It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong: Day Six at the Twin Cities Film Festival

Roll Credits!

That usually signifies the end of the show, be it TV or movies. For me, right now, it means that I am departing Minneapolis and heading home to sunny Sarasota, Florida, later this morning,

While the TCFF will roll on for five more grand evenings (it closes on October 31st), I am so happy to have had an opportunity, for my personal closing night, to watch a super film called It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong.

The film was written and directed by Emily Ting. This was her first time at helming a narrative feature film. Her five other directorial credits were for Shorts, Documentaries, and Documentary Shorts.

In a nutshell, an American born and raised Chinese woman goes to Hong Kong on a business trip, In a fast and easy ‘meet cute’, she gets lost somewhere in the Midlevels – small streets, lots of people, and a tad confusing to a newbie like her. An American expat, who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for 10 years, happens to overhear her phone conversation as she’s telling another party that she’s not sure where the particular place she was to meet a group of friends is. He offers her the directions and, after a bit of hesitation offers to walk her to that place.

Of course she declines, and heads out on her own. Moments later she’s back and admits to being lost and unsure. Once again he offers to escort her there. After an initial and repeated refusal, she relents and off they go.

He’s Josh and she’s Ruby. Josh is played by Bryan Greenberg and Ruby is played by Jamie Chung. Josh works for a multinational financial services company, and Ruby designs toys. Likely there’s a lot more to each of them – but hey, they’ve just met – and he’s only helping out a person under the broad heading of How Do I Get To…

So the walk and talk begins – Hollywood Road, the Man Mo Temple, Ladder Street, the Mid Level Escalators all come into view. As Ruby and Josh do their thing, Director Ting is doing her thing which is to treat we viewers to the excitement and thrills of just walking around in Hong Kong at night.

Emily told me that she had lived in Hong Kong for five years and that she didn’t speak the local language called Guangdongwa, or Cantonese. But Hong Kong is a city that doesn’t present a language issue for English-speaking visitors.  I had met with her for more than an hour before the screening, which was before she had to do the meet and greets and the red carpet and other things that filmmakers must do at a film festival.

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, then you’re in for a treat. But if you are an old Hong Kong hand, like me, the film brought back a ton of warm memories.

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Last Full Day in Hong Kong

Today, Tuesday the 12th of November is my last full day in Hong Kong. I’ve just two things planned. Sometime after 9:35 AM, but definitely before 10:20 AM I would head down from the Mid-Levels towards Hong Kong Station. There I would be able to check in for my 9:35 Cathay Pacific flight to New York on Wednesday, get a boarding pass, and hand over my 30 inch, red, and wheeled Kipling duffel bag.

Getting there is easy - just follow the great signs which read In-town Check-In

Getting there is easy – just follow the great signs which read In-town Check-In

The time frame had to be just so because I could not use the in-town check-in until less than 24 hours before my flight, and I had to leave before the Down Only Mid-Level Escalator became the Up Only Mid-Level Escalator.

The all-important round trip ticket between the Airport and Hong Kong Station - purchased on the plane for just $21 US dollars

The all-important round trip ticket between the Airport and Hong Kong Station – purchased on the plane for just $21 US dollars

It worked like a charm. By the time I was done with the down escalator, and the covered walkways above the city streets, I’d then be entering the IFC Mall. From there it was all indoors.

Check in at Cathay Pacific

Check in at Cathay Pacific

I presented myself and my passport and my duffel at the Cathay Pacific counter. The young lady checked her watch, then proceeded to get me all checked in and set. Shortly after, I had a boarding pass in hand and had some time to kill. I found a Delifrance shop and had myself a ham and scrambled egg on baguette and a coffee. I had time to kill because I had to wait for the escalators to change directions.

The only other plan was to meet Jeannette and Yu Ling for dinner that night. Jeannette had mentioned that she would be in in Mongkok, and that is where Yu Ling worked. I had only been to Mongkok once before and that was with Jeannette who gave me a brief tour of the street markets. But that was years ago.

A street view of an entrance to Langham Place. I camefrom the MTR station below the building

A street view of an entrance to Langham Place. I came from the MTR station below the building

Now Mongkok still has the street markets, but it also has the up-market Langham Place, a towering structure which you can enter directly from the MTR. There are shops, a hotel, and above all that is an office tower.

The architecture is new and modern. Like nothing you’ve ever seen before, at least on the interior. It is easy to lose track of what floor you are on because one of the escalators is 83 meters long – that’s 272 feet or nearly the lengthy of a football field. Basically, the central core is an atrium, and the escalators seem to stretch toward the sky, only we are in doors.

I ultimately met Jeannette at the Starbucks whch turned out to be on the 4th level rather than the third. Or maybe it was the other way around. But she found me.

Yu Ling worked upstairs so we knew she would find us.

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Monday Night, November 11th – My Penultimate Night in Hong Kong

The 11th of November was my penultimate night in Hong Kong. I was going to do the solo bit tonight. Dinner was at the Zabon Ramen shop on Hollywood Road. At this point, Hollywood Road ran as an underpass for traffic and pedestrians beneath the escalator/covered walkway overhead.. The Zabon Ramen shop was just about beneath the escalator.

As you enter the shop – all the staff will announce that they are welcoming you – Iraahaimase!

You are directed to a space at the counter, or to a table for groups of three or more. In the above photo, I sat where the man (on the left side, drinking from a cup or glass is seated.

There’s a menu with pictures and text, and a notepad with check boxes for you to enter your selections. There’s also a place for you to advise how you want your ramen noodles: firm, soft, or normal.

After scanning the menu, I opted for some small pork dumplings (gyoza) and a large bowl of miso ramen.

Plus a Kirin Beer.

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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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