Thursday, 22 February 2018

Picture of the Day: People Day

A captivated crowd watching the tail-end of the dragon dance at lunchtime
Today is the seventh day of the Lunar New Year -- which means it's 人日 (ren2ri4) or "human day" or in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak "peoplekind day"; in other words, everyone's birthday.

How people want to be automatically a year older during Chinese New Year I won't quite understand, but Times Square shopping mall in Causeway Bay celebrated with four lions and a dragon.

At lunchtime the piazza was covered in people watching the lion dance and my colleague and I walked by as it was finishing up. The lions did dramatic acrobatic leaps up on poles while the dragon ran around in circles.

Near the end there was a pop sound and the lions and dragon spewed out rectangular-shaped tissue paper confetti for a dramatic finish. They also threw small stuffed red dogs into the audience.

Here's a picture of the crowd watching the dragon doing its last dance before the show was over.

Happy 人日 everyone!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Hold Your Mother's Hand

Be like Xi Jinping and hold your mother's hand, OK?
The Chinese state -- or shall we say Chinese President Xi Jinping -- wants to tell you what to do.

And these days he wants you to hold your mother's hand.

On February 19, People's Daily began its "Hold Mother's Hand" #牵妈妈的手# campaign on social media, starting with a video about white collar workers in cities who are "too busy" to visit their mothers.

A video shows urban workers too busy to call their mothers
They are at work all day, while their mothers sit by themselves in the living room or kitchen by the phone, waiting for their child to call.

"How long has it been since you last spoke to your mother about what's on your mind?" the ad says. "How long has it been since you had a taste of your mother's cooking? Or since you went together on a walk? How long has it been since you held her hand?"

Talk about laying the guilt trip on thick.

Then there's a scene of a young woman scrolling through her phone and seeing a picture of President Xi holding his mother Qi Xin's hand during a stroll outside. He can be heard reading the first lines of a Tang poem: "慈母手中線,遊子身上衣", which means, "The threads from a caring mother's hand, are in the clothes of a traveling son".

After seeing this image of Xi, these workers then call mom
By the end of the video, people are smiling when they call their mothers, who in turn are so happy to hear from them.

Tugging at the heart strings.

But the image of Xi and his mother reiterates how he is the "People's Leader", and that he is the "Father of the nation", as his nickname is "Xi dada"...

So go on -- hold your mother's hand. Xi and she will be happy.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Mini Hong Kong Brings on Nostalgia

A girl looks on at a street scene that looks quite real, but is very small
My dad bugged me to go see the "Feature of HK" miniature exhibition at Olympian City and I finally got around to it because it's closing in two days. I got to the shopping mall at Olympic station after work and there was a line-up to get in. Luckily it was a short wait, but it wasn't fun having to jostle with everyone else not only to get a decent look of the exhibits, but also take pictures.

A traditional shop decorated with Chinese New Year flowers
Nevertheless it was kind of disappointing there wasn't an introduction to the exhibition -- the general public probably didn't care, but it would have been nice to know who the people were behind these pieces -- they are all locals as far as I know, some of whom have even published books on how they make these miniature dioramas.

Some of the pieces were very large, like a replica of the Tai O former police station that is now a hotel, or a series of stalls along cobblestone steps that looks like Pottinger Street, another about wooden huts for people living on Mount Davis Road.

But many of them were small, specific shops, like a cha chaan teng, or a barber shop, jewellery store, shoe shop, one selling roast meats or a general store. The amount of detail that went into each one was staggering, from the individual pieces of candy or fruit in the grocery store to the old school green floor tiles of the barber shop.

The detail of this grocery story is quite amazing!
There was one store that sold snacks like fish balls and egg waffles, lanterns for Mid-Autumn Festival, and another selling dried seafood and even eggs! Even the tea shop had tea cakes wrapped in paper.

People looked at each one, fascinated with the detail and they would comment about how the scene reminded them of their childhood. For most of the visitors who were over 40, it was a trip down memory lane.

A lot of research when into each piece but also trying to recreate the items with as much detail as possible was amazing. It's definitely a labour of love, but perhaps to see people so fascinated with what they have done is probably rewarding enough for them.

A small barbershop complete with green tiles
Nostalgia about Hong Kong from several decades ago is still very emotional for people. It makes them realize how much things have changed in the city, for better or for worse. It will be a theme that businesses will continue to exploit to tug at the heart strings because most people have fond memories of the past.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Cries for Sympathy Leave Bad Taste

This year there weren't fireworks to mark the start of the Year of the Dog
The Year of the Dog wasn't as boisterous this time with the cancellation of the fireworks on the second day of the new year.

It was the seventh day after 19 people died and 66 injured in a horrific bus crash in Tai Po and in Chinese tradition it is believed on that day the souls of the dead visit their loved ones for one last time.

Many restaurants like this one capitalize on the fireworks
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made the right decision out of respect for the victims and their families, but that decision wasn't easy to make -- as expected local businesses were financially hit by the fireworks cancellation.

"On the surface, it seems like it would not be a big deal to cancel [the fireworks], but there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that travel agencies have to take care of... there are bound to be losses," tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing said on a radio show on Saturday.

Yiu added restaurants with a view of Victoria Harbour, where the fireworks are usually held, would be affected the most. "According to my understanding, one-third of the customers had backed out of their reservations," he said.

During the same radio program, Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat suggested the government should give priority to the affected industries if the government was going to organise any activities in the future.

Jason Wong hopes travel and restaurants get help in the future
Yes fireworks are a big deal in the city -- hundreds of thousands of people turn up on both sides of Victoria Harbour to get a good spot to watch them. Some make reservations at restaurants with a view, prepared to pay a bomb for their vantage point.

However with the cancellation of the pyrotechnic show, restaurants probably lost out the most, having ordered a lot of fresh (and expensive) ingredients beforehand and with many customers cancelling -- perhaps a bit to easily -- they took a big hit.

But these businesses were capitalizing on an event they didn't have to pay for in the first place. They would still have business (probably not at prices as jacked up) anyway because of the view.

Yiu says there are losses in the restaurant industry
More importantly, can we have some respect for the dead? For these legislators to hint there should be sympathy for the tourism and restaurant sectors is too much. Lives were lost -- can you put a price on that?

This also demonstrates how tough things are in the restaurant and tourism sectors to make a buck -- with rents sky high, customers are really paying the rent than enjoying good food and service at a decent price.

Many establishments are just trying to keep their heads above water these days as 2018 is going to be another challenging financial year.

The legislators were also probably hoping they could get the sympathy of Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po ahead of the upcoming budget speech at the end of the month. But he seems pretty tight lipped -- about everything.