The sun is finally out!

We’ve had pretty grim weather in the past few weeks in Hong Kong but finally the sun is back, the smog is (mostly) gone and the weather is just beautiful!

I’m not complaining about the heat and blazing sun because I know very well I won’t have them in the uk… that’s kinda sad.

 

I’ve been looking at Hong Kong skyline and I think I am really, really, REALLY going to miss this city…

 

Wan Chai Expo Promenade & moody Hong Kong

The weather has been quite gloomy (until very recently) and I was tired of waiting for blue sky to take pictures.

First, Hong Kong’s skies are often cloudy, so I thought I should capture this side of this city if I want to give an accurate depiction of it.

Secondly, fellow Olympus photographers have taught me that clear blue skies are boring and I should enjoy days where I can play around with the settings on my camera to capture the moody side of Hong Kong.

 

Since I have been to many of the accessible (= do not require a hike) sunset spots in the city, I browsed Google maps (as you do) until I stumbled across Wan Chai Promenade, just behind the Convention Center.

Once I got there, I was surprised at the number of Mainland Chinese tourists- who were all unloading from the nearby tour buses, but I was even more surprised at the lack of photographers… only  two other people were there.

 

I messed around for approx 1 hour and am quite happy with the results and the fact that I managed to get both sides of the harbour in the pictures!

 

 

 

 

Sai Wan Swimming Shed

I recently came across the photo of a place that didn’t look like Hong Kong… It looked like somewhere in Europe. As soon as I realised it was Hong Kong Island I was determined to go.

 

The Sai wan swimming shed (or rather jetty) on the west coast of Hong Kong Island is the last public swimming shed still in activity in the city. The swimming shed is still used by a few swimmers, but it has mainly become a big photography spot. It’s very popular with wedding photographers, Instagram keen teenagers and landscape photographers.

 

I waited several weeks until both the weather and the husband cooperated. I had been warned to avoid weekends as the spot is too crowded, so we ventured out on a Friday evening one hour before sunset.

I’d scouted out the exact location on Google Street view and I’m glad I did as it’s very easy to miss: an opening in the fence with a sign in Chinese, leading to steps going down into dense vegetation, a shed and finally the jetty.

 

Once we arrived, a couple in wedding attire were gingerly standing on the jetty while waves crashed around them and a wedding photographer tried to take some nice shots. Half a dozen other photographers & tripods were lined up on the platform anxiously waiting for the couple to get out of the way.

I realised another platform was available on the right hand side of the jetty and it was empty. I quickly ran and claimed the best spot – just seconds before a dozen teenagers turned up!

The whole purpose of this outing was to play around with long exposures and take some photos, objective reached – even though it was wind and so the trees are blurry.

 

The currents are pretty strong and waves regularly crash on the rocks… swimming here doesn’t look safe at all.

 

 

Hong Kong: the last 2 months

I knew it would happen, I wanted it to happen, but it happened much faster than I thought it would.

We are leaving Hong Kong at the end of July to return to the UK.

I love Hong Kong to bits, it’s such an amazing city full of contrasts and adventures, yet there are a few issues that mean it may not be the place where we settle.

These issues are:

  • The job market: simply put, I currently do not fit in.

I am a New Product Development Project Manager, but food companies with manufacturing operations in Hong Kong can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The few times I did see an offer, they regarded Chinese food, which I have no knowledge of…  Additionally, I do not speak, read or write Cantonese AND Mandarin fluently.

Mastering both Chinese languages is becoming increasingly mandatory and only a few sectors are exempt (banking being one of them).

 

  • Housing: renting a small apartment at high price doesn’t bother me too much. However, we want to eventually buy property, yet buying anything in Hong Kong seems unachievable. Not only is the price very high, the flats are tiny and the deposit is hefty. It simply isn’t achievable for us in the short/medium term.

 

  • Work culture: this one concerns Jeff rather than me. People at work are extremely competitive and do not hesitate to backstab colleagues and shoe-shine managers in order to get promoted. I’ve been told this behaviour is very common in certain industries/teams with local staff as it is instilled in people since kindergarten.

You see, there are only a handful of universities in Hong Kong, so parents put extreme pressure on their children to stand out from their classmates. This starts at a very young age with kids being enrolled in music, sport, arts & language classes, the only goal being to enter a prestigious primary school, then a prestigious high school and finally university. Children compete with one another on all aspects and this behaviour is carried over into their working lives.

 Hong Kong has so many good points: it’s safe, has easily reachable countryside, varied landscapes and no end of activities to try. Let’s not forget the food, central location for Asian holidays and warm weather.

 

I’ve learnt in the past seven years that no place is perfect and that it’s not about finding the place that ticks all the boxes, but the one that ticks the most important boxes…

I don’t know if England will tick the most important boxes (I’ll be honest and say I am concerned about safety)…but we thought we had to try, so when the opportunity came, we grabbed it.

 

We will try our best, but I would not be surprised if we eventually return to Hong Kong or try another country.

 

 

P.S: I do not plan on stopping the blog for now, even after I return to the UK

 

 

Fun activity in Hong Kong: Trick eye museum

I was recently contacted by the Hong Kong Trick eye museum to visit and review their attraction. Since this type of activity is something Jeff and I would do of our own accord, I agreed.

 

The Trick eye museum is located inside the Peak Galleria on Hong Kong Island. We headed up the mountain while an orange alert rainstorm was issued and that alone gave us a new experience: the peak was shrouded in clouds and visibility was down to 10 meters, making the mini bus drive up surreal.

 

The concept of the trick eye museum is quite simple: visitors are an integral part of the mural paintings, while props and specific photo angles make the artwork appear 3D on camera.

For this reason it is best to visit with at least one friend and a camera/smartphone (to alternate being the model and the cameraman).

 

I had visited the original Trick Eye Museum in Seoul a few years back, so I was keen to see if the Hong Kong version would be exactly the same.

The answer is no! This museum features a few mural paintings depicting famous Hong Kong spots. It also has physical props for visitors to grab/cling/sit on.

There are approx. 50 paintings in total, this may not seem like a lot, but it took us a bit over 1 hour to do most of them – and that was just the 2 of us.

I thought some of the paintings were really quite fun and different from what I had seen in similar museums. We did have quite a laugh while posing for some of them!

 

Here are some of our favourites:

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   Jeff is a better model than I am…or I am a better cameraman.

 

This would be a great rainy afternoon activity for couples or families with (not too young) children.

 

Tips:

  • Visit with at least one friend. In fact, the more the merrier!
  • Don’t forget your camera.
  • Book your ticket online for 10% discount.
  • You don’t have to go to the Peak on the Tram unless you want to. Mini bus 1 from Hong Kong Station and Bus 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus also go up to the Peak.

 

 

Trick Eye Museum

http://trickeye.com/hongkong/

Shop No.1 on Level 3

The Peak Galleria

118 Peak Road

Hong Kong

Price: $150 for 1 adult, $100 for children under 11 and seniors

 

 

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive free entry to the museum for my review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

 

Discovering Kyoto – The Imperial Palace, Golden Pavilion & Gion

We started our last day of visiting Kyoto with a tour of the Imperial Palace. Since a booking is compulsory and the English speaking group was sold out, we joined a Japanese guided tour.

I was a bit disappointed by the Imperial Palace and even got too lazy to take my camera out.

I was expecting something more… spectacular, probably the influence from all the Chinese Imperial buildings.

We followed up with a (once again) very crowded visit of Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Once again a bit disappointing since the interior can’t be visited. But I’ll admit that the building itself is very elegant.

 

After lunch we walked around Gion, the Geisha district, with its beautiful wooden houses and small backstreets. Geishas still exist in Japan, in dwindling numbers. Tourists are VERY keen on seeing them, so much so that signs encouraging good behavior have been put up along the walls of the district.

Geishas are hard to come across as they usually work in high class tea houses and get dropped off by taxi just in front of the door. We were very lucky to see one (from behind) and got a good view of her beautiful kimono.

Last year, we stumbled across an apprentice geisha in one of the back streets, far from tourists and even got a nice close up shot of her as she hurried by.

 

With so many women walking around Kyoto in kimonos or made up as Geishas, it’s difficult to tell who’s real and who’s fake.

A real geisha will be seen for a few seconds only, the time it takes her to walk from her taxi to the tea house door.

They also walk very fast on their traditional wooden Geta shoes and will not give a second look to tourists, let alone stop for pictures.

 

We finished the day by strolling around the Yasaka Shrine, on the east side of Gion.

There was a Geisha dancing performance but we manage to miss it! It’s a shame as this is one of the rare opportunities to see Geishas perform, since one needs good connections and decent money to have tea with them in an ochaya (tea house).