Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hong Kong - Kowloon Bird Market Hong Kong post.  If you haven't figured it out by now, I am by natural inclination one of those people who will ALWAYS get off the beaten track.   So you won't find generally find in the blog either, those places that everybody has been or will tell you to go.

I learned from a girlfriend who'd been, that there is still a bird market in Kowloon.  It had previously been a little less out of the way, but Hong Kong redevelopment forced the bird vendors to the margins.  This journey took us to the outerreaches of Nathan Road, the giant thoroughfare that bisects Kowloon.  We shortened the trip by hopping the subway half-way and getting off near the end of the line.  Bird lovers in China are very enthusiastic and as devoted to their pets as any owners of pets of the four-legged kind.  Part of this devotion is a very longstanding tradition of taking your bird out for a walk and some fresh air on a daily basis.  I think this is a charming tradition.  Though I did not witness it firsthand, I understand that it is not uncommon all over China.

The market, in the same spirit, is held in the great out of doors.

For such a regimented and regulated society generally, it's very charming to see the compassion exhibited for their caged charges, and tenderness expressed, by Chinese bird lovers.  As if they see something of themselves in these caged warblers and want to do everything they can to ease the tedium and stress of captivity.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE love birds.  I cannot have them, because my cats would surely eat them!

I love cockatiels for their subtle colorations.

I LOVE how ALL the birds' plumage here is complemented by colored cages.

Which also made for some psychedelic snapshots.  And if you know me a little by now,

you know that psychedelic is my middle name.

Bird loving is not reserved for any special age.

Birds have so much personality and dimension it's hard not to get attached however many years you've counted in life.

The only drawback is the cage cleaning and the feeding.

Yes.  That's portable neatly packaged bird-food-to-go.  Grasshoppers!

Corner View - Spring

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hong Kong - Stanley Village

So for a half-Chinese Francophile (me) and a British-bred New York-o-phile (he), Hong Kong is place to find all our passions gratified.  After a day and a half of traipsing up hills and down, Mr. Paradis and I decided, as visitors from Honolulu, that Hong Kong, with its bustling international energy is like:  New York, but with better weather, London but with better food or better hi-rises - can't remember which, and Honolulu - but with pubs!

The weather in late march was gorgeous and balmy.  The legendarily oppressive humidity had not yet arrived.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a day-trip out of Hong Kong proper.  And I had heard of this quaint fishing village........called Stanley.  

There are many ways to get to Stanley.  You could take the bone rattling bus for a 45-minute journey.   (I did that.) Or take the hiking trail all the way to Stanley.  From the reservoir (via bus) above Happy Valley racecourse, it is possible to follow for FOUR HOURS a narrow sometimes paved path through woodland, along ridges, into deep gorges and up epic hills.......(which the Paradises ALSO did).  The dodgiest part is right at the end.  Your descent down the busy roadway along hairpin turns into Stanley Village is longer than you think it should be once you've left the official trail.  But you do get to peek into the back windows of fancy villas and admire someone else's swimming pools.  Which leads me to the third means by which one transports oneself to Stanley.

One could always DRIVE ONESELF,  or BE DRIVEN in one's shiny Porsche, BMW 7-Series, vintage Jaguar or perhaps in the Maybach - that one happened to purchase at one's recent stop into the dealership on the beach at Repulse Bay along the curving opulent road to Stanley Village.  Oh did I mention that riding this road and perhaps snoozing in the sunshine while one's beloved is manning the wheel of the luxury automobille of choice, one could be forgiven, for the impression on sudden awaking into the dazzling sunshine, that one was not indeed in the far EAST, but rather, in the SOUTH of FRANCE negotiating the corniches as in a Fitzgerald novel on the way to the Grand Casino?

If I haven't already said it, I'll just observe that the route is startlingly beautiful and it is lined with beaches and heartstopping views all along the way.  And you cannot stop yourself saying over and over again.  Jeez-oh-Pete -THIS IS THE LIFE!!!!

And then Stanley.  Charming.  Colorful.  Small.

Sweet.  And where you will find a little of everything one needs to make life a tiny bit SWEETer.

I couldn't tell you if it is the Chinese influence or the English influence.  But as anyone who's ever lived in a leafy English suburb at the end of commuter line would know, flower sellers are almost always the first thing you see amongst the "little parade of shops" when you come off of the train platform.  English husbands have somehow never left off the great tradition of having regular reasons for needing to buy spouse-soothing flowers FOR IMMEDIATE PRESENTATION on arrival at home!  So I'm giving the Brits credit for this particular Stanley delight.

Stanley Flower Seller Number 2

The Asian and Western lifestyles seem to be perfectly and harmoniously integrated here.

What would you say about this giant Mickey-D's billboard in lucky Chinese red, right alongside this

possibly ancient rustic shrine?

That matches perfectly the gaily colored construction barriers and hoardings.

But back to the Brits!  See what I mean about pubs?

And more pubs?

And does anyone in the UK recognize this familiar name?  Of COURSE you do!  Pizza Express is like the McDonalds or Starbucks of British fine pizza dining!

And what about this cheery Tuscan colored stopping place? With more cheery colored barriers!

I would have LOVED to stop here for a pot of tea and a big bowl of noodles.  (Yep, we ARE in Hong Kong AFTER ALL.)  But I was in too much of a hurry to get to the shopping!

Stanley Market is actually a fairly diminutive arcade of small shops which have burgeoned out of traditional hutongs in the oldest part of Stanley.  You WILL find a little of everything here.  Lots of gaily colored embroidered things.  Made into almost anything that you would consider wearing or bringing into your home.  And the prices YES!  They are so very RIGHT.

Out the ocean side of the Stanley Market, is a little intimation of how life could have been in this once-quiet backwater.

In the opposite direction along the sea front, the newer developments rise up.

And then, back to the pub for a swift half or two.  And back on the bus.  (Cause one four hour walk a day is quite enough.)

Past the cities of the newly "arrived",

Past the gathered of past - lives.

Into the lights of the will-survive's!  In Hong Kong, even a visit to a sleepy village is an epic adventure. 

In fact, one of the great pleasures of Hong Kong, more commonly known to Hong Kong natives than to tourists is the wide range of hiking options at the near outskirts of the city.

Next and last Hong Kong post, the Kowloon bird market.  See you!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Make It A Good One!

Hello and so nice to have you new followers!  Happy Spring Everybody!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hong Kong - Temples and Treasures

Other people go to Hong Kong to do deals, to go shopping, to eat on a grand scale, to have clothes made,
maybe to visit family.

It turned out, I was there for one reason only.  To WALK.  And to walk and to walk.

It is totally a walking city.  Most of these pictures were taken of temples in the Central District.  They are located in the vicinity of Hollywood Road the second oldest road in Hong Kong and where many antiques shops are also located.  Higher up is even a Mosque.

You pass by it if you take the outdoor escalator that leads you up the steep mountainsides that Hong Kong is set against.  What a brilliant concept that escalator!  That makes all the walking more manageable.

I love the art and decoration of Chinese temples.  Once again, the blends of the reds, greens, yellows and pinks with the reds predominating and pressing out of the dim interiors.  Those yellow coils are incense and you can see how they cloud the air with the smoke they produce.

They are such a fascinating visual.  So ordered, so hive-like.  So bell-like.  But silent.

They may well represent the expanding circles of consciousness and impact/interconnectedness that human (or all) life represents.  But I don't know.  I am no buddhist scholar.  I like to think they could.

The ceramics junkie in me adores the polychrome clay characters.  And their particular individualities.

I love the liveliness, the fondness and enthusiasm with which they are modeled.

The lively tableau of personalities they represent.

This temple was in Kowloon, off of Nathan Road, near the night markets.  Where you will find endless varieties of street food, bars and restaurants for carousing and a paradise of the cheap and cheerful of everything (and we know that it really IS everything) that is produced in China these days.

The Chinese, like many of us believe that a well lived life means having all the right accoutrements.  And this extends to life after death.

Being so much more practical than the Egyptians (with their life-size effigies and once-living mummies accompanying their gentry into eternity), the Chinese produce and provide these accoutrements to their dearly deceased in the form of paper reproductions.

(Replete with dancing maidens.)  Which are burned at the gravesites of their forebears.  In order that they should spend their afterlife in grand style.

It's wonderful, a great honor, and a state of grace to be in the presence of great art and craftsmanship.

It's a terrible tragedy for the Chinese people that so much of their cultural inheritance was destroyed forever in the Cultural Revolution.

Because it was a British colony, Hong Kong was spared the smashing and destruction.  The law of unintended consequences is manifest.  Hope you enjoyed temples and treasures.

p.s. look at the facade of the building on the left, with its bands of color going from green to orange!  AND WHY NOT!  

p.p.s. - thanks again to all who've stopped and left great comments.  sorry i haven't been visiting you all so much in the last week.  in preparation for a big sat. dinner , i'm cleaning, cooking, shopping.  when i'm done i'm going to tuck up on the sofa and come stay by you for awhile!  Cheers!