Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

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‘Who is taller’? The toddler guesstimating the red wood soldier at entrance to the 1906 red brick Western Market (Des Voeux Road Central and Morrison Street junction), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

The Edwardian style Western Market, a former British Post Office converted into a showpiece market place in 1991, is a combination of classical facades and kitschy shops selling toys, crafts, jewelry on ground floor. The real treasure is on first floor…bales of satins, silks, sequins, laces…..fabrics to splurge on.

Browned out…….
Victoria Island BC, Canada
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Hong Kong……brown strokes

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Slow and steady, the Rickshaw continues on its journey through lanes and streets. ‘Pulled rickshaws created a popular form of transportation, and a source of employment for male laborers, within Asian cities in the 19th century. Their popularity declined as cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available’…..en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickshaw
The word rickshaw originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車, 人 jin = human, 力 riki = power or force, 車 sha = vehicle), which literally means “human-powered vehicle.
Macao… colorful and trendy
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Allahabad…clinging to the past
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Hong Kong….
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Beijing…..power variants
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A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

Snapshots of journies by car, on foot and train in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and Coldspring, New York.

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Water Wall – Houston This 64-foot U-shaped fountain recycling  78,500 gallons of water every three hours and 20 minutes is a marvel. The surrounding three acre park with more than 180 live oaks provides space to cool off in the commercial environs.

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Beer Can House  Houston

DSCN3927A fetish turned into wonder. The “Beer Can House” is studded with 50,000 flatted empty beer cans and accessorized with pieces of marbles, glass, rocks and metal. DSCN3922The handiwork was an antidote for boredom as John Milkovisch got tired of mowing the grass and with cans piling up. Voila …a ‘canned wonder’

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San Antonia River Walk

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Floating restaurant  Jumbo Kingdom…Hong Kong…..

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Another one from my stock..Chueng Chau Island…Hong Kong

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Brooklyn…New York

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My take on Ailsa’s Travel Theme -Walls

imageThe familiar bleak friable landscape interspersed with algae ponds, cattle and livestock in different stages of thinness grazing on non-existent grass, the sparsely cultivated fields, thatched hutments, semi naked children chasing mangy dogs, men huddled on charpoys or walking listlessly with the familiar ‘lota’ (metal mug) for their morning ablutions, women head covered engrossed in washing, cleaning. I was aboard the Prayagraj train, named after my home town Prayag and present Allahabad, after a gap of nearly 20 years and sat glued to the window not wanting to miss out the familiar sights.

The excitement was visible as on night of travel I arrived at New Delhi station two hours before departure time to a deserted platform and wondering if had got the day wrong. Maybe I had the Freudian fear of missing a train and arriving at railway stations two hours ahead of time though unlike Freud I did not associate train travel with death. For Freud ‘Dying is replaced in dreams by departure, by a train journey’. (Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis’).

imageMy misgivings proved wrong and within minutes the rush started and deposited on my berth, second ac sleeper top berth near the entrance and the toilet. I was looking to swap my berth for a lower one, Second AC has two berths instead of three of Third AC sleeper, but my appearance, frail, nor my age softened male hearts. As one person I requested put it ‘I have approached railway officialdom for lower berth of my choice months in advance’. The ticket collector too was elusive and for a moment was tempted to pass on some bucks but an unbeliever in bribery resigned myself to the continuous footsteps and the all-pervasive urine odor from the rusty, rickety toilets (one is western and other squat).

An overnighter, the Prayagraj, is ideal for business or work commute but not for viewing the dusty plains of North India. I was awake early morning, 4 a.m. to preempt toilet use and for the first glimpse of the Gangetic plain awakening to dawn. I had done this journey umpteen times but the gap of 21 years made me curious about the changes as we crossed obscure hamlets familiar not for their names but appearance, decrepit stations with platforms stacked with parcels and human bodies asleep or the in between naps, oblivious to the rattle of speeding trains. The familiar food carts, the tea stalls displaying the mud cups or kullars and their owners parroting ‘chai chai’ ( tea-tea). Station tea tastes best in earthen cups with aroma of leaves mingling with the mud smell. Fathepur beyond Kanpur had been my favored station to drink the special brew as the train arrived here early morning.

Around 5 a.m., the filtering sun exposed derrières along the tracks and at one place a group of boys ( four- six years) appeared to be playing a game sitting in a circle. Not a pleasant early morning expose. There are no major cities on this route, till we touch Kanpur or Cawnpore of British India history. The motley procession of spreading dry fields interspersed with green patches shaded by mango and neem trees and being a history buff visualized marauding mutineers and British soldiers galloping across the grayish brown terrain. The Mutiny of 1847* .

There was still an hour to reach Allahabad and as I gazed into the horizon I compared the passing scenery with another train journey in 2009 from Hong Kong to Beijing – Shanghai and back to Hong Kong. Then it was T 98 a superfast luxury train and the Soft Sleeper (four berths)compared with present situation had felt a luxury on wheels with clean crisp sheets, comforters, pillows, hangers, luggage compartment (at the top), hot water flask, step-on garbage-bin, mirrors, reading lights, air cons and new colored slippers for each occupant. The toilets were clean but towards end of journey, toilet hopping, it is a through train, appeared a better option.

View from trainThe train had swaggered past the scenic Pearl River delta, a continuous drizzle and a disappearing sun cast a chimerical effect to the picturesque antiquated ‘shark’s teeth’ mountains, leaving behind the pastoral countryside metamorphosing into a clinical landscape of barracks and factories, the occasional residential complexes with children frolicking in puddles and the elderly smoking, squatting or working in fields.

Next morning we got a glimpse of the grey skies, a continuous phenomenon of our 10 day journey, as we approached the enormousness of Beijing station mid afternoon. Few days in Beijing and another train ride to Shanghai and this time in the swanky D 301 Beijing/Shanghai express train, an immaculate all white, brand-new 200km/h sleeper train with staff in spiffy red uniforms and caps. Slightly intimidating and we slid in quietly so as not to disturb the other passengers in the upper bunks of the 4 bunk Soft sleeper. It was a twelve hour nigh journey and we missed out the country sights.

Shanghai station is a throwback of stations back home, except for its voluminous interiors, with escalators not working and no one to tell you where to go. The return journey to Hong Kong via T 99 in Hard Sleeper with 6 bunks was a journey closer to real China train experience. The upper, middle and lower bunks cushioned bunk stacks and I had spent my waking hours in the corridor, folding table and chairs placed in the corridor, observing passengers trussed amongst bales, packets and luggage, playing Mahjong. We had planned the train journeys for a view of the countryside and to interact with the locals but it was nowhere near the ‘family’ atmosphere of Prayagraj, of camaraderie with friends, foes, acquaintances and strangers.

My bonding with trains is probably a residual baggage of my mother’s accounts of journeys aboard the British India Railways, the compulsory every six months winding up the hills to Simla and return to Delhi. Her stories were peppered with grandmother’s verbal tags on the helpers and coolies, her vigil of the steel trunks carrying the family ‘silver’ …clothes, ration, and household stuff.

The steam engines wove their magic in my psyche and as a six-year-old I would dream of traveling the Indian countryside in the chuk-chuk trains. My elder brother, probably in line with family tradition, joined the Railways via Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical & Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) Jamalpur, an institute started by the British to rope in the best brains to manage the railways. His first posting was in Bhusawal, Maharashtra and my mother, me and younger brother spent a summer in his cottage in the railway colony. At night we would be woken up by frantic calls from the linesmen about some derailment or another and often my brother had to rush to the scene. He had been assigned a carriage, with bunks, washroom and kitchenette, which was attached to a goods or passenger train, depending where he was traveling. We joined him once for a regal ride from Bhusawal to Mumbai and Pune. The carriage was coupled at the end of a goods train for most part of the journey and our mother spent the entire night worrying about being looted by robbers or being stranded in some vague station. It was an experience having the humongous railways at our service, the linesmen, station attendants waiting to welcome the Sahib and train travel took on another meaning.

New modes of transport did not lessen fascination of trains and they continued to be a metaphor connecting lives across the dusty plains whether in air-conditioned comfort or sweaty general compartments.

Here, I was two decades later re-living the romance of the philistine wheels not on an unknown journey but a journey to my past.

Photo taken from moving train with my iPhone on way to Allahabad.

The preoccupied, vanilla looks, smooth and frosty encountered on streets, public transport and housing and shopping complexes replaced by unsure and jittery, shaking numbered bamboo sticks in a bamboo cylinder. The intensity of their faith is relayed on to me and I to shuffle the sticks hoping to steer my fortune or future along a virtuous path.

‘ Majority are from the Mainland’. I look around and sure enough there are flag-waving guides herding their queues through the Temple. We are at the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon dedicated to the famous monk Wong Tai Sin or Huang Chu-ping, a humble shepherd from Zhejiang province. At age 15 Wong Chuping became a follower of Taoism and forty years later attained enlightenment with his influence as a healer and harbinger of good fortune crossing the borders of Guangdong Province to Hong Kong in the early 20th century. In 1915 his image was brought to Hong Kong and installed in a temple in Wan Chai. Later it was moved to Wong Tai Sin Temple, a Taoist temple established in 1921.

‘You should shuffle with your heart and at same time ask what you need or want’. I did just that till finally a stick slid out to fall on the floor where I was kneeling on a cushion. My friend noted down the number and my request and I shuffled thrice getting up with four numbers and four requests. ‘If you are really sincere you should promise to return to thank with offerings’ more instructions and I could see platters of fruits, food and sweets, testimony to numbers of fulfilled wishes.

We had already offered lighted incense sticks at the main altar. In due diligence to the continuous announcement to limit the incense sticks I took 9 out of the packet of 18 leaving rest at the counter. Prayers and requests over we joined the people roulette along the newly renovated Temple with extravagantly ornate red pillars, golden roof adorned with blue friezes, latticework and multi-colored carvings complimented by greenery and incense smoke. The Daxiong-baodian or Grand Hall, Sansheng Hall, the Good Wish Garden, the three memorial archways, the Nine Dragon Wall and the Good Wish Garden said to be a miniature copy of Beijing’s Summer Palace add to the architectural splendor of the Wong Tai Sin Temple, home to three religions, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Reverence was taking a drubbing as we headed towards the fortune-telling area through a corridor lined with kiosks overflowing with religious and luck items. A benign smile drew me towards the portly person sitting behind a table and I handed him the numbers with the request list. The stick numbers were matched with his chits and reading the first one he mumbled something which our Hong Kong friend translated into ‘your head is in the clouds’ or something similar. Some of the seriousness got lost in the translation especially the poetic or classical references but I could sense that the fortune-teller was reveling in his craft. There are English-speaking fortune tellers too but we preferred a local language speaker probably looking for authenticity. The pattern is somewhat similar to the ‘Prashanwalli’ or question in Indian astrology where your question is answered based on time, date and place of birth. Some of what was told to me was close and rest I will have to wait to happen in immediate future

A line of intent faces, young and old, absorbing and dissecting the future and the past along the corridor. I was not alone and did not mind parting with Hong Kong $ 84 for four requests.

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