Monthly Archives: March 2009

Kowloon City

Old apartments

Thumbnail: Alleyway
Thumbnail: Sundries
Thumbnail: Candy stand
Thumbnail: Crossing street
Thumbnail: Fresh seafood
Thumbnail: Fruit stand
Thumbnail: Fruit stand
Thumbnail: Old buildings
Thumbnail: Jewellery store
Thumbnail: Jewellery store
Thumbnail: Magazine stand
Thumbnail: Munchies stand
Thumbnail: Old apartments
Thumbnail: One way street
Thumbnail: Street corner
Thumbnail: Subway route
Thumbnail: Alleyway
Thumbnail: Sundries shop
Thumbnail: Traffic
Thumbnail: Waiting at light

My grandma’s apart­ment is in Kowloon City, a very old area of Kowloon, char­ac­ter­ized by dirty build­ings and slummy areas. There’s so much char­ac­ter here. It seems like every shop has a story, and every street a his­tory. My dad told me that since it’s so hard to find park­ing, some restau­rants have a valet park your car for you if you go in.

Since it’s a long-established area, there’s pretty much every­thing you need within a cou­ple blocks, or a few min­utes walk. This includes:

  • fruit stands
  • car deal­er­ship
  • restau­rants of many ethnicities
  • Chinese med­i­cine shops
  • snack and pas­try shops
  • a toy shop
  • a mod­ern shop­ping mall
  • butch­ers
  • a famous park
  • a shop­ping mall
  • elec­tron­ics and appli­ance stores
  • mag­a­zine stands
  • gro­cery stores
  • den­tist
  • scrap metal stores
  • cof­fin shop
  • tire shop

One of Hong Kong’s famous real estate agents said that liv­ing in such high den­sity is a habit, and that Hong Kongers could expand out­ward (instead of upward) if they wanted to. I can under­stand why this is true, because every­thing is so close and con­ve­nient. When you live in the mid­dle of all this, you really feel like you’re part of the city’s pulse.

Octopus Card

Octopus card

Everyone car­ries an Octopus card in Hong Kong, because it’s used every­where. When you take the bus, you pay the fare by tap­ping your wal­let (with Octopus card in it) on the scan­ner; the fare may change depend­ing on whether you take it before or after cross­ing the har­bour. Subway fares aren’t flat-rate either, so shorter routes are cheaper. The dis­tance you travel is tracked by scan­ning your card when you get on and again when you get off, and the appro­pri­ate amount is deducted.

Even vend­ing machines, park­ing meters, con­ve­nience stores, and restau­rants have Octopus scan­ners used to pay for their ser­vices. It’s also used as an iden­tity sys­tem, where stu­dents sign-in to class by tap­ping their cards on door scan­ners, or res­i­dents enter their apart­ment build­ings with­out need­ing a key.

The Chinese name for the card is “eight arrived pass”, because eight has spe­cial mean­ing in Chinese, espe­cially when it comes to direc­tions. The English name comes from an octo­pus hav­ing eight ten­ta­cles, and the logo is an infin­ity sym­bol that’s also in the shape of an eight. So clever.

Grandma and Her Parrot

Grandma loves her par­rot. We carry it around for her, and she sleeps with it on her bed­side table. Whenever she talks to it, I can never really tell if she really is talk­ing to her par­rot in an act of senil­ity, or whether she does it to humour us.

A note on the trans­la­tion: The name “Fat Bird” is really “Fat Woman Parrot” in Chinese. The word “par­rot” is a homonym for the last part of grandma’s name, so “Fat Woman Parrot” sounds like it’s refer­ring to her as well. That’s how she got her nick­name as “Fat Woman”.

This is grandma on a good day. I love to see her smile and laugh.

Victoria Harbour

Victoria Harbour panorama

(This is a 360° panorama that pops up in a new win­dow. Be warned: it’s big.)

Thumbnail: Newsstands
Thumbnail: Bruce Lee statue
Thumbnail: Jet Li handprints
Thumbnail: Night lights
Thumbnail: Train station

The best place to see Hong Kong’s sky­line is at Victoria Harbour. Along the walk­way is the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s ver­sion of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as a bus ter­mi­nal, and the dock­ing area for the Star Ferry.

The world’s largest per­ma­nent light show is here, run­ning every night at 8:00, where many build­ings across the water time their lights to music. I recorded it, but my footage didn’t turn out so well with the fog. So here’s some­one else’s awe­some record­ing, that does the show justice.