A few months ago, when i learnt that i had to fly to Tokyo in early December on a work trip, i was extremely excited. I've just returned to Singapore recently after spending a few days in Tokyo. After a full day of presentations, I thought it might be a good idea to head out into the hustle and bustle of the city to wake myself up and brush away the cobwebs.
Almost exactly two years ago, I headed off to Yoyogi Park to look at the golden ginkgo leaves, I was unable to forget their beauty. Since then, I made a mental note to myself that I would always visit the place when the leaves were turning. So I decided to go to Yoyogi Park again this time round. To my consternation, the sky was already turning dark at 5pm. Nonetheless, the golden ginkgo leaves were still there. One of its highlights at the Yoyogi Park is seeing trees change color and be filled with “momijis” (red maple leaves). What is unique in Yoyogi is the ginko forest that turn into a breathtaking golden shade in autumn. From mid November to mid December is the perfect period to enjoy the unique colorful leaves. The main entrance of Yoyogi Park is located only 5 minutes walk from JR Harajuku Station.
Are Sapporo Snow Festival and snow activities like skiing and snowboarding the only winter highlights of Hokkaido? No, not at all. I will count in “Shiroi Koibito Park”. It is less known but a must-see sightseeing spot with fantastic illumination. Shiroi Koibito Park (White Lovers Park) is a theme park by Ishiya, a local chocolate company. The company's flagship product is the Shiroi Koibito cookie, two thin butter cookies with white chocolate in between, a mandatory item on the souvenir shopping list of most visitors to Hokkaido.
I love chocolate factories. When I was a kid, I used to read Roald Dahl’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. I also visited a local chocolate factory as part of a school field trip and I remember warm sweet smell of chocolates and us peeking into giant vats of chocolates, just like in the movie.
Of course, I didn't miss a chance to visit one in Hokkaido last year Christmas. Shiroi Koibito Park is a cool place to visit, not your usual factory space as it has a big park outdoors that feature some miniature gardens, houses, bridges, a clock tower, and interesting decors where kids and adults alike can discover. There is even a show of mechanical dolls as well as a working miniature train that runs every hour. The main building is tudor-style and tucked deep inside, you'll find a store, a cafe, a gallery, and the chocolate assembly line where you can only look from above. If you wish, you can opt to try your hand at making your own cookies.
我很喜欢吃北海道知名饼干“白色恋人”，没想到在北海道首府札幌居然真的有一个主题乐园，Shiroi Koibito Park。去年圣诞节，我探秘北海道白色恋人巧克力工厂。工厂并不像我初想想像的常规工厂那样，反而像个美丽的童话世界，古色古香的连体英式城堡、掩映在绿树花丛间的小桥、定时的钟楼表演、会转动跳舞的“厨师”、美妙的八音盒音乐，似乎一下子把我带回童年虚无的幻境中。白色恋人巧克力，是北海道一种着名的巧克力，其背后有一个美丽的传说，代表纯洁的爱。
Given Hong Kong’s surging home prices, public housing flats are increasingly sought after by residents whether or not they are genuinely needy. But how many of us know how the public housing concept works, let alone its history?
The 60-year-old Mei Ho House in Hong Kong stands out in the aging district of Shek Kip Mei with its bright orange exterior that is easily discernible from afar. As the only building left in a defunct housing block that once resettled thousands of squatters made homeless by a fire in 1953, it is an important relic of Hong Kong’s early public planning. Mei Ho House marked the beginning of Hong Kong’s public housing policies, making it an ideal site for setting up a museum focusing on the history of the local community and the evolution of public housing and folk life.
The estate underwent another major facelift in 2000, except Mei Ho House or Block 41 which was preserved for historical reasons. It is listed as a Grade II historic building and has been used as a youth hostel and heritage museum. Hong Kong movie director John Woo was one of Mei Ho House’s former residents and he made his first film at age 26, when he was still living in the housing block. A touching essay about the estate by Woo is now displayed at the museum.
My photo essay under pen name 蓝天游 on the former residence of Soong Chingling in Shanghai and The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, a.k.a Wan Qing Yuan in Singapore《走访孙中山夫妇上海与狮城故居》is published in today's LianheZaobao 联合早报缤纷版 dated 23 November 2017! 感谢、感恩! Thrilled to see it being featured nationwide in print! Special thanks to Lianhe Zaobao, you have made my day! :)
Multi-disciplinary Arts Village & Performing Arts Centre housed in Hong Kong's Former Shek Kip Mei Factory Estate, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC) 香港石硖尾艺术村: 赛马会创意艺术中心
The old Shek Kip Mei neighbourhood may not be an obvious tourist hotspot in Hong Kong but the eclectic Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC) building alone warrants it a visit. The former 9-storey factory estate was built in 1970s. It has been successfully transformed into a community arts centre and turned the building into studio for artists and designers to pursue their creative work. It made a good use of the decommissioned factory building as an arts and cultural hub for the community. In addition to studio space for artists and art groups, the Centre features a black-box theatre, art galleries and communal studios/workshops for resident artists and the community to use.
The inauguration of JCCAC surely is a good start to nurture the local upcoming artists and to introduce arts to the public; it is also a milestone of developing the art and design industry in Hong Kong. I give it a 5/5 because I think this place deserves to be more visited, especially if you're into art. It's a building full of little ateliers / exhibition spaces for local artists. I found it very interesting to see the corridors, as there were interesting art pieces here and there.
My Photo Essay《 创意老街一座城市的记忆, 新加坡与上海创意文区哈芝巷与田子坊》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报 Newspapers Dated 2 November 2017
My photo essay under pen name 蓝天游 on Shanghai's creative hip place Tian Zi Fang & SG's Haji Lane《创意老街一座城市的记忆, 新加坡与上海创意文区哈芝巷与田子坊》is published in today's LianheZaobao 联合早报缤纷版 dated 2 November 2017! 感谢、感恩! Thrilled to see it being featured nationwide in print! Special thanks to Lianhe Zaobao, you have made my day! :)
When it comes to the street art scene, Hong Kong is not a name that is usually among the most talked about. In the ensuing years, mural art has ballooned in Hong Kong amid a growing scene with local and international artists and increasingly favourable attitudes towards art in the public, by the public. Murals spread across Hong Kong, with diverging degrees of style, quality and message.
2013 saw the launch of HKWalls, a street art festival that has helped ferment discussion about public art spaces in the city. The following year saw the Occupy movement and its accompanying flurry of creative expression in public spaces. The protests turned out to be a rife platform for the creation of street art, with students, activists and citizens leaving their marks on the city’s concrete and turning the streets into extraordinary art installations. Their visual messages and rebellions were catapulted into the world’s consciousness via the international media reporting on the protests. I always remind people to look up in Hong Kong. If we only pay attention to the street level, we’ll miss so many wonderful things. Here take a look at some of the pieces that brightening up Hong Kong walls.
One of the earliest forms of business in Hong Kong, pawn shops are situated in almost every district of the city. Pawnbroking in Hong Kong has a history as long as that of the city itself. Before major banks established themselves in the then-British colony and won the confidence of local residents, pawn shops served as early Hongkongers’ main financial institutions. Customers would invest their wages in valuables that could then be stored at pawn shops and used as collateral against which they borrowed sums of money. Within a certain contractual period of time, the pawner could then redeem the items for the amount of the loan, plus an agreed-upon amount of interest. If the customer does not repay the loan with interest then the belongings are kept and sold off to second-hand and jewellery shops. Jewellery, watches, fur and clothes are the most common items pawned.
In Hong Kong, you'll see an occasional glimpse of a pawn store sign featuring an upside down bat holding a coin. You may also notice that these signs are colored in vibrant shades of neon red and green. These signs are used by Hong Kong's pawn shops and have been for well over two hundred years. The colors and symbolism of these signs have special meanings in both Hong Kong and Chinese society as a whole.
Hong Kong is a place where nostalgia rules. French toast and milk tea are still favoured menu items in remembrance of the British colonial years, pictures of antique letterboxes and traditional iron gates are now framed in trendy homewares stores and printed on t-shirts, and old wooden trams still trundle across Hong Kong Island for tourists and locals alike. So it’s not surprising that the last of the printing presses, while dwindling fast, can still be found tucked away among the busy streets of the city.
It was on a walk through Sheung Wan, on Hong Kong Island, that I spotted this tiny print shop – a literal hole in the wall no more than a few metres wide. Here I met Mr Wong, a printer who has been practicing his craft for the past 60 years, with 43 years working in this cosy little shop.
有恒印务，它是经营了接近 60 年的印刷公司，座落于香港上环，隔着马路去看这家小店，现时仍然提供柯式印刷的业务。时至今日，有恒印务一人操作，在200多呎的开放式小店内，凭数部手动印刷机，便可印出制作精美的公司名片、宣传单张、贺卡小帖。店中还保留了一台 Heidelberg 海德堡 120 活字印刷机，以及十数版铅字粒，字盘字托，选字排版，以至付印的详细过程，全部均由人手操作。
Dai pai dongs or street hawkers in Hong Kong are a dying breed, passed down through generations but now a rare sight in the city. The city struggles to maintain the few for the sake of collective memories and the tourists that visit. They only congregate mostly in the Central district and in the street markets of Sham Shui Po. Dai pai dong means a lot to me, it's about Hong Kong's food culture. I've gradually come to regard the street-side food stalls with a tinge of nostalgia as more of these traditional eateries are being forced into extinction by a government eager to clean up the streets.
Built from scrap-metal sheets, Sui Kee's 70-year old kitchen shack and six folding tables with stools sat on a sloping street off Gutzlaff Street in the city's Central District. The dai pai dong, its tables balanced precariously on the steep grade, was just a short walk from the gleaming heart of this global financial hub. Sui Kee specializes in cow offal served with noodles in broth. Deep-fried wontons are also popular options.
One of the oldest Dim Sum restaurants in Hong Kong - Lin Heung Tea House (Central) 香港老字号的港式茶楼：莲香楼 (中环)
A visit to an old school dim sum place in Hong Kong is quite an unusual experience for the uninitiated. And with a touch of tension all built in, in this case, the Lin Heung Tea House in Central Hong Kong. If you are searching for that greasy hole in the wall serving up dim sum food, look no further. Lin Heung Tea House is one of the oldest tea-houses in Hong Kong and they are still serving dim sum and traditional recipes with no signs of slowing down.
Lin Heung Tea House has remained authentic in terms of both décor and recipes since opening in 1920. As the name “dim sum” implies, a table full of food shared in good company will “touch the heart.” Be prepared to shout over the table as this place does not shy away from noise. Step back into the 1930s with the old paintings, authentic hot water kettle and the ceiling fans.
莲香楼位于中环的威灵顿街，它在上环还有一家分店 – 莲香居。两间茶楼的门口都挂上两个红红的大灯笼，非常古色古香。
Hong Kong is my favourite Asian city, and I visit it whenever I have a chance. With every visit, I discover a new face of the city.
I spent several days wandering its streets to find and capture striking shades and shapes, especially moments where the concrete is broken up by different details. Other images focus on the geometric shapes and contrasts created as the city’s skyscrapers jostle for position. I became especially fascinated by the scale of Hong Kong’s tower blocks, which house thousands of people, and I used street level perspective to draw attention to their size. The buildings’ towering presence is further emphasised by the minuscule clothes that dot the balconies, and the juxtaposition of nearby amenities.
I wanted to present the exteriors of these buildings in opposition to their interiors. The goal was to highlight the light and delicate features. I really wanted to find new angles and perspectives through my lens. Honing in on bolts of brightness and panelling that wraps around the outside of buildings, this series of images reframe the city’s architecture.
As many of you know, I love Hong Kong. For me, nothing beats the energy and life of this amazing city. The dynamic landscape (that changes by the minute), the convenience, the hecticness and the diversity of cultures is what sets this city apart from the rest of the world. I used to go to Hong Kong at least three times a year, I even had a Hong Kong frequent visitor card. Sadly, that card has expired.
I come back often and whenever I do, I feel a lot - memories, changes, what ifs, the lot. So I usually ride heavily on nostalgia, visiting every haunt and old-timer cuisine I can find to pen photo stories. Strangely, Hong Kong itself seems to be doing the same thing. It's very apparent that this city is changing: economic slump, political struggles, gentrification, and tensions between Hong Kongers and Mainlanders that I’ve read daily in the news.
Typhoons are also a fact of life living in Hong Kong and like any bad weather system are unpredictable. Summer is typhoon season in Hong Kong, which can experience storms of such severity that the entire city shuts down. It was also reported that Hong Kong was left picking up the pieces last week after a battering by the biggest storm in five years.
People’s impression of Hong Kong is often centred around the dominating architecture and hectic, people filled streets, and what with so much looking up at the skyline it often takes a few days to focus on the multilayered and intricate cultural elements in the city. But this time round, I’m all about immersing myself in the day- to-day lives of the locals and see how the locals clear up a heavily damaged Hong Kong after the storm left behind a trail of destruction.
I’m off to Hong Kong! See you all soon again. Till then, pls take care and stay happy.
Look Out For Stunning Street Art at the Under-Renovation Singapore Funan Mall - Constructions Not Necessary Always Have To Be Boring & Dull-looking
Every city tells its own unique story by the street art it has. I am a big fan of it, because it’s made for everyone and like each and every piece of art, there is always a message to reflect upon. Singapore Funan IT Mall was closed for a complete overhaul. But if you walk by there now, you might do a double take: the hoardings are covered in graffiti. A local artist teamed up with the mall to make the hoardings his personal canvas. It's so nice to see some public art in the otherwise all-business part of town.
I’m not sure how my street art obsession began but it was definitely at some point during my travels, when my creativity was sparked and my mind opened up enough to explore what I had until then considered messy scribbles. Or maybe I just fell in love with the irreverence and rebelliousness I sensed behind those scribbles. Suffice it to say that the mere act of travel helps open up my mind to new forms of art - a creativity and curiosity fueled by the different sights and lifestyles.
As I travel, whenever I walk down a street and see splashes of color covering up an otherwise drab wall, I’ll stop and take a picture, imagining hooded youngsters slinking around at night, with paints and brushes and cans under their jackets, furtively slingling brush strokes at cement. I’ll probably be wrong about the image – but I won’t be wrong about loving what I see.
Hong Kong-based artist Mr Danny Yung brought the Tian Tian Xiang Shang (“TTXS”) exhibition to Singapore. The exhibition was held within Raffles City Shopping Centre curated by Mr Yung, where TTXS figurines designed by foreign and local celebs, students, illustrators and artists were on display. There were three large figures on the plaza outside, as well as many smaller figures inside. The exhibition ended recently on 21 August 2017. I took a trip down to see what our local celebs and artists have created, snapped some photos and shared it in this gallery. To be honest, I didn't know about Mr Danny Yung and his work until that day, but it sure was an eye opener. The concept behind the whole exhibition is to provide a blank figurine that represents an empty canvas full of possibilities - a platform for people to write or draw on to express their thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Tian Tian Xiang Shang is a well-known Chinese proverb that Mao Zedong once said to motivate children to work hard and achieve their dreams. It then inspired Mr Yung to create Tian Tian, a cartoon, for adults and kids all around the globe, challenging them to be curious and creative like Tian Tian. Tian Tian looks up, points to the things he sees, and asks questions: Is this my question or the future?
逾千个大小不一的“天天”塑像在新加坡来福士城（Raffles City）一楼展出。三个高的大型“天天”塑像在商场不同入口处“站岗”。展览以香港艺术家荣念 (Mr Danny Yung) 曾创作的5米高“天天向上”创意毛坯雕塑为主题。展览刚在上周末圆满结束。