Archives for category: Markets

Sunday morning

Dear reader,

I want to tell you something about the market town/city of Yuen Long (元朗).  I really do.  This is a wonderful place – a magical place – that I can’t believe I’d overlooked before.

But it’s difficult to do anything like that if I’m not sitting next to or across from you, maybe with a cup of milk tea (奶茶) in one hand.  The milk tea isn’t really necessary, in truth (unless we’re having breakfast), but the contact (or potential for contact) is.  Because I would much rather tell this story using hand gestures; visual cues; call-and-response; scents – anything but words, either in English or in Chinese.

This is how it seems to work in Yuen Long, too – how it has always worked here, everywhere in Hong Kong (and elsewhere) since the beginning, as I’ve realized.  Histories and cultures are codified not only in words and images but also in tone and pitch, in gruffs and laughter, in aromas and sounds and tastes and textures.

That’s the ideal story I would like to tell.  No, scratch that – this is the ideal conversation I want to share with you.  A conversation that lets both of us discover what makes this place so remarkable, so compelling, so beautiful.

But since I am here and you are there, and because these screens cannot reconcile the distance between us…well, could I ask you to use your imagination a bit?  To take the skeins of text and imagery I’ve compiled and to put them together?

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Chai Wan (柴灣).  Chai Wan.  Chai Wan.

I am, in my head, trying to pronounce the name as properly as I can.  It’s the first character, “chai (柴),” that has me confused – I can’t recognize or remember any of its Cantonese homophones, which leaves me confused as to the consonance (is it really a “ch” or more like a “ts?”) and the tone (is it low, or does it rise?). Every encounter with the MTR’s Island Line (港島綫) has included the female announcer’s voice saying the station name: 往柴灣列車即將到達,請先讓車上乘客落車……The train to Chai Wan is arriving.  Please let passengers exit first.  And somehow, every time I hear it, I forget the name.

Until today, when I suggest to Jordan (Melody, unfortunately, isn’t able to join us on this trip) that we take the train to its end.  Having consulted the MTR “tourist attractions” map, we decide it’s a good idea – the map doesn’t explicitly show it, but the legend indicates there’s at least one “arts/culture” attraction available here.

Pronunciation complete.  It really is “ch,” and the tone starts low before rising slightly.  Or something like that.

But that’s only a small discovery, only the tiniest of insights into what lies on this side of the Island – because if you look closely enough, you can see so much more.

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Four days – it’s been four days since I last updated this project.  An eternity elsewhere in the world; a blink of the eye here in Hong Kong.  (Maybe that’s what they mean by “time difference?”)

At any rate, I’m sincerely sorry for the delay.  Academics, lethargy, and other responsibilities (not sure if “lethargy” counts as a responsibility) had hindered any attempt to travel, let alone write.

Until yesterday, that is.  So let’s jump in, hop on the East Rail Line, and head to Tai Po.  But let’s take our time, because Tai Po, as we’ll discover (or maybe you’ve consulted a map already?), is huge.

And once again, we’re heading for the markets.

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