Tag Archives: music

Day 9: 18 January, HK

Today is the day that KK and I finally get together but it turns out to be a disappointment. His business venture has gone sour and his mind is fully occupied with that. After meeting in Mong Kok, where I have been killing time looking at the Anti-Falun Gong stall  on Argyll Street, he drives me to the east of New Territories to Sai Kung, a very small fishing village. On the way we stop at a derelict ATV TV studio. KK is concerned about leaving the car anywhere and fears vandalism. In Sai Kung we walk for a while looking for somewhere to eat. Many places are closed, and anyway KK isn’t hungry. In the end I chose a Turkish-type place and have a falafel wrap. Not that great, and not really the nicest place to talk. KK has some kind of stomach issue and rather than enjoy being together and looking around, finding toilets becomes the goal of the afternoon. The afternoon is a bit of a disaster, and I feel a bit sad, as I have been here 9 days and I know we won’t have any more opportunities, and worse, I don’t know when we might meet again. HK is rather far from UK. As we both put it in a chat the other day: our time was wasted.

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Back in Mong Kok, I roam around photographing the bustle of groups of people eating snacks on the streets, goldfish street, and a busking old man playing the erhu. I get lost in a mall and find myself at the wrong MTR! Eventually I make it back to Fortress Hill.

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Day 7: 16 January HK

I dither around Oil St for a while and have a wrap for breakfast. Follow the back streets to Tin Hau MTR and sit on the square outside watching an elderly couple at a charcoal fired chestnut and sweet potato stall. Some kids are chasing pigeons. A sad lonely woman sits opposite.

I meet Marco at Prince Edward station. He is bigger and less cynical. I haven’t seen him since the Railway Bell in Brighton 4 years ago where we regularly met to watch football. I missed him when he left. We go to a down at heel Dim Sum place and sit not very comfortably side by side. The tea is nothing special, Marco attempts to order vegetarian dim sum but one of the greasy snacks is topped with bacon. We talk a lot about HK. I’m surprised at his lack of knowledge about the student leaders of the umbrella uprising, even though he graduated in IR.  When we part he says we should meet again. We don’t. Kind of sets the tone for my visit…

After we part I wander past Yao Ma Tei market towards temple street. Back to an area that fascinated me before. Around the temple are little tables with people reading palms and tealeafs, and curious karaoke tents where seemingly limited to the elderly, some with wonderful voices, some atrocious, singing songs from bygone times. In and around are very crusty scabby homeless people. This seems a closed little world and I really don’t know exactly if these people are busking or if I should pay them for sitting and watching.

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I have dinner in a busy place that I went to before. Last time it was starchy and dry and the same again. Looking at what other people have ordered I feel sure I chose badly from the big menu again.

Around temple street I buy a juice and while queuing am accosted politely by a guy who, he informs me, is a taxi driver who has lost his licence for speeding. I give him a few dollars to get rid of him. I take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui and the mtr from admiralty back to my little cell.

Guilin day 12

Well it’s a tourist town with a busy main drag that crosses numerous bridges and a couple of islands. There no acres of tower blocks and life is quite informal. Motorbikes seem to have priority over pedestrians on the pavements, a lot of hoiking and spitting. Motor cycle taxis. Thousands of Chinese tourists, hardly any English signage, abundance of fruit stalls. I can’t deal with the Chinese only train station to book my tickets for next week, and it’s just as well as I change my plans later in the morning when I check whether Kk will be free next week or not. Guilin is quite disorientating, I don’t seem to find anything easily even with a map and gps. I do manage to get to the most glorious nengren temple vege buffet restaurant. It’s quite well appointed and busy with large groups of quite old Chinese sitting around communal round tables. It’s a bargain at 28 rmb, and the food is so amazing that I have to fit my plans around getting there again.  
I’m not sure if this is a river or one of the lakes. Under the shade of trees on the banks elderly play cards, younger men are sleeping by their motorbikes. Now I’ve found the rong lake. This would have been idyllic with villas on the banks and Qing era painters and writers drawing inspiration from the waters and the karst peaks in the near distance. Little bridges and pavilions on the water proliferate. At night these and the trees on the shores are lit red green blue green. It’s actually not too gaudy. At the second lake there are some anglers. Standing proud in the lake are the twin pagoda towers of the moon and the sun. A spectacular tourist sight indeed. I’m accosted by a local guy who offers me a cigarette, then asks me how much my watch cost. He wants to show me his, which has a window on its reverse that shows its mechanism. Our conversation goes nowhere. I would like to speak to people but I want to know their political views and perceptions of society, and not to ask how old are you and where are you from. This will never be possible. Soon I’m joined on a bench by liu tang, who has faltering English but is engaging. He turns out to be master painter who has travelled China painting and teaches at uni. I let him take me to his and his friend, Robert, little gallery stall. His work is exquisite and very atmospheric. He paints in s traditional style, water colour landscapes. Liu has to excuse himself as his wife needs him. I spend a long time with Robert talking about art. He tells me that Liu is quite famous and very respected. He has work in the Sheraton hotel and in the national museum. Robert’s paintings are figurative and not nearly as evocative. He tells me that they sell their work here to raise money for orphaned kids. He shows me some antique calligraphy and illustrative paintings, some textiles from various minority groups, and tells me how he is influenced by wild swans, which is banned in China. He has it there hidden under a pile of stuff. He tells me he is keen for foreigners to appreciate and share his culture. There is no pressure, and we hit it off, and so I have bought one of liu’s works.Walking back a guy chats to me as I’m trying to cross the road. He tells me he has studied tea production..and is very informative about my destination tomorrow, and suggests things I might be interested in. But I don’t want to go on a group trip to the rice terraces, or go to the theatre.
Sunset over the lake is pretty, and the coloured lights somehow enhance it. Over the lake from the pagodas some out of tune singing comes from a little open air performance area. Nearby a woman plays a triangular ceramic pipe. On one of the bridges a threesome of boys of about 20 play very well performed melodic rock. Next door is the pitiful sight of an old man with a grey whispy beard in a wheelchair, crooning over some old Chinese pop playing from a crackly portable speaker. The Chinese listen exclusively to Chinese music. Strolling along the river both young and old play music through the tinny speakers of their phone. This apparent inability to enjoy the pleasures of being outside reminds me of the phenomenon I witnessed each Sunday in Italy of men walking the countryside or standing ion street corners with little transistor radios clammed to an ear, listening to a live soccer match.

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.

Ayutthya day 3

A late start and a trip to a veggie buffet. Cheap, tasty, and slightly mysterious what I was eating! Then I do some exploring of the local market. The usual covered hall with concrete slab counters wher meat is carved up and fish are laid out. Old women sitting next to their vegetables and bags of spices. I have been to a lot of these and I'm always too late to catch the real bustle. It's half closed now and some of the women are uncomfortably sleeping among the produce. Rats scuttle across the floor. The pavements of the streets outside the market hall are lined with stalls. Key cutters, underwear, lots and pans. A thickset bald older man behind a stall that fixes watches catches my eye. Taking his picture results in avert long chat,him doing most of the talking. It's one of those “conversations” where the other party can talk but not comprehend too well. Anyway I find out he's 70, works every day of the week from 7am and learns English from tv and directing tourists. I'm there for over an hour, and see no other white skins, so I find the latter hard to believe. His English isn't too bad, but his absence of most of his lower front teeth makes pronunciation rather difficult. I buy a strawberry shake pandan cakes and rose apples for lunch back at the guesthouse, then take a snooze.

 

 

I'm hoping the afternoon light at the temple ruins will be nice, and it is. The park is actually very busy with the building of stages and markets, and a son et lumiere rehearsal of some reenactment of the ayutthya a fighting the burmese. I chance upon the backstage preparations where 5 massive white elephants are being dressed for the show.

 

On returning to the soi, low and beyond there is Fran..much sooner than expected or hoped for. I meet her for a drink at gubar later but meanwhile I'm accosted by a jolly bunch of assorted drivers who are rapidly getting through a bottle of (fake!) Johnny walker. They ask me to join them and our conversation is an exchange of the names of our favourite football teams,and an exchange of gestures brought on by the disclosure that the balding one has the nickname of zidane, and that another one likes Liverpool and Suarez. Head butts and bites. We play guess each other's age and are all generously underestimating. The mood changes suddenly when a pretty stern thai lady appears (driving a tuk tuk) with 2 small children. She is the ringleader's wife and proceeds to yell at him to come home instead of staying out drinking. He looks bashful like a scalded kid, but stays at the table, whilst she drives off in a storm. Apparently this is the typical thai marriage. Drunken lazy husband, tough, strong wife who does more than her fair share. I get a little drunk, then take my leave.

 

Fran is full of the usual stories of narrow scrapes, spending too much on things she doesn't want and technology problems. I want to watch the band at the bar opposite. The previous night they were surprisingly good. A group of young Thais all in black playing tight energetic hard metal-funk. As I got ther and bought a beer that I didn't really need, the band finished. Tonight we checked that they hadn't played yet, and asked who they were. The board said spring low, the barman who had made fun of me over last nights poor timing tells us they are called “spring roll”. At least that is his pronunciation, and in spite of my coaching he can't get the “r” and can't hear his mistake, so I get some revenge. Perhaps the sucker punch is how dreadful the band are. I predict a Number of songs that I know they will play. All these bands in thai bars play the same mix of reggae standards and rock cliches. So we get no woman no cry, born to be wild, honky took woman, hey joe…..my god it's painful. A Thai guy who puts his own unusual inflexion on the singing, a white guy who thinks his soloing over loose backing musicians will make this all good…..so glad when it's over! Bedtime.