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.