Satisfying the Crave

There’s the space, the coffee, the locally crafted goods, the noon walk, the sky, the unfamiliarity between people, and of course the relaxing mood. I just can’t get enough of them ever since I’ve visited Taipei.

Some say the environment can put an impact on people, but happening that quickly in me was the first time.

I vividly remember in that late afternoon how the barista lady prepared a drip coffee on a wagon at the cafe. Later then served to a customer out at the corridor. I thought that was the coolest thing ever to have all the gadgets and precisions. Then someone appreciates coffee this way. I have seen enough this ‘popular-in-Japan’ coffee style on the internet, but to actually see it live was my first.

Ever since I stepped out of that cafe, I wanted to learn more about drip. I realized I’m already half way there with my regular coffee routine at home; from grinding the beans to brewing with coffee tools. All I needed is just a drip set, kettle, thermometer, expensive scale, and some good beans. I even paid for a cup at a local cafe just to know how it should taste.

In comparison to wine appreciation (which I also love), coffee is a much cheaper, more casual choice. There’s the technique involvement in order to get the perfect cup. It can be enjoyed alone anytime. And certainly not all about how a winery market and present their bottles. I never get why wine events always seems so glamorous with the attire. Moreover, I was never into the glam and totally not that type of person.

Interesting enough, at the time I was deciding which bean I should pick at a roaster,
I have gone from:
‘Bolivia grows coffee beans?!’
to now
‘the Bolivia Peaberry tastes as round as the bean looks’

Okay to be different
Meet another kind
the same cup somewhere else
Picture of a coffee spot

The Norm

Every stage in life, we have different hopes and dreams.

It’s the nature of Hong Kong being small, packed, crowded and noisy. Everyone has only one life to live for, I’ve always dreamt about experiencing life somewhere other than home. I did said that when I was 14. It turned out I studied and worked abroad for a few years with all my family could support. Looking back I did see many things and I’ve experienced enough to get to know a place. Being not entirely a people person of myself, I used to think it could very well be the culture and unfamiliarity between human minds. As time flies, fast forward to the present time; I came to re-think about the cause. It has every thing to do with a person’s personality, spirituality (not in religiously way). Things such as how we perceive the world, how we accept ourselves as who we’re in good or bad ways.

I used to think why nobody cares about me. Think of It as an investment when you wish it happen. “Why does anyone have to care about me?” – a rhetorical question I raised and I have no answer for it. I’m not too good as a talker. And certainly not experienced enough to speak on topics my peers speak about 70% of the time (namely travel destinations). My only explanation has always been – maybe I’m just too far off from the norm. Photography and blog, who would invest time on these silly things that has no ‘economical values’ in a city that does not wait.

Good things do come in once in a while. Recently, my boss at work told me I’m in line for the next business trip to Italy; a trip that reserves only for senior managers. Although it may not happen in the coming half year or ever, It’s still an opportunity I look forward to. An opportunity to see what I really love, the food, espresso and historic remains. A fuel to keep myself going.

The Sketch, the Art
The Rent, The Vacancy
Simple Creativitiy, Huge Joyfulness
Discounts and People

“XiangGang Lai De”

(Previous Post: “Xei Xei Ni Oh” , “Hao De, Ke Yi”)
I must mention about the Taiwanese lifestyle bookstore. There’s this craze here for us and they expanded their business in Hong Kong 2 years ago. I finally got the chance to ‘worship’ the original Eslite in Taiwan. We visited Eslite Spectrum – a branded shopping mall. I thought books would be the center stage of the mall, I was wrong. What around the books were more interesting and attracted another type of customers like me. Most products like food, fashion clothing, designer bags, i-scooters, glasswares, potteries, crafts were all made in Taiwan. I started to see the pride in Taiwanese people when all of them come together as oppose to the worldwide brand names in Hong Kong.

The Wu Pao Chun Bakery located at the basement/food court. This was recommended on the guide books we read. All I knew was its a bakery until I bought their bread and googled it. Mr. Wu was the Master Baker from an international bakery competition. Oh wow, he actually beat the Europeans. I have no idea if he’s still baking at the shop, but his recipes including the winning rose-lychee bread was there for purchase. Speaking of the pride of Taiwan, I totally see his impact to the country.

Another bonus surprise I came across in Taiwan was their recognized indie music. Unlike our indie music that is kept so buried underground no one knows about them, Taiwan Colors Music Co. Ltd (TCM) has a network to keep all the indie artists in loop or I should say TCM has provided a platform for all the musical talents that truly love music rather than fame. Thanks to that, It got my attention at the gift shop ‘PRESENT+’ in HuaShan 1914 Creative Park. I think these are the artists that we should respect. Their music has got soul and poem-like stories were made into music. Genres are so broad, instrumentals, world, folk, alternative, rock and more. These TCM records are available in bookstores and gift shops with sample listening. It’s what exactly what I wished to discover from Taiwan. I bought 3 albums in total and left me thinking about discovering more back home.

It’s an art for us city people to ‘Live a little slower’, slow things down a notch. The habit of rushing things can overlook so much quality around us. I wonder what if Hong Kong has less population in a populated area, would it make our city more comfortable instead? Food cooks slower, people eat slower, staff shows more courtesy with less stress, restaurants have less tables and less noisier, room then gets more spacious,…These are just 1 of 1000s what ifs.

A dream-like environment
Head to Tail
CKS Memorial Hall
the Taipei City
Shadow of myself

“Hao De, Ke Yi”

Wall in Wall
Eslite Spectrum
Taipel 101 Damper
CKS Memorial Hall
Former 1st President
Dimming down

(Previous Post: “Xei Xei Ni Oh”)
Taipei is a city I thought would be full of high rises like our financial district. It was a shock to me that they have so few buildings that are more than 10 floors. It might have to do with the geographic location, under occasion heavy typhoon as well as earthquakes. Their buildings are evenly spread out in similar heights. I could see the beautiful sky wherever I go. Their backstreet alleys are so accessible and many of them are shops. I’ve observed enough to understand how important many of these shops are to them, not only for the tourist but for the entire neighborhood. The entire street setting reminds me of what I usually see in Japan through media. Very organized and neat. I must admit I love their city layout. Lots of their old buildings were still intact, using the Cantonese ‘Qilou’ design. The pedestrian could walk in shelter away from the scourging sun and not to worry about rain.

One thing that actually scared me at first was the unfamiliar road traffic. The ‘right-of-way’ was a long time no see and what about the scooters rampage! I actually stood and saw the incredible scene of a few dozens motorcyclists waiting at a stop light. I thought I was at a Gran Prix race track. Motorcycles are actually the pedestrians in the city streets. Interesting enough, I could not find them on highway ever!

I’m completely jealous with what Taiwan has abundantly – their land. The entire trip, I questioned why we Hong Kongese struggle so much on living and public space while they could have well distributed and utilized public space. We enslaved by money and limited space, forgetting the meaning of life. I could just see how friendlier people can get when life is not as competitive, like a race. Can you imagine they actually have an open dance room with mirrors, at an underground shopping street. During the time I passed by at 8pm on a weekday, there were 5 groups practicing. I’m sure they have other things to worry about, such as grown men has to compulsorily serve in the army.

Their art cultural development is a lot encouraging with the environment and support given. Not only they have enough physical space, but also the freedom and acceptance to infuse art into people’s daily life. Not only it dresses up space, it plants seed to people. No wonder why many art creators in Hong Kong drool over the advantages in Taiwan. I just think that when living environment is not as crammed, their our minds can open up for inspiration. Ideas such as what do you want to do in life would come up.

I’ve never thought Taiwan has such thing as aborigines, not only one ‘tribe’ but a few. Just like all natives, they have a very different culture from the previous generations. Somehow I think they get turned into an attraction for tourists. Unfortunately, I’ve only come across with their language used in music and some knitted bags. It’d be a fantastic idea to get to know their history and life in future trips.

If wines pairs well with chosen cuisine and a party of friends, Then, I’d say coffee pairs well with high ceiling and chic/raw interior design. Coffee in Taipei is a culture alone. It’s so strong that I’ve only seen 1 Starbucks out of 30 cafés in different names. Just when I thought coffee is an luxury for the hip youngsters. On my last day of visit I ventured into a franchised cafe called ‘Cama Café ‘. It’s equivalent to Starbucks but with a much cheaper price for an actual coffee that tastes. There were mid age uncles that (I would not think they are that type of person) were getting their caffeine fix which normally these uncles here would just drink something else or just beer. The previous day I was at the SongShan Cultural District Park, the park alone had more than 20 cafés of different names. The street across it were full of them too. Too bad human can only intake this much caffeine daily, or I would go café hopping. My sister tried out an ice drip coffee and I enjoyed my loving hot latte in the late afternoon at Cafe Solé by the Red Dot Design Museum (also at the Cultural District Park).

This left me an impression of how properly a quiet relaxing environment should really be. Away from traffic, away from skyscrapers, away from the crowd. What a treat..

There was however a question of how some of these businesses survive with so few customers. In Hong Kong, with that amount of foot traffic they could go out of business almost immediately and how about the reasonable price they charge.

Read on next “XiangGang Lai De”

“Xei Xei Ni Oh”

Being able to travel around in East Asia may not be an luxury for most of the employed. It’s just a matter of when and whom you go with. Going with the entire family including parents would be a very well financially planned trip, of which I often felt guilty about; until my sister made the call to go without them. It’s my first real vacation ever since I graduated 7 years ago. This made it my first time flying out of Hong Kong to travel. And the destination is Taipei, Taiwan.

Taiwan is an island off the FuJian coast of Republic of China however governed by the Taiwanese. Their language in written form is Traditional Chinese which is exactly the same as what we use. However in the spoken form, they use a varied version of Mandarin which not all Hong Kongese are too comfortable with. It sounds especially cute on girls for some reason.

It has been always an interesting topic to compare the differences between us three: Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. The difference economically, geographically, infra-structurally, culturally, politically, democratically. The future prospect of their capital cities, the generation XYZ and more you could easily think of. What I concern the most would be ‘The Living Environment’, how do people in Taiwan live without any influence from the Chinese Communist Party.

Taipei is a common travel destination for us. It’s just an hour flight and another 40 plus minutes to the downtown. It’s also relatively inexpensive. My sister told me she just wanted to see the place and eat their traditional local food. There’s not a hard schedule. In other words, we were there to chill for 4 days. Together with my under-used Instax, I documented my trip here and there.

It’s a valuable experience that would last a lifetime. I have gained a new perspective to Taiwan.
More about the trip on next post

The Artistic CowThe Smoking PipeTree through the 2nd floorInspirationSymbolic FlowerChinese Kids without the Communist EducationMust Serve with HonorSlower with a reason

Zero Impact

The online comment posting are there open 24/7. There’s the popular Facebook, or even just the page where the news presented, allows commenting in a loosely organized way. You could jump in any hot debate you want even in the middle of a night just like what i’ve been doing for the month of August. Most (Hong Kong) people just want to rant and type the f words, some are more elaborate and give their own personal thought under someone’s shoes. But for me, I typed because I wish there could be some impact. In the end the fact is, there’s nothing but zero impact.

I continue to do so as I’m so heated with all the social issues under the current climate. I feel I’m obligated to express. There should be someone very much like me out there. At very least, there’s an overall comment count or ‘likes’ on the news/topic that originally started. It’s all accumulative, I cannot assume everyone thinks the same way. Some thinks that these online gathering spots are monitoring the (government) activities in our community. These are the so-called concerned groups formed by the local community, could just be you and me. Again, our intention is to make an impact on a wrong (highly subjective) decision made by the government. Nonetheless, this had shown our government is heavily rely on the top-down management, and completely ignored the participation from the bottom-up. Somebody has to know the the district, the local community, and willing balance out the voices not by muting the opposition. That ‘somebodies’ may just be the savior to all the conflicts, narrow down the differences in common interests. I think there’re just so many good suggestions could be shared to improve in our districts. There’s not an official platform to collect, interact, discuss, evolve, process the ‘good ideas’.

Love is EverywhereLoud and Dark nightlife
Rent if you canWhen someone wishes it retire

Here’re some the comments I’d made on each news topic in Chinese. In a way, they’d helped me to facilitate my own thoughts.

Removal of the Historic Tung Tak Pawn Shop
可能真係要上街才有人知道有訴求, 平時地區與平民已經是零交流,政府部門又當有地區“所謂”代表交流了,部門與部門程序上又不想跟大家交流,大家便各自各世界不關我事,政府高層也只好次次事後檢討和成立委員會安慰關注人士。完全是我自己的推斷和解讀。牆樹突斬真的令我完全失望,失望於些不在區住又管/代表區的決策者。歸屬感往往就是這些實質眼同手觸得到的空間而已。你想你下一代問你香港以前是怎樣,而找不到一條完整地保存的老香港感受一下,講什麼什麼開發新景點,舊東西舊人情才是獨有代表性外地人眼中的景點。

其實得一座,其它幾座分散不同地方,香港舊一面特色沒法被保存, 新一代更冇對地區的歸屬感, 區區變得餅印般一直發展, 失去了人性一面

Former Government Urban Planner Suggested Our Iconic Tram Needs to be Removed
到香港旅遊人少了可能就是太多這些人在政府話事工作指指點點, 電車是香港其中一個的標誌, 西方旅客往往就是喜歡這樣還健在的歷史留下的一種情懷, 你放進博物館除非我地個博物館有美國迪士尼咁大咁多嘢看。再講塞車的根本不是電車, 很多時係D老闆車佔了條lane等人, 路又得咁多, 不如你話街道規劃到窄, 不如整個地下城條路你喜歡交通點玩咪點玩, 不過都不到你玩. 旅遊境點其實又何需設計, 不明高官何出此言, 你又不是有新項目, 地區舊貌往往便是一個簡單直接的境點, 試看我們還有哪一條街所有東西得到保育保護,一件東西不是完整的, 問誰趣味能在嗎?

我其實好見到一日所有舊式的東西給這種人全部拆掉又不規劃一些有世界級代表性的地方 , 到時看看香港還有什麼…海濱, 大廈, 公廁, 商場, 公屋, 馬路? 人的思想又會變得更一體化, 現在也可見到. 死地而後生, 我其實希望見到這一天。

電車跟本是遊客的旅遊景點, 沒了它香港更單一化, 特色重要還是前規所說的上流社會坐車入中西區緊要? 人地tvb都簡單觀察得到是非電車行的內街”老闆車”塞路所至. 電車其實很efficient, 市民心中也是更cost efficient, 不是個個咁有錢坐地鐡. 老一代更不喜歡上上落落地底station. 西港島mtr station也有不少出口需行5-6+分鐘, 路途除廣告外又冇嘢睇,有壓迫感之餘又長

Government Still Not Regulate the Ever-Increasing Rent
生活沒法改變已成定律: 不是每個人有錢才稱為對社會有貢獻, 我眼看的香港社會跟本不平衡, 租金只有升的方向已直接影響民心和日常生活, 看見所有餐牌/物價也定期微微調整, 沒上代的支持現時這一代除非當投行或有一定收入的高職, 我想不出如何可不記掛地自立。 政府還不介入,我怕只會更多社會問題出現, 放棄建立家庭, 人口進一步老化, 社會更單一化, 本地人才也寧可去別地。可能政府衡量了業主是香港的經濟支柱, 沒了他們社會運作不了下去. 也可能賭注已滾得太久了, 已到回不轉頭的地步, 一旦政府介入遊戲規則就只會得罪上流社會的安穩業主。可能不得罪持份者就一定不會得失任何人, 所謂中立的第三方政府也無奈地說: 無屋住你等等吧。沒買賣的樓市,又何有經濟? 奇特嗎? 我沒樓, 所以的確很奇特, 因住屋(生活的基本)變成了一種賭局,商業店舖更是長賭長有, 勝利方說是一群可控制社會的集團。 我由原來聽到想來是笑談, 之後成為所有人心中: 常人的夢是”上樓”, 不是說白一些有貢獻社會、改變人類生活的大志, 也許有點悲哀吧

City of Sadness

Lately, there’s just so much bullying happening around me. That had touched my nerve and became very sensitive to the injustice. I was a very timid person until recently I witnessed an authority had terminated the life of 4 banyan trees that were a century old. It sparked my concern right the way and participated in more online discussion. I questioned why the trees were not trimmed but used the most brutal painful way by chopping them off. A tree expert had suggested that the trees are healthy, only the top section of the wall needed maintenance. However, the Highway Department and its committee consultancy suggested otherwise that there’re signs showing immediate threat to public’s safety and they needed to take action 7pm at night. When there’s no consent but a hasty email notification to the district representatives and councilors. It overrode the normal procedures and more importantly to our concern. The public did not know what’s happening. I only saw what’s remain at the site, I was there pondering and deeply sadden when I only see the bottom roots on the wall of where the trees used to be. It’s no different than executing 4 human and put them on display forever. It’s a visual torture to walk by and see their roots everytime, a reminder of the premature and sneaky decision made by the government authority.

The existence of my blog was to photo document some of the city’s changes around me. I just never expect this quick. I had never imagine when the unwillingly change actually takes place near our neighborhood would feel this way.

The Cause:
A wall tree fell down and injured two pedestrian the month earlier when the last typhoon hit Hong Kong. The tree was huge enough to block the entire two way passage at Bonham Road, Mid-Levels. These other 4 trees i referred to were cut down recently along the same wall 10-20 meters apart.

The Incident History:
Last year almost the same time of a year, a tree fell and killed a pregnant woman while waiting for mini-bus (I was waiting for bus right opposite the street 5 hours earlier in that morning). It’s an unlucky incident and residents in the neighborhood had offered the greatest sympathy to the lost. Later was found out that the fallen tree had fungi infection, its body became hollow and brittle. There were blames on why government did not foresee this dying tree. Much of its attention had diverted to how safe are these non-humanly planted trees on Mid-Levels.

Why These Trees Matter?
Walled trees are the living heritage of Hong Kong. There used to be plenty of them on Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. As more private development activities (expensive apartments) set in place, less and less trees are remaining in the non-private area (roads). Trees are less of the real estate developers’ concern, their one and only concern is how much they could make out of every possible square foot.

These 4 trees on Bonham Road were there even before the World War I. It states the history of what neighborhood had been through. And really the trees and the wall it grew on are what’s unchanged for a century. Thanks to the government, they’d successfully wiped out our district history once again.

Trees are the natural landscape. They’re some nice buffer to our concrete high rises. It marks the overall atmosphere uniquely. Given that so few trees have left, it’s even more unique in a modernized city setting. They are the shelter, the eye reliever, the air cleanser. It’d completely changed the face of a neighborhood. Without these trees, our neighborhood is turning into a ‘city of sadness’ (悲情城市) without a human touch, without a soul (沒人情味).

What We Wanted to See?
They could have fixed the wall. They could have ease off the weight by trimming down some off branches. They could have built a column supporter or mount to prevent it from falling. They could have generated more job opportunities by hiring/training more tree experts to give care to our trees that are naturally grown.

There’s the recognized Rights of Nature. Show some respect to our nature. And I’d like to see some day trees can be planted densely in the city, but it’s a ‘new thinking’ when trees has to worth a dime here.

The Trees and Its Repercussion:
Maybe it’s political, maybe it’s a social issue. Anything that has historical value, we strive to protect it would then turn into a property development. I used to think, we must always yield for the greater good. The walled tree incident had changed my perspective and question what’s the greater good? Who’s going to benefit from it? Why can’t some of the heritage co-exist when so much modern developments have already done? When are these developments are going to end? When will the property developers stop eyeing on those heritage sites?

District Matters, None of Your Out-of-Districts’ Concern:
Have you ever seen wildlife animals protect them home turf? I may have taken to an extreme, but let’s put it as our own backyard. When a stranger that you do not know of are destroying your beautiful backyard, what would you do? In North America, you could resolve by firing a gun. Case and point.

When the government does not care how you feel and make radical changes in your neighborhood which none of them live in it, it’s serious. My trust to the government is now broken. I just hate the feeling of being pushed to a corner.

Just when I thought the wall trees are gone forever, the Tung Tak Pawn Shop in Wan Chai listed as a Grade III historic building was about to be demolished. The 3-story structure has a rare curved design and the exterior is still intact. It could be the single most representable pawn shop structure with story to tell of our city’s past. I’d rather see it rented to McDonalds than turn into another high rise office building (the owner’s intention). Many have questioned what’s left in the city besides properties and money. And really what’s left besides those and authority?

You can’t really blame on us oppose in modernization, many of us post-80s, 90s are eager to see the past and it’s impossible to imagine without the tangible heritage site. We want our Hong Kong to have its roots, a way to trace back our history without going into a museum. We all should be happy to have a group of people passionate about our rich history, passionate enough to come out and say that’s enough of modern non-sense. We’re respecting our past, our roots, our history. Seeing the archive images from the past was a disbelief. It all seemed so beautiful when the English Colonial style buildings were everywhere from Central to Kennedy Town. Hong Kong was a little Europe! We should have at least kept a street or two full of these buildings for preservation. It could have been the single most enjoyable part of visiting Hong Kong as a tourist, just as if they’ve entered a colonized street of Hong Kong back then. It’s pointless to erect a sign of monument when the actual monuments were removed. Someday, I think the virtual reality may help us reconstruct what’s once before on each place.

Old Friends
Development or Preservation
The deadly tree being removed
Condolences to the unfortunate woman