Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tricks of the trade

Only in Hong Kong:

An elderly fisher named Chow
Had spent his youth wondering how
To fulfil his one wish
To stay dry as he fished:
This no longer bothers him now.

The secret to skin white as snow
(if style you’re prepared to forgo)
Is upholstery trim
Affixed to your brim
And - voila - an SPF chapeau!

Here are some other headgear-related limericks.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Law, order and geometry

Police buildings in Hong Kong present a remarkable array of geometrical shapes.
Below is North Point Police Station, a veritable fortress complete with boxy turrets sticking out precariously at funny angles. Perhaps these gun-posts would have been a necessary defence measure during the social unrest in the sixties.

The sixties also seem to have inspired the police post in Kam Tin, if not defensively, then at least aesthetically!
This marvelously retro box perched on a raised platform had no source of natural light that I could see except for the frosted glass door window... but I'd like to think that there's op-art wallpaper and a disco ball inside!

Saturday, 27 November 2010


No local festival is complete without a giant, dazzling, tinsel-trimmed sign, mounted on a bamboo frame, in a prominent spot (ferry pier, marketplace, roundabout).
What I only recently realised is that these signs are entirely handmade:
I hope my intrusive snapping didn't make this artisan spill her luminous orange paint. Sorry... thank you!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Odd one out

信箱 = seun seung: letter box

A couple of wais (walled villages) in and around Yuen Long proved a particularly bountiful snapping-ground for one of my favourite Hong Kong icons: the ubiquitous tin letter box. Can you spot the impostor?


Here is another rather lovely one, by the way.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Daisy, daisy

水上單車 = seui seung daan che: water bicycle

There's nothing like a spot of human powered transportation...

especially for a jaunt on a reservoir perched halfway up a mountainside (note: that's only the top half of the high-rise poking out above the wall):

or for arriving in style at a wedding:
on a pedalo made for two.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Curing all ills


Q: What is blue and white and red all over?
A: The unmissable Hong Kong medicinal oil lorry.

These rather natty lorries are a common sight around town.
I don't think these trucks actually deliver the medicinal product they advertise on the side (if that were the case, based on the frequency these lorries are seen, Hong Kongers would be glugging more medicinal oil than Coca Cola.). Rather, these are general-purpose vehicles with a permanent advert on the side. Or maybe the Chinese medicine company also owns a fleet of trucks.

一. Lorry sporting the classic look:
Yellow panel reads: South Seas Yi Ma Ta (name of company) Four Seasons Peaceful Oil
Blue panel reads: South Seas Yi Ma Ta Golden Dragon Wind* Relieving Oil

二. Variation on the theme:
Product on left: type of soothing herbal throat syrup
Product on right: Hundred-Step Chasing Wind* Bone-Soothing Oil

*most unhumorously, 'wind' doesn't have the same meaning in Chinese and western medicine. In this case, 'wind' refers to headaches rather than the other thing.


I looked into Four Seasons Peaceful Oil, and found that it is quite an extraordinary concoction, therefore it deserves a special mention here. Here is a translated extract from the product description:

一. [...] Very potent medicinal power. For both internal and external symptoms. Primarily treats men, women, old and young. Brings the dead back to life. Awakens your brain. Small dosage needed. Fast acting.

二. Pleasant fragrance like an orchid in a deep valley. Definitely does not have the revolting smell of medicinal oil from the market.

三. Elegant and compact packaging. Much favoured by society ladies.

四. At home or on holiday, at school, in the factory, in mountain, mine or inaccessible village [...] in an emergency, when it's not easy to find a doctor, don't hesitate to use this multipurpose elixir. [...] It is truly a good medicine for the populace.

What more can I say. Get yourself a bottle today! I personally am ordering an entire truckload...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Taxonomy of malls

Those who live in HK know that, even for infrequent shoppers like me, shopping malls are difficult to avoid. I often find myself having to traipse through one to get to a specific MTR exit, desired transport interchange or as a shortcut to avoid a polluted and congested street.

These artificially lit and ventilated spaces of captivity for humans are fairly horrible yet strangely fascinating. Hordes of people inexplicably congregate in them. They can even constitute an entire weekend's entertainment for some families, where after a fun and stimulating day of shopping, Mum and Dad can treat the kids to a fake Italian meal at The Spaghetti House followed by a low-intellect 3D screening to the aroma of plastic popcorn. But actually, this is just one kind of mall. As the taxonomy below shows, Hong Kong really does have something for everyone:

Category 1 shopping mall
Where to find one: Central, Admiralty, Causeway Bay, TST
What you'll see: Chloé, Cartier, sophisticated modernity with fluid and tactile details
What they say: "From jet-set apparel to ultra-desirable beauty products, you'll shop to your heart's content"
What you think: "Slick, swanky, soulless"
Photo: IFC Mall, Central
Category 2 shopping mall
Where to find one: Above an MTR station in a noughties new town development like Tseung Kwan O or Ma On Shan
What you'll see: Giordano, Pizza Hut, handrails painted turquoise
What they say: "Relax and enjoy a magical shopping experience for all the family!"
What you think: "I want to jump out of my 65th-floor window"
Photo: Sunshine City Plaza, Ma On Shan
Category 3 shopping mall
Where to find one: old districts like Shau Kei Wan or Aberdeen
What you'll see: Music tuition centres, manga libraries, low ceilings and possibly a shop selling beetles
What they say: "No Soileting"
What you think: "I've found my spiritual home. Or alternatively, a place to get my nails done for under 20(HK) dollars"
Photo: Manly Plaza, (no, really) Quarry Bay

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Going to the ball

I strayed dangerously close to the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland this weekend. Among the crowds milling about, I wasn't surprised to see little girls dressed as princesses. After all, 'Aurora', 'Belle' and especially 'Ariel' were big favourites of my little primary ones last year. (Although when I'd ask them which story these characters came from, they rarely knew.)
However, grown-up princesses will be sad to learn that they cannot enter Disneyland; at least not in full ceremonial attire, as Finnish artist Pilvi Takala found out in Paris.

Perhaps, like Pilvi, the young lady pictured below was also turned away at the ticket barrier.
In any case, she wisely opted for the better value alternative: a stroll at the free park next to the resort, 'Inspiration Lake'. Could it have been this inspiration that pushed her to combine wedding dress with moonboots in an unparalleled fashion statement?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Efflorescent youngsters

One of the first limericks I learned when I was little went like this:

There was an old woman from Leeds
Who swallowed a packet of seeds
A giant geranium
Grew out of her cranium
And her eyebrows were covered in weeds

Whilst travelling on the MTR, I noticed that this surreal botanic theme also applies to current crop of adverts on display. This time, however, the affliction appears to be plaguing the younger generation:

A six-year old forenamed Maxime
Had a rather unusual dream
He was playing with mum
In a field in the sun
When his head turned to strawb’ries and cream
The fate of young Ted is more herbaceous still:

There once was a kiddie named Ted
Who one morning got out of bed
After taking a shower
He felt full of power
And sprouted a topiary head

I am a little wary every time I pass a toddler in the street now, in case their parents are either HSBC customers or have fed them MeadJohnson formula milk and the onset of their floral development is imminent.

More limericks.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Workers at this roadside site I passed whilst on the bus had been somewhat militant when it came to pasting safety warning stickers on the side of their workhut, so I took a photo.

Upon closer inspection however, I realised that some of the warning symbols were clearly incorrect!

Take a look:
should be:

and another one:
should be:
I plan to submit my amendments to the Hong Kong Occupational Safety Department post-haste.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

馬鞍山 Saddle Mountain

Ma On Shan is famous for the distinctive shape that gives it its name. Its curved silhouette looms over Sha Tin and the Tolo Channel.
The ridge that connects the two peaks features a narrow and somewhat dizzying path:
According to a governement information panel,  Ma On Shan is steep and jagged because it is made of volcanic rock, which resists erosion. It looks bigger, but it's actually 'only' 700m high. Does that make it a mountain? My legs thought so.