by Armstrong

    Day 4 - Hong Kong Markets. Day  and Night.   

Panorama of a typical Hong Kong high street.



Yes, it's market day. Maxine took me around to show me the Markets and what a stunning time we had.

The contrasts and alternative sights free for the viewing was astounding around the shops, markets and ....... stalls. From the cute to the gory... but all in the name of  Cuisine. Well, mostly, otherwise Profit. But you can't criticise the Chinese for lacking choice. Crispy Duck here really does mean Crispy. >>>
But if you're stuck for something to eat it out of then I suggest the Markets at night will show you a dozen variants of Dish, bowl and platter. With accompanying chopsticks. Beautiful, really... and the choice! You can lose alot of time pondering.

In general the markets are alot of fun. Be careful of studying the people too intensely. Their tempers can flare wild and they deliver scowls like a blow in the face.

I saw things that the animal rights communities would wage war over but... you have to be more understanding than vindictive. (hah! Where have I heard that before!!!)  The heat. The humidity. Fresh meat comes at a price.  It has to be alive before its prepped for you and bagged emmediately. It wouldn't sit in the sunshine all day in the humid heat and last any time at all.

 Night Markets & Your Camera.

It's one of those fields where, try as hard as you can, the atmosphere doesn't quite come across as it really is. The flourescence, the illuminations, the brilliant unpolluted colouring of the strip lights... it all gives a wonderfully........ hygenic feel to the atmosphere. Happy. Rejoicing. Like electric fireworks.

Well, for the most part it is. But the most is up on high and the best lights are the gloriously illuminated signs that hang, swing, dangle and just down right defy gravity despite their rotton rusting cronky bracketing that holds them to..... what amounts to crumbling plaster.

The camera I use is a Fuji HS50 EXR, their top of the range EXR model. The beauty of this camera is that in incredibly low light conditions it takes three photographs and knits them together to decrease the "grain" effect. This also means that the light intensity is tripled. It also means that the colour intensity is very loud rather than being dulled down to just the light's value intensity. After seeing photography morph from darkrooms and developing trays of the 1970's to 2015 I can only say "Lucky you!" not to have to suffer the endless failures of badly exposed negatives from attempting such night shots.

Then you have to ask yourself why are there cameras out there, still, with mirrors, in true SLR style?  I'm from those days and I have to say there's no defence. Just a few weak technical arguments.

The beauty of the HS50 is that the large viewing display tilts to point downwards at you as you hold the camera on high and amplifies the light ahead of you making it a kind of night-vision scope. it really works. What I see on the viewfinder is what the camera is processing ready for my shot.  The eye viewfinder lights up as you bring the camera to your face for the tricky shots and..... as you pull it away from your face the viewing screen lights up again.

But where this camera really leaves your SLR mirror-flippy behind (and I used to have a massive RB67 [6x7 cm negative] SLR studio camera) is that the viewing screen will show you exactly what your going to get when you push the shutter. Most times. Most setting. Most programs. Where this has an exception is time photography where the exposure is about 30 to 120 seconds where it's obviously impossible to see the results.
So you can tweak the exposure value anyway, the f stops and exposure pattern as you will until you're happy with the radiance of the result because you're looking right at it.  Then  push the button.
If you have an SLR and view this environment bounced off a mirror, drool, because you can't compete. Viewing the failures from mirror photography means retaking and retaking and retaking.... in the mean time real Digital cameras like the HR fuji series are long gone on to the next shot having instantaneously displayed any number of exposure variations (as well as inbuilt art shots to boot like painting, oil watercolor, sepia, BW, posterised, bas relief and so on.)

This camera has astounding lens capability.
The shot left is using it at 1000m/m and the shot to the right 40m/m but the HS50 can go right down to a staggering 24m/m wide angle and bang up to 1000m/m in half a twist of the lens.
Image stabilising means that even at 1000m/m you dont need a tripod. The camera effectively takes about 15% of the image around what you can see (to put it simply) and never shows you motion blur unless you specificallty set it in place.

It must have something like 7 different night shooting modes and I was never dissappointed with its exposure or dynamic exposure abilities which was variable too. I cannot praise this camera enough. It never let me down. One battery lasted for the whole hard working  day even though I had four in reserve. And the preset modes came in twice so you can preset one mode and another mode with the flick of the dial to shoot in the environments best settings common to your location. 

Easy. Couple that with the fact that using Super High Definition Video, whilst filming you can push the shutter button and take stills during the video shooting uninterruptably .  Now how many devices do you know do that.

There are too many bells and whistles on cameras these days that impress the newcomer and camera-clubber. But for a hard work-horse of a camera you simply need tough tools that have the allowances required for impossible environments and I have to say, after three months research I struck a good chord with this camera choice. 

Don't skimp on memory card choices either. I spent £110 on a Lexar 1000s Professional 150mb/s 64 gigabyte. Fast. I want to take video at 250 fps, not just 60. I want to take a full HD fine image and be ready for the next one in less than a tenth of a second.  I want to shoot 16 frames per second. ............................................ You need the fastest card the market has to offer otherwise you'll stand there waiting while you camera saves your picture.. waiting...waiting... wasting...  and another picture will happen and pass you by.




 Precarious but curious. 

I just want to spend a few seconds on an issue that, every time I saw it, made me cringe. Scaffolding in China. Least ways in HongKong. When you're in Hong Kong look up. Those with me didn't look up. You'll see more for cuiriosity if you do. Stop thinking the touristy way. Learn how to be aware.

Now, I know Bamboo is a cheap resource and one that grows prolifically in China. But it's use is also quite fine with me in that respect. Tough as hell, easily cut to size, lighter than tempered steel....... But held together with hand knotted plastic ties??? Not even the zip-ties we use.

Yes, this scafolding is used everywhere and I actually watched the workmen tying it up and making it reach the rooftop of a 35 storey building. (As seen left.) 35 floors up? Would you walk on that? Doesnt it sway about?
And (right) someones 12th floor windows seem to have suffered either rot, damage, breakage or replacement. WHATS HOLDING IT UP THERE? Plastic ties!!!  CLICK HERE to see the left picture up close.

It's all Bamboo sticks. As stunning as it sounds (reads) I saw some that spanned the entire body of a 40 storey building top to toe and all the way around and the men were working at the very top.
"Safe working environment" comes across as "Änquán de gōngzuò huánjìng".... but I dont think its a term commonly used here.  

 Food for the brave. 

OK, I'm no coward when it comes to eating wierd food of different nations. I'm right there up to try most anything. Almost anything. I thought I would eat live larvae until I saw someone eat a live giant slug and then suffered a worm infection that gnawed through her bones and flowed through her blood giving her nervous system a near fatal blow and almost killing her.  So.... maybe as long as it isn't wriggling then.

Those crabs on the left were priced at about $480:00 in some places. That's about £48 quid. !!!!! Hmm, other places they were priced  alot lower. Still, theyre all beautifully wrapped up in grass thongs but I wondered... Do you eat ALL the Crab? I thought there were parts you absolutely had to leave alone.

But... in the light of it, I healthily walked past fascinated by the fish flapping about on the further cutting board. I think they were fish. They seemed to have heads like mice. Yeah, I know, laugh as you will. But they did. I didnt know if they were whiskerted shrimps with their legs wrenched off or some kind of skinned rodent.  I didnt try one. ..... I'd just eaten. And anyway, I'm trying to give them up.

 Art, Art everywhere. 

It's true to say that Art is everrywhere you look.  if you look in the Gallery Day 4 you'll see that some of the street signs are actually Spontaneous Chinese Painting, one of Crabs in particular is really rather good.  
I found in one of the markets these cut out paper magic popup "things" and I chose a Galleon as I didnt see a Junk. It cost me about $480hkd £4 or so. And came on a card and in an envelope all folded flat but in their stand they looked impressive. Everything you could think of had been converted into one of these popup paper magicals. Beautiful to see.

On the other side fo the market there werew China and Pottery items on sale and this particular item is a wonderful Tea Pot. Its beautiful. I wish I had bought it. Because I neevr didd see another one anywhere else and this one was $200, which is about £20. Online lesser versions cost over £100. My mistake to walk away greedily assuming Id find cheaper. As if it wasnt already cheap enough. I will have to ask my friend Elaine if she could ship one to me.

 Chinese Laundry.

I know, it's corny but you cannot avoid it. Some of the places we walked "under" all had these fifteen foot rods stretching  out from their windows like fishing washing lines. Washing was strung on these things to hang precariously above. Sometimes six storeys deep of these washing lines strung and hung high up overhead.

It was also odd that we only ever saw this one laundry sign. (Right)  Someone somewhere does the laundry but we couldnt find out who or where. My concern was how much lead oxide and/or car fumes were soaked up by the washing hanging overhead like air filters absorbing it all.

I can't say the population suffers for it because it is singularly one of the busiest places I have ever been. Day 4, then in summary, was an exciting walk through HongKong street markets by day and by night and the essence of bustle and busy-ness was hard to escape from. It kind of swept you up and blurred about you and after a while, you were in this oddity of silence because it all blended into a kind of mono-drone.

The colors and sounds made it something very different and special,. Everything here is in the West but.... just so vastly different in extremes.

We enjoyed today. Down some streets (alleyways) where Maxine looked away, I studied to understand.  Its all new to me. It can be harsh here. But fresh food is life. Rotton food is death. And if it has to be slaughtered and bagged in front of you, then so be it.

Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 22:53

by Armstrong

   GALLERY HERE...        






 OCEAN PARK - HONG KONG - November 2015

   The Third Day!  

Setting off in the morning for Ocean park we hailed a Taxi and took the easy way out. Ocean park is an incredible place. Alot of color and alot of fun. Something for everyone as long as you're a child at heart. Kind of a brush against the shoulders of a Disneyfied arena and I enjoyed what I saw.

Upon entering the park, at least for me, the wonderful feeling of space hit me first. Then musicians started playing (Cuban music???) and the entrance opened up into a wide and easily observed arena of shops, trinket stalls and areas of entertainment themed as "Adventures." The Arctic Adventure. The something else adventure and so on.

The weather was bright and cheery and the humidity deliciously wet, clammy and liquid. Melting in my shirt I hastily purchased a thin touristy "T" shirt and touristy cap and felt more the part of a google eyed tourist amazed at everything he saw.  Which wasn't far from the truth. 

The underground Marine tanks and Aquarium were impressive. It reminded me of the one Maxine and I walked through in the states. Underneath the water peering at the massive fishes from underneath through portholes cut into the rock. 

I didn't expect to see pandas. But there he was in one of the pleasantly countrified enclosures and sitting munching on leaves as clear as anything. Unobstructed.

It was the first time I'd been this close to a Panda outside glass windows. The last time I saw one of these up close was at Bristiol zoo around 1968. The good thing about this day was... it wasn't crammed with people. It was breezy easy enough to amble about and see very few other folk in the way.

Maxine got some super shots of the Panda sitting against the rocks and then after this we noticed the tail only of a Red Panda. But he was kipping. And aside from a glimpse of who was looking on, he disappeared again but for his tail.

Next we sat in on a show that had an incredible array of birds that wee trained to do little tricks. I never knew you could train a brilliantly orange ibis to walk to a corner of an arena, do a twirl, walk to the other corner some fourty feet away, do another circular twirl and then fly back through a tiny window to the trainer.

Several birds did this. Parrots, a toucan, and a Vulture. I can't imagine the hours it must have taken to achieve this. It was a tame show in its way with a bit of theatrics in the middle for the rain forest.... but the people enjoyed it. Thats what counted and then afterwards donations were made towards their cause. 


For lunch we entered a place close to "The Arctic Adventure." From here we managed to deciphre some menus on a food stall enough to get food we hoped we could eat. Most eating places have the food in pictures which makes it easier...... sometimes...... to recognise what you feel safe consuming. Sometimes.

For me the fascination of seeing Chinese characters dominate on shop signs and street notices was very pleasing. The calligraphy also seen from time to time either on a T Shirt or  Shop menu was pleasant to observe.

The Locomotive (seen right) that pulled, no, hauled us  up the hill through a darkened tunnel was impressive. The incline was about 1 in 5 and the darkness only really eased by a semi-humourous ceiling played video of what imaginarily was taking place outside.

One thing surprised me alot in all our travels here. There were very few westerners here. English. American. Which ever. So few that in a day you may not see a single one. I assumed before I got here that the count would be justifiably high to warrrant some of the hostilities I experienced for no ground reason. But it wasn't.
In its way that was good to me.  It kept me feeling rmeote and emoved. As opposed to sitting in a back street of Reading. 

The day passed quickly and the heat and atmosphere bit me to distraction a couple of times, that and the oddity of jet lag or its inverse.... however... bei8ng tired is nothing new. Spend a week at Arnimean in Scotland and you'll see why.

It was an adventurous day; a simple pleasures day and the things we saw and ate were very pleasing.   The people around us were different to the extreme and their way of life, despite the surface similarities, is very different to our own.

I'm so incredibly lucky to have Maxine as my Girlfriend because she is extremely fluent and educated when it comes to global travel and in this I would say 90% of the headaches are ironed out of our trips because she has a well versed insight into all the negative potentials and how to avoid them.

Part of what makes travelling enjoyable for me is seeing the variation of existence but more over, having done my research before entering the country so that I dont blunder about inanely snapping the usual touristy colourfuls and cliches, but rather maintain an understanding of the heart of the society and this enables me to "see" things I otherwise would have missed.

Doing some research and historical educational studies means that what, to the ordinary tourist, appears mundane......... actually has more meaning and reason for understanding than its appearance implies. Tomorrow I plan to get under the skin of HongKong a little.

I would like to see some of the ancient architecture somewhere in Hongkong. I have read alot about the construction method of building houses  particularly as the ancient woodworkers made houses that were several stories high yet not one nail was used. The beams and wooden rafters all slotted together like a chinese puzzle and held the building solidly in place.

Old HongKong would suffice (Left) if only to get a  feel for those who founded the marketing area. I think we're off to a Fishing village on one of our days here. I don't expect I'll see ancience... but it will be interesting to see another angle of HongKong.

I more prefer walking through the streets looking at the markets that sell to their own people. you get a better feeling and see a better frequency of lifestyle if you can invisibly walk amongst them somehow. The markets here are raw and uncluttered with the pretties we are used to in the west. The harsh reality of their ways of life are quite apparent as you see the brutality and hygenically dangerous places some of these people are forced to live amongst. But the oddity of even this is that next door is a super-tech hi-rise mall. Glitzy and steely pristine.

I found it near impossible to walk past the handful of beggars we saw sitting with a cup of small coins and not give a paper gift. Maybe because  in this country if the system wont look after you when youre starving, you die.  I guess therefore the importance and value of many freinds and a big family hopefully saved you from this fate..... unless of course you were unlucky enough to outlive them all.  




Friday, 27 November, 2015, 21:44

by Armstrong

(This site is best viewed on a wide screen 'real' computer not a telephone. The graphics do not lend themselves to 2 inch monitors!)
Day 2. HongKong.
Man Luen Choon

Address: Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut St, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2544 6965
Chinese Art Supplies and Materials.

MAN LUEN CHOON - The Chinese Arts Secret Resource.  
"Massive, endless, inspiring, limitless...  this store is worth travelling half way round the Earth for. " 

It's a fun, educational, inspiring and exciting experience for the Chinese Artist.

Man Luen Choon, stocking the most incredible and diverse array of materials I have ever seen on one floor in a single store. It's something worth travelling half way round the Earth for........... which is exactly what we did.

As you walk in trhough the door you're faced with a staggering view of paintings, ink stones in wooden cases, literature, more brushes and types of brush than you could ever imagine, brush vases and pots, brush hangers, seal stone clamps and vices, extravagantly carved ink stones, ornately wooden-boxed seal mud porcelains, ...  and the list goes on to cover everything you already knew existed plus leagues more.

Here, at Man Luen Choon, you will see the real price of goods as it should be for the struggling artist not the conditioned excessive prices the rest of the world charges.
Business is business but I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable so much of the goods here are.

For a simple example... how many of you have seen tubes of maries paints advertised on ebay for between £3uk / $6us to £4uk / $7us per tube?
Man Luen Choon sold me a dozen 5 tube boxes of maries paints for $170hkd, £1.70p / $3.40c per box of five. 
That works out at  34p per tube.  NOT 400p per tube?
It's understandable. Artists are not rich.  Paint should always be affordable. Its the basic need foremost. From this item onwards I could see how, just by choosing wisely, you could furnish an entire art table economically, but just s beautifully. Everything for the table in the Chinese world is made as beautiful as possible. It doesn't matter how economical the cost may be, alot of effort is put into your item to make it look and feel delicious.

HongKong harbours an incredible resource to the Worldwide enthusiasts and Artists of Chinese Painting here.
Tricky to find but don't give in. 
The sat-nav we used sent us outside and then into a building where, down a short corridoor and to the left, sat a lift attendant who told us that Man Luen Choon was on the 2nd floor.
A space without windows. A Store of endless treasures, limitless inspiration; collosal Libraries of Books on all topics covering the Chinese Arts.
I found to incredible  publications on Chao Shao-an. (At a third of the price the west would charge. )

If you plan to visit this store, give yourself an afternoon because you'll need that just to take in whats on offer.


Blank fan papers, fan spines and handles. Blank scroll tips. Silk. A huge array of papers, pressed car papers, books, zigzag books........... The array and choice of Brushes alone is incredible. Just studying the selection by so many makers..... I have gained a whole new respect for the Chinese Brush. I saw chicken feather brushes (of which I purchased a large and medium one... never having owned one of these before...) and was amazed at the colour range available in this medium. I bought a large one for about £28:00. For those in the know, a half the price back home.

The people behind the counter speak just enough English to get you through.

The gentleman (<<< pictured left) speaks excellent english and is also an Art Master.
His knowledge in the field is astounding and through his assistance I managed to get a suite of Montain horse Hair Brushes, akin to the kind Chao Shao-an used, for about $700hkd (£70) and also advice on the kind of fibrous cottony paper I should also use to emulate Chao Shao-an lessons.
Lucky for me and I mean by pure luck, I have already spend several hundred pounds on full size 100 sheet folds (74" by 27")  of this paper kind in about five different hues / fibre types.

Showing me a packet of 7 Wild Mountain Horse Hair Brushes  and walking straight to examples of tutorial literature in the massive library in the store I walked away from this shop with incredible treasures (more on that on another page later) and really felt the journey had been more than I ever expected. I have ached to see inside a Chinese Art Store and see this most traditional history before my eyes. The xuen papers. The hairs in the brushes and here, the brush types ran into hundreds and the count literally tens thousands. See the Gallery <<HERE!!!!!!>>

Its a crying shame that Europe and America do not stock the artists materials to this degree because seeing this store made all the western type stores in europe seem pathetic.  Not just from the limited range of materials they have compared to China's vast offering, but because for some reason the west deems art to be some kind of elitist field pricing materials unrealistically high and killing the true artists limited means.

I could have spent a couple of days sifting through the wares here at Man Luen Choon  but time was precious and the 8 days I was in HongKong whistled past like an express train. But at least we found this place, met the people, saw the wares on offer and came away feeling we had seen something that should be common knowledge to the Chinese Artist.

With help from my friend in Art, Elaine, I have access to these things but I would rather hope that, with Man Luen Choons staff assistance I could deliver and host a site online to display and promote the sales of materials from here for anyone outside China. 

Even though I was English and could not speak Chinese the staff made a definite effort to understand what I required and the gentleman who could speak english spent much time listening and advising and as the time came to leave and start the evenings exploration I felt I had really seen something here and, sitting back in Scotland writing this, I yearn to go and have another sift through all those treasures.

Man Luen Choon
Man Luen Choon (chinese Stationeries)  Art Supply Store Address: 2/Floor Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut St, Hong Kong
Phone:+852 2544 6965
ManLuenChoon >> WEBSITE HERE




Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 14:28

Chinese Art, Chinese Brushes, Chinese Paper, Chinese Ink, Chinese Accessories, Chao Shao-an
Day 2. I finally met Elaine Yip.
by Armstrong

   Day 2. Elaine Yip and Man Luen Choon.  

After having been in touch with Elaine through the Chinese Arts for about 10 years I finally got the chance to meet her in HongKong for the very first time. This penpal of the adult world who for a decade has been text in an email client. Though it wasn't easy and I did wonder whether we were ever going to find one another.  I stood on the corner of an extremely busy city centre high street and waited in this strange land texting Elaine now and then and trying to make sure I was by the right place. Saigon street, its name photographed and analysed by a phone OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program for Chinese to English is precarious to say the least especially when "Elephant" seems to come in as a potential meaning for one character on its own!!!! 
So... when you're new to an area and finding exit "B" of the MTR station in Chinese is daunting as well despite having studied the language for a decade. .

However, finally a face I recognised amidst the crowds and our first event was to sit in a restaurant on the 2nd floor of an incredible office block ( I think) and have lunch and Traditional Chinese Tea. Proper Tea. My favourites being Oolong and Teh Quan Yin.  Something I had promised my self to do for years.

Teh Kuan Yin was the order of the day, something common in China I suspect but rare in the UK.  The food Elaine ordered..... I simply said I'd go along with whatever was most Chinese.    The food consisted of a large arrangement of small filled Dumplings, sauces and noodles and something frighteningly close to a sort of cuttlefish egg sack!!!!! At least they weren't still wriggling. Quite a variety, otherwise, actually. Delicious. The tea was flowery though I suspect in China they do not know of the brown stuff served as Tea in Europe.

We spoke of Art, the surrounds, the way the restaurant worked and the people who startwed to gather all around us.  When we walked in we were the 2nd table of about 30. Within a short while the entire place was heaving with people. The food was excellent and the day was slipping through my fingers again.

After lunch we made out way through the town towards Man Luen Choon.  This was to be the highlight of the year and something I was not prepared for as I walked up the crowded alleyway street towards an opening in a building because Man Luen Choon does not have a shop front, but rather is upstairs in the middle of a large building without windows. 


          Man Luen Choon  

 As we walked through the doorway I could not believe my eyes. The area was huge, much bigger than I expedted and heaving with art materials in the Chinese style. I have never seen so many Brushes in so many different style and containers. Incredible.

The things that struck me the most were the variety of xuen paper and types. Secondlty the cost of everything was about a third to a fifth of what Europe normally pays for these items on ebay and from the states. But thirdly, the cost of the brushes was alot more than I expected , not because they were not worth it, but because they deserved more respect than I had given them. My failing.  Paint brushes and Calligraphy bruishes in China are serious business.

It was incredible to look through the store. The library of books was almost eternal and most publications were in Chinese by 98% (nothing new there) so I inadvertantly found two superb books by Chau Shau-an. My current master by example. One book came with a 22 gig DVD which, to my amazement when I got back to England, contained about 6 tutorial videos by Chau himself. Absolutely a bonus. Now I can see how the brush lays on the paper and how the paint is supposed to work. Stunning. very happy to see this.

I made a short video in the store as the people there were impressed that I wanted to document the place and put it on the web for europe. So I had free run to photograph the premises and stock for the video coming later.  The master there explained about Wild Horse Hair Brushes and supplied me with about 5 medium ranging brushes. He said these were the style Chau used for his works and that also I should use the cotton fibre paper for my work and studies as this was not sized but neither was it raw. And it would work correctly for the style of Shau-an.

So enjoyable to sit and listen to a master who teaches Chinese arts and who works in the store as well. An incredble day.... 

Later Elaine took me to see a tea treader and in this store I saw  that you could buy a pound (1 lb) of tea for around $3,800:00 hk dollars, which is about £380uk pounds. For 1lb of tea.  Yes, in China when you say, "Would you like a cup of tea?.. or "Nǐ xiÇĊ½ng hÄ“ bÄ“i chá?" It most definitely  won't be the stewed freeze dried chopped stems the west are so conditioned to accept as tea.
It was funny in the store becasue I smelt the teh Quan Yin and it was flowery and soft scented; delicious. I know this Tea, I can say with confidence. But the oolong.... I smelt the sample packet and it was actually faint but sour. I frowned, smelled it once more.... definitely sour.
"It's sour!" I announced to Elaine who also frowned and took the sample to smell. The man behind the counter looked very concerned and fussed about for a completely new packet. He opened this one and smelt it himself before handing me that one. He took the "sour" one.
I smelt the new packet and, ahhh, thats Oolong. Oolong has a kind of  deep liquid scent you cant mistake for anything else.
The man behind the counter was so imrpoessed that a westerner has identified "bad tea" that I was given a free packet of Teh Quan Yin with my order of two tins of TQY and Oolong.  I parted with the cost for these teas, knowing I would not return to HongKong or any other tea shop for quite some time... so I spent extravagantly on my two tins of tea.... and came away happy.
At home in Scotland I have about 30 different types of tea and about three varieties at least of Teh Quan yin. 
Tonight in the hotel I will try these teas. If you think tea is typhoo, yorkshire (make me alugh, ) or PGTips, think again. your drinking freeze dried cuttings shredded and blasted with the treated sap powders which contain caffiene and tannin of no taste.
Spend some time searching out Chinese Tea leaves and take a drinnk from a teapot and realise the conditioning you've suffered because the taste of real tea is wonderufl and makes having a "cuppa" really worthwhile and educational.

Some of the teas I have are small mandarins stripped out fo the wet fruit, the skin is then packed tightly with tea, and the "lid" put back on. The  this little fruit is wrapped in foil and left in a drying house for a year or two.
Then sold.
I have about a dozen types of this tea and they are all wonderful and not drenched with the tang of citrus either, the end result os a much finer softer flowery flavour sometimes not evben remotely like citrus at all.
Its a side interest of mine because China has SO so many types of tea. Yellow, Orange, Black, Greem, Amber....... and then there's japanese teas like a fine green powder that sometimes smells of chocolate. Sometimes roses.
....  and in the west.... we have brown sludge. Freeze dried and sprayed back onto stems and stalks. Masses of tannin to coat the blood veins and caffeine.

Many types of Chinese tea don't have caffeine or Tannin. But the west doesn't know this. Most types of tea taste flowery and have been aged in tea huts for 5 to ten years sometimes and then smoked...  commonly, but the west doesn't know anything further than PG tips and (shudder) Yorskshire tea. "The taste of home" whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.  Compared to Yun Nan Puer Po Nee... you'd wonder why Englsih Supermarkets do NOT stock Chinese teas when they are in SUCH massive abundance in China.

On that note, I bought some very elite The Quan Yin (1/2 lb) for little under $600 hkd from a very upmarket Tea shop Elaine showed me. Something you have to do once. 
Some of the teas in there were priced at about $3800:00hkd for 1/2 lb. 
Now you may be able to undertsand why I was so intent on Elaine taking me to a Tea shop as a prioritised element of my Visit to HongKong. But I didnt expect to see £3000+++  tins of dried leaves.  But it was exciting to see them. And realise that tea in China is taken very very seriously.

So a big thankyou to Elaine for a wonderful day and for spending alot of time being my translator, showing me around HongKong, Taking me to Man Luen Choon, Introducing me to a very elite Tea Trader (where I puirchasd some fine Teh Quan Yin and Oolong) and for chasing over 50 taxis until we found one happy enough to take me the one mile back to the hotel.  taxi's in HongKong seem to come from another planet.

Bit like me, really!  






Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 00:35

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.

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.




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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