An absolutely gorgeous day today and I couldn’t believe that I managed to leave my camera behind when we went out.
Anyway, the small shop sizes and relatively low rents in Sai Kung mean that people feel a bit freer to try something a little different here, or at least try to get a business off the ground. Sai Kung is home to HK’s only Sri Lankan restaurant (AJ’s) and is where the Paisano’s empire got its start (a mere two years ago – he’s up to 5 or 6 locations and is promising four more for next year as well as expansion into Shanghai and Beijing).
Walking around today, we found a new place, open for just two weeks, with the descriptive but perhaps unfortunate name of Juicy Jap Dog. All day breakfasts, all natural smoothies and combinations of Japanese things on top of sausages. I tried the Olopon dog – Yuzu Ponzu, grated radish and green onion.
My gf went for the Okonomi dog, featuring Okonomi sauce, Japanese mayo, bonito flakes and cabbage.
The hot dogs were big, plump and, yes, juicy. The shop is at most 200 square feet, including the kitchen.
Just around the corner was an even smaller place called Ali Baba’s Curry House which, oddly enough, doesn’t serve curry. They had samosas and a kind of crepe (I asked if it was murtabak and the guy said, “yes, it’s kind of like murtabak”) with various meat or fruit fillings.
The samosas are sitting there on a tray, ready to pop into a bag, but the crepes are made fresh when you order them – and cost a measly HK$20 each. And yeah, it was nice.
Which makes me think about something that Hong Kong has lost by outlawing most street food, the notion of going from stand to stand, grabbing a little bit here, a little bit there, mixing and matching tastes and cuisines. You can do that in many places in Asia but really, what’s left of street food in most of HK are small little shops with counters out on the street, mostly selling various bits of crap on sticks. (And when I say crap, don’t get me wrong, I frequently go for this stuff, but I’m sure that most of it is horrendously unhealthy.) It ain’t anything close to walking around the back streets of Shanghai or Beijing or a food street in Kuala Lumpur – even the cooked food centers in the wet markets (Sai Kung’s wet market doesn’t have one) aren’t like this. As long as our useless government is into needlessly “upgrading” streets and neighborhoods and destroying what character they had (have you seen the plans for Sneaker Street, Fa Yuen Gai, in Mong Kok?) why not create some food streets – streets with street carts or dai pai dongs and tables, some crap on a stick here, a bag of dumplings there … but I can do without the stinky tofu, okay?
Sunday afternoon, 25 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, just the usual grey from the pollution. This is the season that has the weather that I wait all year for. If some days are diamonds, this was definitely one of them. And while I’ve sometimes thought about moving away from Sai Kung, this is one of those days that makes me think, “Why would I ever want to go anywhere else?” Yes, another Sunday down to the waterfront with dogs and camera.
It was a picture postcard kind of day.
Notice those tents? Apparently someone in the District Council took offense to open land that was just sitting there, green and nice for people to enjoy. Can’t have 10 feet of space in which no one is selling anything, now, can we? And so now we have a flea market.
These dogs were definitely attracting the most attention.
Look closely and you’ll see that not only has their fur been dyed, their toenails have been painted.
Bogey and Spikey love coming down here because of all the attention they get – without dye, paint or funny clothes. Not only do they get to play with lots of other dogs, they get dozens of people wanting to pet them and some wanting pictures.
Of course, they have a lot of competition.
It’s almost astonishing to me how friendly everyone is on days like this. Everyone is smiling. Everyone talks to everyone else. There are no walls.
I guess not everyone’s equally happy to be there.
Of course, over by the pier, people were busy shopping for their Sunday dinner.
Others were just chillin’ and enjoying the day.
And yes Skippy-san, there was no shortage of attractive women either.
About the only problem with today is that it had to end … and tomorrow is back to the usual grind.
Bonus pic: t-shirt of the day
I’m off to New York City on Thursday, staying for just four nights. Some might question why I’m going to spend 32+ hours in transit for such a short visit. The answer is that having started a new job halfway through the year, I don’t get a lot of vacation days this year and I prefer to bank a bunch of days for a relaxing trip to some beach somewhere around December or January. (Still debating on Thailand vs. Vietnam.)
I’m flying Cathay, and even in economy you get a video screen with a fair number of entertainment options, although it’s always possible that they won’t have anything screening that I want to see. (Just checked – I’ve seen Iron Man 2. That leaves me with Sex & the City 2, Nanny McPhee, A Team. Yikes.)
Being the gadgetaholic that I am, I’ll be boarding the plane with my Kindle, 64 gig iPad and 32 gig iPhone. I’ve got 4 books on the Kindle that I haven’t read. A couple more books and some magazines on the iPad, not to mention a dozen movies and that will leave room for around 20 gigs of music. The iPhone will be stuffed to the brim with music. Hmmm …. 50 gigs of music, is that enough to choose from? Fortunately my 160 gig iPod classic still works.
I’m taking advantage of the trip by buying a bunch of used stuff via Amazon and some other things that either don’t ship internationally or just get very expensive with international shipping and having it all shipped to my mom’s place. (You can’t combine shipping on this used stuff unless you use a forwarding service like OneNow.com.) I’ll be going to NYC with an almost-empty suitcase and returning home with an overflowing one. Still have no clue what I’m going to buy my gf there and actually have no clue what to get for my mom as a gift. (Off to Mong Kok later today to check around.)
My mom, at 89 years old, is a budding gadgetaholic herself. She’s had her Kindle 2 for a year now and is debating on upgrading to the Kindle 3. The smaller size and weight and better screen seem to add up to compelling reasons for her to upgrade. The problem is that if she gets the $139 WiFi only model, she doesn’t know how to use File Manager to transfer downloaded files to the Kindle (and if I teach her, she’ll forget two days later). So she could get the $189 3G+WiFi that works the same as the one she has now. But she doesn’t want to spend the extra money.
And that’s about all for now. Except to share some recent photos (all taken with my iPhone).
Interesting shop in Kennedy Town:
This is vaguely interesting. In Sai Kung town, there’s a shop called Patsy House. They’ve been here for years, maybe decades, and you can buy anything from a plug adapter up to a refrigerator or LCD TV from them. They’ve got great and friendly service there and I am guessing just about everyone around here loves this shop. A year or so back, they moved out of their back alley location to the main street, near McD’s and Star$’s. Soon thereafter, a similar shop opened in their old location called Patsy Group. I figured they still had the lease there and were now operating two shops in town. But it seems that’s not the case. The new shop just stole their name to try to get some of their goodwill for free. Sleazeball jerkoffs. Here’s the “Statementn of Clarification” (sorry, a little blurry).
The sign for the free shuttle bus between Cyberport and Chi Fu. No broads allowed. Makes for a far less interesting ride.
Speaking of Cyberport, here’s something parked in the Cyberport garage that you don’t see every day in Hong Kong – a Cadillac! (Well, I guess if you own it or you live near this guy you see it every day.)
Last but not least, decorations in town earlier this week for the Mid Autumn Festival. Wish I had a different camera with me that night; it was charming stuff.
Was spent sitting in buses. Argh.
The closest exit from Poly was a walkway that crosses over the Kowloon-side entrance to the Central Tunnel. Had I chosen an exit closer to Chatham Road or walked over to the Hung Hom railway station, I might have found a taxi. Instead, I went downstairs to the bus station by the tunnel, saw there was a bus that went to Choi Hung and hopped on. This bus took the most indirect route imaginable - one that passed through the busy streets of Mong Kok at peak time on a Saturday afternoon. But I did get to go through some neighborhoods and down some streets I’d never been near before. All the following (except the last one obviously) were shot through a bus window.
Over on Prince Edward Road West, Wheelock is building a house named Urban Natural Luxury Residence. Mainlanders are probably lined up for miles to get a flat here.
Loved the name of this shop and their sign.
If I wasn’t so freaking hot and tired, I would have hopped off the bus to get some better shots of this.
I don’t see buildings that look like this every day.
Plaza Hollywood – you have my permission to shoot me if you ever find out I’m moving into a place like this.
“Alexander’s 3000th bus supplied to KMB.”
And then we got to Choi Hung. But not to a part of Choi Hung that I’m familiar with. Another bus depot and no taxis to be seen anywhere. I checked the signs and saw I could get the 92 bus to Sai Kung. Which meant I could grab a shot of Spider Man just before Marina Cove.
Actually I was lucky I was in a bus and not a taxi. Presumably a water pipe burst along Hiram’s Highway and they were doing emergency repairs, which had traffic backed up for miles. What normally would have taken me 10 minutes to drive took more than an hour. I guess if I’d lasted through an entire day at BarCamp I could have avoided this, but who knew? At least I didn’t have to sit in a taxi listening to the meter click every minute or two. Finally, just before Hebe Haven, we got past the spot with the damage.
Finally made it to Sai Kung. Our temple is getting ready for the Mid Autumn Festival next Thursday.
A slice at Paisano’s and then home.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, for those who don’t know, and it’s a post-processing photography trick where you take 3 (or more) images of the same subject at slightly different exposures and combine them to get an image where the darkest and lightest areas are still viewable and (hopefully) properly exposed. Previously this was a software-only thing, but it’s showing up now as an in-camera option on everything from point-and-shoots to the iPhone 4. It’s one of the things that the Sony NEX-5 can do too.
One reason for the growing popularity and availability of HDR is that there are a lot of situations where it can help and sometimes they’re not so obvious. The other day I posted a shot taken from my balcony. Actually I’d taken a shot, came inside, took a look at the photo on the big screen and I wasn’t happy with the result. Normally I might have gone back outside and cycled through half a dozen combinations of settings to get something nice but I didn’t have a lot of time so I just switched the camera to the HDR setting. The Sony NEX-5 takes 3 photos and combines them in-camera in under a second. When examining the file system, for whatever reason it saves just one of the original shots as well as the finished HDR shot.
So here’s that original shot:
And here’s the HDR shot:
Even looking at the thumbnails, I’m sure you can see the difference between the two. (You can click on the images to see larger versions; no post-processing on these at all except to output smaller versions and add a watermark via Picasa. Oh, and by the way, this was all done handheld, no tripod.) See how much better the clouds came out in the HDR photo? Meanwhile, the brightness of the sky left everything else a little dark; that’s fixed in the HDR photo too.
The only drawback is that all of the choices have been made by Sony’s software rather than the photographer (in this case, me). The results don’t always work. But it’s damned quick and easy.
As most of you know, I grew up in New York City, in The Bronx. I lived in Da Bronx from 1954 to 1978, from the time when it was a garden spot to its sad decline, the “Ladies and gentlemen, The Bronx is burning” era. We lived in a total of two apartments in all those years, both in the same building. To the best of my recollection, neither apartment was ever robbed. We never came home to find the front door off its hinges, a busted window or stuff missing. But I grew up aware that it could happen.
In 2001, when contemplating a move to Sai Kung, a friend already living here regaled me with tales of break-ins and robberies in the district, including one time that his home was broken into. Conventional wisdom has it that this is a landing point for illegal immigrants from China, that they get off some boat and head for the hills, looking for clothes and small, valuable items that they can sell to get some cash. That played to my paranoia and I ended up renting an expensive house in a gated, patrolled community up here.
In 2008, when I moved back to Sai Kung, I was content to go for an average village house in an average village. My village is small, perhaps 15 or 20 houses, and it’s one kilometer up the side of a mountain and down a single lane two-way winding road. There’s no public transportation here, no bus or mini-bus nearby. It is, by Hong Kong standards, relatively isolated. The road that leads up to the village is lined with far more expensive houses – starting from the bottom of the road where one house is on the market with an asking price of HK$98 million. Further up the hill, asking prices for houses are $25 million for sale or $60,000 for rent. By the time you get to our village, the prices have dropped considerably. Nevertheless, it turns out we are a target for thieves.
Every few months I’ve come home to find a note in the mailbox from the local police telling me that there was a recent break-in in “the area” and that I should be on my guard. On rarer occasions, I’ve come home to find a police van parked in the village car park. They do this for a day or two after a break-in, just in case the thieves have some notion of coming back for more.
The police van was parked up here tonight because there was a break-in last night, just two houses down from mine. Their house is at the end of a row, farthest from the car park, right at the edge of “nature.” They have a dog – a medium sized dog who doesn’t look very scary and is more likely to wet herself at the sight of a stranger. I’ve been told that one of their windows was unlocked, the thief or thieves opened the window, reached inside and grabbed an iPhone and assorted other stuff from the table right by that window, apparently never actually entering the house.
So tonight I feel lucky. I have two dogs. They’re big but not scary looking – at least not to my eyes, but I’ve had each of them from the time they were puppies. They do bark loudly from time to time, mostly responding to other dogs in the neighborhood but sometimes just because they think they heard something or smelled something that wasn’t quite right. I don’t know how much of a crime deterrent they might be. And I have been pretty complacent about living up here, thinking things were safe, often leaving doors or windows unlocked.
Hong Kong is really safe. That’s one of the things I really love about it here. But as safe as it is, shit can and does happen. I feel quite bad for my neighbors. Any robbery, no matter how small, can feel like a violation. It serves as a reminder to me to be more “Bronx-ish” in my attitude towards the security of my home and I just thought I’d pass this along to anyone else living in similar circumstances.
Home early today because I wasn’t feeling well – hence the amount of blogging this afternoon (after an extended nap). And then around 6 PM took a look out the window and ran to grab the camera. The “regular” shot is a completely unretouched JPG – 18mm on the 18-55mm zoom, f/7.1, 1/320 of a second, ISO 200. (Yeah, okay, still shooting on auto.)
And then a panorama shot grabbed a few seconds later. Clearly there’s a difference in the sky in the second shot. When shooting in panorama mode, there are no manual options available (aside from which direction you want to pan in) and the camera “chose” 1/160th of a second at f/6.3, which is why the sky is washed out.
(Unlike an earlier post, this time I uploaded the full sized photos here. So click on them and (hopefully) enjoy!)