Saturday, 16 April 2011

Good Music This Way?

R1231302L (Camera: Ricoh GX200)

Not a very promising way to get good music huh?

But the Hong Kong Sinfonietta does good music, and sometimes even for free. The next chance is tomorrow when the musicians will stage two free concerts at the Hong Kong City Hall.  There will also be meeting-the-musicians sessions and game booths too. For details, click the following banner.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Alleys and Ailing

R0014919L (Camera: Ricoh GX200; a stall at the corner of an alley going through the old buildings in Kwun Tong)

Kwun Tong is strewn thick with old shops and dilapidated buildings which breathe into the place its genius loci -- the spirit of the place. The revitalisation project will squarely strip them off the surface. Replacing such oldies which the Government believes to have made an unsightly cityscape will be yet another omnipresent shopping mall or malls. What a brainless bowdlerising way of "revitalising" a place! Sadly, commercially viability has probably become the overriding consideration in urban revitalisation.

Compared to the mammoth well-lit, air-conditioned shopping malls, the unkempt alleys which adventurously radiate from one point to another and another through the old buildings offer an unparalleled experience for no matter shopping, observing the local ways of life or taking photographs. Whether the neighbourhood stalls lining those alleys are open for business or close for an afternoon respite, the dim narrow alleys are exactly where visitors can observe the minutiae of human behaviours and local culture. 

The idiocies of the officials in implementing urban revitalisation projects are and will continue to be very persistent unless the property market crumbles again. It happened after the Asian financial crisis when Hong Kong people became more aware of the heritage or anything that had lasted in the territory. Human are stubborn, sometimes too silly to be corrected. So, Hong Kong is going to have another cold, dead shopping mall in place of the uniquely atmospheric old Kwun Tong. What is to be revitalised really?

Commercial viability, you bet.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sneaking In

R0014913L (Camera: Ricoh GX200) 

There is a cluster of pre-war residential buildings lying to the north of the MTR Kwun Tong Station. They are centrally situated in the image of the Monday post of this week. For anyone who has a penchant for admiring old construction features, seldom can the Chinese saying, “Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times” be so freely and readily fulfilled in the case of these buildings which, unlike those in Mongkok for example, are neither guarded by doorpersons or fitted with entrance gates or door locks of whatever sort.

Inside the building, the special features lying before your eyes include the unmistakable mosaic-style wall and floor tiles, the aluminium mailboxes with the pattern of two “Hole-Square Coins” (a colloquially way of saying “copper money” used in the Chinese dynastic years) on them, the haphazard lining of the public utility wires and the wooden handle for the staircase. A visit to a few more of such buildings will show evidence of the trendiness of these décors and features in the best days the buildings saw during their life cycles.

Another must-see is the aging elevator. However, the most special one the author has tried is in an old residential building in Jordan. Some of these old automatic lifts go in feeble movement with occasionally jolts on the way. But it is always tempting to take a bit of a risk to hop in one to check if it still functions properly.

kwun tong lift

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tentacles of Desperate Hopes

(Camera: Ricoh GX200; a head-up view of an old building in Kwun Tong)

There is an explanation for the haphazard lines or, to be exact, electricity wires crisscrossing in the air. 

In the old Hong Kong, electricity supply was given to registered households but not the squatters of the ubiquitous shanty areas across the territories. In those ramshackle huts of the squatters were however also families which needed electricity. What could they do to give a quick fix to the matter? It was to steal power by connecting electricity wires to the unprotected electricity meters from which electricity was streamed to the registered households in the tall residential blocks.  With a bit of imagination, you could see in your mind’s eye how dreadful was the sight of those crisscrossing tentacles of power, and actually of desperate hope, rising from the ground level and crossing the sky to the tall buildings around. 

Here in the shot the wires are not for stealing electricity. But it is no doubt the remnant of the past that the wires are arranged so casually to connect electricity to the kiosks in this open-air market at which the shot was taken.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


R0014860L (Camera: Ricoh GX200)

When Kwun Tong (see yesterday's post) was still a thriving industrial area, it saw the flourishing of entertainment parlours taking advantage of the business opportunities. This shot was done at the back lane of a plebeian nightclub, with the two hanging wires hopefully giving out a naughty sexual overtone.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Kwun Tong

P1010246L (Camera: Panasonic LX3; Large-size image)

The shot gives a panoramic view of the residential part of Kwun Tong, one of the most rundown yet richly atmospheric place in Hong Kong.

The mentioning of the place can be traced back to the days in the Song Dynasty around a thousand years ago. It was first an official salt mine from which the name "Official (Salt) Mine" (pronounced as Kwun Tong in Cantonese) of the place originated.  In Cantonese, "official" is homophonic to "gaze at" which is the first word of the present name of the place. So, the modern name of Kwun Tong can literally be interpreted as "gaze at" (a) "mine".

The operation of the salt mine finally ceased in the Qing Dynasty in 1669. Several hundreds of years later, under the reign of the British colonial government, Kwun Tong started to develop as a major industrial area of the territory in 1953.

With the gradual hollowing out of the industrial sector since the opening of the so-called bamboo curtain of China in the 1980s, Kwun Tong has lost its glory as a booming industrial area.  The industrial buildings remaining in the district are mostly used as godowns and for commercial operations while an increasing number of them has been redeveloped into commercial complexes. 

The old Kwun Tong is disappearing and will soon vanish as the revitalisation plan for the place has been rolled out.  If you don't wish to miss yet another area reminiscent of the old Hong Kong, make a special visit to it; with your camera, of course.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Entering Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Evacuation Zone

An off-topic post for today.

The Japanese government has issued the evacuation order on March 12 for the residents living within the 20 kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Since then, residents have left their homes, and the "no man land" has been out of touch with the rest of the world.

A Japanese journalist, Tetsuo Jimbo, ventured through the evacuation zone last Sunday, and filed the following video report.

He says that, inside the evacuation zone, homes,building, roads and bridges, which were torn down by Tsunami, are left completely untouched, and the herd of cattle and pet dogs, left behind by the owners, wonders around the town while the radiation level remains far beyond legal limits.

Watch the video report. This is Sunday. Think about life.