Sketching My Way Home

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HongKong October 3 – 6 ’14

Having just left Italy, HongKong is a different kettle of fish.

They both have noodles by the way.

We arrived late afternoon and decided on a drink at the Harbour  club to get our heads round where we are. Where are we again?

In fact the little plates of savoury delights together with a cafe latte for me and a Guinness for Milton, will do for our dinner.

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Having a good walk seemed sensible after all that sitting on an aircraft. Up Nathan Rd we headed.   But – so it seems were a million folk out for a Saturday night stroll and to shop shop shop.

For me not being a shopper, this could seem like the loudest neon lit jostling nightmare possible.  But no, I realise this is what most people crave and it’s part of being in HongKong. So go with the flow. Actually you have no choice!!

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Once the sun was up next morning – a little hazy looking – we cabbed to Sam Tung Uk village a distance away.

We were keen to see the HK of old. Who were they. Where did it all start. How did they live and work.   I’m fascinated by the Hakka village setup. The family working the rice paddies. Hard hard work in every season.

No longer viable once the provinces grew and people moved out and up in the world.

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When I was living in Malaysia for a year in my teens, these people were living this life. So were the Malays in their Kampongs.

Then work became industrialised and rice fields were built on. Factories were the new workplace.  Life got bigger and faster and now it’s skyscraper and electronic planet.

I was fascinated to see reference to the beginnings of Social Services in HK. My father was here in the mid 60’s helping to set this up through his UN posting. Aha so there’s a connection to my own history here.

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We really loved this little place of peace. Birds were singing in the park like surrounds. Turtles swam in a little lake with dragonflies and butterflies flitting.

A father was there with his 6yr old. They live just over there he pointed. I want her to know our history. Quite a few of the visitors were also Chinese and chattered excitedly. They prolly lived here long ago.

I had time to sit on a bench and sketch.

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Later in the afternoon we had a drink at The Peninsula Hotel next door. The most prestigious hotel in HK.  It certainly has a history. The British signed the agreement with Japan here in 1941 and left soon after.  85 years of being part of HK.

We ate beautiful dumplings, pork belly and a favorite of mine since Malaysia days – nasi goreng.  Another little sojourn almost over. Next stop Shanghai.

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Shanghai China. October 6 -9 ’14

Shanghai is big. In every sense. 24 million people. Bigger than Manly.

What are my thoughts as we spend just 3 days in this city.

Exciting. Is this the mysterious east?  Old terrace houses with tilted roofs against contemporary high rise. Ornate temples. Trees and manicured gardens. Gold capped office buildings. traditional architecture with ‘try anything new’ ones.

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Stepping out of the hotel is an experience.

Like HK, most of the population seem to be out promenading. Street vendors  pushing their souvenirs at every turn. Food courts with hanging ducks are full to bursting. So is KFC. Everyone seems very cheerful though. Turns out to be a Holiday.

Every major fashion brand is here. So are all the electronics, watches, international and local cosmetics. All of them with competing flashing neon signage.

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A massive Apple store is on the main shopping strip. Opposite is Gap and Longines. They don’t have iphone 6 yet, but even the street cleaners recognised that Milton did.

We found a very good cafe in a side street.  The Oak Bay Cafe. They said they had a menu in English. At least they’ll understand what we want. In fact it was very glamourous inside though you’d never know it from the street. Oh well. Luckily the food was delicious and very reasonable, cos at this stage we don’t know what we’re doing!

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Our next venture out was to Yu Gardens with a maze of Ming and Qing Dynasty temples, gardens and ponds surrounded by lively markets.

Here among the mayhem we found an Art Gallery run by the artist Lisa Houli. She does beautiful sketch like Chinese brush work in the Studio and represents a big stable of local painters. You’ll see her in one of the pics.

This would be a great place to bring our sketchers and to have a go at brush painting.

Interestingly I also found that the Meetup Shanghai Sketch group would be having their first anniversary on Saturday. I’d be gone by then but I’m now a member so next time I’ll plan it to suit.

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In our days exploring we walked along the Bund, a very long riverside promenade looking across to the ‘new’ side. We in fact love the old side! We laughed to see people doing what they do at Tower of Pisa – posing as though they’re holding up a building!

We went into the Fairmont Peace Hotel which was built in the 30’s by Victor Sassoon, then known as the famous Cathay Hotel. It was definitely the hot ticket on the social scene then.

Among the celebrity photos we noticed both Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, 2 former Australian Prime Ministers had stayed there.

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We had a late dinner at a small cafe near Nanjing Rd and were so amused with the tiny waitress with the huge smile.

I ordered a rice dish with mushroom and chicken. She felt she should tell me that Western people don’t like that one!  Really! ‘They don’t eat it all so I think they don’t like it’

Oh OK, what do you suggest?  You might like the sweet and sour pork she suggested.

OMG my Mother used to make that!  So I took her advice. It was just like Mother used to make! They must have used her recipe. It hadn’t improved!

We asked to take her photo.   She was very pleased about that.   Everybody likes to take my photograph. I think I’m quite famous she said.

We just thought she was great. Like any of the people we’ve met here, they are very lovely and very patient. If you live in these crowded cities you have to learn patience.

We thought it may be more authoritarian here. It’s a Communist country, but it doesn’t feel like it walking the town.

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We checked out the Fuxing gardens on our last day.

So so beautiful and calming. People doing Tai Chi, or singing at full volume in a group, or taking an Opera lesson, or playing Chinese chess, or strolling with the baby and in fact anything they enjoy. No shyness here.

Also dashed over to  Tai Kang Lu, a suburb with a mix of design art and cuisine. Loved Cafe Puro. A fab fusion of Asian/Western design and food. Quirky signage on blackboards gives you the menu and coffee choices. Flat White. A first in China I’m sure.

Other nearby shopping showed the best of eclectic Asia/French/American collectibles and beautiful contemporary homewares. Mmmmm. My luggage allowance won’t squeeze another thing in.

However we have barely touched the surface here. In a city like this you can get a small sense of life, a skim across the surface. However we’d love to return and learn more.

Our travels are almost over and I’m back in Sydney to take my Saturday class at the end of our first week of Term 4.

See everyone then. Hope you’ve enjoyed sharing our journey.

©ErinHillStudioOct2014.

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