Tag Archives: new year

Day 8: 17 January, HK

This is one of the loneliest days. I was hoping that KK might have been able to make some time at the weekend, but there are no messages. I don’t feel like doing much, but can’t sit indoors. I decide to see what’s at the western end of the tram line in Kennedy Town. Victoria Park is empty. It is cordoned off as preparations are being made for an event for the Spring Festival. The Filipino maids who usually gather there on their day off are clustered on the pavement and under the flyover. Admiralty looks busy with shoppers. Kennedy town is definitely an end of the line place. Quiet, seems to be home to quite a lot of Gweilos and full of western restaurants, with western prices. I have a late breakfast of various breads sitting on a bench looking over the harbour. Feeling a bit empty and listless. There is nothing to see here and so I walk East along the great named Belcher’s Street then Queens Rd West. Here I come across a trestle table stall where members of the Democratic Party are writing pithy new year’s wishes on slips of red paper. Passers-by queue up to get their carefully calligraphed slogans to hang on their doors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In getting off the main road I end up under the dramatic sweeping flyover that carves a swathe over Hill Street.

I climb some steps which take me up to Pok Fu Lam Rd. Ahead of me is an impressive collection of towers and sky bridges: this is HKU. Curious I cross a bridge and am among the university buildings under one of the towers. It’s a ghost town, but everywhere seems accessible and no security guards, barriers etc.  A small group of men are practising some form of self defence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I pass them and climb 10 (?) flights of steps on the outside of the Biological Science Building. I’m very high up as the tower is pierced on the flank of a hill. The view looks over the northern towers of Sai Wan and beyond to Kowloon. Beneath me are several smaller, older, colonial-era buildings. One of these is the main building of HKU, which I visit later. It has the feel of a museum with its inner cloistered courtyard. Students have come here to take pictures of each other in graduation robes.

hk-skyline-from-hku

On Bonham street I enter Sai Ying Pun MTR by means of a lift which takes me down through the hill to underground level. I am taking the MTR to Tsim She Tsui and ISQUARE. Here I visit and Indian restaurant and sit on the terrace above Kowloon Park Drive as the sun goes down with a really good thali and lassi.

I’m tired. I can’t remember much more.

Advertisements

Day 6: 13 January, HK

Breakfast is various buns from the bakery. Then I take the bus across the harbour to Kwun Tong and the Public records office. There is an exhibition here based on a 1970s survey of the bus system on HK island, which contains some fascinating B/W photos of areas that I have become familiar with. The speed of change is striking

http://www.grs.gov.hk/ws/online/bus_stops/en/index.html

Afterwards I walk further into Kwun Tong. It’s raining a little. I track down lunch in a weird place: a health vegetarian restaurant attached to a yoga centre in an up-market tower block. A uniformed courteous concierge patiently makes sure I get the right lift. An interesting phenomenon in some of these buildings is that not all lifts go to all floors.

I hang around a mall and walk people posing and taking selfies in front of an elaborate and tacky new year’s centrepiece of cockerel and fake pink blossoms. I watch life here for a while. Outside the mall street life is more down at heel. Around the bus and mini-bus stops are small alleys and lanes with tiny shops: copiers, tailors, pawn shops, stalls on the streets where spivvy jewellers, magnifying lenses jammed into one eye scrutinise watches and rings, looking to make a quick buck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m tired and decide to get the MTR back to Fortress Hill for a rest. This is not a great idea as later on I have to cross the harbour again and get to Junction Rd. By bus this takes an age and the traffic jam in the tunnel is tedious. I’m off to watch the

Raise the Umbrellas at HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity

Raise the Umbrellas explores the origin and impact of Hong Kong’s 2014 ‘Umbrella Movement’ through the inter-generational lenses of three post-Tiananmen democratic activists – Martin Lee, founder of the Hong Kong Democratic party; Benny Tai, ‘Occupy Central’ initiator; and Joshua Wong, the sprightly student leader – alongside voices from unknown ‘umbrella mothers’, student occupiers (Yvonne Leung and Vivian Yip), star politicians (Emily Lau, and ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok Hung, as well as the pro-Beijing heavyweight Jasper Tsang), prominent media professionals (Jimmy Lai, Cheong Ching, Philip Bowring), international scholars (Andrew Nathan, Arif Dirlik and Hung Ho-fung), and activist Canton-pop icons Denise Ho and Anthony Wong. Driven by stirring on-site footage in a major Asian metropolis riven by protest, Raise the Umbrellasreveals the movement’s eco-awareness, gay activism, burgeoning localism and the sheer political risk for post-colonial Hong Kong’s universal-suffragist striving to define its autonomy within China.

Director Biography

Evans Chan

Graduated from Northwestern University for his Doctor degree in Visual Culture. He is born in China, raised in Hong Kong, Chan is a critic, dramatist, and award-winning director of two feature films: To Liv(e) (1991) and Crossings (1994). His films have been exhibited and awarded in various international film festivals, e.g. in Berlin, London, Rotterdam, Moscow, Taiwan Golden Horse Film Festival etc. He is a former advisor to the Hong Kong International Film Festival. He is ‘the most intellectual of the current crop of Hong Kong directors’, wrote Barry Long in Hong Kong Babylon (1997, Faber & Faber).
Apart from his engagement in film industry, Chan also known as a veteran cultural critic. Chan’s publications including Dream Tenants, a collection of essays and stories, and The Last of The Chinese, a collection of critical essays on dance, cinema and literature, are all highly praised and circulated.

http://www.hkindieff.hk/indie_vision03.html

It was worth seeing, but I got there after it had started and was uncomfortably sat in the front row before a massive screen. I felt the film tried to do too much and didn’t have a coherent narrative. What was interesting was the LGBTQ thread: there is a parallel with the story of Pride. In fact this is referenced by Andy Wong, the canto-pop gay singer who becomes one of the figures of the Occupy events, as his inspiration to get involved. Some naive quotes from students: “Before Occupy I didn’t like his kind of people, but this changed…”I didn’t stay for the Q&A (a Skype link with the director): the translation on the wi-fi loop was hard to keep up with and drowned out by the volume of the Skype call.

I have a quiet late evening wander afterwards which takes me back to some places from my time with KK in the summer. It’s interesting re-visiting places under different circumstances and alone. I wander around Kowloon City park, the site of the demolished Walled City. It’s dark, cool, lonely, more or less empty. Adjectives you don’t usually use to describe Kowloon. An eventual walk down to Prince Edward Rd East, where KK and I had looked for the approach to the former Kai Tak airport. Getting to the bus stop “home” is extremely complicated as road bridges and diversions of footpaths send you back and forth over the busy highway in the most convoluted way.

Day 21 – Leaving LP

Still trying to catch up, but I don’t think anyone is reading this, so who cares…it’s just for my memory sake!

Don’t want to get up and don’t want to leave and progress slowly back to faster, more “civilised” ways of living.

The so-called VIP bus is typical of those plying the route from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, and I soon discover why. It has a cracked windscreen and some other windows sealed with tape. !5 minutes before departure a team of ” mechanics” are tightening/adjusting/fixing some part of the engine with a wrench.

To say the ride is slow is a serious understatement. 380km in around 11 hours, sometimes moving at no more than 15km/h. This is a main road, but is without markings or lighting and the edges are broken. In many places, around 405 of the road between LP and Vang Vieng the road is unsurfaced, dusty, pitted. God knows what it is like in the rainy season. Because of this or inevitably there isn’t much traffic: local motorbikes, motorbikes and sidecars, pickups, a few buses, kids on bikes and trucks. One of the reasons for the country’s lack of development is surely the almost complete lack of decent communications. Oddly this is one of the attractions.

The first 6-7 hours are twisty (SHARP CURVE, SLOW DOWN!), bumpy and mountainous rural kms of wondrous sites: beautiful craggy densely forested limestone peaks, like jagged teeth. Houses and Bans hug the edge of the road, as there is no flat land anywhere else: i see men and boys gathered round a cock fight, marquees being set out for a celebratory meal, girls in colourful Hmoung dress, including amazing pom-pom fringed headwear arriving in pick-ups, parents blowing up balloons, girls collecting tall grasses which are dried in the sun by the road before being woven into thatch panels, old women walking up the steep road with baskets of chopped fire wood in baskets strapped to their backs, big round flat basketfuls of red chillis drying on the roofs of shacks. A man pumping water, another scrubbing his jeans with soap.

Everything covered in a grimy layer of red dust from the road: roofs, crates of bottles, drying clothes, motorbikes, kids with no shoes…..

The bus stops intermittently to pick up locals by road and load their baskets of wares into the huge luggage space beneath us which already contains a motorbike. There is a toilet but using it on these roads is a losing battle against gravity. The lilting sound of Laos pop is broadcast on the bus stereo. Strangely calming, and totally apt.

The available farming land is paddy in the valleys,and is being burned to fertilise the soil. Further toward Vientiane, where the villages and roads are evidently more developed, the land is more cultivated and looks like it is commercially exploited for produce rather than the subsistence of the highlands.

Our pit-stop involves a free meal at the canteen. My choice of veg and rice is pretty basic and not very appetizing. So glad I brought my takeaway from the night market in LP.

Over the top of the highest ridge we descend gradually as a big red sun slowly sinks beneath layers upon layers of blue and indigo ridges shrouded with an ethereal mist. New year’s eve is upon us: some men are sitting around fires drinking beer as their women bring out a plucked chicken to boil in the pot. For most people it looks like a regular evening.

Unsurprisingly there are accidents on this road: one involving a couple of motorbikes. A big group gathered around, but you wonder how on earth, if indeed any serious emergency would be dealt with in these difficult places.

!! hours, yes and I’m back n Vientiane, which compared to Lp feels as busy as London (well), but it has traffic and people and noise and is so much faster! SO glad that the Mixay held onto a room for me as I’m able to get out fast and have a nice Indian dinner by the river and then buy some beer and look at the tiny horizontal sliver of a moon lighting a patch of the distant water on the last night of 2011.

I go to the BeerLaos MusicCentre for the countdown: It’s a big stage with yellow tables and chair and mountains of beer can displays all sponsored by BeerLAos, behind the municipal hall. The square is busy, but I wouldn’t say really crowded,. I guess all the young Laos teenagers are there, eating at tables, drinking, laughing. All are in their smartest casual dress. Even some Laos girls are wearing high heels, but not expertly, as I see at least 2 trip and stumble. There is a group of British girls wearing little black dresses, exactly as if they were back home. There are older western guy with Laos girlfriends. The smell of fried fish and boiled chicken’s feet.There are those photographers again, taking posed pics for you: this time by an avenue of white fairy lights.

Some singers/bands are doing what looks like X-factor Karaoke style performances, but the crowd seem to know and love every word.

As midnight approaches, some old guys in suits make a long speech…Don’t know who they are, but probably important officials. Many party poppers firing confetti into the air, a couple of Chinese floating lanterns, accompanied by gasps as they falter then lift off, as if there was a tragedy averted.

After a sing along by a mixture of suits and stars (I guess), a popular band takes the stage. They are a bundle of cliches: guitarist with AC/DC t-shirt with long headbanging hair, kids dance on each others’ shoulders and sing along with a rather chubby sun-glass wearing singer with a blue t-shirt who croons such provocative lyrics (in English, some): “Girl you’re amazing. I wouldn’t change anything about you. You’re perfect the way you are…” They move from soft rock to rap metal (tuneless and stupid!).

A small group of khaki wearing police in too big caps watches from the distance, and I’m poked by one so he can have his chair. They are really pissed, groggy, almost stumbling. Clearly enjoying the sponsorship deal by BeerLaos. They toast me and wish me happy new year (oddly the only people who do), then see a “flashpoint”….. a small group of teenage boys have removed their t-shirts as they dance to some rap act. This requires action and the police rush over to make the boys comply with strict Laos law! They are monitored from then on…….

That’s enough for me…back home to bed…alone 😦