Monday, 29 April 2013

Thermal Underwear, Smog, a Vivldi Concerto, and Glorious Humming

I am back in Vancouver. I have said enough about Vancouver already, but I have to say this:  It is friggin COLD here!

First thing I notice when checking into my hotel for the night:  I can see a US warship right outside my window.  Enough now! Stop following me!  I don't get off on killing machines! 

This morning, my friend and foremost ferry consultant Alan informed me of an error in this blog:  The fog noticed on my first day in HK (the fog that hid the aircraft carrier ;-) occured on the day with this year's worst air pollution in Hong Kong, so one probably should not consider it to consist of 100% water vapour. I stand corrected: The aircraft carrier was hiding in Smog!    Now can we blame the air pollution on the aircraft carrier? ;-)

To happier news:  I must have been promoted to Fleet Admiral in absentia, because when I wake up the meat grinder that was floating in the harbour in front of my window is cruising its missiles somewhere else!
Here are some pictures WITHOUT war ship (well; actually there is one; but that Canadian Navy vessel doesn't really qualify as a war ship, does it?)

More  happy news: Alan also sent me a link to a video of his son Gabriel and another young man performing the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 violins in A minor at a local Berkeley (San Fran?) library.   Very much worth LISTENing to!  Not being a child of blogging or YouTubeing parents myself (or the non-digital equivalents of last century), I can't even remember what I was doing when I was 12, which is Gabriel's age. One of the reasons I like this performance so much might become apparent in the next paragraph.

Personally I have to confess that classical music for me lost importance, mostly because the coiffed and affected divas of both genders who are performing it. Fortunately I did not have to abandon all classical music, and that probably has to do with the nature of Bach's creations, sometimes referred to as almost mathematical:  Glen Gould I can deal with. While other puffed-up finger magicians like to be seen as Arteeeests, Glen Gould for me is just another humming crazy scientist like yours truly (and be quiet all you strange people who can experience utmost pleasure in eating or where-ever and stay utterly silent and noise-less). Being an odd hummer myself:  this I can relate to; this I can understand.!  And how could anyone's lips not move at 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the Goldberg Variations? Or at 7:20?  Oh come on!  I envy my father (who I really started missing even more during the last year, since I am doing what he never could or knew how to) was a huge Gould&Bach fan even before Gould recorded this.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Rooftop and the Window Sill (or Why not to stay in bed on a Sunday morning)

Since the entire building is smoke-free, I have a good reason to visit the rooftop on the 34th floor, which I might have missed otherwise.
This picture should indicate how overwhelmed I was by the view for quite a while (maybe nicotine withdrawal also had a role in the theatrics;-)

The vertical view down takes some getting used to and reminds me of a Carrera-car-racing-toy track, which I always wanted as a kid, but never was (un)lucky enough to get.

During my first smoke-break after nightfall I am greeted by this view: my hotel of the last 2 weeks just half a block away.

There are a few more great night shots, but I lost a lot of time (see picture below), check-out is in one hour, my plane takes off in 5 hours, and I haven't even started packing yet. So the other pictures will have wait. Time to go back (the word 'home' comes out of my fingertips with only a tad of hesitation). And after 2 weeks Hong Kong it is somehow time for a change ;-)  Otherwise I might get too used to this:

Who would wanna stay in BED on a Sunday morning (even if the bed has ocean view) if there is a WINDOW SILL like this?

OMG, OMG, OMFG! (Moving to CHI 138)

Saturday 10:30 am. I am flying back to Vancouver tomorrow at 5 pm.  I just came back from the Airport Express MTR station

(on Hong Kong Island, far far from the actual airport), where I completed check-in with Cathay Pacific and also left my stuffed new backpack/suitcase hermaphrodite piece of luggage.  I already have my boarding pass and my seat is 59A. Yes, that is the window seat at the emergency exit where nothing but 2 meters of air space will separate me from the steward/ess facing my way on their tiny seats during take-off and landing.  LEGROOM!

On my way back I dropped by my cell phone provider store (Of Philippine origin, of course) in a mall that feels like its halls are populated by 90% Philippinas (more likely 95%) to pick up some more cell top up cards, when I saw this store with T-shirts (Remember, this is HK and 10 HK$s are worth C$ 1.30!). This department-store-shaped mall contains probably 256 different Western Unions and other money-sending institutions and they all have line-ups. In the Philippines, family is the ONLY important thing, and EVERY penny you can save gets sent home.

Then I decided to walk by CHI residences and managed properties, which is managing the harbour-view suite, in which I will be staying tonight, my last Hong Kong night. I found out that getting there won't be a problem, since it is only half a block from my present hotel ;-)  This is the front of the building:

Bridging the 2 hour gap between my 12 noon check-out and their check in time of 2 pm should also not create any hurdles in my day, although I decided that taking the Duk Ling junk cruise again to bridge that gap would be excessive. Speaking of Junk: On my way running a Karma errand to the Watch Aficionado in the postcard shop, I not only see this guy installing new motherboards in his pavement shop,

but I also see the Duk Ling, this time dressed up with flaggies commemorating the birthday of Buddha and Tam Kung (I forget who he was, but I remember that the Duk Ling sails through Victoria Harbour and that the Tam Kung Temple in Victoria is the earliest Chinese temple in Canada; I blame the British for all this confusion!)

After my most likely last but last but one (pen-penultimate?) trip on the Star Ferry,

I arrive at Chi Residences 138 at 2:30 pm. I haven't been able to close my mouth for about one hour now!  And it's not the harbour view from the 28th floor that is the cause, although that is very nice too ;-)

It is the design of the place.  A 1 meter wide window sill with pillows:

 The view from that pillowed window sill:

Now add the bed:

This place is fiendishly complicated to photograph. Too much contrast. But this one does the feeling justice when one stands in it:

Desk, living lounge, and kitchen are right behind the sliding screens behind the headboard.


The view out of the 28th floor bathroom window requires some getting used to (and maybe a major safety harness?)

If you are experiencing a very slight feeling of VERTIGO right now while reading this sentence you might want to skip the post titled "Rooftop Sundeck"

Friday, 26 April 2013

Why I don't want to leave here: I love this city!

Even though I still feel a little weakish, I decide that I should go for an excursion at 8:30 pm, in particular in view of the fact that I slept all day.

First impression while still in the hotel: Middle-aged men like me (Hell NO)  being accompanied into their rooms by young Asian women and quite a number of lost-looking young white and Asian women taking up the elevators to date destinations presumably only known by room numbers.  I refrain from asking any of the business and other travellers whether their wives know.

Things quickly pick up when outside the hotel. It is completely dark outside now. Even though this is a high-density residential area in addition to being the dried-seafood-wholesale centre of the city I am pleased to notice that the grey-blue flicker of emotional death emitted by televisions is utterly absent.

 (Oh, didn't I mention that I'm an opinionated bastard?)
Another reason for the numbers of people on the streets might be the small sizes of their apartments and the balmy 20 degree weather in the streets.  People meander in an out of grocers, bakeries, restaurants and sit on chairs in the streets in front of the tiniest establishments.

My first stop is my local not-quite-super market. Kinder Chocolate,white wine, and some chocolate chip cookies should fix me up!  One reason why I keep coming back here is the woman behind the counter.  She was funny last May and she hasn't lost her good spirit yet. After a probably FUBARed 'Nei Hou' from me, she says " I remember you. You like [insert pointing at my Kinder Chocolate], You no bag [pointing at my backpack], and you like smile a lot."
My heart even more soggy at the thought of having to leave soon, I keep walking around a square of streets in my immediate neighbourhood. Bakeries are open at 8:50 pm. Still not really in shape to walk around more, I make my way back to the hotel and its different reality, armed with "Walnut puff crunchy cookies" and "Banana Cake", which really is nothing different than banana bread. I must point out that I showed amazing self-restraint in my refusal to take the fresh-fruit-overloaded "chocolate cake" home as well!

... and I sincerely hope I was lying when I told my market lady that my next presence in HK would be one year from now!

How I knew that I found China (Musical Memories of Shenzhen or What will make me COME BACK!)

Today is Friday; I am leaving Sunday afternoon. I think the pace of the last 2 weeks finally took its toll today. Or maybe it was the air-conditioning in the taxi back from Stanley yesterday. My nose stuffed up and I stayed in bed almost all day (Hey, maybe this is preparing me for the Honk Kong nightlife?).  In any event, it gave me time to reflect, check through my picture files and wonder whether this amazing trip soon will only be a distant memory like others in the last 18 months, or whether the flood of pictures () and the existence of this blog will keep it in my conscious thinking, and whether that would even be a good thing ;-)

Today I noticed that any movie files added to these posts are processed by to AMAZINGLY efficiently find even the smallest voice or pleasant sound in an ocean of HISSY WHITE WIND NOISE.  When I posted my clips of my Malecon Taxi Ride to Youtube this was not done, so one has to watch those Youtube Posts with the sound turned off.  Reloading them to today, I was AMAZED at what the filtering did (too bad they can't fix the cinematography yet ;-).

 If it worked for those clips, it should also work for these files here:

After listening to these clips again, I AM SOOO TEMPTED to go back to Shenzhen tomorrow!  These people brought their friends, their instruments, their amplifiers to this park just to have fun!  This is not for tourists, not for money, just for pure and simple joi de vivre!  And it is contagious.

This one below is FUBAR (Fooked Up Beyond Any Recognition). It does not work but I don't know how to get rid of it ;-(

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Junk! Again! (And the pictures keep getting better ;-)

They say all good things are 3, so I had thought I might as well get myself another ticket for today's sailing of Duk Ling (Should I go again on Saturday? It will be my last chance for quite a while ;-).  As I said before, I'm falling behind posting and that is why you don't know about the 2nd junk cruise yet.

Here are some pictures from close to Pier 9, where Duk Ling leaves from:
Pier 9
HK Maritime Museum, The evil ICC, and someone fishing on Pier 9
Advertisement for an exhibition at HK Maritime Museum

WTF? This ain't my ride! It is a tourist-shuttle conveying Pepsi-guzzling Cruise-Ship passengers

Fortunately it leaves in time for the 'real' thing to arrive ;-)

Ain't she pretty? (I think I'm getting attached to this Duk ;-)

It is Thursday, so I opted for the 5pm sailing from Central again.  The junk can host something like 36 passengers but when the ropes were tied, I counted 3 passengers departing, compared to about 100 that departed the red/yellow tourist thingy earlier. Maybe they should open registration on the internet; at least they might fill the boat. Not that I am complaining; it feels like a private cruise with the 6 passengers that are on my sailing and I can stretch out on the back deck ;-)

Also on the boat is an American woman from Alaska. Another pleasant surprise; she makes a face when I mention the TOURISTS limping off the gaudy red/yellow tourist shuttle earlier. Anyhoo, point of mentioning her: She is in Hong Kong by accident (like the last American I met on the Duck Ling).  Apparently the most direct/cheap flight from Alaska to South Africa includes the trips Alaska-Seattle, Seattle-Vancouver, Vancouver-Hong Kong, Hong Kong - South Africa. When she finds out that I'm from Vancouver, she just gives me this part-joking-part-hateful look and says: "Vancouver? So you had a direct flight to get here, didn't you?".

Of course, you'll have to look at a few pictures. The image processing glitches actually add something this time (and not just a second face ;-).  All those rope pieces floating in empty space very much remind me of my childhood favourite, Salvador Dali!

No, these are actually all slightly different ;-)

I had to keep the picture with the decapitated head at bottom left (thanks image processing ;-)

I am being pursued by a steam ship!

I am sitting in my hotel writing this at 8pm, 2 hours after the Duk Ling reached Kowloon Side in warm sunny weather. Right now I can barely see the road 23 floors below because of the pouring rain which I can also hear pounding the probably inch-thick glass panes. As if the lightning isn't enough to tell me that it's nasty outside ;-)

A trip to Stanley and back (NO, not Stanley Park, silly!)

I've had in on good authority that Stanley Market in Stanley (imaginative, eh?) was a place to visit.  Naturally I checked it on Wikipedia first.  HUGE tourist destination, which for this traveller is a HUGE warning sign (remember Bruce Lee Alley or more recently SKY100?)
First I wanted to go swimming in Mui Wo again (sooo nice!) but I was just there yesterday and it is still the Year of the Snake, my personal kick-myself-in-the-behind and don't-get-lazy year, so I made preparations to head for Stanley, which is on the south side of Honk Kong Island, where I have never been, enough of a reason in itself.

To get there I am supposed to take the bus #10 to Happy Valley,  where I should switch buses to #40 to get to Stanley. The #10 is easy to find, it almost stops right in front of my hotel. Nice bus!

Along the route, I finally see one of those HK highrise construction bamboo corsets in the making:

Maybe I mentioned this before, maybe not, but the fact is that English is not a forte of Hong Kong bus drivers. But they make up for it in other ways.  When I get the feeling that my stop should come up very soon, I go down to the bus driver and ask him "Which stop for bus number 40 to Stanley?" The smile and the shrugging shoulders tell me it is the language problem and not that he doesn't know where the bus leaves!
So I stretch out 4 fingers of one hand and make a zero with thumb and index finger of the other while repeating "Stanley, Aberdeen ...".  The expression of understanding is followed by him pointing in the direction where the bus just came from. So I point forward and then make the walking sign in the backward direction, meaning I intend to get off at the next stop.  He just shakes his head, stops, and opens the door for me!                     M_Goi Saai, Mr. Bus Captain (as they are called here ;-)

And Mr. Bus Captain was right: After finding a cemetery and a golden dragon, the presence of these horses
suggests I am VERY close to Happy Valley Racecourse, where my 2nd bus of the day is supposed to get me through the tunnel.  Even though the bus stop poles list about different buses leaving from here, #40 is not among them. So I just hop onto a different number, that is going to Aberdeen, also on the south side of the island. Then comes THE TUNNEL (which apparently I am traversing in a submarine converted to a bus ;-)

I think I missed the right area of Aberdeen because this was the nicest view I found:

So I start looking for a bus for Stanley (again). One of those small minibuses finally arrives and it even stops for me because I learn quickly ;-).  Since ~20 different bus lines stop at every bus stop here, there is no room and no point for all of them to pull in, stop, and see if any passengers might get on. They slow down a bit when approaching the stop and when that happens my favourite routine is jumping a meter into the road, pointing with outstretched arm first at the bus captain and then on the ground in front of me.  That works!
But somehow I think that these people will still be telling their great-grandchildren stories about the crazy German of 2013 ;-)

 When I get off the bus in Stanley and look down the hill I almost start running after the bus begging it to let me back on.  This view is what I was afraid of encountering:

And this is why they all come to Stanley: Stanley Market.  After I hear this sentence in German I almost start running for the bus again:  "Oh look: There is something sweet with a Dragon!"  Pulling up my shoulders and
angling my elbows outward I march through the shopping-bag-carrying crowds to find the ocean. From in here the ocean is just a thing to be imagined, but both Goggle Maps and my own eyes from the bus assure me that it exists.

An ode to faulty image processing: Can you spot the two-faced woman? (the T-shirt accented tummy is real though!)

The Ocean was found! And what a surprise:  Not a single shopping-bag-carrying tourist in sight!  What is wrong with these people?  Reminds me of the woman that after I asked her what to see in Shenzhen China shrugged her shoulders and said: "I don't know; I just shop!" Judging by the numbers: There is nothing wrong with them, and there must be something wrong with me. Ah well ...

 There was a stall with pottery things all on its own at the end of the boardwalk and these two blue horses attracted my attention (The come up to about knee height).  First because they are copies of a blue horse I saw only last week in the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Second because my Grandmother raised horses all her life.  More as a joke I asked the vendor for how much they would sell, even though I assumed they would be way out of my range. Turns out the larger one had a price tag of HK$ 350, which comes to C$ 46!  But since the purchase would also require the purchase of a suitcase, I needed some time to think and asked the shop tender whether there would be somewhere to eat without tourists. Under raised eyebrows he asked incredulously "You want local Chinese restaurant?"
  He then gave me directions to a hidden Chinese restaurant very close to the market. More raised eyebrows when I entered there but the search for the ONE English-language food menu that every restaurant seems to have only took them about 5 minutes ;-)  And this was the reward: A seafood hotpot; the comb-like white things are ginger, judging by taste and texture.

 Very yummy!

After the thinking organ was strengthened by food it decided against the whole horse-suitcase adventure. However, I went back to the store and looked for other things and this is what I found:

A horse copied from the ones in the underground clay army  (HK$30 = C$ 3.90)

A small vase that the owner claimed was 400 years old (something something Dynasty.  Given its beauty and the price tag of HK$150 (C$20) I don't care whether it was made only this morning.  It's GORGEOUS!

And while the horse was available in about 20 identical copies, the other pottery/China (;-) was all individual single pieces that were heavily covered in dust and consequently could actually have just arrived from his village, as the owner claimed.

One look back and I try to catch the bus. The mini-buses only seat 16 and there is no standing room available. After the bus captain decides that the person in line ahead of me isthe magical number 16 and he then tries to clip my toenails using his remote-operated bus door, I decide to try a cab instead.  Good thing too. This way I learn that THE TUNNEL is not the only way to the south coast of HK Island but that there are numerous roads over the hills, known by the particular 'gap' through which they pass.  The cabby drops me at the Causeway MTR station, from which I get to my hotel quickly.