whoosh. Walking along back into town among the joggers and families out for an evening stroll i passed in front of the Youth Olympic Park. This is a floating football pitch, an island on the water, overlooked by a single banked tier of terracing on the dry land side. Bizarre. My long trek took me past the Promenade Theatre complex, looking like 2 huge glass durian fruits, the old and new parliament houses and up North Bridge Street. An Indian thali at Funan Square mall, past the awesome Raffles Arcade: amazing colonial housing, the weird art-deco marbled Park View (a hotel?) which looks like something out of Gotham city with its huge statues carrying football like globes of light around the top edge.

A shower was well-needed. Tomorrow is an early start. Another country. And Cyrus.