Sunday, 15 July 2012
My travels continued this past week with a foray into the New Territories (adjacent to mainland China) and a trip to one of the oldest settled areas on HK island, Sheung Wan.
The New Territories are home to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which, just like Toronto, has a Picasso exhibition running at present. It also has exhibits about Chinese culture, which were really what drew me. (Hey, Picasso paintings are on display in NYC regularly!) Getting there, however, required three changes of subway line, and I ended up in a mall in one of the many New Towns (planned suburbs with green space, industry, transit and highrises galore), trying to follow the directions a mall attendant had given me. Luckily, I happened upon a hotel and knew someone there would speak English. Bingo! A nice, young man escorted me outdoors and pointed the way. I was close ...
The Picasso exhibition was ostensibly sold out, but the young man at the ticket window told me that I could purchase a month's pass that would ensure entry. The pass cost a "whopping" $50 -- or about $7 Canadian! What is the AGO charging for its exhbition -- $20? In any case, by doing so, I can return any time and I was able to enter the exhibition without waiting in line. Not too tough to take.
I have never been a huge Picasso fan, but after reading the commentary here and seeing the selection of paintings and sculpture, I may have to change my mind. Some of his work now makes much more sense, given what was going on in his life and in the world, and I even discovered that Picasso had a sense of humor. One of his takes on a classic medieval painting actually had me chuckling out loud. What a nice surprise!
The museum also had an exhibition about the history of the New Territories and one about traditional Chinese opera and its gaudy costumes, both of which were very interesting and illuminating. So much to learn here, so little time!
Instead of taking the train home, I found a bus that made a stop in Causeway Bay -- a double-decker -- and was able to sit up on top, at the front, to watch the scenery. The landscape looks similar wherever I go in HK: lovely green hills punctuated by highrise complexes galore. Talk about condo canyons!
Saturday found me in Sheung Wan, the part of town where the British first planted their flag in 1841. The winding streets have a distinct flavor: they're full of herbalists; antique shops displaying sleek jade carvings, intricate bone scrimshaw work and colorful pottery in various traditional styles; fabric wholesalers (quilters, take note!) and shops creating distinctive name stamps. I also came across a lovely park -- the city is full of small islands of green tucked away in unexpected spots -- that was once the site of a care facility for victims of bubonic plague, and a couple of Buddhist temples, one large and one small. It always seems incongruous to me: the temples are rife with tourist, but there are also people praying, lighting incense and making offerings. I suppose one gets accustomed to the tourists and blocks them out, but it seems disruptive to me. Yet, I can certainly understand the desire to visit these temples; they're so full of color!
I took the tram back home -- it's a streetcar that runs on tracks, but it, too, is double-decker, so I had a good view of the neighborhoods between Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay. I even recognized the stop where I needed to alight, something that wasn't possible two days into my stay here. I'm getting closer to being a native!
Now, it's back to work and the click-clack of keys as we edit and correct. I am learning more about Asian politics and diplomacy every day, which is fun. Perhaps I'll magically acquire some language skill, too!