Tag Archives: transport

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.

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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.

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Guilin to Hong Kong day 20

A day of travel in various forms. Bus 100 to Guilin north station. 3 hour train journey to Guangzhou south, the city being shrouded by a heavy grey sky and electric storm, making it even more dystopian. A gamble that I can get to Guangzhou east in 2 hours and get on a train even though I haven’t booked in advance pays off, though is slightly stressful with 40 minutes of rammed underground trains, and disorientation at east station. I think my least favourite thing in China is trying to cope with these huge stations. Anyway I’m now on the Hong Kong train. Feels like I’m going home. Certainly I’m back in a “more developed” society. This means everyone is on their phone, looks tired, weary and is indifferent and unfriendly. I’ve come a long way in one day or so.

Here is some fruit from Guilin, forming most of my lunch. 

   3 more metros and after 9 hours of travel I’m back in Hong Kong at fortress hill again. This time I’m in the main hostel block and the room has more character and even a view. Vege buffet just around the corner 😀

Xingping to Guilin day 19

All is not as progressive as the Chinese might have us believe. Close experience with infrastructure development reveals directionless unplanned mess. The road from yangshuo all the way to Guilin (40 miles) is torn up in readiness for a new and wider carriageway. Rather than doing it in sections the idea seems to be to smash up all of the road, leaving bumpy unsurfaced aggregate as the main road. It’s a dust bowl, chaotic, no markings, full of potholes, cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, even a brave cyclist weaving in and out and seizing right of way from sounding their horns. Our bus bumped a truck. This didn’t even wake the guy in the mirrored shades sprawled in the seat behind me. Passengers flag down buses from rudimentary central reservations. The only work I see is manual labouring, cementing kerb stones together, and diggers smashing up Tarmac. There is very very little progress. The guy I met a few days ago on the Dazhai bus told me this is a normal state of affairs in China. We pass through towns which have been bulldozed leaving piles of rubble reassembling a battlefield. The journey takes an age.

Toilets. In my mind the standard of these says a lot about a civilisation. The Guilin bus station ones were horrendous. Squalid squat and shit holes with no privacy. Guys actually using them to do their business whilst playing games on their phones. The toilet at the temple yesterday was even worse. Basically an open gutter in a shed with no flushing facilities. Hold your breath.

Anyway I’m back in Guilin and I time to get to the temple restaurant for another wonderful buffet. I am also able to finally put in some less dirty clothes (having travelled very light to Dazhai and Xingping. At the lake there are various groups of people dancing to recorded music In the glow of the green and red illuminations. One set of folk are female and are practising Chinese classical dance, but not all on time. The others are dressed in black and do some rock and roll jiving then a rhumba. Here and there I catch line older men singing to themselves in the semi darkness by the shore. On the river are small illuminated rafts, each holds the silhouette of a man with a long pole and sitting beside him are 2 or 3 large birds. I summise these are cormorants and these are the fishermen who use them to catch their fish (the birds throats are restricted by a rope so they do not swallow any fish). But they don’t seem to be fishing. A strange thing is that whenever a pleasure boat passes, the guys lift a bird high on their poles. Why is this? To offer a pose for photos? But why do this? What could they gain from this?

To Guilin day 11

The express train
We are now doing 236 kph. In a tunnel so it could be any speed. It doesn’t feel fast. It’s rising to 244

Guangzhou sprawls with a horizon of layer upon layer of the crenellations of groups of towers. A vast scrapyard full of motorbikes. Vast waterways with container ships. The sprawling suburbs give way to the grids of fish farms divided by low green dykes. Elevated roads on stilts that stretch above the city as far as the eye sees. Concrete. Concrete that eventually gives way to the mountains north west, hence the tunnel. It’s become countryside at last. The other side of the mountains is less planned, less urban, picturesque!
Guangzhou south station was like an air terminal. 26 platforms for ultra fast trains with thousands of passengers waiting, some playing chess on the floor. Numerous departure boards, lacking in consistency and clarity. Another screaming 5 year old, wrestling with his mother in the queue at the ticket gate.

  
The train takes us over a fertile plain full of paddies and small low rise towns with people gardening. Kids play on the ruined pillars of a former road bridge on a river. As we approach he zhou the surrounding landscape becomes an awesome dusky series of majestic pointed limestone peaks, like a drawing from a fairy tale book, the pale oranges streaks of sunset fading now. Like halong bay on land.
The following hour is played out by soaring music like “there there” by radiohead and “transeurope express” by kraftwerk in my headphones, as we plunge through dark tunnels emerging onto more water and paddies and now the bright orange disc of the sun cutting shards of gold over the lakes and rivers. What an amazing rail trip.

I think I’m doing well when I get straight on the recommended bus in Guilin but panic a bit and lose my bearings, getting off too soon and have to walk 40 minutes down Zhongshan road, partially accompanied by a local who calls me his teacher. The hostel is, as the name riverside hostel would suggest, right at the rivers edge. There is a peaceful terrace that steps you out into a walkway lot by coloured lights. The city is certainly a tourist Mecca. A street market selling jade, calligraphy, paintings, lucky stones, durian. It’s quite low intensity and very different from Guangzhou. 

Hong Kong day 6

Writing this on the hoof standing on the mrt. On the way to meet Kk at Kowloon tong. I’m a bit late as I dithered over breakfast choices finally settling on egg tart and red bean bun.
Yesterday I did a lot of travelling. I went north to meet Kk in the north territories and experienced some of the complications he has getting about. I took 4 metro lines, a train and a light railway (a reject from the French, which runs like a tram down tong tai road. My instructions are a bit like a secret mission as I don’t really know where I’m going and Kk changes the plan as he has missed a bus. Meanwhile I have had to do some backtracking as I miss a stop, and later get on the light railway in the wrong direction thanks to a well intended station employee who obviously didn’t understand me. It’s about 12.30 when we finally meet on the platform at tai tong road and I discover I’ve been travelling without paying as I didn’t swipe my octopus card when I changed at sheung shui. We are in yuen long. It’s a busy hustling satellite town lined with shops catering for mainland Chinese who come from the nearby border to shop cheaply. Baby milk powder dominates the street displays of so called chemists. There are many gift shops selling beautifully packaged moon cake. Our mission is to mind a cake shop where the pastry is not made from the usual lard. It’s very very hot and not particularly relaxing. We eat our cakes standing up at a market where there are cheap lean-to eateries. Later we explore the market area. A lot of old people collecting flattened cardboard boxes strapping them to trollies to take to sell at recyclers. Some vicious looking butchers, arrays of tropical fruit including durian. Kk wants to shop me a McDonald’s or rather a McCafe. He extols the virtues of these places, where you don’t meet the usual impatient service and which serve as a community space for the elderly. Along the main drag are adverts for night school crammers. One particularly huge poster resembles the electioneering posters we have seen all week. 4 young smiling respectable men who could equally be advertising skin care products or hair styling products. They describe themselves as Dr Koo’s dream team.
We hop on a bus to Ping Shan. On the horizon we can see the dim and sinister sky line of high rise Shenzhen in mainland China. The heavy smog is ominous. We get out at Ping Shan and here we pick up the heritage trail. This is enclosed in the old tang walled village, though there is only a small fragment of wall left. This clan are one of the oldest settlers in hk, coming here in the 12th century. Although he is called tang and I’m willing myself to believe it, unfortunately Kk is not related to this clan. The area is decidly low rise and bucolic. There are car parks among greenery, probably prime future development land and notices warning strangers not to park and that any damage to their vehicles will be their own responsibility. The rural environment means mosquitoes. We both get bitten and are feeling extremely hot. The various historic buildings are partially restored, interesting, but not engrossing. A temple, an an ancestral hall, a well. We don’t complete the trail and yearn for coolness.

So we take a bus to sheung Shui and this really is frontier town. Kk gets irritated by the mainland Chinese shoppers with their unruly crying kids who are given no attention. The mall has electrical cosmetic and clothes shops and a familiar sight is a group of Chinese on their knees outside stores packing and repacking suitcases they have brought for their mass purchases. It’s a comic and desperate sight. Outside the streets are full of similar day trippers sticking up on fake baby powder and other stuff. We see a ramshackle makeshift temple in a square. The air is notably stinky of cigarettes, something that Hong kongers seem to shun. On the foot bridge by the bus stop runs a rare cycle track. Hk cyclists seem unstable dangerous and wobbly. Along the bridge are campaigners for various political candidates, hanging out leaflets and trying to drown each other out via megaphones.

 I wait with Kk for his bus then make my multi vehicle return to fortress hill. I’m delighted to find the Amrita buffet open. The food has almost all gone so the friendly manager offers me a half price feast of tasty vegetable dishes with rice and noodles, dessert and some great teas, including a walnut one.

Hong Kong day 5

Today is an early start. I have ted bean and dried mandarin soup downstairs then get the metro to central and walk to the piers to meet KK. We are going to Lamma island, a quiet island of 2 villages and a coal/ gas power station. It’s quite a choppy ride on the ferry around the west of Hong Kong island through busy the bay busy with freight ships, Macau catermarans and tiny lurching fishing boats. The view of the island and the glass towers glittering in the sun is a wonderful sight. South of Hong Kong island Lamma comes into sight with its incongruous 3 chimneys rising above the hills. Yung shue long is the larger of the 2 villages and is a cluster of narrow streets, I believed to be serene but with frequent urgent traffic of quad bike tractor type machines driven by tanned sweating locals delivering goods. We walk past numerous sea food restaurants and tanks of fish unaware that they will be chosen and plucked out for someone’s lunch. By 10.30 it is very hot and the sun is strong. We have a pit stop at a ramshackle stall with a covered seating area for some sweetened tofu custard. The old man serving is rather confused with his maths. Through KK’s eavesdropping we learn he is 86. He has an audience with some kind of visiting social worker who is rather harsh and cruel in her speech as she talks about his difficulties to the group of teenagers with her. Maybe they are her students. Quite soon an old woman appears. Evidently the wife and 82 years old. She is critical of this woman but also her husband for not clearing the tables. This ancient sprightly woman leaps to work all the time cracking jokes in hokkien with some other customers. Eventually the daughter appears and takes over. We walk a little further to hung shing ye beach. A Christian youth group are sat in a circle reading the bible on their phones. Several people are swimming. A shark net demarks the safety zone. We sit in shade by the barbecue pits. Kk isn’t too keen on sea and sand. We talk about religion. We get hungry and have to retrace our steps ending up in the bookworm cafe. The walls are full of books. Coincidentally we are sitting in front of the philosophy and theology section. We both have something South American. Mine is a plate of tortillas, and a vile green looking shake, which doesn’t taste bad. I spy a learn Cantonese book and cd and challenge KK’s comprehension of my poor pronunciation of stock phrases and numbers. I use this guide to ask for the bill.

Our walk across the island resumes. Back At the beach we stand in sweltering heat and harsh sunlight under an umbrella as KK resumes his filming of a wall of sand next to a small channel slowly collapsing. Like seven sisters or Grand Canyon he says. After 15 minutes his phone is over heating so we stop. The path across the island climbs shrubby hills revealing views of the power station. It feels a little Mediterranean. At a peak we stop at a gazebo and buy a freshly cut slice of pineapple to share and end up getting sticky. We are beginning to get bitten by mosquitoes. I point out banana trees and their phallic flowers to KK. He has not seen this before. There is another orange pod like fruit that I can’t identify. We descend into a hamlet where locals are drying grasses and down to the quiet beach of lo so shing where I have a tranquil float whilst KK paces up and down trying to avoid insects. We time our departure from the beach well as dusk falls quickly. We pass a cave full of water that is supposedly a half finished bay for kamikaze boats of the Japanese. We round a muddy estuary, pass a small temple and find ourselves in a narrow alley in sok Kwu wan lined with seafood restaurants, not so busy as it is a week day. I have a beer, KK a coke, as he likes the bottle, and we wait for the ferry. I’m feeling a bit nauseous and think I have a bit of heat stroke. I have an early night.

Hong Kong day 1

My flight gets in about 30 minutes late as we arrive during a typhoon. Warning level 1, which is quite severe. It seems to have died out by the time I get through immigration and am met by KK. We get the Airbus which takes us on a graceful suspension bridge over the causeway, and a view of tens of thousands of containers appears, like little boxes in the port. Undulating swathes of 20+ floor tower blocks rise behind in layers as far as the eye can see, backdropped by the scrubby vegetated craggy mountains on Kowloon. A tunnel takes us under the harbour to Hong Kong island. We pass through central and admiralty like gorges lined with gleaming finance and bank buildings. Getting out on electric road we pass by an old theatre, an indistinct stone carved sign, and its auditorium open to the sky, concrete arched vaulting betraying the nature of the building. It’s a bit of an adventure finding the accommodation. Into an apartment building up in a lift to the 15th floor where after finding reception and paying, we are given directions to another block on the other side of the road. The girl shows us the route in quick time on a video on her phone. My building is swaddled in billowing sack-like material that envelopes the bamboo scaffolding that surrounds the block. Whilst waiting by the concierge for the lift we see an artists impression of the new to be painted exterior. I am on the 16th floor. The room is small but I’m getting used to it. It’s quiet, basic but I’m comfortable
After changing for the humid sticky and sporadically rainy climate we go for a walk around north point to find one of the restaurants I found on happy cows. KK comments on the staff being quite friendly. He doesn’t seem to expect friendliness. Apparently hk is famous for its impolite and aggressive restaurants. Nobody speaks English, and this is the trend for here. The menu is in Chinese. I let KK order my chow mein with mock beef. I have soya milk and there is a pot of green tea to share. 

We take a walk around the neighbourhood, but have to return to get KK s forgotten umbrella. There is a local vibe with little workshops and stalls, I insist on investigating a little arcade. Almost every shop is closed except for one with glowing neon signage. It’s amazing: it turns out to be a sign making shop. The guy there sees us and beckons us over. He proceeds to show us his work and news cuttings. Apparently he has his own calligraphic style and is well known in the area. He grabs a brush and pot of ink and shows me some characters, painted on the back of an old pink invoice. I ask KK to paint the Chinese name he has given me. The calligrapher then has a go, then decides to try and teach me to write it too. His teaching is actually just showing me and telling me to copy. I make several concerted attempts, get frustrated with the difficulty of it and eventually give up. It’s hard to get away from the guy. We are not sure whether he now is going to expect us to pay him or not. In the end it seems he wasn’t after anything, just enthused by sharing his art. KK forgets his umbrella here too.

The last hour or so that we spend together starts by taking one of the rickety tottering trams along kings road and Hennessy road through wan chai and admiralty to central. We walk beneath fosters hsbc building with its ecto skeleton, dwarfing the colonial ex parliament building, but palming in height next to the bank of China tower. In front of the hsbc are 2 bronze lions called Sid and stinn named after the directors of the bank long ago. The building has gone through 3 incarnations, formerly being a beautiful Art Deco building. The lions are riddled with shrapnel holes. Under the building embedded in the pavement is a large map of the area we are on, illuminated by led strips. It shows the development of the area and you can see how several stages of land reclamation have shifted the shore further away. This all comes to life the following morning as we meet again here and are ambushed by a bearded gweio who demonstrates the app he has writte for hsbc, which is being launched on this day. The app is quite cool as among other things it turns the map into a through the decades 3D experience. For the first time when KK explains who we are he doesn’t mention teacher/student relationship. That’s quite nice. I hate being defined by my job. We cross behind the hsbc and up some steps next to which tumbles a feng shui waterfall. There is a little park, a strange landscape of palms against cutting edge power and status architecture of metal glass and high finance. There is a little Catholic Church in colonial style to one corner. We watch the dusk and the lighting up of the towers from a bridge. This looks over a very swan my looking bar, outside stand the gweilo bankers: Young British men with huge incomes all in white shirts, off duty without ties, standing imposingly in groups talking loudly and drinking beer. They could quite easily be in London.

KK is meeting some old school mates so we split up but I go across the harbour with him to tsim sha tsui. I take wander round the neon lit streets. Money changers, McDonald’s, sex shops, canon cameras. I follow signs to the garden of stars where there is a viewing point over the harbour to Hong Kong island. The constant light pollution makes photography easier at night. I take a walk around the space museum and the Hong Kong cultural centre and find myself under the old Kowloon terminal clock tower, which is all that’s left of the station. It is bathed in coloured lights and slogans, as is the rear of the cultural centre turning it into an amphitheatre of colour. There is a raised gallery opposite which gives another view of Hong Kong. Up here is a stage where at 9.15 a girl in a suit covered in LEDs begins a frenetic techno dance show which rapidly gets baled out as the rain comes down heavily.

We are right by the iconic star ferry terminal, so I get a ride across the harbour with its spectacular views. At admiralty I immerse myself in the lights, reflections and movement of the traffic spending an hour or so taking pictures.

I have beaten the jetlag!