Saturday, 15 May 2010


Two metal riddles:
The density of old Kowloon city

and a map of China on the Cheung Chau ferry?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Mountains in the making

I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera last Sunday, so exceptionally, I've decided to give a written account instead.

As summer approaches, villages and islands are preparing their local festivals. In rural communities across Hong Kong, huge temporary bamboo marquees and stages with heavy chinese-style roofs are being erected to host Cantonese operas, dances, religious ceremonies and other festivities. In the same manner as the scaffolding used to construct the city's skyscrapers, the poles are lashed together with nothing more than strips of plastic. The result looks like the creation of a child with a mikado set and a lot of time on his hands.

Cheung Chau's "Bun festival'' is probably the most iconic of these festivals, due to its famous ''bun mountains'', and on Sunday whilst on the island I was able to study these preparations up close. Lying on the ground next to the huge bamboo hall (pitched on the village basketball court), were three giant bamboo ''whales'' -  fat tubes like overfed torpedoes, or particularly elongated birdcages. Each shape tapered to a point consisting of a single bambo stem which had been split lenghways into at least eight main veins running the length of the tube, providing the main skeleton of the cage. Other, slimmer strips had been added in between and there were bamboo hoops at regular intervals to reinforce the body. The diameter was wider than I am tall, and every year, villagers build these structures by hand.

These three tubes will become the ''bun mountains'' - adorned with white buns and hoisted upright, standing over 20m tall as the centrepiece of the festival, which I believe will coincide with the Buddha's birthday on 21 May. Bun-related mania will ensue, including climbing, snatching, throwing, sharing, eating, fireworks and other antics. Cheung Chau is a popular weekend spot at the best of times, and last Sunday its narrow streets were packed with city visitors, so one can imagine what the festival weekend will be like... I shan't be attending!

if you're interested: