ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “shopping

LEGACY OF TRIANGULAR PIER : Street of Dried Seafood (海味街), Sheung Wan / Sai Ying Pun (上環/西營盤), Hong Kong

Smell of the sea fills the air between concrete building blocks along both sides of Des Voeux Road West. In the midst of busy traffic, wholesale workers quickly unload truck loads of dried seafood and large plastic bags of herbs at curbside and trolley them to different nam pak hongs (南北行), skillfully avoiding pedestrians, trams and buses along the way. Watching these hectic actions from the upper tram deck as a child, I used to dislike all the disorder on the Street of Dried Seafood (海味街). Revisit these streets three decades later, my feelings have completely changed. What I considered chaotic in the past actually looks full of life and energy to me now. What I saw as untidy now seems to be a precious connection to a bygone era, when the bustling docks at the Triangular Pier area was just right around the corner. Not to mention that I now find the natural odour of dried scallops and mushrooms smell much better than the artificial fragrances in shopping malls. The Triangular Pier and other Sheung Wan/ Sai Ying Pun piers are long gone. Where the shore once was has become an arterial road and concrete overpass. It is amazing to see that after a century of urban transformations, the seafood shops and nam pak hong wholesale companies are still thriving. Time may have changed, but the demands for traditional taste seems to have passed on.

Since the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) in China, a large group of merchants, mainly from Chiu Chow (潮州) in Eastern Guangdong, have migrated to various locations in Southeast Asia. The growing diaspora communities generated a great demand of Chinese goods in Southeast Asia, while there is also a strong demand in China and elsewhere for rice, spices and other products from Southeast Asia. As a free port situated right in the middle between China and Southeast Asia, Hong Kong was the perfect place for Chinese merchants (especially Chiu Chow businessmen) to set up their trading companies. These have become the original nam pak hongs (南北行), literally means ”south north companies). Situated in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, these nam pak hongs were the most influential Chinese businesses in the first century of colonial Hong Kong. With fleets of junk boats and aid of the monsoon winds, these companies established Hong Kong as a hub in the midst of trading routes. Some of their shipped products, such as dried seafood, were also sold by wholesale and retail shops in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. Clustered in several streets near the former Triangular Pier, many of these shops survived till the present day and have been promoted as the famous Street of Dried Seafood and Tonic Food (海味參茸燕窩街). As time goes by, some of their merchandises have also evolved to cater for modern lifestyle, but dried seafood, herbs, and traditional tonic food (such as ginseng) still remain popular along locals, especially as gifts during Chinese New Year.

Situated about 300m from the waterfront, Bonham Strand and Bonham Strand West marked the original shoreline of Sheung Wan before the colonial government began the massive land reclamation of the north shore of Hong Kong Island. [2021]
Nicknamed “Nam Pak Hong Street”, Bonham Strand West is still full of traditional trading companies specialised in tonic products and dried seafood. Ginseng, deer velvet antler and dried seafood (參茸海味) is the general term that describes the products available from these nam pak hongs. [2021]
On Bonham Strand West (文咸西街), the abundance of Asian tonic food and Chinese medicine wholesale companies signify that there is a decent demand of traditional dietary supplements, such as products made from deer velvet antler, in the city. [2021]
In the old days, it was common to see seafood and herbs being sun dried on roofs and streets in this part of the city. Today, drying seafood on the sidewalk remain as a common sight, while the roofs of buildings are probably occupied by modern mechanical equipments. [2021]
Good for making Chinese soup, ham from Southeast China is a highly popular product in the area. [2021]
Ko Shing Street (高陞街) is the hub of Chinese herbal medicine since late 19th century. [2021]
Within the rich visual context of Ko Shing Street, even a series of chaotic ductwork would not appear too out of place. [2021]
What is interesting about the street scenery of Hong Kong is that just a kilometre or two from the luxury shopfronts in the business district of Central, one can enter a completely different world surrounded by dried seafood and aged old shops. [2021]
Between Des Voeux Road West and Ko Shing Strret, dried seafood and herbs shops open right to the pedestrianised Sutherland Street (修打蘭街). [2021]
Probably won’t please the customers nowadays, some shop owners still sun dry their products in back alleys behind their shops. [2021]
Queen’s Road West, the western stretch of the city’s first main road, continues to present a nostalgic ambience from a bygone era, especially when the nearby nam pak hongs take out their products to dry on the sidewalk. [2021]
Dried octopus is another popular ingredient for traditional Chinese soup. [2021]
Nicknamed ”Bird Bridge” (雀仔橋), the iconic bend of stone wall at Queen’s Road West in Sai Ying Pun was originally part of a coastal embankment. Today, it stood at about 450m inland from the waterfront. [2021]
Across from ”Bird Bridge” (雀仔橋), a series of shops selling Chinese medicine and herbs were making final preparation of moving out their old premises due to urban redevelopment projects in the area. [2021]
The ”Bird Bridge” area is undergoing the process of urban redevelopment. A number of its herb stores will be moving away. Along with the shop owners, probably their elderly staff and shop cats will gradually disappear in the area. [2022]
Apart from Sheung Wan, the adjacent Sai Ying Pun also lies in the heart of the bustling scenes of the Street of Dried Seafood. [Eastern Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2022]
For most people, the stretch of Des Voeux Road West (德輔道西) west of the former Triangular Pier is essential the Street of Dried Seafood. [Photo: Des Voeux Road West, 2020]
Despite being a major thoroughfare busy with all kinds of vehicular traffic from buses and trams, to private cars and trucks, this stretch of Des Voeux Road still maintains a nostalgic ambience, as dried seafood such as (sea cucumbers and salted fish can be found everywhere on the sidewalks. [2021]
Some of the dried seafood shops on Des Voeux Road West have been around for over a century. [2022]
Cantonese salted fish was once a popular local dish in Hong Kong. Studies in recent decades have revealed that salted fish is a kind of carcinogen harmful to a person’s health with a constant intake. Sales of salted fish has significantly declined since then. [Photo: Des Voeux Road West, 2022]
A wall full of Chinese dry cured ham on Des Voeux Road West is certainly eye catching. [Photo: Des Voeux Road West, 2022]
A dried seafood shop has participated in the HK Urban Canvas shutter art project organized by Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation. [2021]
Hong Kong was once famous for dried golden oysters. the industry has suffered significant setbacks due to the deteriorating water quality at Shenzhen Bay. [2021]
At a road crossing, a staff trolleys a cart of merchandises across Des Veoux Road West. [2020]
Entering the third year of Covid, some dried seafood shops have decided to terminate their business. [2022]
It is strange to see a stuffed deer is being used to promote a number of traditional tonic food made from various parts of a deer. [2020]
Wherever there a cluster of old dried seafood shops in Hong Kong, sighting of the feline shopkeepers would almost be a guarantee. [2022]
These shop cats seem to know the area of the Dried Seafood Street very well, and would often greet customers after their afternoon naps. [2022]

THE COMMUNITY SOUL, Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Hong Kong

Nowadays, there is a common development model in Hong Kong: erecting a series of residential towers atop a multi-storey shopping mall, and a transport interchange underneath for buses, minibuses, and the MTR metro. Everything from supermarkets, retail chains, food and beverage franchises, healthcare services, beauty and personal care, entertainment venues, community services, etc. would all be housed within the mall. Without much site specific character and community connections, a typical mall environment with the same group of shops that can be found everywhere in the city, essentially replaces the high street in a neighbourhood. Knocking down low rise buildings, erasing small alleys, and replacing with huge malls and high rise residential estates is luring business for developers, and is happening in many neighbourhoods across the city. So far, the majority of Sai Ying Pun has been spared from this large scale redevelopment force. Its century old urban fabric remains largely intact despite rapid gentrification in recent years. Within its grid street system, quite a number of shops have been serving the community for more than a generation. According to a university study, about 50% of Sai Ying Pun’s 35,960 population actually works in the same district. Residents have a high chance to interact with their neighbours while visiting the 700+ shops on street level. The recent arrival of foreign expats, along with new lifestyle shops, fine dining restaurants, pubs and cafes seem to harmoniously coexist with the traditional businesses of the community, reshaping the soul of a century-old neighbourhood in an interesting way.


Living in close proximity since 2019, we have become regular visitors to Sai Ying Pun. Every week we would walk over to drop off our household recyclables there, pick up grocery from our favourite tofu shop, vegetable stall, local sauce store and fishmonger, get restaurant takeouts, enjoy a traditional dim-sum breakfast or a Chinese dessert, and occasionally get haircut at an one-man salon. Sai Ying Pun has essentially become a part of our lives. Seeing the recent changes of Sai Ying Pun and the aging shopkeepers make us wonder how many of its unique old shops would remain in a decade’s time. Before all is lost, we felt it would be nice to document the urban scenery of this traditional neighbourhood as of today. With the humanistic scale and close knitted relationship within the community, this is essentially the soul of Sai Ying Pun that no shopping mall can ever replace.

Established in 1855, Yuen Kee Dessert (源記甜品專家) on Centre Street is the City’s oldest dessert restaurant. Traditional Chinese dessert is usually served hot. We sometimes drop by Yuen Kee after grocery shopping, especially during winter when we crave for something warm and sweet. [2022]
Nothing inside Yuen Kee seems to be over a hundred years old, as the dessert shop has moved three times during the course of history. [2022]
Yuen Kee is well known for a number of traditional Chinese dessert, especially the sweet herbal tea with lotus seeds and egg (in photo right to the bowl), and the steamed egg cake. We usually ordered one of the more common ones such as almond soup, black sesame soup or walnut soup. [2022]
On Western Street, Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer (德昌森記蒸籠) has become a tourist attraction in recent years, thanks to handicraft fairs, blogs, magazines, and social media, and the fact that it is one of the last handmade bamboo workshops in Hong Kong. [2022]
Not every product is handmade by the shop. For the ones that are, they will be reflected in the price tag. [2022]
The shop sells all kinds of bamboo steamers from large to mini. Some foreign tourists would get the small ones as souvenirs. We got a medium size handmade one for steaming dishes at home. [2022]
Snake King Hoi or She Wong Hoi (蛇王海) has been serving the Sai Ying Pun community for over thirty years. In the evening during winter months, there are usually two lines queuing in front of the shop, one for sit in dining and the other for takeout. [2022]
Snake soup, mutton stew, smoked chicken and glutinous rice are the signature dishes. [2021]
Cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) or Hong Kong style cafe is a type of local restaurants emerged after WWII, providing fusion dishes in economical prices for locals who couldn’t afford Western fine dining. Signature dishes of cha chaan teng include Hong Kong style milk tea, yuenyeung or coffee with tea, egg tart and pineapple bun. Every neighbourhood in the city has its collection of cha chaan teng. 60-year Luen Wah Cafe (聯華茶餐廳) on Centre Street is probably most well known one for Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
With a row of banquette seating and a mezzanine over the main dining area, Luen Wah Cafe maintains a typical cha chaan teng layout from mid 20th century. [2020]
Out of all the shops in Sai Ying Pun, Kwan Hing Kee (關興記) on Third Street is probably the one that we have visited the most. Opened in 1928, Kwan Hing Kee is specialized in tofu, soy products and a range of local ingredients. We often come for tofu, tofu dessert, tofu skin, beansprouts, fish balls, beef balls, etc. [2020]
Being one of the 20 old shops participating in Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation‘s Hong Kong Urban Canvas project, the shutter of Kwan Hing Kee has been painted with the image of the owner and her cat. The NGO aims to promote traditional shops in Sai Wan, Central and Wanchai with art and tours. [2020]
Forgot since when, there would always be a bottle of Yu Kwen Yik (余均益) chilly sauce in our fridge. Recently we just found out that Yu Kwen Yik is going to celebrate their 100th anniversary this year in 2022. Starting from a market hawker, this famous shop on Third Street has become a Hong Kong classic, serving the community of Sai Ying Pun and beyond for generations. [2022]
Recommended by Michelin Guide, Ying Kee (英記) on High Street is a well known noodle in Sai Ying Pun famous for beef flank noodles, BBQ pork noodles and deep fried wanton. We sometimes come here for late lunch or afternoon light meals. [2022]
As a “southern goods” store (南貨店), Ming Kee (銘記) on Third Street sells all sort of traditional condiments and food products that are originated from south of Yangtze River. We used to get our sauces and cooking wine here. Sadly, like many small shops in Hong Kong, Ming Kee Sai Ying Pun is closed down for good during the pandemic. [2021]
It is sad to know that we won’t be able to see the big cat of Ming Kee again. [2021]
As a traditional rice shop, Sing Tak Lung (成德隆) on First Street has become a rarity in Hong Kong, as most people would get package rice from supermarkets nowadays. Nonetheless, this old shop is still serving restaurant clients and elderly residents in Sai Ying Pun, who come for their “house blend” mix of rice. [2020]
Hing Kee Wine Shop (興記酒莊) on High Street is a traditional convenient syore selling everything from Chinese and Western alcohol to snacks and soft drinks. [2020]
Between 1973-85, Hong Kong was the biggest garment manufacturer in the world. At its peak, the industry employed between 250,000 and 300,000 skilled workers. As factories began to move elsewhere where wages were lower, some former garment workers have switched to become garment alteration specialist. Occupying the space below the stair of an old tenement apartment, Gum Sha Garment Alteration (金莎) on Queen’s Road West has been around for quite some time. [2020]
Compare to the adjacent cafes and restaurant on High Street, the shopfront of Lei Kuen Plumbing and Construction (利權) presents another kind of chaotic beauty that is down to earth and causal. [2020]
Established in 1960’s as a street vendor, Tropical Fish Aquarium (熱帶魚水族) on Second Street is the last remaining aquarium shop in Sai Ying Pun. Aquarium shops have seen better days when keeping fish and turtles at home was a popular hobby, and there were more than ten aquarium shops in Sai Wan alone. [2022]
At night, the violet lights of Tropical Fish Aquarium adds a dreamy feeling to the tranquil street. [2022]
Access from a side alley off Queen’s Road West, Wong’s Hair Salon (亞黃理髮), a traditional hair salon attracts pedestrian’s attention with delightful colours and friendly prices. [2022]
At the corner of Western Street and Second Street, the no-frills barber shop Wing Kee (榮記) offers affordable haircuts to the community, HK$40 (about US$5) for haircut only. [2022]
Apart from Wing Kee, there are quite a number of small hair salons in the area, including MW Hair Design on Second Street, an one-man salon richly decorated with objects that the owner gathered from flea markets in different countries. [2022]
Traditional Chinese medicine is quite popular among the elderly. Opened since 1977, Fung Wun Gam (馮煥錦) Chinese bonesetter and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner on Second Street has been serving the community for over forty years. [2022]
Lau Ying Leung (劉英亮) bonesetter on Queen’s Road West is another traditional medical consultant in Sai Ying Pun. [2021]
But perhaps the most well known traditional bonesetter should be Chiu Sing Nam (趙醒楠) on Queen’s Road West. [2022]
Established for half a century, Chiu Sing Nam is famous for its massage oil to treat minor bone injuries. [2022]
Other traditional shops in an old neighbourhood includes zhizha (紙紮鋪) or Taoist ritual paper shop. These shops sell everything related to traditional Chinese religious rituals (combination of Taoist and Buddhist). First established in 1933, Wing Sing Ho (永盛號) has been at its Pokfulam Road location since 1973. [2022]
Jun Sing Hong (俊城行) on Queen’s Road West is probably one of the biggest zhizha (紙紮鋪) in Hong Kong. Traditionally, people would burn paper products (usually paper miniature of objects from the real world) in funerals as gifts for the deceased, believing that the products burnt would be received in the afterworld. [2021]
While there is still demand for this tradition, over 90% of paper products are now imported from China. Zhizha craftsmen in Hong Kong have almost disappeared in recent years. Even as big as Jun Sing Hong, only one craftsman remains in the shop. Imported paper products for the deceased have been evolving over the years. Today, for a few hundred HK Dollars, customers can get paper miniature of a Lamborghini, or a house with a pretty housekeeper, or a 5G Iphone. [2021]
Adjacent to Jun Sing Hong, Bo Tai Hong (寶泰行) also sells zhizag paper products. Their craftsman master Mak has been making custom paper products from Toy Story figures, grand buildings to even football stadium. These zhizha stores also sell traditional decorations for Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn Festival. [2021]

KHAN EL-KHALILI SOUQ, Cairo, Egypt

2006.05.30.

If not the summer heat, wandering in Islamic Cairo around the huge Khan el-Khalili market would be the most ideal way to enjoy Old Cairo. Even without entering mosques or museums, just strolling around to feel the bustling activities, hearing the calls of prayer mingled with the yells of merchants, smelling the shisha smoke and Arabian coffee from open cafes, and searching for the highly decorative details on centuries old building facade was just a pure delight.

As the largest and most famous souq in the region, it is understandable that Khan el-Khalili has been developed into a major tourist attraction in Cairo. It was precisely the souq’s popularity among tourists that made it falling victim as a target of terrorist attacks. In 2005, just one year prior to my visit, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near the market, killing two French and one American tourists. In 2009, another bombing incident took place at the souq and killed a 17-year-old French girl. These incidents did make some temporary impact to tourism in Egypt. But judging from the tourist crowds that I saw in 2006, just one year after the suicide bombing, the impact was rather minimal. Of course no attacks would make a greater impact to tourism than the Covid 19 pandemic that we are experiencing right now.

The network of alleyways offered me a delightful labyrinth to wander around.
Most tourists come to Khan El-Khalili for souvenirs, handmade carpets silverware, antiques, stained glass lamps, incense, jewellery, copper-ware, and even gold. I spent most of my time strolling around to take pictures.
For me, the area was a great place to get lost and just watch the bustling actions of local people.
The Mosque Madrassa Khanqah at al-Muizz Street near Bayn al-Qasrayn is a popular spot for tourist photos.
Some aggressive shop owners did approach and invite me to enter their shops.
Sitting at the outdoor patio of a coffeehouse was the most comfortable way foe me to enjoy the bustling activities around.
Despite most shops are now catered for tourists, some still maintain their original character selling daily merchandises and spices.
In Cairo, one of the most sought-after souvenir is the handcrafted metal lantern.
Beyond market stalls and shops, I would from time to time be amazed by some beautiful architecture that had stood for centuries.
Especially in al-Muizz Street where buildings with ornate details have been well preserved.
From time to time, I would unintentionally return to the same spot more than one occasion, including the Mosque Madrassa Khanqah at al-Muizz Street.
Without notice, the sun was getting low and shadows were lengthening.
Despite getting late, the market was still packed with shoppers, tourists and merchants.
From time to time I would hear the loud speakers from nearby mosques calling for prayer.
In the side alleyways away from the main shopping streets, the peaceful neighborhood setting was like another world.
Wandering in the Khan el-Khalili area was a delight for me. Every turn at alleyways or brief stop along the way showed me a unique picture of Cairo from what seemed to be a bygone era.

NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス), Furano (富良野), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.21

Day 7 (5/5).

After rolling hills of wheat fields and floral farms, it was about time for us to leave Furano.  Before calling it a day, we decided to end the day with a final touch of fairytale like fantasy.  Hidden in the forest adjacent to Prince Hotel Furano, the Ningle Terrace is consisted of fifteen shops housed in small fairytale like timber houses.  These houses are more than just cute eye candles.  Each shop is occupied by a local craftsman selling his or her unique handicrafts.  Owing to the power of the famous scriptwriter Sou Kuramoto (倉本 聰), the Ningle Terrace has become another attraction in Hokkaido related to his creative talents.  Used as the film set for one of Kuramoto’s work, deep in the forest Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計) has become a pilgrimage site for his fans.

DSC_6145It was our final evening in Furano.  We decided to sought after a magical finale.

IMG_9989Before entering the forest of Ningle Terrace, we stopped by the interesting gift shop selling products related to Sou Kuramoto (倉本 聰).

IMG_999215 shops make up the beautiful Ningle Terrace.

IMG_9995The atmosphere of the Ningle Terrace was quite romantic with the lighting.

IMG_0013Deep in the forest stands Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計), a filming place for one of Sou Kuramoto’s (倉本 聰) work.

IMG_0002The interior of Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計) looks quite surreal.

IMG_0010Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計) wasn’t full, but it was impossible for us to find a seat at the central communal table.

IMG_0007At Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計), the central communal table is reserved for coffee lovers who wish to grind their own beans and make their own coffee.

IMG_0004Other than coffee, we also ordered a light dinner to end our day at Coffee Mori no Tokei (珈琲 森の時計).

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


DAY 10 (1/3): TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi, India, 2018.12.03

After 9 days in the desert state of Rajasthan and historical capital of Agra, it finally came to the last day of our short Indian holiday, the moment of returning to Delhi to complete the Golden Triangle.  For 2372 rupees, we purchased two tickets and seat reservations on the Karnataka Express 12627 through an online agent, leaving Agra Cantonment Railway Station (Agra Cantt) at 6:45am and arriving New Delhi Railway Station at 10:30am, bringing us back to the Indian capital in under four hours.  It was a sleeper train and we didn’t bother to pull up the sleeper units back to their original upright positions, but just sat down on the sleeper unit for the journey.

IMG_2995As a premium tourist destination in the country, Agra Cantt Station looked rather simple and chaotic.

IMG_3172During the four hour train ride, we passed by a number of shanty towns along the railway tracks.

IMG_3173People were everywhere.  Often, the railway tracks served as a gathering place.

IMG_3195At other instances, the tracks had become a pedestrian passageway.

IMG_3248Many houses along the tracks were painted in vivid colours.

IMG_3337Many suburban trains were fully packed with commuters.  Most third class train cabins would not limit the number of passengers.

IMG_3342Indian trains are not particular fast in speed.  As a result, commuters could stand right next to the door openings.

IMG_3359Our train ride hit the rush hour of a Monday morning when local students and workers headed out for their routine destinations.

IMG_3410Time to go to work.

IMG_3498Simple shelters between train tracks formed a small community for the underprivileged.

IMG_3422Close encounter with the morning commuters.

IMG_3504A final look at our train car before getting off.  The front right hand unit was our sleeper unit for the short journey.

IMG_3512After 9 days, we finally returned to New Delhi.

IMG_3513Upon arrival, we found our way out of the station.  We had a full day ahead of us in Delhi before our flight back to Hong Kong.

IMG_3514We stepped out of New Delhi Station and found our way over to the Airport Express Station next door.

IMG_3515We decided to left our big backpacks at the storage at the Airport Express Station for the day.

IMG_3528After leaving our bags, we headed over to Khan Market, a well known shopping district in New Delhi.  We picked up several souvenirs (local handicrafts) and searched for a place to eat.

IMG_3522For lunch, we selected SodaBottleOpenerWala, an interesting Bombay Iranian style restaurant serving Parsi and Bombay inspired Indian food.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 6 (1/6): MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

Before leaving Takayama we made a brief visit to the Miyagawa Morning Market.  Everyday from 6:30am to noon, market stalls selling farm produces, local crafts, snacks, and souvenirs will be set up at the Jinya-mae Market in front of Takayama Jinya and Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River.  These two morning markets have become popular tourist attractions.  We arrived at Miyagawa River at around 6:15am, while a number of vendors were setting up their stalls.  We took our time strolling along the river, and were delighted to see a few rows of koinobori (鯉のぼり), the colourful carp windsocks, over the water to celebrate the Children’s Day (子供の日) on 5th of May.  They were meant to bring good health and bright future for children.  As more vendors got their stalls ready, we turned to the delicious snacks for breakfast.  Steady rain began soon after we had our first snacks.  We hastily finished them and got ourselves a few local products (miso, dried mushrooms, spices, etc).  After returning to our guesthouse to pick up our backpacks, we made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus for Shirakawa-go, our destination of the day before moving on to stay the night at Ainokura of Gokayama.

DSC_7374.JPGThe sky was grey and Miyagawa River (宮川) was calm as always.  We thought the market stalls wouldn’t be up and running right at 6am so we took our time to stroll along the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was delightful to start the day with a close encounter with a wooden Daikokuten or the God of Luck near the Kaji Bashi Bridge.

DSC_7390Colourful koinobori (鯉のぼり) or carp windsocks were set up (probably for a few weeks around the Children’s Day on 5th of May) over the Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7396Originally the windsocks were used by samurai warriors during battles. In modern times, koinobori or the carp windsocks are meant to bring strength, good health and courage to children.

DSC_7433It was a pleasant scene to have a few rows of colourful koinobori over the calm water of Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7398Some signs said the market opened at 6am and some said 6:30am.  Even at 6:30am, not all stalls were set up and visitors were scarce.  The grey weather and rainy forecast just made things worse.

DSC_7389Time was still quite early and there weren’t that many visitors around.

DSC_7397We would have to imagine if it was a little later in the day and with finer weather, the market would be much busier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe would love to get some local produces but we just couldn’t bring them along with us for the rest of the trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old man let us try the samples of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  The sample tasted gorgeous and led us to buy a bag of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  This bag of dried shiitake turned out to become the best dried shiitake we had ever had at home.

DSC_7435Seven-favored spices is a famous local product.  We got a mini bag of spices from the old lady.

DSC_7436After 7am, more stalls were opened as well as the souvenir shops along the opposite side of the pedestrian walkway.

DSC_7438A few stalls were selling beautiful flowers and plants.  We would soon found out that flowers were inseparable with village homes in the Japanese Alps area.

DSC_7440An old lady was selling all kinds of miso (味噌).  We picked up a pack of Hoba Miso, a regional sweet miso wrapped in a dried hoba leaf (magnolia).   Traditionally, the leaf was meant for wrapping the miso and cooking it over the fire.

DSC_7441Local honey vendor was about to open his stall.

DSC_7447Our first snack at the market was the takoyaki or octopus dumplings.

IMG_8461Watching how the takoyaki was made by the vendor was an interesting event in itself.

DSC_7454After takoyaki, we moved to the next stall for fish-shaped mini cakes with various sweet paste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe takoyaki vendor recommended us to try the award-winning custard pudding at NOIX de COCO (ノアドココ).  It was a fabulous suggestion.  The vendor was friendly, the pudding delicious, and we got a chance to take a photo of the cute pikachu wearing a pudding hat!

DSC_7464Steady light rain continued and more visitors arrived at the market, but it was time for us to take the bus and move on to our next destination: the traditional gassho-zukuri village ares of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山).

 


DAY 3 (8/8): FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

In the evening, we returned to Sanon Restaurant in Nyaung-U for dinner.  After dinner, we walked to the commercial street of Nyaung-U.  Souvenir vendors, hotels, pubs and restaurants lined up along Thi Ri Pysitsaya 4 Street, which, as our guidebook described, provided simple nightlife to the foreign tourists.  Foreign tourists concentrated on a few of the restaurants that served fusion cuisine (Chinese, Thai and Myanmar).  The decor were mainly causal and colourful.  For us, the most eye-catching scene was a traditional umbrella showroom with a variety of colourful and translucent umbrellas lighted up from behind.

DSC_4926We passed by the Sapada Paya once again at the road intersection on our way to Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_4928Simple Christmas decorations lighted up building facades along the main road of the town.

DSC_4935Another satisfying meal at Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_4941Most shops along the main street in Nyaung-U offered e-bikes hire for tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was about 9pm and most tourists had already returned to their hotels.

DSC_4948Some shops offered contemporary bags and accessories with a Burmese touch in design.

DSC_4953Some were still checking out the souvenir vendors.

DSC_4958The most attractive shop was an traditional umbrella store.

DSC_4957Several local children circling around a fire reminded us that Bagan was still a less privileged rural area in Myanmar despite recent development of tourism.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR