Hong Kong sojourn
I was in Hong Kong for most of last week. I think this must be my 12th visit. I’ve lost count over the years. I’ve always enjoyed its vibrancy and its “Western yet still Eastern” mystique. I found it a bit difficult keeping out of the shopping malls as Hong Kong is one big shopping mecca. Mind you, when I was in Dubai late last year for the first time, I was pretty staggered by the “shop till you drop in the sand” culture they are building over there. I avoided the heat simply by running from one air-conditioned shopping haven to the next! That’s a good strategy if you’re buying up The Brands, not a good one if you’re avoiding them like me.
But I’m pleased to tell you that I discovered a new Hong Kong this visit. Well, more accurately, one that I’d never really bothered looking at before because I was more concerned with snapping up the latest designer handbag. And…to report in…I didn’t buy a single thing. Nada, zilch, zippo.
Instead, I strolled through Kowloon Park with its sculptures and bird aviary (I tried to forget about the bird flu warnings). I wandered into a maze where I found a chap doing elegant Tai Chi movements as his daily ritual. Out in the park, out in the sunshine, surrounded as best you can be in Hong Kong by trees and greenery. I took a photo or two of this chap at eye-level so that only the upper half of his body shows above the greenery of the maze. I spent ages watching him. He was so wrapped up in the moment. He didn’t notice I don’t think the American tourists – four of them shouting and carrying on in the maze whilst everyone else was peaceful and contemplative.
I wandered around Victoria Park. I’d been there before but this time I saw old men wandering off behind the tennis courts and the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Where are they heading I wondered? So I followed. And came across a shady pavilion tucked into some trees. Just outside the pavilion, in the soft streams of sunlight piercing the tree branches, sat a number of high metal racks.
What on earth? Closer inspection revealed glorious songbirds in birdcages hanging on the shadier side of the pavilion. The old men bring their songbirds with them to the park so they too can socialise in the sunshine. Apparently, songbirds are much prized and admired and colourful plumage can command high prices. I discovered a whole market in songbirds: beautifully crafted wooden and bamboo cages, live worms that can be fed to the songbirds in tiny porcelain food bowls. I also found a pebble path to massage the bottom of very tired feet, bliss!
I checked out the Soho area and went up those long escalators to the mid-level area of Lan Kwai Fung and Hollywood Road. A great place to simply watch people. I went to the Graham Street Market and found abundant life under the escalator – bustling shops crammed with Chinese vegetables or ancient Chinese medicines; old Chinese ladies with deep, furrowed lines on their faces but with far more human expression than the botoxed Western woman.
I discovered that there is still some of “old Hong Kong” left. I took plenty of photos and I’ll post some in the next few days. A few people have emailed to ask why on earth I’m on Flickr under a different name – yes, well….you know, it’s my antipathy to revealing all about myself. But maybe….I might provide a link to my Flickr page. Maybe. Meantime, two of my candid people shots accompany this post, along with a photo of an apartment block reflected in an office tower.
I did say earlier this year that I was going to take a slightly different approach to blogging this year. Try to take more of a photo-journalism tack. I’m not sure why I’m suddenly rediscovering photography after so many years. But something is going on.
Oh….and I certainly did notice the CCTV cameras in Hong Kong. Actually, the lack of them or at least they are far less intrusive than those large grey blinking-eye domes I have such an aversion for here in Australia. I spotted them here and there. In shopping malls (before I rushed out to get away from The Brands) but I didn’t note them in the streets and subway areas as much as in Australia. Perhaps I missed them as I was so intent on looking at Hong Kong through the camera lens. But I don’t think so: I think that Hong Kong is less paranoid about security, terrorism and so on. It was a refreshing change for me.
I’ve toyed with the idea of living in Hong Kong for a couple of years and a tempting opportunity has now presented itself. Stay tuned dear reader. You never know, ThinkingShift could be coming to you in Mandarin or Cantonese soon ☺