Echoes of the Sheung Wan of the 1960s: Wing Lee Street and the ladder streets

28 07 2010

If you haven’t already noticed from my blog, The Long and Winding Road is that one of the things that I have a soft spot for is in old places which would be mixed with bits of nostalgia of those places in the days that have passed. While The Long and Winding Road isn’t so much a nostalgia blog as it has sometimes been labelled as – being about how I see what is around me, it does have a large dose of nostalgia for the Singapore that I grew up in, and when I am in a place like Hong Kong, I can also identify with the places and things that the local people have a nostalgia for. Hong Kong does provide a lot of that in some ways: the tramway and the Star ferry being some of the older things that are still around. There is another part of Hong Kong where it is possible to enjoy hearing the lingering echo of a forgotten past, which on this trip was introduced by Mr Leon Suen, a professional photographer who had kindly and patiently served as our guide for two hours in an thoroughly enjoyable walk around the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong Island.

Down Shing Wong Street in Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen.

The highlight of the walk was the walk along the staircases and terraces of Sheung Wan around the area where Wing Lee Street is. Wing Lee Street is a terrace that was made famous by Alex Law’s award winning movie 歲月神偷, 岁月神偷 in simplified Chinese or when translated into English, “Time, the thief”. It goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow” in English, a reference to the double rainbow I suppose, that features in a scene in the movie. I guess the walk would probably have been more meaningful if I had watched the movie before taking it, but somehow, walking down the staircases and terraces did take me back to a time as the street that Wing Lee Street was used to depict was in, to the Sheung Wan of the 1960s, much like how my walks in some of the older parts of Singapore would bring me back to a time that I would have remembered.

A building from the past along Shing Wong Street. Many of the old buildings have been demolished and replaced by high rise buildings, altering the character of the area.

Wing Lee Street served as the set for the award winning movie 歲月神偷 or “Time, the thief” which goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow in English.

Wing Lee Street served as the set for the award winning movie 歲月神偷 or “Time, the thief” which goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow in English.

The building that served as the school on the set of the movie.

The building that served as the school on the set of the movie.

Ventilation and light openings in the stairwell were a common feature of the old buildings.

Ventilation and light openings in the stairwell were a common feature of the old buildings.

Wing Lee Street and the movie Echoes of the Rainbow provide a doorway into Sheung Wan's past.

Wing Lee Street and the movie Echoes of the Rainbow provide a doorway into Sheung Wan's past.

The movie, which I made a point of watching in the plane on the voyage back to Singapore, is filled with sights, sounds and images of the Hong Kong of the late 1960s. In watching it, I felt very much that I was back in that Hong Kong, back to a time when I had my own childhood in Singapore, with strains of music of the era that echo in the background of the many warm nostalgic scenes that fill the movie. I didn’t think very much of the plot though, while it may have centred around a heart wrenching tale of a family of a shoemaker struggling to make ends meet and desperately trying to save a favoured son in his prime diagnosed with cancer as seen through the eyes of the younger son finding hard to live up to the comparisons made with his elder brother. The story which is in a sense an autobiographical tribute to the director’s own brother who died of cancer in his teens, I felt was rather shallow and predictable, but still watchable for the poignant look of the Hong Kong of old. I understand that it was only after the shooting of the movie that a decision was taken to conserve the buildings along Wing Lee Street which would otherwise have been demolished.

A gate on Wing Lee Street.

A gate on Wing Lee Street.

Windows on on Wing Lee Street.

Windows on Wing Lee Street.

A wall along Wing Lee Street.

A wall along Wing Lee Street.

Grilled windows.

Grilled windows.

A broken pane on a window.

A broken pane on a window.

The terrace that is Wing Lee Street.

The terrace that is Wing Lee Street.

An interesting part of Wing Lee Street is at the corner of Shing Wong Street (one of the “ladder streets” – named such as they are literally staircases up from the lower reaches of the Central and Sheung Wan areas to the Mid Levels higher up), where the Wai Che Printing Co. is located. It is also interesting to note that opposite the entrance to the Wai Che is the building that was used to depict the school in the movie. Entering the printing shop through the half opened collapsible gate, you would immediately be transported back in time – more so because of the sight of old wooden racks of lead type against the wall and an old Heidelberg cylinder movable type printing machine, which although still being operated by the owner, the very friendly Mr. Lee Chak Yue who is in his eighties, has become obsolete. Mr. Lee, had been using this traditional method of printing which harks back to the days of ancient China in which it was invented (it is considered one of the great inventions of China), for some 60 years and was patient enough to explain how printing is done in this traditional way where typesetting can be a lengthy task. It is a shame to have to hear from him and Leon that the shop and the wealth of history that can be found in the lead type and machines is not something that the heritage body in Hong Kong is looking at preserving. It would certainly be nice to see that at least the shop and the contents of the shop be kept where it is and preserved as a museum, but from the sound of things, that is quite unlikely.

Wai Che Printing Company's entrance at Wing Lee Street.

Wai Che Printing Company's entrance at Wing Lee Street.

A sign at the entrance.

A sign at the entrance.

Mr Lee Chak Yue, the proprietor of Wai Che is in his 80s and has been doing movable type printing fro 60 years. It is with his kind permission that the set of photographs have been taken.

Mr Lee Chak Yue, the proprietor of Wai Che is in his 80s and has been doing movable type printing fro 60 years. It is with his kind permission that the set of photographs have been taken.

IMG_1586

IMG_1593

IMG_1587

IMG_1585

The Heidelberg moving type press.

The Heidelberg moving type press.

At the other end of the terrace there is a charming old apartment block – looking somewhat dilapidated. If not for the evidence of clothes hanging to dry on lines and letter boxes stuffed with the mail, I would have thought that they were not lived in. A feature of buildings of that era can be seen on the façade of the building, which has slots to serve as ventilation openings on the stairwell and more importantly to provide a source of light, one that you will see on many of the buildings around Sheung Wan. Other notable sights in the vicinity are the old Chinese YMCA building – a red brick eclectically designed building that dates back to 1918 which served as the headquarters of the Chinese YMCA on Bridges Street until it moved in 1966 and the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.

A dilapidated apartment block.

A dilapidated apartment block.

Old letter boxes.

Old letter boxes.

Signs of life ...

Signs of life ...

More signs of life?

More signs of life?

The former Chinese YMCA building on Bridges Street.The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.IMG_1654

IMG_1651

IMG_1642

IMG_1635


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





It’s hard to remain dry with a model in the tub!

27 07 2010

I guess that was what Pete found out, much to the dismay of his cheering fans ashore in Sunday’s Media Bath Tub Race that was held at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, part of the weekend’s highlight, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. The exciting race, which saw the team from the Philippines winning, also featured two teams representing omy.sg, one with Pete and model Ang Geck Geck, and the other with Darren and Violet, who eventually came in a close second to the team from the Philippines.

Screaming girls cheering for Aussie Pete?

Not cheering for Pete as Pete might have imagined. A face amongst the thousands of fans who had gathered to scream at the sight of the KBS dream team.

There were literally thousands of screaming fans gathered for the race, and as Pete would have it, they would have been rooting for him in the race. Having made all the necessary preparations in the run up to the race, the two teams from omy.sg were expected to do fairly well, and based on the strategies that were discussed by the repective teams, it seemed like the teams had everything worked out.

The KBS dream team included members of boyband U-KISS with the very popular Alexander.

The race started with the blast of a horn, and from the vantage point of the media cordon amongst the very large numbers that had turned out, as it turned out, to greet the Korean Dream team from the KBS network which included U-KISS with the popular Alexander, who were taking part in an international media networks race (and not disappointingly for Pete, Pete and Geck Geck – although I must say that both have got star qualities). As the race progressed, the clumsily fashioned “bathtubs” laboured their way forward to the almighty efforts of the teams of two that seemed to want to have their bathtubs capsize with every stroke of the paddle, and midway through the race, spectators got more than what they had bargained for as with a big stroke of the paddle, Pete had put his weight to the starboard side and while not as graceful as the dolphins in Ocean Park, the sight of Pete and Geck Geck falling into the depths of the Fragrant Harbour appeared to be graceful and choreographed (hmm, maybe it was staged). The incident was greeted not in stunned silence, but with a big roar from the crowd … and any fears for the safety of the two was quickly proved to be unfounded by the quick appearance of the rescue parties (maybe it was the pretty damsel in distress that they were all concerned with).

The moment it happened, it did appear to have been a carefully choreographed move.

Into the depths of the Fragrant Harbour went Pete and the model.

Hey, wait a minute ... they seem to be having fun!

Rescuers were quickly on the scene ... perhaps more concerned with the pretty model.

The rescue.

I guess it was certainly a blast for the participants in the race, as it was for the fans who caught a glimpse of their KBS heroes, and for us bloggers to have had a chance to soak in the atmosphere of a dragon boating event in the very home of Dragon Boat racing as we know it today. The race also featured teams made up of breast cancer survivors and their supporters in which a team from Singapore, the Pink Spartans won.

Darren and Violet paddled their way to second place.

The soaking wet pair after being rescued from their bathtub adventures.

Even the buoys seemed to give Pete and Geck Geck a perfect 10!


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





Day 1 in Hong Kong and it looks like Pete and Geck Geck got a head start on Darren and Violet!

24 07 2010

Arriving in Hong Kong after what was for me an eventful preparation for the much anticipated trip to Hong Kong, which included having the drama of not being able to find my passport and warnings on the weather in the wake of Typhoon Chanthu which made landfall in Guangdong on the previous day, it was nice to first be greeted with sunny skies instead of the wet and windy weather I had anticipated, and then by the gorgeous hotel room in the Mira Hotel where we are being put up in.

The gorgeous room in the Mira Hotel that I am staying in.

The gorgeous room in the Mira Hotel that I am staying in.

For the few of us who had decided to follow on the optional programme put up for us by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the first day started with afternoon tea at the hotel, followed by a visit to the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival and the accompanying Cross-over concert, and culminated in the highlight of the day – a sumptous feast at the charming busy suzie Japanese restuarant.

The day culminated in dinner at busy suzie, a Robatayaki restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The day culminated in dinner at busy suzie, a Robatayaki restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.

In getting to the opening ceremony, we took a detour to the Avenue of the Stars, where the very amusing Aussie Pete, the author of the best “What the Hell” blog category at the 2010 Singapore Blog Awards, managed to not only survey the route for Sunday’s bathtub race in which he is partnering the petite Geck Geck, the author of the best Modelling blog who was also with us, but also get his picture taken with Jackie Chan! Peter even got his hands on the paddle during the day’s events – Geck Geck too, which will become apparent further on in this post. I guess that you can say now that Pete and Geck Geck hold an unfair advantage over the other competitors – and besides, with their relative sizes, the bathtub would be loaded in a way it might actually plane (as in a planing boat)!

Aussie Pete got his picture with Jackie along the Avenue of the Stars.

Aussie Pete got his picture with Jackie along the Avenue of the Stars.

The opening ceremony and concert was graced by the appearance of Sherman Chung, a popular cantopop artiste and U-Kiss – a Korean boyband which, one the evidence of the many screaming fans who had come, popular with teenage girls in Hong Kong – not surprising I suppose, as amongst the members of U-Kiss, is the (I guess some would consider) cute Alexander who apparently has a Hong Kong father and a Korean mother and also speaks Cantonese.

The Hong King Dragon Boat carnival is officially opened.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival is officially opened.

Drum display at the official opening of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival.

Drum display at the official opening of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival.

Sherman Chung made an apperance.

Sherman Chung made an apperance.

But the highlight for the many gathered seemed to be the appearance of Alexander of Korean boyband U-KISS.

But the highlight for the many gathered seemed to be the appearance of Alexander of Korean boyband U-KISS.

which was greeted by the screams of the adoring teenage crowd that had gathered.

which was greeted by the screams of the adoring teenage crowd that had gathered.

and more screams!

and more screams!

Sherman was not without her fans though!

Sherman was not without her fans though!

Alexander charmed the crowd with his fluent Cantonese.

Alexander charmed the crowd with his fluent Cantonese.

Members of U-KISS on stage.

Members of U-KISS on stage.

U-KISS on stage.

U-KISS on stage.

Fans of U-KISS were out in full force.

Fans of U-KISS were out in full force.

Leaving the concert and with it the blast of great music and screaming girls which had my ears ringing for a while, we then made our way on foot through the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui towards busy suzie’s – but not before Pete was grateful to be finally able to find what he had been looking for several hours earlier.

Aussie Pete's saviour!

Aussie Pete's saviour!

The restaurant is located at former lighthouse building which is now part of the very charming 1881 Heritage complex, a mix of Victorian styled buildings which once were used as the Marine Police headquarters, a lighhouse and a fire-station. The complex was opened last year and also features a very exclusive boutique hotel, housed in Hulett House, which we were informed, had only six lavish suites and is booked up to as far ahead as November.

Hulett House in the 1881 Heritage complex is now an exclusive boutique hotel.

Hulett House in the 1881 Heritage complex is now an exclusive boutique hotel.

The former Kowloon Fire Station.

The former Kowloon Fire Station.

The time ball of the former lighthouse.

The time ball of the former lighthouse.

busy suzie, a robatayaki restaurant named after an intended play on the word “Lazy Susan” to reflect the unique style of serving food robata style in which wooden paddles are used by the chefs seated in front of diners to pass the dishes which are prepared on the spot to them. This practice is said to have originated in the simple beach resturants of Sendai in northern Japan where Robatayaki traces its origins to, where fishermen cooked their catch over an open fire with only a boat oar to use. The layout of the restaurant is unique in itself, being arranged in a circular fashion and features a curved lounge bar and seating arrangements which is set in a modern contemporary fashion that is in keeping with the restaurant’s intended theme of old cusine served fusion style.

busy suzie features a unique circular layout.

busy suzie features a unique circular layout.

and wonderful decor!

and wonderful decor!

Pete got to practice with the paddle.

Pete got to practice with the paddle.

I must say the overall dining experience was really something to remember. We were provided with a superb selection of food exquisitely prepared by chef Iwagami Yoshiaki, which certainly went down very smoothly in the company of the HKTB’s representatives, the omy representatives and my fellow bloggers. With this it was back to the very nice hotel room, a soak in the bath and some long awaited rest to recharge for a second day packed with some more exciting events lined up for us by the HKTB.

A Robata chef at work.

A Robata chef at work.

Food is flown in fresh everyday ...

Food is flown in fresh everyday ...

Chef Iwagami San at work.

Chef Iwagami San at work.

Iwagami San preparing a Kinky Fish.

Iwagami San preparing a Kinky Fish.

Iwagami San.

Iwagami San.

Hands on the paddle.

Hands on the paddle.

A selection of the food as it was served:

IMG_0292
IMG_0305
IMG_0314
IMG_0323
IMG_0324
IMG_0326
IMG_0328
IMG_0331
IMG_0333
IMG_0341

And finally, if you are ever at busy suzie's, don't forget a visit to this important place ...

And finally, if you are ever at busy suzie's, don't forget a visit to this important place ...


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





The colourful kaleidoscope that is Hong Kong

18 07 2010

It is always nice to look forward to a trip and even with what has proven to be a hectic week that I haven’t been able to leave behind and what promises to be another hectic week before my trip to Hong Kong, I have allowed myself to look to it excitedly with the anticipation of a curious child. The trip, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), and in the company of bloggers – winners of their respective categories in Singapore Blog Awards, who on their on would make any trip interesting, would be made even more so with the host of activities that the HKTB is planning for us. Hong Kong has been one destination that has always fascinated since the early days of my childhood. Back then, it was the likes of Bruce Lee who seemed to be what Hong Kong was about, and in many ways, Bruce Lee did epitomise what Hong Kong was about: a sprinkling of the west and a lot of what was essentially east. There were of course the wonderful stories of food, bustling streets, and a city that never sleeps, which was certainly enhanced by the only other trip I have made to Hong Kong which left me with a deep impression of the colourful kaleidoscope that is Hong Kong.

Hong Kong gives me the impression of a colourful kaleidoscope with the promise of food, shopping, street life and excitement awaiting the visitor.

Hong Kong gives me the impression of a colourful kaleidoscope with the promise of food, shopping, street life and excitement awaiting the visitor.

This time around, I can look forward to the hospitality of the HKTB on the four day trip that will introduce the “Hong Kong Summer Spectacular”, which runs from 11 June to 31 August this year, and features a series of promotional activities. Of theses activities, one would be the highlight of the trip, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, which runs from 23 to 25 July. The centrepiece of the carnival would be the SaSa 2010 Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races, which will feature 191 dragon boat teams from 12 countries and regions, which would be held in Victoria Harbour. While the teams are in action in the water, a carnival atmosphere would be created up on the East Tsim Sha Tsui promenade where spectators can visit the San Miguel Beer Garden, which will tempt visitors with beer, fragrant food and live performances. A Dragon Boat Fun Plaza will also be on hand to offer cultural entertainment. Incidentally, the races will also feature a bathtub race for the media, and four of my fellow bloggers, Darren, Geck Geck, Violet and Aussie Pete (lucky chaps!) have been selected to participate in this event which looks like a whole lot of fun! And it does look like Darren and Aussie Pete are planning to have as well as provide a lot of fun based on the preparations they have mentioned their respective posts.

Map of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival venue.

Map of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival venue.

Artist impression of the San Miguel Beer Garden.

Artist impression of the San Miguel Beer Garden.

The theme for the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular is “Hot Events, Cool Place”, and in line with the theme, the HKTB has lined up a host of other activities, information on which can be found on the Discover Hong Kong website. The HKTB in conjunction with Visa, is also running a promotion during the period: the “Visa go Hong Kong Super Shopper” contest, in which local and visiting shoppers spending over HK$3,000 on their Visa cards would be entitled to enter an online lucky draw.

Besides the activities that the HKTB has lined up for us, we would be having free time to explore some of Hong Kong on our own, and this is something I can look forward to as one of the things I like doing on any trip is to discover a place at leisure. I guess with all that in store for me, I can’t help but allow myself to look forward to the trip with a tinge of excitement.





The story of Spain in and beyond the headlines

13 07 2010

Spain it is, and on the balance of how football’s World Cup was played, despite losing their opening encounter with the Swiss, Spain were certainly worthy winners. Although the final match against the Netherlands proved to be less entertaining than one would have expected between a polished Spanish team and the once masters of total football, the Oranje, the match did provide the excitement at the end, and some controversy too, the magnificent finish of Barça’s Andres Iniesta coming with an attack launched right after English referee Howard Webb missed a Spanish deflection on a Dutch free kick denying the Oranje a corner. This controversy and that the match was marred by what was seen to be roughhouse tactics employed by the Oranje to try to break Spanish control over the ball resulting in 13 yellow cards being brandished by Webb, 8 to the Netherlands and 5 to Spain, with Oranje Johnny Heitinga being shown a second yellow and hence a red, would probably dominate the news in many newspapers. But that really shouldn’t, and for most part, glancing at the front pages of the newspapers around the world, it is good to know that it hasn’t. I always enjoy glancing at the front pages after an event to grasp a sense of the mood of a nation in response to the event and in Spain of course, the newspapers would be splashed with the joy of a nation tasting World Cup success for the very first time, after years of misery and under-achievement. There is a story of Spain that perhaps the newspapers should really tell, not one of the narrow but sweet victory over a determined Dutch side, or the kung-fu kick Nigel de Jong landed on Xabi Alonso that Eric Cantona would have certainly been proud of, but one of unity in diversity.

The front pages of newspapers often provide an insight into the mood of a nation. "Reyes del mundo" or "Kings of the world" reads the La Vanguardia the morning after Spain's victory over the Netherlands.

Spain is indeed as diverse as nations go. The make-up of the national team itself is a reflection of that. With players made up of proud and independent thinking Catalunya, those from the Castillian heart of Spain, the far flung and rough Basque country, and even the Canary Islands, each with an outlook and identity as distinct as the landscapes are as you move from one region of Spain to another. What was on show during the World Cup was the unity the diverse members displayed as a team, combining into an unstoppable force that was able to overcome a German team that looked to be on its way to win the cup having demolished the fancied English and Argentinian teams putting four goals past each of them. It is from Spain that we see that the power of the team can defeat the teams where the focus held dwelt on individuals. So, where the Ronaldos, Rooneys and Messis flopped, what can be seen beyond the headlines is the triumph of teamwork and team spirit in the superb Spanish show during the World Cup.

"Lost"... The mood of the Netherlands summed up in the front page of Het Parool.

Elsewhere, in Netherlands, as one would have expected, the headlines on the front pages reflected a different mood, one of despair at their fall final hurdle for the third time in the quest for football’s ultimate reward. In Germany, with the exit of the national team at the hands of the Spanish in the semi-finals, the news was conspicuously absent from the front pages of the main broadsheets, and in the UK, the Times leads with the graphic image of Nigel de Jong executing the kung-fu style kick on Xabi Alonso, giving the game an appearance of a kick-boxing match, and a game which was difficult to officiate, drawing attention to the only thing England could contribute to the final, referee Howard Webb’s performance. Regional newspapers also tell a story,

Conspicuously missing from the headlines of the German broadsheets, news of the Spanish triumph over the Netherlands.

The Times leads with a very graphic image of Nigel de Jong's king-fu style kick, providing a negative impression of the game and bring attention to Howard Webb's performance in handling what would be seen to be a difficult game.

The pride of Catalunya, Carles Puyol on the front page of a regional newspaper from Catalunya.