Monday, May 23, 2011

In The Streets of Hong Kong

The rains dampened my plans to explore the rural towns of the Southern islands, but it gave me a chance to get myself more acquainted with the city.

There is not much to see in terms of man-made attractions unlike its younger, overly make-upped sister in the south, Singapore. But Hong Kong feels more real, less pretentious, and like a serious older sister, appears to have no time for bullshitting around. The city is literally bustling and bursting with energy but it's not without its quaint little parts. My favorite moments were in fact mostly in the cozy suburban areas - sipping Chinese tea by the university campus while listening to young students play traditional instruments, for example.

I think I'm getting better at this solo backpacking thing now. I feel more confident walking in the streets. I also took less photos and as a result got richer experience, besides, my memory paints better pictures than my camera.

A busy street in Central.

View of the harbor from a Star Ferry. Rain clouds loom in the sky.

In the hustle and bustle of the city, there are still many pockets of serenity and calm - like this centuries-old Tin Hau temple dedicated to the Chinese goddess of the sea.

A triangular corridor in Tsim Sha Tsui

A drizzly morning in the old district.

Pick your poison. For non-Cantonese speakers, the way to order is to point to the most edible looking thing, hand over a 50-dollar bill and wait for the change.

Hong Kong's party district: Lan Kwai Fong

The colorful lights of Kowloon.

Hong Kong's oldest street.

A surrealistic art on display by the harbor.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Riverdance - The Farewell Tour

One of my dreams just came true. For years I have been a Riverdance fan and last week I finally got to watch them - LIVE!

And in Hong Kong.

It was surreal. I had to constantly remind myself I was seeing them flesh and blood and not on a screen. It took me a lot of guts to pull off something like this - booking a concert in a foreign city and going there alone - but thank gods it paid off well. I have never seen anything more spectacular.

I even got a bonus. I ran into some of the performers who were exiting backstage when I was leaving the theatre. Too bad I was too shy and too starstruck to ask for autographs.

I booked online a few weeks ago and now I finally got my VIP ticket!

By the entrance to the Lyric theatre.

Inside the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.

A large wall display.

Photography was strictly prohibited but I managed to snatch a photo of the stage before any of the ushers catch me.

Basbasan Nawa!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Food in Hong Kong

Eating in Hong Kong for me is more about the experience rather than acquiring new tastes. We Pinoys really don't have to "acquire" to Chinese food. So even though I wasn't really satisfied with many of the stuff that I ate; the location, the atmosphere and the view at least make up for it. (And there is still nothing like Chinese lumpia and fried siopao in Binondo)

Strawberry Danish and best-tasting coffee ever (really), at SimplyLife, IFC mall - the tallest tower in Hong Kong. There was also a lovely view of the rainy Victoria Harbor in the morning which made this one-hour breakfast moment immortalized in my daydreams.

Rubbery octopus and fried rice for dinner in a dai pai dong (tradtional sidewalk eatery). Noisy, smoke-filled and chaotic  - this is authentic Hong Kong dining.

Dim sum stand at Wan Chai. I don't really know any of these but I just gotta try one of them. I wasn't adventurous enough for tentacles and claws so I picked the slimy, yellow ball things (which tasted like curry). 

Peking duck noodles at Peking Garden, in the poshy One Pacific Place. I was the lone guy in the bar. When I asked for water, they gave me a bottled Evian which skyrocketed the bill. I should have known. Sheesh.

Fish and chips and some red wine at Post 97 in Lan Kwai Fong, the party district of Hong Kong. The party district really is a bit old-school-ish, especially when compared with Singapore's Clark Quay. It's like Makati's red light district vs. The Fort.

I was in an area of western Hong Kong (Sheung Wan) where there is nary an English word on the signboards and on the menus. Thank god I found one symbol I am quite familiar with.

Blueberry cheesecake at Starbucks, near the Avenue of the Stars, with the view of the legendary Hong Kong skyline (not shown). I dunno but when it comes to cheesecake, I was expecting the blueberries to be at least crushed.

Tetsune Udon, with sweet omelette on top at Osaka Osho, Times Square at Causeway Bay.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Beltane by the Sea

In keeping with our tradition, my friends and I went out for another nature trip to celebrate the Sabbat. We headed this time for the lush island of Potipot in the province of Zambales. It was the farthest journey we've taken so far: we left the bus terminal in Manila in the morning and arrived on the island just before the dark. The trip was extremely exhausting but thankfully we were all well rewarded.

Our Li'l maypole. 

Ate Bet and the Beltane sun.

The beauty of the place was apparent even in the darkness of the twilight. The sea was very calm, and the sound of the gentle waves was like soothing balm to our tired souls. Stars were all a-flicker over the night sky and by our feet glimmer tiny, bioluminescent creatures as we walk by the shore. We were in a setting stolen from a romantic shojo anime.

The Beltane ritual in the morning was short and sweet and was almost just for formality’s sake. The real celebration I believe was the communing with nature itself. I always feel that the gods express themselves better through the elements of nature than with words.

Even though it’s fast becoming a popular tourist spot now, Potipot is still incredibly teeming with living creatures both flora and fauna. The observant Pagan can immediately perceive the essence of Beltane in the land and sea and air:

"...In every aspect, the colorful Sabbat of Beltane stands in contrast with its dark, polar opposite: Samhain. Beltane celebrates union, while Samhain acknowledges separation. In Beltane we reach out, while in Samhain we introspect. Beltane teaches about life and creation, and anticipates those who will be born, while the lesson of Samhain is death and entropy, and commemorates those who have come before." – Murmur’s Pink Cattleya Filler of Shadows

Cam-cam and Rei posing on the Potipot tree.

Incidentally, as Aldrin noted on his blog, the usual Wiccan narratives about the fullness of life on the land doesn’t very well apply to our little tropical country during this time of the year where many farmlands are dried up by the extreme summer heat. But as I realized in our trip, life is still abundant and the harvest is rich but we just have to know where to look:

“...In our case: underwater. I know, many local Wiccans are too caught up with all the earth stuff that we forget we're an archipelago - half of our country is submerged in the sea. Our warm waters seem to be attractive to marine life so fishing activities begin to peak around this time of the year (the absence of rain and anticipation for the Habagat season may also be a factor)." -- Christian Fernandez, Facebook comment

To end this exceptionally long and photo-rich blog entry, here are some useful tips I found to live the spirit of Beltane throughout the years to come. (Note: Some of the tips I don't necessarily agree with):

Basbasan Nawa!
The customary summer beach jump shot.

Starting a bonfire is apparently quite tough.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Jumping over the bonfire - with style.

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