Monday, February 22, 2010
Hong Kong. While most of us Pinoys know it as Asia’s mega-shopping center, home to Disneyland and Ocean Park, Cat and I were able to discover and immerse ourselves in its quintessentially, timelessly and truly Chinese side, thanks to a bit of online research.
When Cat announced that her dad was planning to bring the entire family to Hong Kong for a four-day holiday, the very first question in our minds was, ‘All right, everyone and their grandmother has shots of Hong Kong, so what will we shoot?’ Okay, I’ll have to admit that was the second question in my head -- the first being ‘What dimsum do they have there that I haven’t tasted yet here, and where do I find them?’. So we researched. Three destinations quickly became of prime importance: the Nan Lian Gardens and the Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery to which it was attached, the Temple Street night market, and the Yuen Po Bird Garden. All were on the Kowloon side, which was also where we had booked our hotel.
Speaking of hotels, ours, the YMCA Salisbury, far exceeded our expectations and had the perfect location for us independent adventurers. First, it was near the Hong Kong Cultural Center and two museums, the HK Space Museum and the HK Museum of Art, and beyond them, a fine harborside promenade. Second, it was a literal hop skip and jump away from a shopping and dining district, and third, it was another hop skip and jump from the MTR subway stations. As if that wasn’t good enough, the accommodations were surprisingly cozy; we had come in expecting a typical YMCA dorm, and found a pretty posh room waiting for us.
Arriving on a Wednesday as we did, we decided to spend our first day taking advantage of Hong Kong’s free museum day. First, however, was the matter of lunch. We walked to a nearby mall, passing some rather interesting signs along the way (grin), and ended up in the mall’s basement food court. Having a camera with me, I of course ended up shooting some stuff before deciding what to eat. Inevitably, it was dimsum.
It was past 2pm when we finished with lunch, and from there we walked to the museum row. We had originally planned to hit three museums, but the Museum of Art had so much fascinating stuff we wound up staying there the whole afternoon. There was a great collection of art there, from the earliest dynasties right up to the present. I was particularly enthralled by the samples of classical Chinese ink paintings, the visions of which would later inspire my black and whites at Tai Ping Shan. On exiting, I was struck by the beautiful lighting on this statue of Kwan Yin; it’s not every day that a literal goddess deigns to pose for you, so I of course shot her.
As we left the Museum of Art, we took a quick look across the harbor hoping the foggy conditions we had arrived to would clear in time for the nightly Symphony of Lights; alas, no such luck. In fact we would see the sun only once during our four-day stay. Off to dinner then, with the entire family at the Crystal Jade restaurant in the Harbour Centre. As we went in I found the mall all decked out in preparation for the coming Lunar New Year.
We had Shanghai-style thick noodles, xiao long bao dumplings, sweet and sour fish, a fried rice dish with multiple kinds of grain, and this dish of steamed cauliflower and broccoli. Everything was so good, it disappeared before I could shoot it! At least Cat snagged this veggie dish for me so I could go at it. White balance was a bit difficult in the restaurant’s mixed lighting, but there was some nice hard light broken up by some nice metal bead hangings, which gave my dish good highlights.
The big winner for the evening however was the xiao long bao. These ‘small steamer dumplings’ packed minced pork and herbs and an absolutely heavenly dollop of broth in their dough wrappers. I liked them so much I decided I had to have them again before we left Hong Kong.
Cat and I ended our first night in Hong Kong doing the exact same thing we did on our very first date – we spent the time shooting. I let Cathy have the tripod, so nearly all the shots taken that night were hers. A perfect evening, doing exactly what we love most.