Hong Kong – Island hopping and seafood feasts

The last post was purely photographs and to be honest this one is really no different, apart from a few words in between…this post is made up of over 100 images showing you a week of adventures and my last week in Hong Kong. To celebrate me finishing the majority of my research RJW surprised me a multi-coloured bunch of gerberas that brightened up the hotel room and put a smile on my face. When I checked out the hotel I gave them to one of the room service staff, I think it made her day. Passing on the sunshine smiles…

So last week…what did it hold? Well, my compact digital camera decided to break so I bought a brand new one from a place called Fortress in Times Square. I decided on the Panasonic Lumix LX3 as recommended by my brother, a little bit more than my budget but it is an AMAZING piece of kit…as you can see by all the pictures to follow. A good investment even though I couldn’t really afford it. My Grandpa, who was a photographer, always said to invest in good solid names and cameras…so I have.

Monday was Macau…old cultural historical Macau, new Casino Macau mainly at The Venetian which actually has its own canal, and the show Cirque de Soleil ‘Zaia’. Another stamp in my passport too…the ferry took just over and hour on incredibly choppy seas.

I love looking at what the local shops stock in the way of international and English produce. Cadbury’s Black Forest Chocettes, ummm what are they? We certainly don’t have them in the UK.

RJW and I wandered the muggy back streets of Macau for a number of hours before returning to The Venetian.

I like coming across random things in the street…especially abandoned sofas, there must be an artist out there who has done a project on this…documenting them across the world in different locations.

Next came the The Venetian casino in all its glitz and glory, a little bit of food (vegetarian grilled wrap and a yoghurt smoothie) and a little gambling. I gave myself $40 HKD to spend, well gamble away, which is about £3.50…the first $20 HKD I spent on a digital slot machine of cats. I only went on this machine as it made me smile so much. When the cats faces rolled round and lined up they meow-ed in sync. I didn’t win. However, I moved onto the average $1 HKD slots, put in $20 HKD’s and pressed the button, over and over  again and just as my money ran out, the bells started going, and kept on going…apparently I’d won $150…yeah I know that’s only what about £13.50, but still. I felt on top of the world and stopped gambling that night right then. In terms of RJW, he blitzed a little more than my $40 HKD but managed to redeem himself at the last-minute. He placed a bet on each of his and his brothers ages on roulette, winning $875 on his younger brothers age of 19. Seriously lucky that’s all I can say, one heck of a win and it was literally at the end of the night before we got the last and delayed ferry home.

In the evening we saw Cirque de Soleil ‘Zaia’ which was an amazing show…full of impressive and unbelievable choreographed acrobatic creativity and dancing. My favourite section was the Chinese dragons.

On Wednesday, RJW and I slept in until the afternoon as the day before had wiped us out. I had a PhD interview arranged with Robin Peckham from the Society for Experimental Cultural Production and he said to meet at a place called Cafe Lavande in Soho as it was a quiet spot he likes to go to. Sods law though, on that day they were tearing up the adjoining street with a pneumatic drill. It always happens right? So I didn’t think I have showed you the escalator that runs through the middle of the city on Hong Kong Island. It’s a little strange but handing, especially on days when you don’t want to use you legs so much to climb all the hills and steps.

My head was a bit fuzzy that day, I think due to the humidity and the day before. Robin arrived a little late as he’d had a super busy day, and was accompanied by his professional partner and collaborator Venus Lau. It was good to finally meet them both, where we spent the time discussing the different dynamics of the art scenes in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou etc., writing and its use integral use in the development of curatorial practice, terminologies, the “transcultural” and the work of the Society for Experimental Cultural Production. I really do believe in the work they are doing and think there should be more of these international curatorial labs to disseminate and discuss creative information.

After this it was time for the Art Radar Asia meet at the Foreign Correspondents Club. In the end, only Kate Cary Evans, myself and another intern Karita came along. It was good to have chats and discussions and it helps you when you write to know exactly the people you work with. Also, Karita from Hong Kong, is currently studying in Oxford, UK, so I said I would definitely go and see her when I was back on home territory. RJW popped in later on so he could experience the members only club, not Art Radar Asia I mean the Foreign Correspondents Club!

In the evening, after a quick ‘make you own burger’ dinner (I had a bun-less vegetarian protein burger on a salad bed)…we went up to ‘The Peak’ to see the night-time views of the city in time for the 8pm light show. We didn’t realise how windy it was up there as you can see. Super stunning and fantastic views though, I’m not sure how content RJW was with them though as he’s not been good with heights here, getting better every day though.

Wednesday was a trip to another island, this time to Lantau Island and to Tung Chung to get the cable car up to the Tian Tan Buddha. We got a crystal cabin cable car that has a clear bottom up to the top…RJW really wasn’t that fond of this journey. As the cable car got higher, the clouds got thicker and thicker and as you can see at one stage we couldn’t see anything…lost in fog.

After a brief walk and tour of the Tian Tan Buddha, we jumped in a taxi to a peaceful fishing village called Tai O that is full of stilt houses and great seafood. The food really was something else, just so, so fresh. We got the bus back to the Buddha mid-afternoon, then the cable car back to Tung Chung, and then the MTR back to Hong Kong Island…

Did anyone else get these random shell creatures when they went to the seaside? They are international tourist tat. I had to get back for 5pm in order to meet another PhD interviewee David Clarke, from the Department of Fine Arts at Hong Kong University. He was my finally interviewee too, number 21! On this trip anyway. He took me for a cup of tea in the faculty lounge which had stunning views of Hong Kong. It felt very English up there for some reason. We had some really thorough chats about my research and I felt he would be able to give me some critical objective feedback when I have more substantial information written down. Having been in Hong Kong since the mid-1980s he knew a lot about the contemporary Chinese and Asian art scene.

That evening, it rained…and rained…and rained so for the first time, I got the bus back to the hotel and very slowly showered and washed to go and meet RJW and his friends Ben and Jimbo at the Hong Kong Races. By the time I had got there, they were half way though the 8 races…4 left to go and out of these four races I won three! Happy days! I chose the horses on instinct and name…the winners being ‘Project Runway’ (as that’s all I used to watch when I lived in New York), ‘California Moon’ (as I love the West coast), and ‘Bolero’ (not sure why I chose that). So on my tiny $50 HKD bets, I definitely and very quickly trebled my money and more. For some reason all I did was think of my Grandpa that night as he always bet on the Grand National every year.  I miss him everyday. RJW and Ben also had a huge win as you can see below, on the same horse as me – ‘California Moon’. I chose the horse first though…

Needless to say the boys had a pretty good night that night, and when it got to the stage of them air guitaring in a bar later on as well as singing Christmas songs at the top of their voices I left them to it. Its funny not drinking.

Thursday was a trip to the theme park Ocean Park…a huge disappointment as the cable car and most of the rides were closed, so that’s all I’ll say about it, apart from the fact on the transfer bus to the other side of the park there was a chap who could whistle like a bird sings and took a liking to RJW in his shorts on a completely freezing that day…very, very funny. It’s not as cold in comparison to UK temperatures though! I am trying to send some sunshine that way!

To make up for it, in the evening we went and had a seafood dinner at an American restaurant and we went to see a film as the cinema right by our hotel.

Thursday was another island trip…this time to Lamma Island. RJW had already been the week before but said it was beautiful and it was right. We got the ferry just after lunch and had a huge wander around as well as some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten – lobster, garlic scallops and a pepper and olive salad. RJW had never had lobster before so this was a real treat for him. I’m really sticking to this pescetarian thing you know and I feel so much healthier and better inside.

It was incredibly sunny that day and perfect weather for our antics. We came across this organic herb garden that also had a cafe so went and had a pot of herbal tea called ‘Stomach Ease’ (fennel, licorice and peppermint)…yummy stuff and perfect for my silly system.

We got back to Hong Kong Island at about 6pm so we could go back to the hotel, change and go back out again for our final dinner with Ri Ri and Icy, Anja (who is Lisa Juen from AIVA’s friend), and Nin (an old teaching colleague of RJW’s). We had lobster again in this creamy cheese sauce as well as vegetable and tofu dishes and a huge white fish. Full of seafood that day and it felt odd it being our last night in Hong Kong. Afterwards, RJW went out with Ri Ri, Ben and Jimbo for a full evening of drinks…as ever Marsden went home. The pleasures of not being able to drink alcohol. And its tough at Christmas time! Ri Ri and Icy have been so good to us…thank you again guys for being positively amazing.

So our final day in Hong Kong, and what did it bring? A very random and fantastic encounter. Firstly, we checked out of the hotel which I will not miss one bit, and then joined Ri Ri for brunch at ‘The Flying Pan’. The  menu was an all out American diner feel. I had granola and wheat toast, RJW bacon and pancakes, and Ri Ri fruit and yoghurt with granola. It definitely hit the spot. Oh and a bottomless pot of peppermint tea which I managed to get 7 mugs out of…value.

After this we went to find a gift for our Dubai Secret Santa and then it was time for a chance encounter. Two school friends Sarah and James were on their epic 9-month travels and honeymoon and happened to have arrived in Hong Kong the day before! They also have a travel blog. I met them in Times Square around 4pm . We went and grabbed a drink at the Agnes B cafe in the mall and chatted for hours, catching up on everything. It was fantastic and they are fantastic. Totally great to see you in such international circumstances too…safe travels for the rest of your trip. I hope to catch up with them near my home in 2011.

I had a complete luggage faff at the airport as we had an extra case full of gifts to take back to the UK. Emirates said it would be near £600…ummmm totally shocked that’s a no…then the other airport luggage courier ‘Unaccompanied Baggage Limited’ said £250…ummm no again…and then the post office said £44 pounds surface mail…yes, thank you! So presents will be a little late this year people arriving in 2 months time! So the next time I’ll speak to you will be after my holiday…I won’t blog from Dubai as I don’t want to touch my laptop, even though I have today. It is so good to see my university friend Jodie, a true star, and so good to actually do nothing. Not something I’m used to. Right, I’m off to catch some well needed rays on Jumeriah Beach before the sunsets…HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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