Archives for posts with tag: temples

Sunday afternoon

Does lightning really strike twice?

On the Light Rail again, and, not for the first time, a huge, colorful structure catches my eye.  A large, tiled orange roof seated atop of a dizzying palette of colors stands next to an even taller glass building.  The surrounding streets are rural and gritty, in stark contrast to their boldly – almost brashly – polychromatic neighbors.

What is this?  Or rather – where is this?

The Light Rail rushes past too quickly to discern anything specific, but the moment it stops, I get off and start exploring.

Read the rest of this entry »


Three attempts.

It took me three tries, three trips, three turnarounds to finally find this place.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to visited this area, at once a part of and yet so far away from Hong Kong and what the territory spans.  The first attempt to get from there to here (here to there?) was a casual reconnaissance-turned-retreat mission; the second, a logistical disaster with respect to transportation and circumstances.

But on the third attempt…well, even the success story isn’t a perfect one.  But I think it’s worth telling all the same.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

It is a tempting signpost, but also a frustrating one.  Five possible destinations, and the awareness that this visit alone will hardly suffice to account for all of them – save for the KCR Station (Kowloon-Canton Railway, the old name for the East Rail Line – though I’m amazed it’s survived for so long!).  Notably, they’re all part of the Wilson Trail, which defuses the mystery a little bit.

So which one should I take?

The temple walk – in the direction of Lin Au (蓮澳) and the fascinatingly named “Lead Mine Pass (鉛鑛凹)” – proves to be the most compelling option, so I cross the bridge (back toward the market side) and follow the road.

The street winds through a fairly open courtyard, but I’m at a loss as to figure out what this place is.  A village?  A (housing) garden?  A town?  “Suburb” seems like a close match, yet I hesitate to tack on the American connotations to a place like this.

But that’s not the only problem – the road diverges into two new paths.  Do I still really want to go to the temple?

Fortunately, two signs are enough to answer both questions: “Shek Kwu Long Village (石古龍村); Thai Temple, 400 m [straight ahead].”  It doesn’t point in the direction of the hillside temple, but it’s good enough for now.  So I move.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a post, as you can see, about Tsuen Wan (荃灣) – another locale in the New Territories, just northwest of the outer reaches of Kowloon. And once again, it was an (individual) excursion, motivated by map-gazing and curiosity, that revealed a fascinating glimpse into another corner of Hong Kong.

But as I start to write this, I’m beginning to hesitate as to how to best describe Tsuen Wan; or, taking another step backward, I’m struggling to figure out what to say at all. I’ve already been here for a month, and while Tsuen Wan is a place I’ve just visited for the first time, I am finding it increasingly difficult to capture its aspects with the freshness of a visitor who has, spontaneously or otherwise, arrived here.

So as I begin to provide the usual apparatus – descriptions, images, the occasional thought – I know that what I say will simultaneously be deprived of verve and be insufficient to give the area any justice. For someone who has grown increasingly fond of writing, it’s not a trait to be proud of.

But on the other hand, does that, at last, make me…a local? Or am I, once again, getting a bit too ahead of myself?

Read the rest of this entry »

The interior of the "New Town Plaza" in Sha Tin (沙田).

Bright colors – it’s the colors that nearly grab your attention first before anything else.  Gray skies; green tarpaulin over a building under construction; red-brick gates; blue and pink street signs; yellow lights; neon- and fluorescent-hued letters advertising stores.

Or is it the sounds?  Of traffic in the distance; of the wind clearing the air of its recent humidity; of children playing in the park; of elders chatting and joking with each other; of shoppers dodging one another (in vain) at a mall?

We – Jordan, Melody, Nigel, Jean, and I – could, at this point, be anywhere in Hong Kong.  But as things have turned out today, we find ourselves in Sha Tin (沙田).

Read the rest of this entry »

The menu options. How many can you name? (No cheating!)

Wednesday evening

I’ve been staring at the menu on the wall for about five minutes, trying my hardest to translate the options posted.  三餸一麵十八元: Three ‘dishes’ (options which include a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables) in one noodle soup for 18$HKD.  There’s a mix of familiar and unfamiliar items, some of them ‘replaced’ by their homophones (same pronunciation, different meaning) for the sake of efficiency (e.g. 九才 for 韭菜, or chives).  Melody helps out as well; in the end, we can, between both of us, read 70% of the menu.  Jordan waits.

Finally, we find a table and I order for our little group.  For Jordan: squid (魷魚), sausage (香腸 – “as long as it’s not a hot dog or something like that”), mixed greens (生菜) with thin rice noodles (米粉).  For Melody: pork (豬紅), fish balls (魚旦), and chives with flat rice noodles (河粉).  And for myself: squid, pork, and chives with flat rice noodles.

Five minutes later, our orders arrive.  We sit and stare at what’s been given to us.

I blink.  There’s a mix of familiar and unfamiliar items, to be sure.

But it’s not what I expected to get at all.  Not even in Tuen Mun (屯門), not all the way out here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Entrance to the Wong Tai Sin Temple

The entrance to the Wong Tai Sin Temple, located in the neighborhood of the same name (黃大仙) in Kowloon, Hong Kong. It is also known as the Sik Sik Yuen (read as 嗇色園, from right to left on the blue portion of the gate) Temple.

There are some days in one’s life where self-confidence flows out smoothly, like (to use the overused-but-still-apt simile) water falling over rock.  On such days, people are at perfect ease with themselves; they have no questions to ask of others, no need to probe deeper into the supposed mysteries of life.  It’s not easy to describe the external signs, but they’re recognizable – the gait and posture, the ease of conversation, the overall ‘vibe’ that a person exudes.  Certainly the internal signs are all-too familiar (or are they really?) for the individual.

For some people, these days happen often, maybe even on a regular basis.  It’s not second nature so much as it is perfectly natural; no shuffling of the priorities here.  For others, like myself…well, it’s more of a rarity.

But then there are days where the self must seek out its…spirit; charm; character; substance.  Call it what you will, but the path of ‘becoming’ and ‘understanding’ oneself proceeds – not necessarily in a linear, let alone ‘charted’ fashion, but it does wind its way toward something greater, something inspirational.  Indeed, the path may very well be filled with ambiguities (personal, social, cultural), some of which may never truly be shorn of their complexity.

Yes, I’m talking about a lot of abstractions that I probably don’t have any right to define, maybe even invoke.  But I want to make an attempt – if feeble and unstructured – to give voice to the realization I experienced today.  To communicate how, in a series of fluid moments, I found something greater within myself that I couldn’t quite grasp before (and, admittedly, cannot grasp fully right now).

For that process to take some shape, I need to tell you something about Wong Tai Sin, and how it encouraged me to seek out a glimpse of myself in Hong Kong – or more appropriately, the ‘Hong Kong’ in me.

Read the rest of this entry »