Showing posts with label Hong Kong. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hong Kong. Show all posts

19 February 2019

Lanterns Day Festival in Hong Kong


Pomeriggio a spasso per Kowloon, ci fumiamo un sigaro con un mio amico in visita dall'Italia. Mentre ce ne stiamo tranquilli su una panchina a fumare e guardare le barche che passano arriva un guardiano, o un giardiniere forse, che ci avverte che è vietato fumare. All'inizio non capiamo poi ci prende quasi per mano e ci accompagna un centinaio di metri più avanti, in una zona riservata ai fumatori. Molto gentile.

Il mio amico poi passa dal sarto che gli è stato consigliato. Ce ne sono tanti qui a Hong Kong, molti sono indiani, e fanno vestiti in 48 ore a prezzi stracciati. Io non ci capisco nulla ma il mio amico sì e dice che la qualità è ottima, i tessuti sono spesso importati dall'Italia e la manifattura è impeccabile. Se lo dice lui deve essere vero.

Carine le lanterne enormi predisposte intorno al museo delle belle arti, in rifacimento da anni.




Ma il punto forte dei festeggiamenti sono gli spettacoli teatrali. cui per fortuna riusciamo ad accedere senza troppi problemi nonostante la grande folla.







16 February 2018

Chinese New Year parade in Hong Kong

Traditional parade organized every year in Hong Kong for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year.








15 February 2018

Alaskan crab in Hong Kong



Easy day of relaxing at the W hotel pool overlooking the city and some walking around.

Dinner at the Star Seafood restaurant on busy Nathan Road, there are only locals, obviously not yet discovered by the big guidebook publishers. I was here a few years ago by myself and tried to order their signature Alaskan crab, but they refused to serve me because it was too big!

We can not choose our own crab from large tanks which are prominently located at the ground level by the sidewalk. Each crab has a price tag attached to one of its claws.

A waiter grabs one for us and takes it to the table where he holds it up high for our final approval before dispatching it to the kitchen.

It comes back a while later on a large serving dish, piping hot and with all the shell and claws cracked open for us to enjoy the delicate meat inside.

It is a noisy restaurant, not really ideal for a romantic dinner with my wife but the crab is amazing and the price does not break the bank.

The head waiter advises us not to order anything else as this large animal (well over 1kg with the shell ) will be more than enough to sate our appetite. he was right.

When we ask for the bill he points out to my wife that it's CNY and so he expects a red packet from us, ie a significant tip!

14 February 2018

Hong Kong New Year preparations and flower market on Valentine's Day


Visit a new year market with lots of flowers, food and a couple of musical shows. Huge crowds! The flow of the masses of people is channeled so that everyone is going in a one-way direction around the portion of Victoria's Garden at Causeway bay which is dedicated to the fair. It would be impossible to have everyone move at random, freely, there are just too many of us. Those in the middle of the human river can't even see stands on either side!

In the middle of it all there was a theatre with a sequence of shows: singers illusionist, some free snack are offered to the crowd.

For street food, Hong Kong is rightly famous and today is no exception. We can stand in a fast-moving line at one of many howker stands and buy some quail eggs on a skewer for me and a pot of beef noodles for my wife. No meat, no meal!

While we are munching away, waiting for a show to start, a charming lady in her seventies comes to talk to us. She speaks good English and says her slight American accent is due to the fact she lived in Massachusetts for a few years. Her brothers went to MIT, my classmates! Then they decided to come back to Hong Kong. She is happy about her choice, this is home, but is worried about the future of the Special Administrative Region. A dilemma many Hongkongers face after the return of the British colony to China in 1997. As usual, the British left their old possession in a mess, just like India.

Filipino helpers are mostly sticking to themselves, there are so many here in Hong Kong, they are let in pretty easily to help out in the homes of the middle class. It is paradoxical but it is easier for a Filipino to come and work here than for a Chinese!

Dinner at one of the thousands of "hole in the wall" eateries of Hong Kong, this we found by chance as it was the only one still open at 11pm, excellent pork noodles. We sat at a cramped table along a narrow corridor and were joined by a talkative local lady. She is an ethnic Chinese but actually comes from Canada and is a regular here, she assures us we ahve been lucky to find this place by chance as it is one of the best "holes in the wall" around. She complained about mainland Chinese who come in droves and empty shelves of whatever it is they can't find in China. Baby formula is a constant. I don't really understand: why is it so difficult to procure more baby formula? If there is demand, local shops should be able to just order more from international suppliers and let the Chinese buy as much as they want.

Christians in Hong Kong.



Very dense crowd!

19 August 2017

Stanley, Aberdeen and Lamma

Oggi decidiamo di andare sul lato sud dell'isola di Hong Kong. Viaggio in taxi di una mezz'oretta, molto economico. Prima tappa Stanley. Lunga passeggiata sulla "boardwalk", un camminamento lungo il litorale che passa davanti a ristoranti e negozi, luogo di incontro di locali soprattutto in una bel sabato soleggiato come oggi. Fa caldo ma non troppo, veramente piacevole con la lieve brezza di mare che muove l'aria.

Un mercatino delle pulci non è di grande interesse, paccottiglia da due soldi e zero qualità. Dopo aver bruciato un quantitativo ragionevole di calorie ci fermiamo per un pranzetto all'aperto da Lucy, un ristorantino microscopico sul boardwalk da cui possiamo vedere il mare quasi a 180 gradi. Una fila infinita di navi portacontainer ci sfilano davanti ininterrottamente, Hong Kong, nonostante la concorrenza di Singapore e quella più recente degli altri grandi porti cinesi, rimare un centro commerciale di prima classe.

Lucy ci propone agnello e pollo arrosto, decidiamo di prendere entrambi e dividerceli. Ottimi, succulenti entrambi ed il pollo in particolare si presenta coperto da una pelle croccante, abbrustolita alla perfezione. Una birra belga, la classica Stella, servita ben ghiacciata completa un perfetto ristoro per 100 dollari HK a testa.

Più del pranzo ci costa, poco dopo, una noce di cocco che aprono davanti a noi, dicono che viene dalla Tailandia. Non è freschissima, forse il trasporto non è stato fatto a regola d'arte. Difficile trasportare cibi freschi a queste temperature immagino.

Un vecchietto con la chitarra canta senza interruzione per ore, sotto un albero. Non ha difficoltà ad intonare qualche canzone che gli chiedono i passangi. Soprattutto canzoni cinesi, ma anche americane, soprattutto Country and Western. Indice di Hong Kong cosmopolita. Gli metto molto volentieri qualche moneta nel cappello, e mi ringrazia con un cenno della testa.

Una signora che sembra una hippy venuta dagli anni sessanta del XX secolo sta sotto un altro albero e fa enormi bolle di sapone, i bambini che passano corrono per acchiapparle divertiti. Ma non vedo nessuno dei loro genitori che le allunga monete!

Verso metà pomeriggio prendiamo un altro taxi per Aberdeen, la principale città sul versante sud di Hong Kong. Il nome viede da George Hamilton-Gordon, 4° Earl di Aberdeen, già primo ministro britannico (1852-1855) ma è rimasto invariato dopo la restituzione di Hong Kong alla Cina, anche se pare molti locali la chiamino "piccola Hong Kong".

Prima della colonizzazione britannica Aberdeen si chiamava Hong Kong, è qui che il nome attuale dell'isola, che vuol dire "porto fragrante" ha origine. Infatti nei secoli arrrivavano qui dalla terraferma i tronchi tagliati di fresco di alberi di incenso (Aquilaria sinensis) destinati all'esportazione, che spandevano il loro proverbiale profumo in tutto il porto. I giapponesi, durante la loro breve occupazione durante la seconda guerra mondiale, si preoccupavano di cancellare i nomi inglesi e la chiamarono Moto Honk Kong, che vuol dire "origini di Hong Kong".

Passeggiata lungo il porto dove sono ormeggiate migliaia di barconi da pesca colorati. Lo chiamano il "villaggio galleggiante", la gente ci vive. Ci sono anche ristoranti.

Mentre scatto qualche foto una vecchietta sui 70 e oltre, forse anche 80, si avvicina a piccoli passi e, senza profferire parola, mi fa vedere un pezzetto di carta. C'è scritto, in inglese, a caratteri colorati, che lei è proprietaria di un "sampan" di legno e che ci potrebbe portare in giro per il porto. Mezz'ora per 60 dollari di HK, 100 per un'ora, a persona. Negoziamo 100 dollari per mezz'ora per tutti e due.

Mi siedo a prua per fotografare. Il paesaggio che ci si presenta è intrigante. Vecchi barconi di legno tradizionali riempiono gli angusti specchi d'acqua tra le banchine, e come sfondo una folta schiera di grattacieli di Aberdeen. Bei colori, saturati dal sole che comincia a tramontare. Incrociamo altre barche che portano in giro i turisti, tutte guidate da donne, ma la nostra vecchietta ci piace di più. Parla pochissimo, ogni tanto sorride, ma guida il suo sampan con sicurezza tra un molo e l'altro, seduta a poppa su una sedia che appartiene più ad un salotto che ad una barca, con la barra del timone in mano.

La nostra marinaia si destreggia abilmente tra le banchine, ci porta in lungo e in largo per il porto. Tante barche da pesca, mediamente alquanto malconce, e neanche troppo pulite, ma a loro modo affascinanti, portano alla memoria tempi andati quando i piccoli pescherecci erano la vita dei porti.

La prospettiva dal mare è ovviamente diversa, siamo più bassi e i grattacieli sembrano più alti. Passiamo davanti all'enorme ristorante galleggiante appropriatamente chiamato "Jumbo", dicono che si mangi bene ma io diffido di cucine che servono parecchie centinaia di persone alla volta.

Finito il giro la signora ci riporta al punti di partenza, si sta facendo tardi ma pensiamo di andare in traghetto a Lamma, un'isola poco lontana, conosciuta per i tanti ristorantini di pesce sul lungomare. Da lì torneremo a Central dopo cena. In teoria.

In pratica, il traghetto ci fa aspettare, e ne approfittiamo per fare due passi nell'adiacente mercato del pesce, che sta per chiudere. Come spesso, anzi quasi sempre in Cina, il pesce è tutto vivo, tenuto in bella vista in acquari di vetro pieni di acqua di mare e ossigenati da mille pompette che emettono un delicato fruscio di bollicine. Il cliente sceglie il pesce, che viene venduto vivo in una busta, oppure tramortito con un bastone di legno dal pescivendolo prima di essere pesato. Non mancano i crostacei, immagino di importazione, e i molluschi in conchiglie di ogni foggia a colore.

Il ferry per Lamma prende una mezz'oretta. Al timone un marinaio di larga stazza, con la barba incolta e la canottiera sdrucita. Fuma una sigaretta decisamente ripugnante. Anche piuttosto burbero quando mi avvicino e chiedo di fotografarlo. In realtà, infatti, lo trovo pittoresco, intonato al contesto di questo porto.

Arriviamo al molo di Mo Tat, nord di Lamma, e ci avviamo a piedi al ristorantino The Bay, con una gradevole terrazza sul mare. Il profumo di pesce fritto che si spande dal tavolo di una coppia inglese ci convince a cenare qui. Infatti la meta che ci eravamo prefissati, Yung Shue Wan Pier, dove mangiare per tornare a Central si trova ad oltre un'ora di cammino e rischieremmo di trovare tutti chiuso. E poi non è divertente passeggiare al buio sui sentieri bui che attraversano l'isola. Non ci sono auto in tutta Lamma, neanche taxi.

Non tutti i mali... la cena è ottima, pesce fresco e birra ghiacciata. Terrazza romantica, luna in cielo, onde che risciacquano la battigia, candela sul tavolo. Perfetto! 

Decidiamo di prendercela comoda e aspettare l'ultimo traghetto, alle 22.30, prima di tornare ad Aberdeen, da dove riprenderemo un taxi per Central. Sul molo, mentre avvistiamo lo stesso traghettino con il burbero capitano che ci aveva portati qui qualche ora fa, chiacchieriamo con due ragazzi locali. Sono molto presi dalla loro canna da pesca, vengono a tentare la fortuna qui perché le luci del molo attirano i pesci. Dicono che in genere ci scappa una cenetta di frittura. Mentre saliamo sul traghetto gli auguro buona fortuna, ne avranno bisogno perché finora non hanno preso neanche un pescetto!

16 February 2017

Leave Hong Kong to Bohol, Philippines

Sorry to leave our nice hotel. It's early in the morning we got to catch a 07:50 flight and the fabulous Airport Express is not running early enough. So we need a taxi and get a brand new electric Tesla. Beautiful, quiet and of course not polluting the Hong Kong air, which is often on the brink of health limits. In part this is because of factories on the Chinese side, but traffic, air-conditioning and so much more energy consumption in Hong Kong itself play a part.

As we drive past the Kowloon station I notice a lot of roadwork, and I ask our driver. He says they are building a new high speed train station that will connect with the Shenzhen station just on the other side of the border and offer seamless superfast connection with Beijing. One more way that Hong Kong is becoming more and more integrated with the mainland.

To fly to the Philippines you need to check-in at terminal 2, but there are no gates there. After check-in, you can walk to terminal 1, about ten minutes, or take a shuttle which takes virtually no time.

The Hong Kong airport is my favorite in the world. Bright, spacious, beautiful, full of great shopping and food, efficient. Of course, free and fast wifi everywhere.

After an uneventful flight to Manila we have to wait a few hours for our connection to Bohol. Manila airport is a bit chaotic but we find a nice bench outside, it's a sunny day and wifi is free. Time goes by relatively fast before we are called in to board a Philippines Air flight. It's OK, nothing to write home about.

When we arrive in Bohol it's raining, not a good start. But it's warm and our driver has a comfy car with cool water and A/C, so the two-hour ride to our resort is bearable. Before setting off we stop at a large shopping mall near the airport to get some cash from an ATM, it would be our last chance here.

Seafood soup
By about 7:00pm we reach our resort, Amun Ini, in Anda, on the eastern side of Bohol. We are tired and hungry. After leaving our stuff in the room we head to the restaurant, a beautiful terrace overlooking the resort's garden and pool. Food is plentiful land varied, and
it will be for the rest of our stay.

04 February 2017

Arrival in Hong Kong

Every time I arrive at the Hong Kong international airport I am amazed. By the beauty the spacious check-in area wrapped the high concave ceiling, by the brightness of it all by the free superfast internet connection that does not require complicated login procedures.

And by the MTR train. The Mass Transit Rail that takes you to Hong Kong in a little over 20 minutes. At each station, luggage carts are ready for travelers, perfectly lined up in sets of three in front of each door of the train: solid, clean, smart-looking and free. I think back to Rome Fiumicino, where it costs 2 Euro to rent one and they are usually rickety and dirty. Never mind...

Meet and greet from our hotel. A very thin man, in his early sixties, come to help with our carts full of cases and diving equipment. he said he has been working for our hotel for 24 years. He leps us buy a ticket for the Airport Express, takes our trolleys to the platform, puts them in the luggage racks of the train car for us, tells us on which side of the train the door will open at our stop, and leaves after refusing a tip which I was handing him in gratitude.

07 October 2016

Trekking in the New Territories of Hong Kong

Meeting Stanley at my hotel in Mong Kok. He is a late-twenty-someting Hongkonger who freelances as a tourist guide.

We hop on the ever trustworthy MTR and are whisked to a station in the New Territories called Tai Po Market. From there it's a short taxi ride to the start of the trek. We walk through thick forests, and come within sight of the mainland: Shenzhen in just across the narrow bay.

At our destination we meet with David, a local local Hakka guide. He speaks German as he lived and worked in Germany for 20 years came back to revive village. With not a little pride he shows us around the Hakka village. Simple dwellings, a school, a temple. Hi brother cooks a delicious lunch for us: duck, pork and tuna. I am not sure which I liked the most, I ate too much of all of three. Yet I don' feel guilty, we are going to walk a lot today, some 20km all in all perhaps, so I need the calories.

The village is "protected" by a Feng Shui wall, which serves the dual purpose of keeping the evil spirits out and good fortune in (good fortune gets into the village through the gate, which somehow the evil spirits can't muster). The gate is impressive, very pretty and solid. Next to the door, on two golden panels, one can read the names of the people who live in the village, a kind of census. Next to each name a number: the amount of money each donated toward the restoration of the village.

It is called the Lai Chiwo (lychee) Village because in the early days people found the fruits in the surrounding area.

On the main square I am impressed by an austere building, the old school, now shut.

The temple is, as always, a deep experience. David insists, and I oblige, that I don't take pictures directly to the face of the deities who are watching us from the top of the altars.

Villagers mostly live off sustainable agriculture. They grow many different vegetables, notably rice and sunflower.

Toward the end of the tour we meet two ladies working in the fields, they speak good English, too good to be farmers of an isolated village. After talking to them I discover they are actually academics, have MAs and PhDs but do this farm work for free when they have time to keep their old village alive.

It's almost sunset, we are going back. Stanley takes me to another route, so I have a chance to see a different area. Lush valleys and rolling hills, I would never have expected Hong Kong to have this hidden face to show a curious traveler who digs deeper than shopping and dim sum. At one point Stanely tells me we are almost home, ie to the bus terminus: then I see a sign that says we have 5km to go! Distances are relative. It's a bit exhausting for me but I enjoy it. Stan walks ahead of me but never forgets to look back and check on me. there are no other trekkers around. I enjoy the solitude of the moment though I can also anticipate with enthsiasm the moment I will lower myself into a hot bath back at the hotel.

03 December 2014

Book review: River Town (2001), by Peter Hessler, *****

Synopsis

When Peter Hessler went to China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the late 1990s, he expected to spend a couple of peaceful years teaching English in the town of Fuling on the Yangtze River. But what he experienced -- the natural beauty, cultural tension, and complex process of understanding that takes place when one is thrust into a radically different society -- surpassed anything he could have imagined. Hessler observes firsthand how major events such as the death of Deng Xiaoping, the return of Hong Kong to the mainland, and the controversial construction of the Three Gorges Dam have affected even the people of a remote town like Fuling.

Review

This is a superbly written account by one acute observer of one part of China while the country was undergoing tremendous change in the mid-1990s. One view by one person in one small part of this immense country does not allow a reader to draw more general conclusions. However, the many microstories we read here help a lot in understanding the new (then) China rising from the ashes of maoism. Hessler is curious, even a bit nosy, but always respectful. He learns Chinese and always tries to understand. He questions himself but does not fall into the trap of many travelers who always marvel at what they see and whom they meet, no matter what. He does criticize, with strong arguments, people and practices he meets along the way.

The Yangtse near the Three Gorges
Hessler walks on thinner ice when he addresses more academically charged historical, economic or political issues, but this is not meant to be an academic book. His perceptions of the reality around him, and of how he changes over the years while in China, is what makes this an invaluable read for anyone interested in how China changed during the post-Mao "Reform and Opening" period.


Read my other reviews of books on China here in this blog.



18 February 2010

A few days eating around in Hong Kong



I have spent a few days in Hong Kong, and I am so impressed. This is a fantastic city, so full of life, energy, fun and culture. And amazing food, cheap and tasty! I have eaten all kinds of stuff, some that not even J. could quite explain what it was... I tried hard but could not find anything, I mean ANYTHING, I did not like. The one plate that stuck most in my memory was pig's lungs in almonds' soup. OK a bit unusual, not even J. ate the lungs, she was happy with just the soup, but I found it all quite well matched. Which was followed by pork liver. WOW!

Often J. and I would eat at street stalls, delicious and cheap food served in paper bags, so cheap and so tasty I had to really make an effort to stop.

For food shopping, there are countless markets of all kinds. I found the "wet markets" especially interesting. They are called so because fish is so fresh... it is fact sold alive! Instead of dead fish on ice or shrinkwraps you buy fish here that is still swimming in styrofoam boxes. One day J. bought an octopus, which was still alive when we took it home for cooking. I was slightly shocked to see her cutting it up as it was moving around the kitchen table, but it was definitely fresh!

We even found a specialty shop with Italian produce, you can get real mozzarella di bufala flown in from Italy daily. I could buy some pancetta and Roman pecorino cheese, and was proud to make some authentic amatriciana at J.'s home for all the family! OK OK for purists: I did not find the mandatory guanciale, but maybe I did not look well enough!

Touring Hong Kong is fun in the traditional two-storied trams, that apparently were now bought by Veolia, a French company which however has pledged to keep the traditional trams running. However, for longer distances, and to cross over to Kowloon, the metro system is fast and superefficient. Taxis are convenient and cheap too.

15 February 2010

Arrival in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year's celebrations

It's my first time back in Hong Kong after 14 years. Last time I landed in the old airport, an experience I will never forget! This time I am welcomed by the new airport, an architectural and logistical masterpiece that is voted best airport in the world over and over again... This, also, is a great experience!

22 October 1997

Stopover in Hong Kong on the way to Australia


Cathay pacific offers me a day room at the hotel by the airport. Landing at this airport is an experience in itself. As we approach in the early morning hours it is still pitch dark. I can see the bright lights of the bustling city, which has just reverted to China a few weeks ago, in stark contrast with the black background of the mainland. During the final approach the  pilot comes on the intercom and advises that he is going to switch off the main cabin lights so we can see better outside. A few minutes later I understand why. The plane comes in low literally between rows of high rise buildings! You can almost see inside the bedrooms of the apartments as he makes a precise landing in the narrow strip of reclaimed land in Kowloon bay!