When I first came to Hong Kong in 2014, I was doing work for Changan Ford and its outsourced PR firms (see About - Life in Asia China).
...but we made it cosy and comfortable.
Perhaps it's a British thing, but what is probably the other historical and famous Hong Kong attraction is also a form of transportation (and is also called a "tram."
I have Pinterest boards about Hong Kong food, Delicious Hong Kong Food -- Neighborhood Restaurants. Check it out by CLICKING HERE..
My business has grown and changed since I stated it. My Hong Kong main office is now in Central. (See below)
Also on Lantau Island....
The really important trip was in December of 2013 when I living in Korea (see Korea) and came to Hong Kong to ask Amy to marry me.
Next to Mong Kok is Yau Ma Tei. It seems pretty far from the sea now, but at one time was a shallow bay, so a temple was built here in 1800 to a goddess of the sea Tin Hau. It is one of my favorites.
The area where the Peninsula Hotel is located, Tsim She Tsui in Kowloon, is on the edge of Victoria Harbor. It used to have many lovely old buildings, but unfortunately, they were torn down and some real architectural monstrosities have been built that totally obscure the harbor unless you are standing right on the waterfront.
You can take the Tram (not the Peak Tram) out to Happy Valley for another of Hong Kong's hybrid culture traditions: horse racing.
The eastern entrance to Victoria Harbor is is a narrow channel from Junk Bay, which connects to the South China Sea. The Kowloon side was a haven for pirates, then evolved into a stone-cutting village supplying Canton (Guangzhou).
And the signature place for afternoon tea is the Peninsula Hotel
One of the first souvenirs I bought on my first trip to Hong Kong was a tiny model of the Star Ferry, .
It has a very special MTR train to get there.
It is extremely colourful and seems to have mosaic statues to just about every Chinese diety, though it is actually a Taoist shrine
I call it a "trolly," but in Hong Kong, they call it a "tram." Either way, I love it. Started in 1904, and running 13 km between Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy Town, it is a delightful bargain at only $2.3 HK (about 30 cents US) ,
But the most important thing about TST is that it is where the Ferry to Central embarks.
I missed teaching, so I phased out Robert Badal Consulting and started Ba Lao Shi Perfect English. A summary of the building of this company can be found on the Business page of their website. For more details, you can check out the website, www.balaoshi.com, by CLICKING HERE, and the YouTube Channel by CLICKING HERE.
They make you feel special!
Having previously lived in China, the extravaganza of Chinese New Year was not new to me..
We had a civil ceremony in a government office--which was surprisingly nice--witnessed by her family and my dear friend Mr. Tung.
Gon Chaau Ngau Ho, (干炒牛河) stir fried beef noodles.
Robert Badal, A Writer and Teacher
We had met professionally, online, when I was writing Shanghai Passion. See Creative -- Unpublished
Though people just call it "The TST Clock Tower," it is official called the Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower, built in 1915, it is all that is left of the former Kowloon Train Station. It looks a bit sad standing by itself.
It didn't look like much on the outside...
I made a musical tribute video about Hong Kong's classic neon using a classic old Canto song. It's called Hong Kong Neon Love Song and you can watch it by CLICKING HERE.
Gai daan jai
People sometimes ask me if Hong Kong has beaches. Repulse Bay on Hong Kong Island has a nice beach. Though the story does not seem to have any historical proof behind it, the name is said to have come from the British kicking the local pirates out of here.
Not too far from Hollywood Road is Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong's party district.
There are several very large outdoor flower markets set up in various places in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. Open until midnight, they can be VERY crowded.
Fortunately, I had Amy to help...
Originally built in 1845 and rebuilt in 1995 into its present-day 55,000 seat, 7-story extravaganza form, the Happy Valley Racecourse is one of two operated by the famous Hong Kong Jockey Club .
But while the government business registration is easy, the rest is difficult--especially coping with the ridiculous commercial rent cost. Hong Kong has a huge problem with predatory rent practices. Commercial rents are artificially high and are not market based.
Though it is mostly referred to simply (and accurately) as "The Big Buddha" (it is over 10 stories tall), its real name is the Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a recreation of the Alter of Heaven at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which I like very much (see About -- Life in Asia China .
Now Ba Lao Shi Perfect English is getting pretty well known!
TST is where you can see the Hong Kong light show every night at 8 pm. As many times as I have seen it, II still love it!
As Hong Kong grew under British rule into a major port, Lei Yue Mun, evolved into a seafood bazaar with restaurants to cook the wares bought in the market.
You can get off the escalator at a famous street for eating and shopping...
The fog in this photo detracts a bit, but you get the idea.
The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system or, as it's usually known, "The Escalators," is, at about 1/2 mile (800 meters) in length, the longest outdoor outdoor covered escalator in the world. It connects the Central and Mid-Level Districts. Even so, it is basically...an escalator. So it is always surprising to me how many tourists it attracts, who feel it is a place to take a selfie.
Another thing that is special about Hong Kong is the street food...
Though Hong Kong has lots of shopping malls, it is the markets, shops and restaurants on the old streets that make it a wonderful place. Amy and I love to walk around Tsuen Wan and try local restaurants.
The little smoke-filled Lei Yue Man Tin Hau temple is perched on rocks that are covered with carvings.
Besides its street life, the other thing that makes Hong Kong special is its unique Sino-British culture.
Amy and I don't bet, but its a nice way to get together with friends on a warm night..
You can see more about it on the page Business
Starting a small business in Hong Kong is easy -- from the official side of registering the business. The procedures are simple and the forms very short. Hong Kong government offices are staffed by helpful people -- even the security guards will help you! There is a sign on the wall that says it takes 30 minutes to get your BR (Business Registration certificate)!
Man Mo Temple was built in 1847 for god of literature and civil service Man Tai (文帝) and Mo Tai (武帝) / Kwan Tai (關帝), best known as Guan Yu. Students come here to pray for good marks on tests.
I definitely prefer older Hong Kong in every way. The architecture is much warmer and more interesting and, of course, the old businesses have much more character. Some of the older streets of Hong Kong can be found in areas like Prince Edward, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, and Jordan.
Temple Street, Jordan. Spicy food and beer are in order...
During the Festival, even the local McDonald's follows Buddhist traditions and does not serve meat.
I can't recall seeing this before Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. It is Solanum mammosum also known as "nipple fruit" and "titty fruit" (really) and is a popular, non-edible decoration for the holiday. In Chinese it is called 五代同堂 - wu dai tong tang, meaning Five Generations Living Harmoniously Under One Roof. They are also popular in Taiwan.
My first office was a bit rough at first...
At that time, my business was called Robert Badal Consulting.
I had been to Hong Kong several times when I was living in Japan and enjoyed it very much.
The wedding party was several months later in the lovely harbor-view Parklane Hotel in Causeway Bay.
Using edible dye, the buns are stamped with Ping An the Chinese character for peace.
I had always dreamed of that skyline and never imagined that I would be living there.
The three "Bun Mountains" (包山). Part of the festival involves contestants climbing up and filling bags with the buns
Little miniature orange trees are popular. The orange is yang and bright like the sun and considered auspicious, happy, and a symbol of abundance.
The largest island is Lantau Island. Though it actually has a relatively small population, it has a really unusual mix of things on it..
It is famous (and crowded) once a year for the "Bun Festival," which is correctly called the Cheung Chau Tai Ping Ching Jui Festival (長洲太平清醮), which is a Taoist festival that is also celebrated in Taiwan and South China. The eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which coincides with Buddha's Birthday. The festival has special meaning on Cheung Chau because legend has it that in the 18th century, the island was threatened by both plague and pirates until an image of the Taoist God of the Sea, Pak Tai, was paraded through the streets.
Directly across from my Tsuen Wan office building is a "wet market," which sells meat, fish, poultry, and produce.
Amy found a block of offices being built on a floor in an older factory building -- that was within walking distance from our flat!.
And one of the first Buddhist Temples I spent some time in, the Man Mo Temple.
Though the wonderful, original Ferry terminal is gone, there is something nice that is located right where the Ferry disembarks and embarks .
Victoria Peak is the 2nd highest mountain in Hong Kong (highest on Hong Kong Island) at 552 m (1,811 ft). Because of its view of the harbour, it has always been a choice of residency for the wealthy. On May 28 of 1888 (a very lucky date by Chinese reckoning), governor Sir George William des Voeux (for whom the road is named) opened the Peak Tram, which was an engineering marvel in its day, a funicular railway that makes its way up the steep slope to the top. It is actually owned by the same company that owns the Peninsula. At the top there are lots of shops and restaurants.
Most Tin Hau Temples are built on hills overlooking the sea. This one was built in 1865 by local fishermen in 1865 and was moved here in 1876.
This little fellow is Boji, who lives in the temple.
My life in Hong Kong began in the middle of the protests about democracy. On TV, most Westerners probably only saw the confrontations with police. Up close, the protestors did not seem very violent. Many of them were students.
I made a musical video tribute to the Hong Kong Trolly (Tram, haha). You can watch it here.
When I was writing my mystery novel, Shanghai Passion, my friend Matt took me to many of the seedier part of Hong Kong to hang out and get a feel for where the bad boys (and girls) hand out. You can read some of the details on the Creative -- Unpublished page by CLICKING HERE.
A tragic day for Hong Kong was November 11 of 2006 when the classic Streamline Moderne Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier was demolished, despite major protests. Unfortunately, Hong Kong has a horrible record at historic preservation, largely due to overdevelopment of shopping malls
Repulse Bay also has another surprise. At the southeastern end you will come upon the Kwun Yam Shrine.
Bo lo bao.
Egg tarts, or daahn tāat (蛋撻), are actually derived from Portuguese pastel de nata found in both Canton (Guangzhou) and Macao (see Macao).
We live in Tsuen Wan (荃灣) in the New Territories. In the 1950's the British developed it as a "new town" with public housing that still stands.
You can meet some nice people on Hollywood Road, such as Lucy and Maggie....
A signature cultural hybrid is Hong Kong style-milk tea (港式奶茶) which evolved from British afternoon tea and is quite different from Chinese tea. Residents drink 900,000,000 glasses a year.
Tin Hau is worshipped in China (mostly Southern China), Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia--and Hong Kong and Macao--mostly in places that make their livelihoods from the sea. There are over a hundred Tin Hau temples in Hong Kong, including in Lei Yue Mun and Cheung Chau (see below). Surprisingly, there are about 200 million total devotee worldwide.
The Peninsula Lobby is especially lovely at Christmas. We made a YouTube video about it in 2019.
It can get a bit smoky in here from all the incense..
It was originally an old village, settled by Hakka people. The Sam Tung Uk Museum is an original walled village built in 1786 during the Qing Dynasty.
Besides the street food sellers and local shops and restaurants, a big part of the unique feeling of Hong Kong's older streets are the classic neon signs. The look of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner was inspired by Hong Kong's neon-lit streets.
If you walk along the waterfront from TST you will come upon a statue of Hong Kong's favorite son, Bruce Lee.
I have since seen the hanging spiral incense, but I saw it here for the first time. The Man Mo Temple was the first temple I visited in Hong Kong when I first came to visit, and despite all of the tourists snapping photos, it still is a warm place for me.
They come in three different fillings: sesame, lotus, and red bean paste.
We stayed together in Crowne Plaza Kowloon East.
It is nicknamed dumbbell island (啞鈴島) because of its shape and actually has a decent beach on one side.
From the Ferry dock and Pier 8, you walk on a long covered walkway to the IFC mall. There are sometimes street musicians here, including Rebby, who has been playing here a long time, but is actually from Malaysia. He is particularly good at Elvis songs.
The top level offers a wonderful view and the trams rolling along the street add a priceless ambiance to Hong Kong.
Like most of Hong Kong, Tsuen Wan is quite pedestrian-friendly, with overhead walkways.
The two biggest are Tin Hau and Kwan Yam.
...and has an "interesting" name: Superluck Industrial Centre (Phase 2).
National Geographic called the Hong Kong Star Ferry one of the "fifty places of a lifetime," crossing Victoria Harbor between Central on Hong Kong Island to Tsim She Tsui on the Kowloon side.
Some of Lantau is quite rural,
with lots of cows.
Amy and I have a tumblir blog called East West Dreams about the blending of Asian and Western culture, with lots of photos. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.
There are lots of outdoor restaurants along the waterfront.
Hong Kong has 263 islands, with Hong Kong Island being the most developed. The one nearest to where we live in Tsuen Wan is Park Island.
The Offerings of the Six Devas, music, flowers, incense, a lamp, ointment, and fruit, symbolising The Six Perfections humans must seek.
The Pak Tai Temple, built in 1783.
Park Island is actually called Ma Wan Island. It is mostly housing development, but does have a tiny, but nice beach with restaurants right on the sand.
Kwun Yam is the Cantonese name for the Chinese Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Avalokitasvara, who is called Kannon in Japan. See About: Life in Asia Japan.
For me, two of the greatest pleasures of living in Hong Kong are simple: taking the Star Ferry across the harbor to Central and taking the tram. Both offer lovely views and a slightly slower take on transportation and both are symbols of Hong Kong's unique hybrid British/South China cultural identity.
The shop where Amy buys her calligraphy supplies has been family owned for more than 40 years.
The high rents suck the life out of small businesses. It is especially hard on start-ups. But, former factory buildings with some floors converted to tiny offices are providing a means for entrepreneurs to have offices with affordable rents, so...
Once you get through IFC, you can continue by overhead walkway into Central proper and will come upon an interesting Hong Kong attraction..
The tea is held in the classic lobby.
Wet markets are a Hong Kong tradition and are a lot more fun than supermarkets.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest of the Disney theme parks--but that is actually a blessing, as you don't feel like you are completely drained by the experience.
Near my Tsuen Wan office is a classic "local" Hong Kong restaurant, Koon Tsuen..
...or stop at 37 Hollywood Road and see the Hong Kong location of Ba Lao Shi Perfect English and BLS Press, located in Business Executive Centre in the appropriately named Wisdom Centre.
Thought the Peninsula Hotel, built in 1928, is famous for Rolls Royces, you can still enjoy the afternoon tea without being a millionaire..
Hollywood Road and its environs have lots of places to eat and drink and some old businesses that have survived.
And local specialties, such as dried fish..
Occupying Pier 8 in Central, The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is quite cool and super easy to access, because it right near where the Star Ferry comes in from TST. It has lots of models and stories of HK history--and some fun interactive gizmos, like this computer simulation of a giant cargo loader. The best one is a room-sized simulation of the bridge of a cargo ship. The images in the windows move just like you were on a real ship and you can see what it would be like to actually pilot one into Hong Kong.
...and has freight elevators...
Bak Chit Gai (白切雞), poached chicken and rice
An island we especially like is Cheung Chau (長洲, "Long Island"), which has been inhabited for a long time, but has a decidedly non-urban feel.
Being a harbor city, Hong Kong has many temples dedicated to Tin Hau. Perhaps the most colorful of them is in a place that takes you back to the old Hong Kong seafaring tradition, Lei Yue Mun.