Shopping in Shau Kei Wan, Riding the Bus to Shek-O Beach, and No Body Surfing

Starting from Central, Shau Kei Wan is the 10th stop on the Island Line of Hong Kong’s MTR. The trip takes about 18 minutes in the non-rush time frames.

Shau Kei Wan Station

Shau Kei Wan Station

Located in the Northeast corner of Hong Kong Island, it is a rather densely populated town with lots of high-rise apartment towers. I was there to pick up the number 9 bus to Shek-O.

When you head upstairs at the Shau Kei Wan MTR station – look for the A2 exit. This exit is virtually across the street from the bus terminus.

The man with his arms behind his back in the lower left, is looking right at the bus depot. It's that close to the MTR

The man with his arms behind his back in the lower left, is looking right at the bus depot. It’s that close to the MTR

The 9 Bus which goes to Shek-O also stops at the Dragon Back Trail Head.

The # 9 bus arrives

The # 9 bus arrives

As you leave the MTR station – the 9 bus is about the next to last one down the line. There are signs showing the bus numbers, and the waiting area is at least covered overhead, so you won’t have to stand in the rain. A particular Bus Route always arrives and leaves from the same aisle. Unlike the MTR which is based on distance, the buses are flat-rate. So bring your Octopus card.

The ubiquitous light bus is very popular in HK. Light Bus to Dragon Back Trail Head $7 HK, Big #9 Bus to Dragon's back Trail Head $10 HK

The ubiquitous light bus is very popular in HK. Light Bus to Dragon’s Back Trail Head from Shau Kei Wan is $7 HK, while the fare on the big #9 Bus to Dragon’s back Trail Head $is 10 HK

Even in Shau Kei Wan, the traffic cops bust drivers and ask them to pull over

Even in Shau Kei Wan, the traffic cops bust drivers and ask them to pull over

There are touts present who will ask you to take the light bus – rather than the big double-deck buses. They are in fact a few HK dollars cheaper. The main difference is the amount of leg room. If you are more than 6’1″ then I suggest the bigger buses. As I approached, the tout pointed and said mini-bus. I pointed at my chest, then separated my hands vertically in front of me and said ‘dai‘ or big. Then I pointed at the mini-bus, and brought my hand close together horizontally for small. I think he got it, because he didn’t ask a second time.

Up on the second deck of the bus, I ran into a New Yorker, a Gerry Mullany. Gerry is the Asia Editor for the New York Times. That’s him on the left.

He’s on assignment in Asia for a year and his duties are to run the coverage for the NYTimes – assigning reporters, editing stories, and working out the space and size of the website Asian news coverage. Gerry had just done a piece on the typhoon in the Philippines. On this day, he was heading for the Dragon Back Trail.

Mullany got off the bus at the trail head, and I continued on to Shek-O.

The Road to Shek-O Beach

The Road to or is it from Shek-O Beach?

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Soho, The Connoisseur Art Gallery, and the Works of Zhang Da Zhong

Monday the 11th of November. This means that I have just two days left in Hong Kong. I had a plan for this day.

Looking up from Staunton Street

Looking up from Staunton Street

I’d spend the morning checking out the Soho neighborhood of a section of Hong Kong called Central.

Looking Down the Hill

Looking Down the Hill

I’d visit a specific art gallery on Hollywood Road – The Connoisseur Art Gallery.

Then I would head out to Shau Kei Wan via the MTR to catch the bus to Shek-O. Finally, a solo dinner in the Soho neighborhood.

I started about 10:30 AM. That way I would be sure that the Central Mid-Level Escalator was running up hill. These are serious and steep hills to negotiate. so I wanted any advantage I could get.

I was staying on Staunton Street which was the second escalator stop after Hollywood Road. Two levels up from Staunton, or maybe it was three, is Elgin Street. It is one of the0 oldest street in Hong Kong and is named after some British earl of long ago named Elgin. It is quite narrow – wide enough for parking on side of the street, and a drive through. The place is filled with exotic bars and restaurants. Since it was just about 10:35 in the morning – I was there to take a few pictures and look around. The picture above is from Wikipedia, and the one below, that follows, I took my self.

Elgin Street

Elgin Street

As you can see, the hill is imposing. Even standing on the escalator required you to pay attention. When I got back to Hollywood Road, I headed east toward the Connoisseur Art Gallery at G3, Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road. I had been there before and had inquired about the paintings you see below:

Nostalgia,

Sense of Peach Blossom,

and Lotus Screen. I guess I was attracted to the beauty of the model, as well as the period dress from the Shanghai Era.

Women wearing the qipao in the Shanghai era

Women wearing the qipao in the Shanghai era

My inquiry brought forth a response, that these paintings were all in the 5 digit neighborhood, which was too rich and costly for me.

Some how I came away thinking that these works were done by Liu Yuanshou. But today, years later, I’m not so sure about that. No search of Liu Yuanshou gave me any indication that he was the painter. And I found no other information or images of these paintings.

Obviously I saw them online which is how I got to the Gallery in the first place. And just as obvious, is the fact that I made an inquiry because the paintings were on a gallery wall in front of me. But now, it was a no go. The gallery had neither an old catalog, nor any paintings on hand that were like these. So the mystery continues.

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A Day of Sailing Around Hong Kong Island & Dinner at The Nepal Restaurant

The sailing event was called the Tommy Bahama Around the Island Race. It took place on Sunday, the 10th of November, and has been held for more than 100 years. It is a 26 nautical mile race around Hong Kong Island. Beginning at Causeway Bay – more than 200 boats, of various sizes and classes competed.

Held under the auspices of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), the race has two start lines and the competitors will range from one person dinghies to 50 foot ocean cruising yachts. Given the disparities of sizes – the over all winner will be the boat with the fastest time around – once the ATI Handicaps have been applied.

Said handicaps are a way of making the ‘playing field’ even considering the size of the boats, sails, and shape of the boats – be they multi-hulls like catamarans and trimarans as well as monohulls.

I did not attend or sail, but one of our dinner companions that night did take part. Jeannette claimed that this was the first time they had even completed the race.

Any way back to the dinner. The three of us, the non-sailing contingent, met at The Nepal Restaurant, located at 14 Staunton Street just a few steps off the Central Mid Level Escalator in Hong Kong’s Soho area.

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Life is a Dance – The Hong Kong Cultural Center – The Grand Theater

On Saturday Night, November 9th, I headed over to The Hong Kong Cultural Center. Friday night’s performance of Majestic Drums with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra was held in the HKCC Concert Hall. Tonight’s performance, a Modern Dance called Oculus was held in a bigger venue, the HKCC Grand Theater.

In one sense, you could say that this was a night at the ballet. But that might imply something traditional and classical like The Nutcracker Suite, or Black Swan. So more accurately, I’d call this Modern Dance, or Interpretive Dancing.

Now I’ve very little knowledge or history with modern dance. I did see a performance of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in New York, in the 70’s. And I saw a film called The Company which starred Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, and members of The Joffrey Ballet. I did a write-up of that movie, ballet, dance music, and art work by Guan Zeju of ballet dancers back in 2009. The post was called Do You Wanna Dance. And my last venture into the world of dance was the brilliant Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan of a couple of years back. Natalie Portman won the Oscar for her role.

So now, here I am in Hong Kong, half way a round the world from Sarasota, Fl, it is a Saturday night, and I am going to see a Dance Performance called Oculus. It is not like I see a ballet very often,

Oculus in Latin means ‘eye’. This dance is described as a look into the inner workings and everyday lives of people in general. Each day, we experience a succession of desires. The may be as simple as wishing for a cold drink, staying dry and out of the rain, or as deep, powerful, and meaningfully complex as a sexual desire, or maybe someplace in between – when you wish for either quiet and solitude, or companionship, or simply a break from your labors.

Oculus is performed by Cloud Gate 2, a dance company from Taiwan. The performance is at once brilliant, innovative. creative, and astounding. It is also dark, and difficult, as each of the dancers/performers takes us through a day of desires and disappointments. Of hoped for gratification, of isolation, and ends with the thought that tomorrow might be better.

The stage is stark – just a barren leafless tree. The backdrop is a cloud filled sky which is either static, or filled with the motion of passing clouds. Rain/Snow/Sleet is brought to the stage in the form of a huge amounts of large unit confetti – maybe they are post-it sheets, that are shot from a wind machine over a lengthy amount of time. This ‘confetti’ remains on the stage, and later the dancers are seen slogging through it – as if it were an impediment (like mounds of snow) to the simple act of walking.

The confetti/rain also serves as a metaphor for the series of endless obstacles that each of us has to deal with daily.

The desires are represented by endless scratching or thrashing about which is often alarmingly violent yet clearly represents something of unfulfilled desires that eat away at all of us on a daily basis.

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Walking Above Shek-O then on Shek-O’s Beach – Hong Kong Day 10

To kick things off on Day 10 – check out the above photo. That’s no post card readers – I not only got there, but I also took that picture myself, Details follow forthwith.

Last night was exercise for the mind – a little light music at the Hong Kong Cultural Center. Today, was the 10th day of my Travels to Hong Kong. Today was exercise for the body. I rode the MTR from Sheung Wan to Shau Kei Wan. There I was going to get a form of local transportation most accurately described as a mini-bus. My destination – a hiking trail called Dragon’s Back.

The minibus drops you and others at the trail head which is already decently up in the hills. We are north-east of Stanley – which is one of Hong Kong’s most southerly points. The trail is mostly up hill and has many steps, and some places where you will use rocks as stepping-stones.

It doesn’t requite any kind of mountaineering equipment. Axes, pitons, and ropes are not necessary. It isn’t seriously steep, and yet, for folks who have long since passed their twenties and thirties – it is not quite a breeze. And yes it is literally a walk in the park – but that is speaking in factual terms rather than as a figure of speech.

Steve

Steve

You do need some good shoes, and you should be carrying some water. Back in 2011, I did a similar hike up Moon Hill in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China. This was quite similar only not as far but a tad more difficult. I wish I had a set of Trekking Poles, or as they are commonly called a Hiking Staffs.

Still going....up with a small break for a photo op

Still going….up with a small break for a photo op

Though not a ‘must have’ for this trail, a Trekking Pole can:

Provide better balance and footing
On the uphill routes, they transfer some of the weight from your legs to your shoulders, arms, and back which can reduce leg fatigue, as well as adding some thrust to your ascent.
On downhill hikes, especially, they decrease the amounts of stress on your legs and joints.

Here’s a place were we not only stopped for the view,but also a place to take a few minutes rest. There’s no sense to rush on up. Taking my time seems to work best for me.

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A Night of Music at The Hong Kong Cultural Center

Day 9 in Hong Kong drifted by. I’ve already written a post on Java Java, and the Shun Tak Center otherwise known as where to get a ferry to Macau. As I said, I’ve seen airports with smaller terminals..

Dinner was at iSquare, once the site of the Hyatt Hotel on Nathan Road, now a shopping mecca. In fact there is an escalator that you can grab right in the MTR Station below. Takes you right up to the third floor of the shopping center. So it makes it easy to shop = even when it rains – and no worries about parking.

Dinner was set for 6:30 at Shanghai Po Po 336. I had some time – So I nipped in to HMV in search of a couple of DVD’s to bring home. When last in Hong Kong in 2011, I had seen Hong Kong’s best director, Johnnie To‘s latest and newest film at the time in a movie theater. That film was called Life Without Principle (click the link for my review).

This time I wanted to pick up the DVDs for Drug War (directed by Johnnie To in 2012) with Louis Koo as the star. The other was Blind Detective which came out just a few months ago in July. Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng were the headliners. But it wasn’t to be. HMV was sold out of both titles.

dvd combo

So back to dinner. It was billed as a Shanghai Noodle house and it was just okay. No restaurant review today readers.

But the big event of the night was at The Hong Kong Cultural Center (above), which is HK’s equivalent of New York’s Lincoln Center. It was a double bill – The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (about 77 performers for this show), and a Taiwanese Drum Ensemble called The Chio-Tian Folk Drums & Arts Troupe..

We were in the third row. The good seats. Not quite the front row, but more than close enough to hear and feel the powerful drums. The Majestic Drums was about a dozen or drummers – just one woman. The came out in full martial costumes including one of a kind hair styles, war-like make-up, and each were heavily tattooed on the right arm and shoulders.

They were high energy. Not only did they have to memorize the complete drum and percussion music, but every thing was syncopated, and choreographed. From the large hanging gong, to the man with cymbals, to the rolling drums when the brakes were off, it was simply amazing. Each beat of the drum had a certain arm movement, as well as a specific arm in use. The timing was exquisite.

Beside the make-up, the tattoos, the costumes, they were intense and seemingly war like as in competing. Four on this side, four on that side, a featured performer in the center, plus the two side men – the gong and the cymbals. There were loud war cries like screams as well as the booming drums.

They did four lengthy numbers, and then there was break. At this point, the stage hands had to set up for the entire orchestra. Seats, music stands, and all properly angled to be able read the music and keep an eye on the maestro as well.

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Hong Kong Day 8 – Korean Barbecue

A restaurant serving what was described as Korean Barbecue was the target. Located in To Kwa Wan, it is just a very brief walk from the Ferry . My route was the Island Line from Sheung Wan to North Point. Then a block and half walk to the ferry which I just missed. That’s the penalty of trying to judge the evening rush hours.

The early evening rush hour on the MTR

The early evening rush hour on the MTR

Too many people on the MTR at the same time and it takes longer to off load and board at each stop. Plus it was crowded, so I heard the repeated phrase ‘Please stand back from the doors’ in both Cantonese and English far too often. Many times the doors closed in our car then re-opened because they couldn’t close the doors in another part of this MTR train. So I missed the boat. By a minute. However going in the direction of Kowloon side from Hong Kong sides – this Ferry departs at 17 and 47 after each hour.

Arriving at Kowloon City. That's the Grand Water Front Plaza on the right

Arriving at Kowloon City. That’s the Grand Water Front Plaza on the right

But it worked out – Yu Ling met me at the ferry, Kowloon side, and Steve met us at the restaurant.

I am not familiar with Korean Barbecue at all. In fact the only thing I knew about Korean food is that they can barbecue beef, chicken, or pork, and that you will be served kimchi as an appetizer, side dish, or something to nibble on while the food is cooking.

Kimchi is described as fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings. Start with chopped cabbage, add Korean radish, Korean fish sauce, ginger, red pepper, salt, sugar, and add scallions last. Mix together by hand. And that’s kimchi.

Sorry Neighborhood Korean Barbecue Restaurant, this isn’t something I’d request again. It is a Korean staple but I think it is not for everyone.

That's Yu Ling, me, the side-s=dishes, and they Tsingtao

That’s Yu Ling, me, the side-dishes, and the Tsingtao

And this time it is Yu Ling, Steve, and the side-dishes. The barbecue has yet to be fired up.

And this time it is Yu Ling, Steve, and the side-dishes. The barbecue has yet to be fired up.

But for the special barbecue dinner, it, the Kimchi simply ‘comes with’. Make that comes with any meal in a Korean restaurant. You can taste it or ignore it. It’s just a part of the meal. There are a lot of other side dishes , and dipping sauces that are served as well. But I can’t really tell you what most of them were.

But the chicken, pork, and a couple of steaks are barbecued right there on your table. Electric barbecue of course. No sign of charcoal at all.

You get a lot of food, and you get to watch the meats cook right in front of you. The staff cuts and slices – sometimes with knives, and sometimes with scissors and tongs.

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Coffee and Croissant at Java Java – Hong Kong Travels

Day 9 Friday – Sheung Wan

This morning I was up and out early. AI enjoyed  a tasty croissant and coffee at Java Java which is about 1 minute’s walk from my front door. The top photo above is from the street,

and the rest are from inside. They have sidewalk style seating outside too. And the link below will enable you to vave a virtual panorama look inside.

http://www.tourwrist.com/panos/19350

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Hong Kong – Day 7 – I Visit The World of Suzie Wong

Day 6 & 7 In Hong Kong – Relaxing and Exploring and an Offers to Party –

On Monday, after my trek to Kowloon City in search of a great lunchtime biryani – I went across the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui – Canton Road, and Peking Road. The shopping mecca of TST. I had my eyes checked and ordered a set of eyeglasses from my friends at Classy Optical who have relocated to the other side of Peking Road.

Formerly they were at 110 or was it 112 Peking Road, they are now at 77 Peking Road, just a little ways in from Nathan Road.

Yu Ling came down from Mongkok where she works and we met for a no-frills, no photo ops dinner.

Tuesday: Day 7 – okay, on this day I did a little more exploring. The section of Hong Kong known as Wanchai has long been a haven for night clubs, partying, and more. US soldiers and sailors, as well as sailors from various other visiting navies usually head for the delights of Lockhart Road.

All of that was made famous in a book called The World of Suzie Wong. The book was authored by Richard Mason in 1957. It was the story of a British ex-pat named Lomax living as an artist in a Wanchai hotel.  He befriends a young woman who worked as a prostitute at this hotel, and her clientele were mainly American and British sailors.

The book became a theatrical play which starred France Nuyen as Suzie Wong and William Shatner as Lomax. Yes, the very same Shatner who would later portray, Captain James T.Kirk on TV and in the movies. Then, in 1960, a movie.was produced based on the same source material. It starred William Holden and Nancy Kwan. And today, some 50 plus years later – here I am in the same area.

Neon night clubs, bar girls, cheap hotels, and more. The perfect place to have fun or be bad. I started out intending to walk around on the Wanchai Harbor Promenade. But with all the city planners have done with developing and redeveloping the area, the original setting of the book, play, and movie – the fictional Nam Kok Hotel, which was based on the Luk Kwok Hotel on Gloucester Road no longer exists. Gloucester Road is still there, but the Luk Kwok came down in the 1980’s. So it is quite likely that Mason himself might not recognize the area. As for the promenade itself, it is not so easy to get to if you aren’t familiar with it.

All I knew was that it was East of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center (above)

Anyway I spent a rather short time there (on the promenade) and soon headed back on one of the elevated walk-ways which basically serve as fly overs for the pedestrians. Eventually I saw a sign that said Delifrance 1 minute walk on Lockhart Road.

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