Roaming Around PoHo and Beyond

8 12 2012

Not far from the hectic crux of the business district, a short stroll away from the booze-fueled din of Lankwai, just down the road from the gastronomic paradise of SoHo, a small little neighbourhood is sprouting up.

It goes by the funky name of PoHo, and has been called the ‘Brooklyn of Hong Kong’.

Tucked above the main streets of Sheung Wan, the PoHo district – with Tai Ping Shan Street as its main artery and the surrounding lanes as offshoots – is, on most days, quietly quaint. You might perhaps chance upon a casual game of street basketball at Blake Garden, but otherwise it is all a hushed repose.

Not today.

With the inaugural PoHo Bazaar in full swing, the neighbourhood swarmed with visitors eager to befriend this funky newcomer. Shops threw open their doors, little stalls served a seemingly endless flow of drinks, hamburgers sizzled on an open grill and soon, a large crowd gathered to explore the nooks and crannies of PoHo.

Here’s a little visual nibble of PoHo – and beyond…

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy's exterior. Very reminiscent of HK's iconic Red White Blue bags!

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy’s exterior. Very reminiscent of HK’s iconic Red White Blue bags!

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

A shop in PoHo -- Rat's Cave.

A shop in PoHo — Rat’s Cave.

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

A Chinese store and an English sign - emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A Chinese store and an English sign – emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A locked, dilapidated gate...strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

A locked, dilapidated gate…strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop - handcrafted leather galore!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop – handcrafted leather galore! Full disclosure: I am currently in a ‘handcrafted leather’ craze!

A beautiful building on Square Street.

A beautiful building on Square Street.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos. Sorry, I couldn’t help it!

The old.

The old.

Lines.

Lines – a little further down from PoHo, on Circular Pathway.

Lines.

Lines. Red, green, brown.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.





Watching the Hongkers: Things you Learn from Living in HK

25 07 2011

Expanding on my earlier post, ‘Watching the Hongkers’,  here are a few things that you tend to pick up – consciously and unconsciously – after years of living in Hong Kong.

1. Very good agility in extremely crowded areas like Central MTR station at peak hours. This means being able to get from point A to B despite having a million people blocking your way. How? Keeping your head held high, making quick nimble movements with your feet as well as your entire body, weaving in and out of people, abruptly (but smoothly, somehow) changing body positioning so as not to crash into other strangers

2. Becoming squeezable. Squeezing yourself into the smallest possible area on the bus, tram and MTR – before the doors close, millimeters from your face.

Not quite HK, but you get the idea. Squeezable, squishable sardines. Photo by yushimoto_02

3. Very Serious Multitasking. Seen someone watching a movie on their iPhone, getting off the train, maneuvering between the crowd all at the same time before? They’re probably Hongkers. Time costs here. So we make do with some Very Serious Multitasking.

4. Eating super fast. You can’t really help it if your meal arrives in front of you, piping hot, within 60 seconds of you ordering it – as is the norm at the famous cha chan teng Australian Dairy Company.

5. Keeping off grass. There’s not a lot of grass in HK. And when there is, there’s probably a sign telling you to KEEP OFF. So we’re pretty good at doing that too.

This mean is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a quick little fun brainstorm that I though I’d do. So if you have any other things that you’ve learnt and don’t mind sharing, pop them in the comments below!





Watching the Hongkers

20 06 2011

‘Watching the English’ by the anthropologist Katie Fox is an absolutely fascinating read. She basically observes, dissects and analyses each an every aspect of English behaviour in the most amusing ways possible.

Reading through the book, I thought: If I find it so fascinating to read about English behaviour, why don’t I try observing Hongker (that is, Hong Kong-er) behaviour? So here it is – my crude attempt at observing my fellow Hongkers’ behaviour on the train.

Hongkers on the MTR

Photo by t-a-i

There are two types of Hongkers travelling on the MTR (train) at any given time: 1) Those glued to their phones; 2) Those not glued to their phones.

1. Those Glued to Their Phones:
People in this particular demographic group are clinically addicted to their mobile phones. The symptoms for addiction are numerous:

  • tapping/swiping/scratching furiously away on their touchscreens all for the purpose of some game.
  • incessantly swiping their fingers down the touchscreen to renew their live Facebook speed, and chuckling to themselves when they see an amusing picture of their drunk friend.
  • watching some trashy TV show
  • texting
  • talking very, very loudly on the phone about personal issues which no one else could care less about. This symptom may also point to an inability to recognise the fact that: 1) you’re not invisible on the train, and 2) everyone can hear you on the train.

2. Those NOT Glued to Their Phones:
People in this group exhibit more diverse behaviour, which I have summarised as follows:

  • the sleepers: commuters trying very hard to stay awake, but in failing to do so, nod off in the comfort of their hard metallic train seat with their head bobbing madly from left to right, much to the demise of those next to them.
  • the fashion-junkies: mostly females who decide that the train has transformed into their bathrooms and thus justifies their taking out their make-up kit and boldly applying their mascara, eye liners etc.
  • the newspaper-aficionados: mostly middle aged men reading the horse racing guide on Apple Daily
  • the love birds: couples who can’t resist the temptation of cuddling on a jerky train while being squeezed on all sides by sweaty commuters, or who for some reason deliberately choose to publicly and physically display affection.

Of course, this fun little experiment of mine to observe my fellow Hongker commuters is far from complete or fully representative of the Hong Kong population. If you have any other observations to chip in, feel free to do so in the comments section.

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Movement and Stillness: a balance

10 06 2011

Are movement and stillness mutually exclusive, or are they compatible with one another?

A delicate balance between movement and stillness seems to pervade in Chinese culture. There are quite a few sayings and idioms in Chinese that place the words movement (動, dòng) and stillness (静, jìng) together. In fact, the word for movement in Chinese is 動静 – if you break down the phrase and take each character at face value, then movement is quite literally “movement-stillness”. Does this imply that the Chinese perception of movement inherently also includes stillness as a counter balance?

I came across a quotation from the  Tao Te Ching (a classic Chinese text by the sage Laozi) earlier this morning:

”  躁勝寒,靜勝熱, 清靜為天下正。”

Translation: Movement overcomes cold. Stillness overcomes heat. Peace and quiet govern the world.

So what’s Laozi getting to here? He’s highlighting the importance of balance: movement raises the temperature, and stillness decreases it. To reach an equilibrium, then, there needs to be movement and stillness until the ‘temperature’, so to speak, is just right.

Looks like the chicken needs a good dose of Tao De Ching!

Here’s another quotation:

静若处子,动若脱兔

Translation: This idiom alludes to an army. Before the army makes a move, it is as quiet as a young lady who is yet to be married (presumably a virgin). Once the army does move, it will be as quick and nimble as a rabbit escaping from its predator.

The idiom doesn’t explicitly talk about balance, but I find it interesting that both “stillness” and “movement” are used together.

So what of this balance? I agree that there needs to be a balance – after all, it isn’t exactly realistic to expect someone to keep moving perpetually, or to keep still forever. And yet the world itself is continually moving, developing and changing – so how are we supposed to find ‘stillness’?  For me, I find stillness in movement. But more on this next time.

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Why movement?

9 06 2011

To me, movement is what it’s all about.

You might call it an epiphany, because I didn’t always know that movement was what defined me. The light-bulb moment came not when I was staring up into the clouds, philosophising about life. It came when I was watching the movie Limitless. Eddie, the main character, had just taken a top secret drug which unlocks the brain’s hidden powers. He is bursting with energy and has the urge to move. As he put it, he had to move, “to ingest, to digest”.

It's thanks to this guy that I realised movement was it.

That was when it hit me. I have a constant urge to keep moving, because it allows me to absorb the world around me, to continually ingest and digest new forms of stimuli. It keeps me on my toes, alert, and most importantly of all, excited.

To move is to develop, change, pursue as well as to explore, experiment, to seek understanding and meaning. To be static is to be stagnant, to lack the drive to push forwards.

But what exactly does ‘movement’ entail? I first thought that it was only a physical action: running, swimming, biking, hiking, traveling – all my favourite sports. Upon further reflection, though, I realised that movement can also take on a psychological, intellectual, artistic and even spiritual form.

Photography is a form of movement: despite the photo being a still, it is in essence a capture of movement and light. Music is also movement, because the interaction of different wavelengths and frequencies ultimately come together to create movement. Poetry moves, because words and phrases dance on the page to create meaning. The list goes on, and it is my hope that this blog grows and develops, I will encounter many more forms of movement.

For now, I’m going to keep moving.