Colour on a Drab Day
I was overcast when I woke this morning. Although its summer here, one of the westerly fronts that regularly arrives from the Tasman Sea during summer is making a visit today. After the wonderful sunny weather we have had for the past few weeks, today feels drab and grey. It reminds me of the day in 2008 when we visited Fengdu on the Yangtze River in China, but without the air pollution which gives the grey sky a yellow hue to match the muddy river. At least in “Ghost City” there was colour to be found but, to give today its due, the sun is at least trying to break through.
Here is another image of my visit to Hong Kong in 2009. As is usual during any visit to a new area I tend to wake early and go for a walk with my camera. After a night of high winds and pouring rain the morning dawned fine and the area sparked in its newly washed state. The Star Ferry Pier was any easy walk from our hotel. People poured onto and off the ferries as they plied the routes across the harbour. At the entrance to the terminal building newspaper vendors set out the morning editions of English and Chinese language newspapers ready to catch the passing trade. As this man and his papers were in a patch of morning sun he caught my attention. It is one of my favourite Hong Kong images because for me it captured a bit of Hong Kong life at my favourite time of the day.
Hong Kong – Selected Views and Thoughts
Over the years Hong Kong has been the territory (now part of China) that I have visited most in all my world travel. My first visit was in 1985 with my wife and three young sons (4,6 and 8 years) at the end of a round the world trip. For my wife it was a second visit as she had been there twenty years earlier as a student. The total number of visits now stands a six, the most recent in 2008. As one can imagine, Hong Kong has changed immensely since 1965. One of the things that fascinates me every time I visit Hong Kong and its “fragrant harbour” is that there is always something new being built and yet another part of the harbour edge reclaimed from the sea.
Our visit to Hong Kong in 2008 was during the annual typhoon season. It rained almost for the whole three day visit, heavily at times. The above view of Nathan Road was taken from the upper deck of the bus from the airport. As we alighted from the bus the skies opened, leaving our party of five with all our luggage stranded on the pavement and somewhat bewildered. Finally in the pouring rain we bundled ourselves into a taxi and were driven to our hotel.
One of the key attractions in the evening is to watch the nightly sound and light show on the buildings of the Wan Chai and Central districts on Hong Kong Island from in front of the Culture Centre at Kowloon. At the same time as the music and lights started, so did the rain. It came quickly and sent locals and tourists alike scurrying for whatever shelter they could find. This image was captured just as the rain began. Our hotel, the Salisbury (YWCA), overlooked the Culture Centre towards the island and we were able to see the end of the display through sheets of rain powered in by the rising high winds.
A favourite part of any Hong Kong visit for me is to cross the harbour on a Star ferry. These old-style ferries have been running for decades and are an iconic part of the HK landscape. A ride on a Star ferry provides views of both sides of the harbour and the volume of shipping that makes this one of the busiest entrepôts in the world. The ride starts at the Star Ferry Pier in Kowloon and ends at Central Pier on Hong Kong Island.
Central is the banking and commercial district of Hong Kong and is just as bustling as the as the more retail oriented Kowloon. Some of HK’s tallest buildings are in Central, which sits at the harbour edge below Victoria Peak.
Wan Chai is one of the older areas of Hong Kong Island and was made famous to many English and American moviegoers of the 1960s by the film “The World of Susie Wong”. Its a fascinating area to wander around as many of the older buildings nestled among the newer skyscrapers show distinct signs of decay.
Abutting Wan Chai is the Admiralty District which is home to the Bank of China Tower (abbreviated BOC Tower). It houses the headquarters for the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited. Designed by I. M. Pei, the building is (including the two masts) 367.4 m (1,205.4 ft) high. It was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia from 1989 to 1992, and it was the first building outside the United States to break the 305 m (1,000 ft) mark. It is now the fourth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong, after International Commerce Centre, Two International Finance Centre and Central Plaza (Wikipedia).
One of the best vantage points from which to appreciate Hong Kong is Victoria Peak (552 m). The public viewing area at the Peak Lookout and Galleria presents views over exclusive housing and towers of Central, Wan Chai, Admiralty and across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon and surrounding districts.
It was great to revisit Hong Kong in 2008, even if it rained for most of the time. This is one of my favourite Asian (even world) cities. It is a dynamic place, ever changing but still quintessentially Asian. It is modern, and old. Its a splendid mixture of international commerce and finance, and ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. Its a place of hustle and bustle, and hidden pockets where you can find peace and tranquility. Its a place of exclusive designer everything, and fake knock-offs of everything. I couldn’t live there for any great period of time, but love to revisit it as often as allows.
And now for the last of the Chongqing series. This was also almost the last photograph taken at the end of our Yangtze River adventure. It was a warm afternoon. It was the fans that caught my attention as these two ladies emerged from the shop doorway. In order to capture moments like these in street photography you have to be constantly on the lookout, but patience and persistence pays off. And thus our second trip to China, the first was in 1987, came to an end.
This is the last of my series on street vendors in Old Chongqing. Here the lady is cooking in the street. In the bowl there appears to be a type of tofu, while the wok contains what looks like sliced tofu in a broth. It is clearly a popular dish, judging by the number of people seated at the tables in the background. Whenever we ventured into the back streets in China we came across food outlets similar to that shown above.
Food Parcels – Eat In or Take Away
This is another image in my Old Chongqing street vendor collection. Food is prepared in a similar way to this in many countries. Here it was wrapped in bamboo leaves. In Greece grape leaves are used, and in the Pacific islands it is banana leaves. Food steamed on a bamboo basket placed in a wok is a common way of cooking food in China.
Refreshments and Fags
A Fag is a British colloquialism for cigarette. In the narrow lanes of Old Chongqing we found this fellow selling a selection of refreshment items including Wrigley’s chewing gum! Also on the stand was a range of Chinese branded cigarettes and lighters. I don’t know what was in the clay pots and bamboo cylinders. That’s what makes walking in foreign lands so fascinating.
A walk through the narrow lanes of Old Chongqing on China’s National Day in 2008 was a fascinating experience. We arrived in Chongqing at the end of our Yangtze River cruise early in the morning. A personal tour guide met us at the boat and took us on a walking tour of the second largest city in China in the time we had available before our flight to Hong Kong left late in the afternoon. The last highlight of this tour was a visit to Old Chongqing, part of the old city that has been preserved as a tourist attraction and living museum.
The streets of the old town were packed with people making the most of the holiday weekend. Street vendors were plentiful and offered a colourful array of food and other goods for sale. This man was of particular interest because of the way he fashioned melted sugar toffee into dragon-like confections. Curious onlookers stopped to watch him create his masterpieces.
What would a celebration be without balloons? We found this balloon vendor near the edge of the square below the Great Hall of the People in Chongqing on China’s National Day. Later in the day we came across another person also selling balloons at the entry to Old Chongquing, where the people of the second largest city in China crowded in the narrow lanes to experience how their city used to look. I doubt that it was as well presented in the old days as it is today where this small remaining part of the old city is now used as a tourist attraction.
Every bride wants her wedding day to be something special. If it can happen on a nationally significant day, it makes the day even more special.
Our visit to Chongqing in 2008 coincided with China’s national day. On the steps leading up to the Great Hall of the People we came upon this young couple having their wedding photos taken. Below them in the large square a crowd of people was gathered to watch dance and drum competitions that form part of the day’s celebrations. Apparently girls like to be photographed in a western style wedding dress, as well as in traditional Chinese costume.
Some of the earliest visions I have of a Chinese peasant come from story books in my childhood. This was very much a British colonial view of “coolies” carrying heavy loads on both ends of a wooden pole and wearing baggy clothes and a flat conical straw hat. While fashions in language and clothing have changed through the years, the ubiquitous wooden pole is still commonly seen in the streets of towns and villages all over China.
At the end of our Yangtze River cruise at Chongqing our cases were carried off the boat by men with poles. Here in The People’s Square in Chongqing a woman carries heavy baskets full of grapefruit which she hopes to sell. It was China’s National Day when we visited the square and it was thronging with people who had gathered to watch performances of dance and drum by groups from the surrounding municipality.
In some ways this image reflects a blend between the old and the new. While the number of cars is rapidly increasing in China, older forms of transportation still survive. Tricycles like this one can be found all over China. They are real work-horses and can be seen carrying enormous loads, sometimes to the extent that the rider has to get off and push! Note the spare inner-tube dangling at the side corner of the tray.
The modern Citroen taxi in the background is a sign of the new China.
This is one of my favorite images from our 2008 trip to China. Its not because it is a technically great image, but that it represents part of how China had changed so much since our previous trip in 1987.
Here we have a modern girl riding her electric scooter and talking on her mobile phone. In 1987 she would not have had either of these possessions, would probably have been riding a bicycle at best, and been wearing a green “Mao” uniform. The bridge across the shipping canal beside the Gezhou Dam would not have been built, nor the dam itself which was a precursor to the Three Gorges Dam further up the Yangtze River.
Small Boy in Ghost City
I was sorting through photographs of our 2008 trip to China a few days ago when I came across this image of a small boy squatting in a plant border next to a temple at Ghost City on the Yangtze River. It was only later when my wife pointed it out that I realised what he was doing.
For the whole of our four day cruise on the Yangtze the weather was overcast and the atmosphere smoggy. This added more than a little atmosphere during the stop at Fengdu to visit the Ghost City.
Fengdu is modelled after the Chinese Hell in Taoist mythology, built over 1800 years ago. The Ghost Town has become an island since the Three Gorges Dam project was completed, and part of the ghost town of Fengdu has become submerged. Scenery above the “Door of Hell” has remained however.
China has a long tradition of silk making, dyeing, and tapestry making. Many fine exhibits can be found in museums around the world and up-market shops throughout Asia. Then there is the tourist market, Hardly a tourist goes to China without being exposed to a constant barrage of attempts to lure dollars from their wallets in special tourist silk shops, street markets and the gaggles of street vendors near any major attraction.
Such was the case on our journey from the airport at Yichang to the city which was escorted by China National Tourist Corporation guide and driver – first stop a silk embroidery demonstration and shop.
Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 1/13 sec, F5.6, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 mm Lens at 45 mm
At this time of year we think very much about family and the opportunity to spend time together. For many it is to celebrate Christmas, but for others the season offers an opportunity to gather as a family to celebrate in other ways.
We were in China last year on the day that the Chinese celebrate there national day. On that day we were in Chongqing on the Yangtze River. Crowds of people gathered in the large courtyard in front of The Great Hall of the People to watch traditional dance and drum routines being performed, while wedding parties assembled on the steps leading to the hall to have their photographs taken.
This family took a little time out to play and get a picture of father and daughter at the base of one of the columns at the entrance to the Great Hall of the people. That’s what family time is all about.
Sony Alpha DSLR A200, , 1/160 sec, F9.0, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 mm Lens at 50 mm