Sunday, 18 November 2012

Hong Kong - Inspiration and thoughts

On a cold crisp afternoon at the end of October we jetted off to the bright, bustling city of Hong Kong for our honeymoon. Hong Kong is an incredible city that immediately assaults all of your senses. Delicious smells waft from small cafes on side streets, shop signs flash and vehicles constantly sound their horns. It is an exciting city of contrasts, one minute you can be in the super sterile and shiny environment of the Landmark building accessed by one of the overground walkways and the next you’re back in the street looking at row upon row of street vendors with their packed and varied displays.

We were lucky enough to stay in the stylish and contemporary Hotel Icon in Kowloon. Everything in the hotel has been thoughtfully designed, from the staff uniforms made from lemon coloured broderie anglaise through to the living vertical garden bursting with luscious foliage in the main reception area. The staff were incredibly friendly, discreetly attentive and always welcoming.  Our room was as chic as it had looked online and had a stunning view of the harbour. It was a real treat to sit at the window each night watching the world go by before we went out.

One of the star attractions of our trip to Hong Kong was the Star Ferry. It was outrageously cheap at $2.50 (which works out at just 20 pence per journey) and enabled us to experience a key part of Hong Kong’s history. From aboard the Star Ferry you get a fantastic view of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, both with skyscrapers stretching out into the distance as far as the eye can see.

The diverse street markets in Hong Kong are not to be missed. One of the markets we visited was Yuen Po Street Bird Market as I have a huge love of our feathered friends. This market was captivating and horrifying at the same time. In essence, it was a high rise city of birds. Cages and cages of beautiful birds were piled high on top of one another next to stalls selling gauze bags of live, writhing insects. I suppose there’s nothing like fresh food to eat! At the same time, groups of men gathered at the edges of this market to show off their birds in ornate wooden cages. Another market experience not to be missed is Bowrington Road in Wanchai. This is full of live fish produce complete with macabre string tied parcels of live crabs arranged in neat rows. As a westerner, I’m used to buying dead vacuum packed ingredients for my dinner and I struggled with the honesty of buying super fresh food to eat. Aside from the gruesome purchases, I found the markets to be one of the most fascinating experiences of our time in Hong Kong.

Lan Kwai Fong in Central on Hong Kong Island was the venue for the best Halloween party we’ve ever been to. The area is a well-known place for partying and eating out and it didn’t disappoint. I absolutely love Halloween and was really excited to find out about this event. We made a token effort to dress up buying hats and having our make-up done – not realising just how big this event was going to be. It was huge, to the point where the police cordoned off the area to aid crowd control. We had such a great time and met people from Ecuador to Nepal.  I can honestly say that I have never had my photograph taken so many times on one night, the plentiful beer certainly helped to get me in the mood for ghoulish poses! If you love Halloween this should be high on your list of places to visit.

On our only rainy day we decided to visit The Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui. This vast museum is situated in a prime waterfront location near to the popular Avenue of Stars. At night, the views of the Symphony of Lights are spectacular from here. Our favourite galleries by far were entitled “Cruising the Universe: Fantastic Animals in the Arts of China” and “Gems of Chinese Ceramics from the Hong Kong Museum of Art”. Short snappy titles are obviously not the norm here! These exhibitions featured a fabulous range of artefacts ranging from tomb guardians and beast shaped urinals to an exquisite ceramic pillow in the form of a tiger.

After the museum we took the metro to Shek Kip Mei to see the JockeyClub Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC). This centre was once a factory building housing small cottage industries. The building has been renovated and is now home to various artists and arts organisations. It is a hub of creative activity and arts festivals, exhibitions and performances are regularly held there. For me, it was interesting to see creative practice at work in another country. I’d love a studio space here!

Hong Kong is amazing. We were both really sad to board the plane home. I loved soaking up all the different sights and sounds and hope that it will provide inspiration for a new body of work.

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