Posts Tagged 'island'

Hong Kong: My City (2013)

My video project I’ve been working on…

Inspired by the photos my Grandad showed me from when he was here, through the James Bonds set here in the 1970s and retro YouTube videos of old Hong Kong.

Let me know what you think!

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Sik Sik Yuen Temple

There’s a saying that “Once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all”.

An obvious generalization and unfair summary, but there is some truth in it. If you’re going to Hong Kong for 2 days or 2 months, the Sik Sik Yuen Temple at Wong Tai Sin is the one to go to. Why? It is everything you would picture a Buddhist temple having, and more!

It is right next to the Wong Tai Sin MTR station and dominates the area. In the same way why palaces like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are the most popular in Europe, Sik Sik Yuen Temple is one of the most popular because it is a living, working temple. Some temples you see here can be old, disused, boring-looking, or not tourist-friendly (i.e., they stare you out of the place). Then there’s a few which are catered to tourists – the Man Mo Temple in the Mid-Levels, or Tin Hau Temple at Causeway Bay/ Yau Ma Tei and Sik Sik Yuen is one of these.

Highly popular with locals, it promises to deliver and surpass your expectations of a working Buddhist Temple in Hong Kong. In a place where space is a commodity and so precious, they even have room for a large inner-city garden which you can visit (for a small donation of $2). The temple has statues galore, good wishes in Chinese writing, hawkers selling incense to burn and fruit to offer and masses of worshippers. It’s difficult to do the ambience of the place much justice, so make sure you check the temple out!

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Chinese New Year Lanterns

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Incense Sticks at the Temple

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The Inner-City Temple

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The Memorial Garden

How to get there:

Wong Tai Sin MTR Station, then it’s right there out of most exits. Would be hard to miss…

The UntouchableLad

The past couple weeks have been pretty eventful. Work’s been slowly getting busier with kids getting back into the swing of things after post-Christmas exams. We had a big English Ambassador Day Camp at Ma On Shan on Saturday 2nd February – bit out in the sticks but since everywhere is so well-connected it was only about half a hour away from our gaff.

These kids are those with high level English, love to get involved and leave with photos, phone numbers and Facebook requests with/for all us gweilo PCs. I led one of the activities with Nicole where they had to work as a team to make shapes and act out scenarios while being creative. They had drama performances, we played footy at lunch, other team-building and English speaking games etc, so was a great day. Here’s a video from Chatteris, and a photo of me, my colleague Holly and 4 of our students from KT who came to the Day Camp.

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On Sunday I spent the day with Nat, at the Museum of Costal Defence. Sounds like the worst possible thing to do at any time, never mind on a Sunday afternoon, but was pretty interesting. The guns and cannons there were mint. Boys and Toys. And it was funny to see the usual Hong Kong thing of having a hundred security guards stationed every couple of yards, in case it all kicks off. You’d think you were at a Millwall home game or at an Athens austerity measures protest with the amount of ‘security’. Having so many people doing the job that 2 or 3 could easily do is weird, but I suppose it gives some people employment and looks impressive on the front (how things look and presentation being another big HK feature).

 

On Tuesday Nat and I went to see Cloud Atlas at the cinema, which was pretty good. And got to check out the Olympic City shopping mall place where it is – reminded me a lot of Trafford Centre but smaller. In fact you could probably believe you were at the Trafford Centre with H&M, Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop all next to each other there. Anyway, the film was decent and cheaper than other cinemas at only $65 a ticket.

 

On Wednesday Adrian and I went to Happy Valley, and met up with a few of the other CNETs there and saw Steph C for her birthday. I bet around $160 in total and got a winner and a 3rd place. My fav, The UntouchableLad didn’t live up to his name though and only came in 4th. Odds were so low on the ones I won on, I got hilariously pathetic $9 profit from one and $4 on the other (we’re talking 80p and 30p). But like my Granddad, I was appreciating the game and fun of it, not there to make millions. Although millions would have been nice….

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One last thing, it’s getting hotter and more humid here already. There’s been a few days the jacket’s come off – the EAT Day Camp particularly. Not the sweltering paradise I arrived to in August but when I see the snow and ice at home, it is one good thing to enjoy here. Gloves and scarf were a bad investment.

The Dragon’s Back

This weekend we went on a hike on the Dragon’s Back trail on the island. It’s a long walk but we started about half way through. We got the MTR to Chai Wan then the Number 9 bus outside the exit. The views there were great, even though the day we went was pretty hazy.

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At the end of the hike we ended up here at the village in the picture. It’s called Shek O Fishing Village on the South East of the island. Holly D told us how the British came in and moved the fishing settlements more south a couple hundred yards to make room for a Golf Course….which is so British Imperialism in the 19th Century.

Anyhow, we ended up at this really famous and delicious Thai restaurant there and checked it out – there was even Crazy Golf…The Beach there was mint too, but like I said, it was a bit of an overcast day, probably on par with a British summer to be fair, I was in shorts.

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After the hike, we headed back and we ended up going out. First round to Jack, Ian and Jordan’s place, before heading to the HK Brewhouse to see Belbin’s gig (which we unfortunately missed). Ran into a lot of the Chatteris gang, so was a decent night out.

Sunday was no decent, limited to lying in bed, Pirates of the Caribbean and loads of food to cure the headache. Hangovers are weird here because of the pace of life being so sped up, and usually means Sunday is a write-off. Did get time to fit a Skype session in with these sophisticated individuals… clearly get my looks from Mum.

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Happy Valley and The Peak

Work’s been similarly not really interesting this week as the kids are still on exam leave. We’ve been spending most of the time preparing for the next few events we have. Outside of work, we’ve been busy as usual though.

On Wednesday night we went to Happy Valley Racecourse for a cheeky flutter or two. Really great atmosphere there, lots of Westerners and a really easy way to bet on the horses. Minimum bet is $20 and I had 3 different bets, no winners. But was a great night anyhow.

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On Saturday, Aids, Tony, Flintoff, Tommy and I got a takeaway Dim Sum from a Michelin Starred place near our house, which cost a whopping $606 in total. It came in a box the size of a hoover, and they gave us 12 sets of chopsticks, thinking it would serve 12 of us, not 5. Was an absolute feast and well worth it. Later on Saturday we had a football match in Kennedy Town so Dim Sum-ed up we headed down there. Chatteris FC played really well and linked up in the best way I’ve seen yet this season, but we still got hammered despite scoring 4 goals ourselves, with 2 assists from yours truly.

On Sunday, Nat and I headed down to check out Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was decent there, a little maze, fountains, plants – the usual. Few old men sat painting the landscape which was good to see, and loads of the Filipino maids who meet up and hang out together on Sundays. We got the Star Ferry over to the island after that, and headed up Victoria Peak, which we hadn’t done for about 4 months. Great views up there again, so much to look at, one of my favourite views in this place. And one that I’ll ever get bored of I reckon…

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Last week before Christmas

On Tuesday, we had the Pantomime in Kwun Tong. Got to say, after 10 practises and hours of graft, it came together perfectly. Was really chuffed with how it went, must have been funny to watch and can’t wait to see the video. Below is a photo of the whole Chatteris gang there. Classic ‘To the Pub!’ pose…

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On Wednesday we had a chilled day at work again, played some piano that had been left in the CILL and watched Emperor’s New Groove. And got paid for this. Life is sweet. Thursday was similar but this time with Indiana Jones. Life is still sweet. Thursday and Friday were again, chilled and pretty similar to the previous days but we went out for a curry on Friday with the staff and left at 15:00 to start the holidays! We went to a bar near our place called ‘Oasis’. They NEED one of these in Manchester, was a great place to have a chill and a drink…
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Then we went round to Molly, Jade, Jayde and Aaron’s flat for drinks with the rest of the CNETs who were still in Hong Kong, then called at Jack and Rich’s place after. Was a great night for seeing people and have some drinks. Saturday was out last day before heading to the Philippines on Sunday, so we spent it buying last minute things ready for our holiday away for Christmas. Merry Christmas to everyone wherever you are!

Christmas in Hong Kong

Feeling slightly gutted I won’t be at home this Christmas. You appreciate the repetition of tradition more when you’re out of the loop, watching it happen without you. Family parties, nights out in Manchester with mates and of course the build up to the big day. I won’t be spending Christmas in Hong Kong this year either: lucky me will be on a beach in the Philippines. But I’ve noticed a lot of things about how they celebrate Christmas here:

The Weather – Because it is much warmer here than the UK/USA (although feels much cooler because of the months of sweltering weather…) I think we miss out on the Christmas feeling when we’re walking around the streets, or in town or at work. I remember shopping in Manchester for Christmas stuff with the house-mates in first year of Uni and (naturally) it started raining so we headed to Starbucks, then Weatherspoons to warm up and get something to drink/eat. As bad as the weather is at home, I guess it really puts you in the mood for Christmas. Especially if it snows. Seeing Heidelberg full on snow a week before Christmas, last year in 2011,  did give you a great Christmas feeling. That’s one thing I’ve noticed is a big gap this year. Not that I’m complaining, I sitting typing here with the door open and just a t-shirt on.

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Weather on December 20th 2012, Kwun Tong, Kowloon.

Decorations – The shopping centres, houses, places of work and streets are all decorated. There’s big lights on some of the skyscrappers on the island and in Tsim Sha Tsui too. If anything, they go overboard with the lights and statues in public places, and they’re really random too – like cartoon characters or carousels or something, rarely Santa or Snowmen or the Nativity. Here are some pictures of the shopping centre near our work, aPM, which had a Carousel, Cello Players and a big throne for kids (and big kids) to have their picture on:

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There is also lots of flowers. Wreaths and mistletoe are popular and surprisingly so are Poinsettias. They’re everywhere! In public, places of work and loads lining walkways. I never knew the name until a few weeks ago. Normally it’s the red plant Mum and Nan always have at Christmas but it’s sprung up everywhere here:

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Some also see it as a way to really demonstrate their artistic skills or how good they are at design, like this Christmas ‘can’ tree I saw:

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The Day – Lots of the students we talk to spend their Christmas like they would a Saturday. They say they will meet up with friends, go shopping or hang out somewhere. Much more about friends than family. The teachers we have asked seem to spend it like a Sunday – Church, family and go out for a walk/hike somewhere. To complaints that there are not too many places around Hong Kong to go hiking, they should think outside the box for a bit because there are loads! Anyway, this really seems like a typical Sunday agenda – especially coming from a town on the edge of the Pennines, where there are so many places to go for a family walk on a Sunday. Maybe it’s just the Chinese culture which is so popular here – they have other festivals for family time, seeing grandparents, eating big meals. Maybe Christmas is just an added day to do these things if they want – not many huge traditions surrounding the actual day. I don’t want to generalise, but this is the vibe I’ve got off people I’ve talked to so far.

Presents – one of the most popular parts of Crimbo at home is the same here but nowhere near the scale we are used to. Maybe one or two gifts is common, while at the staff Christmas Party, everyone got a small gift from the Head of the Language Centre too. I think it really depends on whether people see themselves as more Hong Kong/Christian or more Chinese/Buddhist/don’t care. I’ve come across people at work who won’t speak a word of English to me and get so excited over Mid-Autumn Festival or Chinese New Year who have been acting like Scrooge the past couple of weeks, while some are wearing Christmas ties/earrings and have plans over the holidays. Again, don’t want to generalise, but interesting to see how different kinds of people celebrate (or don’t) the day here. Anyhow, the streets are piled with Christmas gifts in Sham Shui Po near our flat:

IMG_0882At work – Because Christmas was our monthly theme this month, we’ve had lots of fun activities for the students. In workshops, we made paper snowflakes, coloured Christmas cards and made ornaments for the tree (not baubles here, but ‘ornaments’. Cheers, America). We had a huge Christmas party with Christmas songs (had to explain the importance in the UK of a Christmas No 1 Single), Christmas Bingo and Lyric Filling. We also made Marshmellow Snowmen, like Frosty here. Again, it is weird to see 19/20 year olds loving colouring in a card or cutting out paper. Like I’ve said before, you’re best to forget Fifa, beer and pizza for this guys, and instead have a good game of scrabble and do arts and crafts. Cultural exchange at it’s best.

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New Year’s Eve – We’ve seen this on the TV at 4pm on NYE back in Britain, when it is midnight in Hong Kong. They do in style, to say the least. Not as much as Chinese New Year, which I hear is mental! But still a big graft and excellent result. Luckily, cheers to Ian for this, we’ll be on a Junk Boat in the middle of Victoria Harbour to watch the fireworks. This picture was from 2012. Honestly cannot wait.
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Anyway, that’s what I’ve noticed about the Christmas Holidays here. I’ve had a great 4 months here already and wish everyone here are Merry (& Messy) Christmas wherever they are. Also major thanks to people who’ve sent me stuff over – Mum and Dad for the German Stollen, Christmas pudding, advent calendar and presents, Grandma, Nan and Grandad, Auntie Margaret, my bro Tommy, Amy Wareing, Erin too for their cards. Weird how I can send 3 cards to the UK from here for the same price as 1 card can be sent here. Hope everyone at home really enjoys the holidays.

Final shout out to the anonymous students who designed his Christmas Tree Ornament like this. You’ll Never Walk Alone, mate….

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