Tag Archives: mall

Hong Kong day 7

After much dithering over breakfast I get an egg tart and sesame bun before heading to Kowloon tong to meet Kk. It’s a busy mrt station and Kk explains time his fascination with the sounds here. On swiping your octopus card to exit through the turnstile different electronic tones are made of different pitches according to whether you have a standard or concession fare. It’s a kind of wallpaper of bleeping but is a strange music. The soundscape is completed by babbling voices, footsteps and tannoy announcements repeated in Cantonese, mandarin and English embedding order and correctness subliminally. I can barely catch all the words. There is no “any abandoned luggage will be destroyed” like you would get on the tube in London, instead messages along the lines of “if you clear your throat use a tissue and dispose of it in the bins”. There is a nanny-ish obsession with hygiene here.
Kk takes me into a swish shiny upmarket mall called festival walk. It is aesthetically styled with multiple escalators, reflective glass walls, shiny floors, sitting areas (a luxury in hk) and a huge picture window framing lion rock and its residential foothills. We check out a fancy food stall called Taste, and it’s rather different from the Wellcome we visited yesterday. Western branded goods and European wines, an extensive cheese counter, waitrose labelled teas, olive oils. I’m interested who is buying these high ticket goods, and notice the shoppers with their minuscule trolleys only seem to be buying a handful of items. A weekly shop here would cost a fortune. Almost all the stores are western franchises and stylish jewellers. There is an ice rink named glacier ringed by eateries. It’s skating class time for kids, anything from 4 to 11 years old by the looks of things. When they fall down they don’t get hurt. Kk and I exchange our own single experiences on ice and are similar in our avoidance of doing anything that we can’t be good at or makes us clumsy. Later we see adults gingerly edging around the edge desperately grasping the rail. That would be us. Kk gets fascinated by the tractor that comes on during a break in sessions that polishes the ice. It looks like a simple but satisfying job being the driver. We have lunch in a western fusion type place by the ice. Kk has some lump of fish in a black bun. I have linguini in mushroom and truffle sauce.

Afterwards we leave the air con coolness to find a green minibus to revisit KK’s old stomping ground. He wants to show me la salle college, where he spent 12 years of his life. I try and imagine him here in his formative years. We can’t go in but survey the white block with its crest, so different from uk school architecture with its 9 floors, the statue of the benevolent founders, and a couple of kids playing football. School is out at the moment. On the wall of the opposite la salle primary school is a plaque which acknowledges a well known alumnus, Bruce lee. The plaque mentions the school’s reputation as “a breeding ground of the elite”. Is my friend a member of the future elite??

Kk shows me Kowloon tong, which is an old residential area full of eateries, and is familiar to me from the incredible photos of planes almost touching the houses as they came into land at the old airport. Kk seems to think the locals didn’t mind the noise so much.. At least not compared to the hike in property prices as the area prospered.

    
I want to visit the walled city park. This is a landscaped garden with water features and pagodas, which are pretty, but I’m interested in what once stood here, which is the famous dense labyrinth of the walled city, pulled down now 20 years ago at the behest of the British. This was the most densely populated land in the world, was home to lowlife, immigrants, triads and opium smokers, as well as containing cheap property for dentists and artisans. It evolved from a fortified settlement and all that remains now is the yamen ancestral home. There are diaramas, an interesting graphical cross section of life in these buildings rising 19 floors with no foundations. There is also the excavated remains of the original 16th century gate and a broken slogan. The garden, though relaxing in layout is plagued with dragon flies and we are jolted and vibrated by the pounding of a jack hammer that shakes the ground a block away. This deafening rhythmic thud bounces from mountain side to blocks and back again creating reverting all around us. It reminds Kk of primary school when they had to tolerate the same din for a few weeks. Apparently this kind of activity is restricted to an hour each rush hour time.
I’m keen to see the old airport but of course it is now being redeveloped and the spit of land that was the runway is now a pier for massive cruise liners. There are remains of access roads which sweep up and over the bypass, suddenly ending on the far side. They are overgrown and blocked off but we climb over a barrier to walk up and look at the view.

I head back to Kowloon with Kk, where he is meeting his parents. I carry on walking south in search of temple street market. Along Shanghai street are sea food restaurants with blue lit tanks of crabs and various fishes lining the Windows. There are neon lit games houses, and, I suspect a cluster of prostitutes on a corner. I come across the Art Deco 1920s cinema now the home of the hk opera and dwarfed by its surroundings. Next to it is a crumbling wholesale market that looks of the same era. At the top end of temple street I eat in ying vegetarian. It has a great menu but I probably order the wrong thing as its a bit dull; mock beef rice pot. Temple street market is cut in half by a busy road and after climbing around the temple garden I’m in a back street under the flyover, where there is a curious mix of fortune tellers and penned off areas which I can’t quite grasp. They could be bars, but there is no bar. In each one there are a few tables and chairs of the garden variety. Some of the ground is covered with carpet. Sitting there are old men in vests, smoking and drinking. At each of these 4 places someone is singing tunelessly into a mic. At one place the singer is accompanied by an old codger playing a keyboard. The singing clashes with one another. When I try to take pics, one guy gets a bit mad with me. Further down the street a guy is swaying to the music on his chair then gets up to slowly dance with his arms in the air with a not particularly willing passerby. Then I’m in temple market. It’s full of tourist tat, paintings, DVDs, tshirts, souvenirs. At an intersection is a stretch of bars mainly catering to gweilos drinking. I’m not interested in this kind of place.

I hit Nathan road which is full of night time promenaders. On the street corner opposite Chungking mansions are dodgy looking non oriental Asians whispering to passers by about their wares. Counterfeit watches was something I was offered. The big green mosque is closing for the night. I intend to take the star ferry from tsim Sha tsui, and take an underpass that is some long gallery depicting the history of the city and detailing the lives of its stars. This is the avenue of stars. It brings me out quite far from the pier so I walk around the back of the space museum, where there are strange little Astro grass islands, each crowned by a tree under which young couples lie looking at the sky or embracing. 

After disembarking at admiralty I undertake the long walk to fortress hill, pausing to watch late night football on the multiple pitches on Victoria park.

A few nights ago I was confused by alighting from the lift of my building and my room not being where it usually is….how can a lift take me to a different place not he same floor? Tiredness obviously was a factor. Today I noticed that the concierge’s desk was slightly different and the layout of the lobby too. But he seemed to know me and let me in. As I was waiting for the lift it struck me I might even be in the wrong building…it would have been too embarrassing to walk out, so I resolved to take the lift, go up and come back down as if I had visited someone briefly. On the 16th floor it all came back to me. This is where I was before. There are two entrances to the block on the same street 2 doors apart. And I hadn’t gone crazy. Anyway the adventure didn’t stop there as my key card wasn’t working so I had to go over the road to reception to sort things out. It was past 11pm… Had to hope someone was there. Yes. To my relief.

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Day 06 – KL

Waking up and keen to go out, but blasting sun at the bus stop at Merdeka Villa and no shade. It takes 40 minutes to arrive. I go to Petaling Jalan and have the veggie buffet meal I’d been longing for since last year, then some soya cincao drink and a pineapple guava juice from the hawkers.
I sit on the steps of a now derelict hotel, which last year had given me a wi-fi signal. I watch the stall holders in action. The guy at the perfume stall trying all his charm in vain to get his products shifted. The teenage boy trying to sell his KL t-shirts to a German family with 4 awkward-looking, too tall teenage girls, who then come and sit on my steps as the rain comes. He bangs his stool with his fist in frustration as they walk away. Business is slow today.
The boy and his stall-holder mate (family? friend?) sense the rain even before it falls and he springs about the stall of t-shirts and minature twin towers to roll down some plastic sheeting. Back under cover he pulls up his t-shirt to pat his fat-less perfect slim stomach, flashes it to the girl who is working with him who pats his ass. She looks too old to be a girlfriend and I ponder their flirtatious relationship. About who they are, their education, their background, but there are no clues.
As the rain persists I seek refuge in the Guandi Temple with its burning incense coils and worshippers buying their offering package of incense sticks and coloured paper to throw in the brick oven in the courtyard. You would think the joss sticks and candles offered at the altars would be left to burn to the end, but there is a cleaner type person systematically stripping the altars and dipping these items in a plastic bucket of water before binning them.
Back at the market I buy reluctantly an umbrella, as there seems no likelihood of an easing up of the rain. later finding out when walking with Cyrus through the park behind the twin towers that it is barely water-tight let alone waterproof.
Cyrus finally meets me inside the mall at 4.30 and we go to the gallery but the exhibition doesn’t grab me: it’s about art and fashion. Cyrus asks me if I understand a painting there and I try to prompt him to ask questions: does it make him feel happy/sad/angry? does it remind him of anything he has seen before? do the colours make him react in any way? does he see shapes or randoms? what are the shapes? would he like it on his wall? does he like it?……
At the mall I think I have found the toilets, and nearly charge in desperate for a relief, ready to open my shorts…but warned at the decisive moment that those are the prayer rooms. The toilets are next door!
We head out to the Thean Hou Temple, which according to Lonely Planet is a monorail ride and brief walk away. The first part is right. The second part is at least 20 minutes along a busy dual carriageway and up a steep hill in extreme humidity. My head is boiling. Smog humidity headache. Getting across town at that time is hell. So many people everyone moving….
The temple is modern and has 5 floors. The ground floor is hosting some kind of contest with teams of young girls wandering around in brightly coloured silk uniforms. Up the steps to the first floor there is some kind of concert. We go up to the temple, which is being renovated and the inner hall is partially hidden by scaffolding. The temple area is empty and we go to the top level of the pagoda, eye-level with the dragons and peacocks on the corners of the roof. We sit shoulder to shoulder and I tell Cyrus about my dream and how scrambled my mind is, and how I don’t know what is out ther or what I may become…maybe a buddhist monk (half in jest). He sits in silence. I know I have affected him and I see a tear drip from his eye. He is scared of losing me, as I am of him. He had told me of his dream of going back to UK to do a masters, but it wouldn’t be in Brighton. This makes me feel lonely too. We walk back to the monorail as dusk settles in furtively hand in hand.
We change the mood and I take him to the Blue Boy Vegetarian Centre, which actually is hidden away under a block of flats, and you would never find unless in the know. We have some vege versions of some typical Malaysian dishes (laksa and fried noodles). Cyrus is impressed that they are so good without the meat. We pick up some fruit which has unnecessarily some spices strewn upon it. Mango, apple, guava. Down comes the rain as we walk through Bukit Bintang, where I’d earlier struggled to find anywhere prepared to sell me Thai Baht, through Pavilion Mall, the poshest one in KL, with an unbelievable display of Christmas decorations, matching the austentatiousness of the shops within. Designer and London prices.
Another long wait in the rain for a very packed bus, which gets stuck in a stream of traffic. When we get back for our last night together for a while I need to pack. Sleep comes quickly but is short……

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.