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Posts tagged “fair

COOLEST STREET IN TOWN, Tai Ping Shan Street, Tai Ping Shan (太平山), Hong Kong

Perhaps it is the lack of traffic, or its proximity to the adjacent business and entertainment quarters in Central, Tai Ping Shan Street in Poho is like no other residential street in Hong Kong. It has its dark history of the 1894 plague, and forgotten stories of the early Chinese migrant workers. It has its fair amount of heritage buildings, old temples, side street deadends and stone staircases to construct a certain kind of vintage and causal ambience. It could be precisely the unique and rich cultural history and the causal mood of the area that have attracted a diverse community to station in the area, making Tai Ping Shan Street the coolest neighborhood in Hong Kong. A few years ago, some travel magazines and websites put Sheung Wan as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods, and it was largely due to Tai Ping Shan Street in the district. The excitement of Tai Ping Shan Street originates from the influx of artists, designers, expats, and young residents who come to look for a more tranquil alternative to the nearby Soho. Gradually, it has become an interesting example of what Jane Jacobs would describes as a successful neighborhood focused on pedestrian permeability, mixed public uses, buildings of various ages, diversity of inhabitants, vibrancy of commercial and community activities, etc. While Teakha (trendy tea shop), Homey (family run cafe), Green Ginkgo Tea (Japanese lifestyle tea house), Frantzén’s Kitchen (Michelin recommended Nordic cuisine), Crit Room (sleek Italian cuisine), Reserva Iberica (ham shop), Espana Espana (Spanish fine dining), CRAFTISSIMO (international crafted beer), support a strong contemporary culinary scene, Fo Kee(科記), Yuk Kin(郁健) and Sun Bor Kee (新波記) continue to offer local fast food (street eatery) at street corners where neighbours and pet dogs mingle throughout the day. Art galleries, fashion boutiques, designer pop up shops, and hair stylists open their business just a few meters away from a cluster of the city’s oldest temples. The juxtaposition of the old and new, east and west, reveals the core spirit of what Hong Kong culture is all about. Apart from the exciting foodie scene and designer stores, Mount Zero Books has stood out in recent years as the hub that has brought the Poho community together. Situated at a dead end, the bookstore often organizes events right outside their door, fostering a strong community bonding. This is the bygone sense of community that has somehow disappeared in time as Hong Kong is being developed into a global financial hub. All the above excitement is miraculously packed in less than 200m of the one way street, forming some lovely streetscape that won’t be found anywhere else in Hong Kong.

But Tai Ping Shan Street wasn’t always about the stylish and trendy. Lying one street lower than Po Hing Fong, Tai Ping Shan Street was once the densest neighborhood in the Victoria City during the 19th century. While the terraces around Po Hing Fong and U Lam Terrace were home to upper and middle class Chinese residents, Tai Ping Shan Street was cramped with shared housing for migrant workers arriving from Qing Imperial China seeking opportunities in Colonial Hong Kong. Most of them had families in Canton or beyond, and they hardly knew anyone when they first arrived. The Buddhist temples, especially Pak Shing Temple (百姓廟), served as the main community hub for these newcomers. Free meals and accommodation were provided for the sick. When one passed away, body of the deceased would be stored in the temple for later transport back to Mainland China, or for simple burial in the nearby Po Yan Street near the current Tung Wah Hospital. News of the poor living environment and dire treatment of the sick and dead circulated back to London, forcing the colonial government to support local charity groups to establish Tung Wah Hospital as the city’s first hospital in 1870 to treat the locals with Chinese medicine (as most Chinese refused to take Western medicine during that time). Then the plague came in 1894 and the government was determined to tackle the poor living conditions of Tai Ping Shan by clearing some buildings to make way for the Blake Garden, and building the city’s first public toilet and shower facility at Tai Ping Shan Street. The area was cleaned up as time went by, but among the older generations, Tai Ping Shan is still haunted by the memories of the sick and dead. Even today, coffin stores and funeral homes still exist around the area, reminding people its darker past despite its contemporary bohemian flair. Today, Tai Ping Shan remains as the rare location in the city where a pub or a hamburger eatery can coexist with a coffin store side by side. It is the juxtaposition of paradoxes and clashes of cultures that make Tai Ping Shan Street and the Poho area the coolest neighbourhood in Hong Kong.

Staffordshire Regiment cleaning plague houses in Tai Ping Shan in 1894.
[Credit: Wellcome Library, London. http://wellcomeimages.org. Creative Commons CC BY 4.0]
More than 100 years after the plague, Tai Ping Shan Street emerges from its shadows to become a neighborhood full of charming ambience.
Just a block west of the vibrant Soho entertainment district, a short flight of steps leads us to the tranquil Tai Ping Shan Street.
In the midst of trendy tea shops, sleek cafes, and fine dining restaurants, the local street eatery Yuk Kin (郁鍵) continues to serve up simple and hearty meals to all. Their corner location makes it a welcoming magnet for pedestrians and neighbours. It is one of our usual places to go for breakfast and lunch takeouts.
Selling a fashion philosophy of East meets West, Yi-ming Cheongsam Boutique finds Tai Ping Shan Street its perfect home to sell its cross-cultural style that combines traditional Oriental aesthetics and craftsmanship with contemporary Western styles and design.
Minimalist shopfront works fine for Khromis, a bespoke eyeglasses boutique featuring Italian design and Japanese craftsmanship, and Green Ginkgo, a tiny refreshing cafe where people come for matcha gelato and strawberry waffle.
Further down the road, Nordic gastronomy is another attraction of Tai Ping Shan Street. Operated by celebrity chef Bjorn Frantzen, Frantzén’s Kitchen is a sister restaurant of Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden’s only 3 star restaurant in the Michelin Guide.
Just a few steps away from Frantzén’s Kitchen, Reserva Iberica also has its ties to Europe as an extension to the Reserva Iberica ham shop in Barcelona.
Tai Ping Shan Street is a magnet for designers, artists and craftsmen. Small art exhibitions and handicraft workshops often attract outsiders to the street during weekends.
The charming streetscape ot Tai Ping Shan Street provides the perfect setting to indulge ourselves to be nostalgic to Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love.
Branching out from Tai Ping Shan Street, Tank Lane is full of interesting street art and a small deity shrine.
Flanked both sides by century old temples, a flight of stair leads us to the lower part of Tai Ping Shan Street.
Close to 200 years old, the Kwun Yum (Chinese Goddess of Mercy) Temple is a remnant of a larger temple nearby and one of the oldest temples in the city. Just a metal door separates the historical temple with the display window of Artyze, a private gallery that promotes works of new talents in Asia Pacific.
Tai Shui Temple (太歲廟) is dedicated to the 60 Taoist heavenly generals. It is popular for worshipers to pray for good fortune whenever one’s birth year clashes with the zodiac of a particular year.
Across from Kwun Yum Temple, the Shui Yuet (Water and Moon) Temple is dedicated to Kwun Yum in her pre-Goddress state as a Bodhisattva with 1000 hands.
At the lower section of Tai Ping Shan Street, Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall (廣福義祠) or Pak Shing Temple (百姓廟) is the biggest tourist attraction. Built in 1851, the temple is very significant for anyone who is interested in the history of Hong Kong. It is the temple dedicated to the ghosts of Chinese migrant workers who passed away in the colony.
Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall also served as a charity facility to house the sick and a temporary morgue. It was the poor hygiene of the temple that led to public awareness about the healthcare needs of the Chinese, leading to the establishment of Tung Wah Hospital at the western end of Tai Ping Shan Street.
In response to the 1894 plague, the British colonial government erected the city’s first public bathhouse at the intersection of Pound Lane and Tai Ping Shan Street, right next to Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall. The original building was built in 1904 as the first permanent public bathhouse for both men and women free of charge. The current multi-storey bathhouse was built in 1960.
Beyond the funky and trendy, in our opinion the most lovely spot on the entire Tai Ping Shan Street is Mount Zero Books. Situated at the deadend of a short side street, Mount Zero has become a community hub for all of us living in the neighborhood. They often make use of the deadend area to host community events such as flea market, movie nights, poetry reading, etc.
Often, they would host events before big festivals such as Christmas and Chinese New Year. Of course, that would not happen this year due to the pandemic.
In January 2019, a vibrant fair to celebrated the upcoming Chinese New Year was held in front of Mount Zero.
That day, we had a great time shopping for handicrafts, books, and artworks. Since then, we would check out Mount Zero every now and then, just to be part of the delightful community of the fascinating Tai Ping Shan Street.

DAY 1 (5/6): KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We left Kinkakuji slightly after 4pm.  With the aid of Google map on our phone, we walked southeast into a residential neighborhood along Tenjin River.  Our destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天満宮).  Founded in 947 AD, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was the main shrine dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician in Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185).  Among a number of divine identities, Michizane is best known for being the “god of academics “.  Today Kitano Tenmangu is still popular with students.  For tourists, Kitano Tenmangu is an interesting place to check out the flea market on the 25th of every month, and the Ume (plum) Blossom Festival on February 25 when geiko and maiko from Kamishichiken would come and serve tea and wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) to 3000 guests.  For us, we came for the annual autumn leaves when the shrine would open at night from mid November to early December.  We came just in time to see the autumn colours at the second last night of the season.

We reached the side entrance of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at about 4:30pm.  The shrine was quite busy, not only with worshipers, but also visitors who came for the autumn colours and festival events. Near the main shrine courtyard there was live guitar performance at a corner.  Apparently there was a two-day festival at Kitano Tenmangu called Kyoto Nippon Festival, aiming to showcase the culture, food, and music of Japan.  Before checking out the 300+ maple trees in the garden, we were lured over to another courtyard where a dozen or so food stalls were set up.  Since breakfast on our red-eye flight, we hardly had any food throughout the day.  We were more than happy to devour a few dishes of delicious snacks prepared by staff from different restaurants in Kyoto, which included dumplings, seafood rice, and vegetable soba.

Our spirits were lifted after having the delicious snacks.  The sky was getting pretty dark despite it was only 5:15pm.  We headed back to the main court of Kitano Tenmangu, paid the admission for the night visit, and entered the shrine garden.  Along the way, we passed by another courtyard where a stage was set up.  A female pop singer was performing a lovely ballad in front of a crowd of audience.  We didn’t have the concert tickets so we couldn’t get in, but the music and vocal were loud enough for everyone in the garden to enjoy.  Artificial floodlights were everywhere to illuminate the colourful maples.  Despite the cool weather, the atmosphere was warm with the autumn colours and lovely music.  The garden was divided into two parts: the upper and lower.  We started at the upper garden where the main path soared above a ravine (lower part) on one side, and overlooked the main shrine buildings on the other side.  With the lights and lanterns lit up, the dark timber structures and reed roofs and the shimmering golden ornaments of the shrine buildings looked splendid.  After the upper garden, we walked down the stair to the lower ravine.  Walking along a small river and admiring the colourful tree canopies lit up from below was like a scene from dream.  The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge.  A large crowd of visitors gathered on the bridge to take photos of the surreal scenery.  The path eventually brought us back up to a platform on the upper garden, where a tea shelter was set up.  All  visitors were free to pick up a cup of hot tea and a traditional sweet confectionery.  We lingered for a little longer in the compound of Kitano Tenmangu.  With all kinds of activities from garden visits, food services, Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition, live music, and spiritual worshiping, Kitano Tenmangu had truly become an interesting venue of autumn carnival.  On our way out of Kitano Tenmangu, we dropped by the food stalls again and picked up a small plate of octopus balls.

01As evening arrived, visitors flocked into the main gate of Kitano Tenmangu.

02We were overjoyed to find food stalls in Kitano Tenmangu.  We couldn’t resist but to check out the food before seeing anything else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered fried dumplings, vegetable soba and seafood rice.

04After the delicious snacks, we reentered the main court of Kitano Tenmangu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe immediately lined up to get the admission tickets into the garden of Kitano Tenmangu.

dsc_1368As we walked into the garden, we passed by a courtyard enclosed with purple and white fabric where a mini outdoor concert was taking place as part of the Kyoto Nippon Festival.

06Under the lovely music, we strolled around the upper part of the garden to admire the  autumn foliage.

07Behind the magnificent autumn maples stood the main buildings of Kitano Tenmangu.

dsc_1425With floodlights and lanterns, the golden ornaments of Kitano Tenmangu glittered under the indigo sky.

dsc_1436Looking down to the lower ravine from the upper garden.

dsc_1442After walking through the upper garden we headed down to the lower ravine.

08Looking up to the colourful tree canopies from the lower ravine.

09The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the red arched bridge.

11Visitors gathered on the bridge to admire the autumn colours of the river ravine.

img_8763_01We completed our garden visit with a cup of hot tea and a piece of traditional snack.

13After the garden visit, we headed back to the main shrine for another quick look.

dsc_1507At one end of the shrine there was a Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition.

15On a side door of the shrine, there was a sign indicating the autumn colour was at its peak.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited the main hall to check out the other buildings in the shrine compound of Kitano Tenmangu.

18We walked by the temizuya, or water pavilion when we exited Kitano Tenmangu.

19Before leaving, we walked by the festival stalls and had an order of octopus balls.

20The banners of Kyoto Nippon Festival was hung on the torii gate of Kitano Tenmangu.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


LUNAR NEW YEAR FAIR, Victoria Park, Hong Kong

Going to a flower fair (花市) or new year fair (年宵) on the Lunar New Year’s Eve is a common tradition in Hong Kong.  Among all flower fairs in the city, the one at Victoria Park 維園 in Causeway Bay is the biggest and busiest.   Nowadays, all sorts of merchandises are being sold in the flower fair, from fresh flowers to traditional snacks, classic New Year’s gifts to trendy toys, and just about anything that may make one laugh.  Never mind the crowd.  The later it gets into the night the more fairgoers flock into the park.  It’s the joyful atmosphere, the sense of participation and the feel of being jammed in the mass that draws friends, families and couples to visit the fair every year.  It is the prelude of Spring holiday, and the biggest party in Hong Kong to welcome the lunar new year. 2Floral colour was the first thing that caught the eyes of fairgoers when entering the park. 1Peach blossom has always been the most iconic flower of the Chinese New Year. 3Other than peach, water narcissus, pussy willows, lilies, and orchids were among people’s favorites. 4 New Year Fruits might look funny but its golden colour made it a delightful New Year’s decoration at home. 5Shoppers often compared prices and the qualities of flowers from one vendor to another. 6Traditional snacks and sweets attracted both tourists and local visitors. 7 The fair get much busier as the clock edged closer to midnight. 8aIn recent years, the Lunar New Year’s Fair at Victoria Park has become a testing ground for young entrepreneurs and amateur designers, many of whom are students from universities or secondary schools. 9aStuff toy and cushions are common in the fair. 10Young vendors make their best effort to capture fairgoers’ attention. 11Popular slang in Cantonese inspired a whole lot of fair merchandises. 12Some vendors positioned themselves in the middle of the aisle to advertise their booths. 13To stand out among the vendors was not an easy task. 14Among all the new merchandise this year, the cola-like stuff toys with trendy slogans made the news by walking the thin ice of copyright infringement. 15Other than young vendors, many politicians and political parties also had booths set up in the fair.  Some politicians made new year couplets as free gifts for supporters. 16Satirical merchandises targeting the chief executive of Hong Kong CY Leung could be found throughout the fair. 17Merchandise related to the Umbrella Movement (Occupy Central) reminded us the delicate political situation of Hong Kong in recent months. 18Other politically charged merchandise include the inflated fence (related to the protests of Umbrella Movement) and the thick toast (related to a recent conflict between the locals and visitors from Mainland China). 19Many merchandise reflected a considerable level of disapproval of the current government.  Nonetheless, most fairgoers did put aside their political differences and anguish in order to enjoy a night of joy. 20The fair at Victoria Park lasted until dawn of the Lunar New Year’s Day.