by Armstrong

   HongKong or Bust!

Day 1.

Finally I stood, for all the world to see, on Chinese Soil. HongKong, then, for me was something I had to see and mainly because, buried amidst this intense society of workaholics rattling about their business undaunted and undistracted by the mass of "everything" churning past, there are two Chinese Art Stores of some repute but otherwise rather hidden on the internet.

After Maxine and I had unpacked and sorted out what we were going to wear in the hotel we went outside and for the second time I felt the heat and humidity contrast from inside to out (inside which was too cold to wear just a shirt in almost all establishments.)  Its the first time my glasses steamed up going outside and I had to put something warm to wear on going inside. The air cons were set to really too low. I took a sweater with me most places. Laugh, but to begin with the air temp is nice. Then.... you shiver.
An 'Education' then.

It's when you can stand back and take in whole chunks of this landscape; see the entirety of this massive working industrious engine of the Chinese People, that you really appreciate how fast it's all grown and how changing the landscape is even as I write.

The first we noticed as the plane comes in for landing is how busy the harbour is. There are so many boats and ships and barges but not particularly of any size... (and sadly no junks that I could see either... :(  )  just holding, in some cases, one or two "containers" as stored and hauled about every harbour on earth.

Making our way from the airport via train (some kind of underground) was interesting. The train has no intersected carriages so you can see from one end all the way down the full mile to the other end. Going round corners you see the end swinging about until you also take the turn. Interesting to see and something visually poetic about it too.

The people all queue up to board the train but as soon as the secondary glass doors open (Youre held in a contained platform where the train arrives behind glass panels and when the train doors open then the glass doorways also open. No chance of suicides here.)  the ordered queues reform to become a raucus crowd hurtling themselves into the tube train en masse and clinging onto any bar, spring or security they can before the train whistles off again.

Exciting times and my brain at this point is racing through what I might find in these two art stores. The main one being Man Luen Choon. A store that to this day only has about 1 image half a dozen times on any search engine of its wares. I hope to change that internationally. People need to see, not only that Chinese art supplies are a fifth the prices they're paying in the US and Ebay arenas,  but that the range and variety of papers and accessories is leagues above what has been seen in the west so far.

It's like some un-guarded secret; some unspoken order than denies access to such materials any further than the chinese broder. I'll post a page or three on the stores I found here and also make a standalone page to advertise what they do and what they stock. So if you're a chinese artist, I suggest you bookmark this because it will hold links to real eye openers.

 Maxine and I stepped out into the high street and were faced with the glitzy modern... but it doesnt take long to discover that in so many places the shabby backend sits between these buildings and scratches along in an altogether environment. It's a real eye opener. On the one hand you can step into a modern very high tech shopping mall and the outside high street oozes with metallic modernity and efficient technology...

Turn a corner and you'll see that somehow the poorer Chinese have bypassed the effects of hygene and are living in conditions and working in environments that make you grimace but walk forwards to see anyway.

One stall I noticed showed marketeers changing the fish from the polystyrene containers into tanks to "revive them" and slapped out some more into the water filled polistyrene containers to swim about and look lively and fresh.

Beside this was a girl cutting their heads off as they flapped about and fin and tailing them for a customer and aside down a thin alley where the market extended on another day  I saw live chickens and ducks being handled in exactly the same manner.

While this siunds barbaric the freshness of the meats involved do not contain disease because if the food was prepped before hand and laid out in poly boxes as over here.... it would go bad in the same morning. The temperatures here are 25 to 30 degrees c. The humidiy is like drinking the air some afternoons. So be prepared if you're not aware.


      FOOD TO GO....  

It's not everyones cup of tea to have their lunch performing death throes in their shopping bags but no less tricky looking about the markets and shops that have their wares on trays and boxes outside either. Its a horrifically delightful explorative affair looking at what on the one hand appears to be a chicken leg drumstick................. but that seems to have been genetically grafted onto something that looks like a cuttlefish cross octopus bladder. Don't ask me! I just took the picture.

(Left.) there are whart appear to be spare ribs but the acrid smell of carrion doesn't do alot for my appetite. And aside from these delights there are always dried fish of every description and I mean every. Some of them look like they're crustaceons dried and, sort of inflated!!!!!! Well, they do! Vitamin "D" bubble gum?? Who knows.

In all, the markets were highly colourful and exciting because in these street markets, if you can turn your head away from the usual touristy crap on sale, you get a good cross section of the kind of common place in China and especially here, in HongKong, what sells. The Chinese are very tenacious and the stalls you see are stocked with what they are because such stock moves and you're the ones who mnake it so. 

I found on the whole the stalls held a wide variety of super-colourful nothings and trinkets you can't live without and I succumbed and bought a few.  A few???????? I hear you ask!
Yes, just a few.

Night Markets.
The night markets were fun to browse about in mainly because it's so late but people are rushing about like its saturday morning.  The lights and city lights mixed with the sizzling  smells of cafe's and restaurants and..... well, I'm not too sure what to call all the other 80% btu they are, suffice it to say, places where you sit down and eat the food thats cooked to order.

Scary.
On passing one cafe I did note that these long hairlike strands of fatty grease and clinging dust and.... what looked like fibres of "stuff" caught in the air.... it was all shiny, sticky, dribbling with oil, and was the deposit of fatty smoke above the friers that had caught all manner of pollution and grime and it literally hung in lengths about 15 inches down from the metal rafters the marquee draped across. The ceiling area was about thirty feet by about 15 above the "cooking area" of this semi-inside-outside cafe marquee and the people's food would have been spattered by this hanging drenched dark brown debri as the wind and passing traffic dislodged hunks of it to drop down on the floor anf tables and......

Stomache it!
Which is why I say, somehow the Chnese seem to have bypassed hygene and can live through anything free of poisoning and infection. But this is the way it was across so many places I saw. Trays of chicken thighs five deep and thirty across sitting on cardboard on a wall with a man selling them as his income. All afternoon in the ehat these things will sit there awaiting their custom.  While you're there you kind of see this stuff and dont respond to it.

 

   Markets...  



   HONG KONG PARK.  

HongKong Park. Now this is a place I saw on video on youtube one year... about 2007 or so. The person who video'd this also created a video of spiralling Koi Carp by the thousand.  This video I commented on and asked the person where they lived and what they most enjoyed doing. They said they lived in HongKong and enjoyed Art and painting  most.

From then on I wrote to Elaine Yip and when Maxine said we were going to HongKong I thought we have a friend there we can rely on for navigation and translation.   Now, I stood in HongKong park and it was a superb feeling to stand somewhere I imagined was impossible for me to see in the flesh. Around us was an aviary of about 100 feet high and 300 feet round. huge trees towered inside it and the birds flew both above us and below as we walked a gangway suspended from the ground.

It was beautiful to see these birds, now kind of tame to the public, and as I turned round one was sitting right besdie me and one was "talking"  to Maxine and curiously approaching.

Peace amidst chaos.
The oddity of this park is that, while  being quite large it's actually right in the middle of a busy city centre. The towering trees try to conceal the towering skyscrapers around uis and the drone of traffic, while being prevailant, is also hushed by shrill birdsong as you stand in this hot humid enclosure which feels like a rain forest.

The brids were in good variety  and there were also some incredible butterflies and moths whizzing past and hiding amongst the leaves.  The day was whistling by me, too, and light started fading so we headed back to the hotels to change and go out for dinner.

 

   Dusk in HongKong...  

The night lights in HongKong are something to see.  You really need a digital camera that gioves a digital view of whast the sensor see in this environment because otherwise the guesswork  will be immense. I've just bought a Fuji HS50 which is their top of the range HS series cameras and it excells at night photography. It even takes triple exposures and blends them together to decrease grain at very high iso's (asa's for the original pro's amongst us.)

The signs hanging down every alleyway and side styreet suddenly start to come to glorious flurescent life and their colourful spray of shimmer makes the environment even more gracefull to drift amongst, despite the carnage of the goods being prepared as you wander past.

We sat down to eat.
The people stand outside their cafes and try to speak to you, asking if youre hungry, and would you like a table for????? etc etc. One such "Cafe", a kind of doorless garage, we entered and sat down. The walls covered in shiny predominantly yellow  pictures of shellfish, animal segments and fish from the depths waiting to be eaten. I ordered a Grouper as they are extremely deep sea fish and I had never seen one for real let alone eaten one. With a bill of about $80hkd (About £80 UKP) I decided that, for a garage, this was a little expensive and I could probably buy a small car for the same price to drive me back to the hotel so instead I ordered a fish not quite to deep in the ocean and not quite so deep a lunge into the pocket either.  The food tasted good to us all ....... but the following day, we realised in a mad rush, just how rather unhealthy the food had been as it evolved into something else inside us as we slept. Alien had nothing on this.

It was, none the less, a really entertaining and enjoyable evening. Raw and basic with raucus humour from some of the locals drunk and apparently celebrating their daughters wedding engagement though, as the evening wore one, I suspected the wedding led daughter routine to be something they used frequently to lure holiday makers into buying the majority of drinks. With several refusals we made our way back to our hotel and made Tih Kuan Yin before bed time.

The days end.
Sad, then, as, already, the first day had ended in a whirr of activity and color of everything new and strange, commonplace but uncommon, but the ride had been as incredible as seeing the sun rise in the sky at 2am through the Boeng 777 window as we hurtled towards HongKong, beating it 6 hours ahead of its european morning.


Monday, 23 November, 2015, 20:10



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