Care and Respect

Just before the Chinese New Year, I was able to have exclusive look of a volunteer haircut service. I was invited by the initiator of a volunteer haircut team – Martin Lam. He was featured on The Loop HK and i was honored to meet this gentleman again few months after the interview. His appearance clearly tells part of his story and maybe just a visual aid to his profession, his action is what forges him.

I met up with Martin and his team at 8:30am. Shortly after a quick morning bite, we headed to a community center for elderly in Chuk Yuen, Kowloon. It’s an public estate that has been around for a very long time. It’s no surprise to see the aged population here.

Checking on length
Haircut action
Waiting Area
Waiting

Everyone gets their hair cut just before the Chinese New Year. To the elders, it might not be an easy task for them. The purpose of this volunteer haircuts was clear. So the elders could celebrate the Year of the Monkey and re-uniting with families and friends. I later learned that I was the first photographer to document their volunteer work.

Haircut
Goodbye
After haircut

The entire service had undergone for 90 minutes with no overrun. With 16 hairdressers, they had to complete 118 haircuts. It sounded like a Guinness achievement to me. Not only that was the first time i see the leader Martin with a pair of scissors, i was even more surprised that he’s doing the human resources and administrative work for the team. That had finally shown me the keen side of his volunteer work.

Genuine Smile
Help with the chair
HaircutCombing

All of the hairdressers are Martin’s trainees. So not only he’s a full-time hairstylist, organize volunteer haircuts, but also teaches haircutting.

‘It feels good when we’re able to help people. We’re giving back to the society with our hands. It’s a contribution.’ – I think just like what Martin had told me before: Our little self, can make a difference already when we’re taking action.

While I was photographing at the facility, I was also questioning myself if I was doing any good for the elders too. I was not directly helping, except a few ‘watch out, slowly, careful, you look great, goodbye’ I called out.

After Haircut
Haircut
Trimming action
Big Smile
Happy Smile

They’d shown us the utmost satisfaction and happiness like nothing I’ve experience in this world. A smile on their face meant so much. I just couldn’t help but to brush the hair off their coats, and give them New Year blessings as well. I believe that’s the essential part of our life. To help each other out.

There was one elder that was born in 1917 and still in very good spirit. She must have seen how this world has changed. I cannot imagine if there would be anyone care about me when i’m her age.

Care about the person, respect their lives,. I concur that money does very little or no good when it’s their age without the proper care and respect.

Haircut
Volunteers
Sweep

Lost Forever

Previous weeks had been freezing cold. For the local Hong Kongers, it was a bit of a surprise. As a matter of fact, it recorded the coldest temperature since 1950s. There was even rumor circulated that there would be snow! That made everyone get to the higher ground to witness this nature phenomenon – the frost. Everyone got stuck on the mountain due to the frozen slippery ground, people suffered from hypothermia. It then transformed into a comical rescue operation. Everyone slipped on the frozen road, including the rescuers. And there was the viral video of a disgruntle woman yelled at the police for not allowing her to go further for safety reason. I admit I planned to get to the third tallest mountain. The rain left me no choice but to forbid this idea. It continued to rain for over a full week.

There’s always a beautiful sunny day as an interlude. I missed being out there on foot.

Over the course of my recent hikes, I learned that there’s more than one way to see the city. There’re many opportunities to develop an alternative tourist destination. There’re just many more creative ways to re-build Hong Kong’s tourism. I never get why everyone puts so much effort in the retail sector while it’s not sustainable as a way to attract tourists in long run, especially they’re focusing on the luxury fashion, jewelry brands. It really has nothing to do with Hong Kong, just another extravaganza global name. These names are there because we wished to please and satisfy the bulk of the tourist market.

You can’t blame the lost in sales when mainland tourists no longer come here. They should question why the rents had gone up crazy, making the only tenants who could afford (franchise) sell what they’re selling. Why aren’t there local brands or locally made products that are so established we could be proud of? It’s just short sighted when we see it from the beginning. They knew all along this day is going to come.

And how about the government tries to sale their super expensive ‘food truck’ idea to the public. What good does it do when the start up costs are so high and lots of can’t do? The franchise will be the only winner just pick it up and take over. To me, it’s just a facility, not a tourist spot of its own. And certainly not a lot of ‘public’ space in the city to do that freely. It’s not going to be the next big thing, at least that’s not how we try to incorporate a community-like environment when everyone thinks/talks/smells money. They’re really desperate in driving the tourism industry back up.

The ‘food truck’ is just a tip of an iceberg. Without its roots or any basis from the original  site, It’s just not going to last very long. It’s like they’re trying too hard to serve up a nicely grilled dry aged steak with a SOHO price tag, and being served in a wonton soup noodles. Oh, and some people don’t eat beef!

The dying businesses are the heart and soul of the city. They cannot sustain due to the limitations in a modern setting. Without sufficient marketing and new thinking to re-brand, re-create the products, they’ll die sooner. When it’s lost, then it can lost forever..

Leafless
One Man
Ferns
Islands
Tree Roots
Cow

Formulating Life

Is there such way to formulate life in a perfect way? Putting kids into tutor schools, making them learn things they don’t even know they like or not, expose to kids that are well-off than your own. The entire childhood/teenage memory gets dominated by tests and exams. Your teachers would not be teaching you ways to be friends with others and certainly not to whom with opposite gender. Either you figure that out yourself or don’t, and forget about manners.

I see how i got the influence from my family. I inherited their timid, not revealing personality from them. Family and the life they grew up in plays such an important role to the children’s character. It’s likely that the genetics help shape our personality as well.

In a world we’re living in, we want our next generation to be a better representation of the family tree. It has become so competitive to compare with the others even it’s never a race. How they grew up in, the fame of the university they’d attend, and the dollars they make somehow tie to how successful they are. Dollars can buy a lot of stuff, it can even buy a better life. Many said it’s not true, let’s just face it. When there’s a sum of money laying around, it’s going to shape who you’re. It’s going to change your habits, the people that you’re able to meet, a circle of people with similar background, and think about places you could travel to. Not to mention you’d be able to afford living in your own crib.

In reality, our money-driven society requires us to ‘insert coin to play’. I’ve thought about can’t we ‘insert something else to play’? Can’t there be something else other than money as our currency?

Is there a way to get out of this game of numbers?

The Infinite World
Foot prints
Beach

Père et Fils

Forrest
The last hike at Lion Rock was not entirely bad and i needed almost no recovery after a good night sleep. I’ve overestimated the difficulty from it.

Some trails in Hong Kong require a bit of manageable transportation and/if I planned well enough. Basically, a subway ride and another minibus ride to get to the starting point. As I was traveling out of the district, I totally forgot about checking out the exact address of the station and without taking into of the wait (given I was running behind already). After a few ‘filled up’ minibuses, I learned my lesson.

It’s the unavoidable learning process from trail and error.

Waving in the air

I arrived at the starting point of this trail eventually. Unlike my previous hikes, I was constantly looking at the sun; hurrying to catch up with the time lost. This trail finally felt more like what I’d imagined, not quite paved, quite forrest-like, plenty of sandy terrain and occasionally up and down slopes, no wonder for the alternative routes allowed for mountain biking. All these things reminded me of an outdoor activity.

Lighting up the trail

I was lucky enough to see other hikers on the trail. It’s often said, best to be accompanied when go on hiking. So I see these hikers as my imaginary partners. I’ll definitely go to the tougher hikes with my dad after all these elementary 3-4 hour hikes.

What makes me fascinated about this trail was the sharp mountain – called High Junk Peak (釣魚翁). It’s the highest in the area, and one of the three in Hong Kong. I was curious, so curious to see it in person, with no intention whatsoever in getting up top. That was until I saw a narrow path leading to the skirt of this High Junk Peak. ‘I was at the Lion Rock just a week ago, how can it be any harder’ I wondered. As it turns out, this was a hell of a climb for beginners. This time around, I got down with business by putting my SLR back in my bag. I really needed to hang onto rocks and bushes to safely go up. Half way through, I already needed a few minutes to break. I seriously would just go back down if there weren’t this pair of hikers next to me, a father and his son (kid). I saw how his dad was backing him up, allowing him rest when needed.

Training Day

They passed by me at the earlier part of the trail. If a kid can do it all, I should be too. I sucked it up knowing the peak was not too far ahead. Forget about how to get down, arriving at the top made me realize I’m capable. There, I was captivated by the magnificent scene in front of me – the infinite South China Sea.

I’d shown admiration to this kid and began a conversing with his father – Alex. He’s originally from France. No wonder the boy was so good. He’s been hiking along for 6 years now. I told him this was my first visit to this country park and my second visit to the district. I later told him there’re people out there that are worse than me, they chose to instead get to the airport and fly out of the city, to Japan, Thailand without even seeing the beautiful side of their home.

From the Peak

Alex enjoys the trails at the Sai Kung Country Park. Ma On Shan was the toughest so far in Hong Kong. I’d imagine he must have hiked somewhere else in the world. And yes, some of his toughest were Vignemale in France and Monte Period in Spain. Besides some exchange in hike stories. He spoke to me about a few things of the district such as how isolated as some of the village houses might seem, it takes just about 5 mins drive to the nearest MTR.

We offered our sincere goodbyes. The title of this post is dedicated to them in French – Father and Son. I made it out of this windy trail before dark. And I had sore legs for the following three days.

Lost and Found

Standing on our Guardian

Standing at the top

Among all Hong Kongese, there’s always this phrase echoing in our hearts. It’s often mentioned, said, seen, witnessed, glorified, appreciated, prided – The Lion Rock Spirit. It’s used to describe the hardworking Hong Kongese and the prosperity we’ve built under the Lion Rock Mountain.

Historically, there were full of factories, housing facilities for locals, and an international airport (which crowned for the trickiest commercial airline landing spot in the world). Across the harbor on Hong Kong Island (when there wasn’t even cross-harbor tunnel/subway of any kind), only expats/westerners or super rich important people lived there back then. So, ‘Under the Lion Rock’ has been the typical story undermines how most local people grew up and strived.

tower

Seeing the Lion Rock at the ground level is spectacular already. It’s much like the Hong Kong version of the Japan’s Mount Fuji. It truly represents us without a doubt.

I was silly enough to get on this path and hoped to find out about this spirit. This was my first hike in Kowloon and many of its sections were not paved. It added uncertainties to the journey.

There weren’t scenic spots as I was hiking up. A resting pavilion could be found at the junction after reaching a certain height. It’s also where you decide to further go up (to the peak) or another way down. I wish to see how far I could go, without hesitation I made my way through a much narrower single person path. Some hand gripping support was needed. I eventually reached the top.

Return
Being there at the cliff

The first thing i said to myself was: I made it here… I kept repeating over my head.

What’s sitting between this mountain is the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. I’d been on the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Being there at the Lion Rock peak was a whole new experience, there’s my effort, the gusting wind, the city noise. It’s all organic.

It was 495 meters high, only a half of our tallest mountain in Hong Kong. Now I suddenly have a goal.

Climb to the head
Lion Rock

The Seed

My dad has been an avid hiker since I was born. I remember how he took out his compass, hiking shoes, maps to plan for his routes. He was a fan of the MacGyver drama, so the swiss knife was a really cool toy for him. I’ve only properly hiked with him once when I was under 10 as far as I could recall. He tends to dramatize the prep by a whole lot, the older he gets, he more he packs. It’s something I can’t figure out why. Time flies, our smartphone are now the new swiss knife.

I have no idea why he’s so religious about going on the weekend hikes after he retirement. One thing I know about is, this is his favorite ‘free’ activity to do. To me, these hikes were nothing more than just an exercise.

A few of my photo projects I’ve done had focuses on the Outlying Islands. It required me to scout the places, walk around, and some more walk around until I confidently say that I’ve covered the entire island. Going up the mountains had naturally become part of the routine to cover all the grounds.

When you ask someone born elsewhere who’ve decided to live in Hong Kong, one of the few nice things they say about the city is always the people and vibe. If they really know it all, they’ll say they love the landscape, country parks and its proximity. Many of these mountains were designated as the country parks. Also, geographically we live near/on the mountains. There’s not a lot of cities around the world have this much access. And to some of us rare users, we simply take it for granted without realizing the beauty of it.

My last unplanned hike in Lam Tin had proved myself that I need nothing but my will to keep myself going.

My Winter
In the woods
Mirrorring the nature
Behind the city
A bridge to the nature
The Mountain Interaction

Off I go..

I always wanted to get away from the city, at the same time I wanted to try something new. This is all going to be a new experience. With enough faith and research, I learned that it’s possible to hike “across” mountains where it divides the northern part (Commercial Districts) and the southern part (Southern Districts) of the main Hong Kong Island. Normally with a ride, It takes over 30 minutes to get from point A and point B, through the tunnel or mountain passes. I thought this idea to hike across between places would give me a new perspective to our city.

Take it as a quiet escape from the hypertension city, I get to re-appreciate the dense woods and fresh air. Our ‘not-so-winter’ season is the best time of the year to hike. Kids are so welcome come along too. I saw plenty enjoying the company.

In Hong Kong, we hardly have any lakes (although we have plenty of view coverage on the sea). Our water reservoirs are surprisingly breathtaking as a scenery, they all look just like lakes and you could fool just about anyone. By law, we could not fish, canoe, swim in it.

A few unique architectural landmarks can be found at the reservoirs. They’re the dams/bridges. Indeed, many of which were built since the Colonial governance. I love the lake-like calm, non-flowing water. They’re as reflective as a mirror. And the fact that there’s no skyscrapers in sight, it’s such a stress-reliever, totally worth my time and energy to get there on foot. These are some of my discoveries.

On these both trips, I winded down at a Thai Restaurant with (the best i’ve tasted so far) Pad Thai Noodles in Aberdeen and a cup of (real deal) latte in Stanley Market. Consider that my prize.

Eureka

I still cannot believe I’ve not seen a dressed up Santa anywhere in public this year. This was quite a BS year in terms of how poorly companies, organizations, properties managements have spent their money on the Christmas decorations and events.

The older I get, the more truth I understand. Christmas means nothing when you’re not associated with Christian/Catholic. It supposed to be a giant birthday for the Jesus Christ. And myself, an non-believer has nothing to do with it, and not to make it a big deal of it. Maybe I’m missing the whole point to have fun and party, my part of life does not have a lot of that either. No wonder in China they do not celebrate for Christmas.

With all that mumbo jumbo, I have however gotten myself a lovely present from eBay. I read about how much I shouldn’t be spending over for a used film SLR (which is something that’d been holding me back other than its size and weight). I was glad I could first try out one a few months earlier before I make up my mind. Until I found some excellent condition make and models at very reasonable pricing ones. I quickly fell in love with the USSR’s Zenit.

It’s really quite a challenge to go back to ‘Street Photography’ the way before where I mostly photograph people doing random things in the urban setting. I used to think there should be something someone interesting enough to photograph, these type of photographs are turning more or less the same. And the fact is, it is really getting too repetitive as the material goes. The Zenit arrived in perfect timing and to make me think about what I need to do to keep my mind fresh and materials new. That was my Eureka!

And it’d led me to the trail walking. This is what y’all be seeing me do in 2016, at least when it’s not the hottest month of the year.

Central
Scale
Sky
Lights