Thank you! I hope you have enjoyed traveling with me!
Society Page Outtakes, top to bottom, left to right:
1. Kids at Tashkent Airport, waiting for flight to Urumqi
2. Bamboo stripper stripping bamboo for pickling, top of Emei Shan
3. blog Author, Turpan Ruins, trying to keep cool
4. author’s husband, slurping noodles in Dunhuang noodle shop
5. author and husband, at Turpan ruins taking selfies for entertainment while waiting to be rescued by Desert Storm trooper
6. Paper maker making paper from Mulberry bark
7. live Kewpie Doll washing Kewpie Doll, grape resort in Turpan
If I had had audio capability to enhance my blog, I would have inserted the Beatles song “In My Life” as the leader to this post. Its melancholy tone would have been apropos to my sentiment at the moment.
With this last official post to my blog, I wanted to share my thoughts on how fun, challenging, and rewarding it has been during my travels for 68 days around the world with myself and others. It has raced past and seldom felt lonely, particularly with the focus on sharing at least one event each day.
Having the blog felt the same as when you flick the TV on at home after a long day at the office. It’s comforting to hear the background noise as if others are in the room with you. Only at rare moments did I feel that I was communicating with outer space (anybody there? Any body??)
In any event, we are at the end of my adventure. It has been nothing less than a thrill. I’ve met some terrific people–Vladimir, Karen, and Meilina from my German class; the driver and guides in Uzbekistan; Morten in Emei Shan; and old friends Peter, Cordelia, and George from Hong Kong.
I tried my best to keep the pace on this travel magazine moving, not too heavy or intellectual, and fill the posts with timely information as I became more experienced in formatting more visuals.
My apologies again for any technical difficulties born in part by Google’s agreement with China and other conditions beyond my control. And pardon the caps being cumbersome and captions not aligning with pictures. I will have a word with the graphics department about its performance.
Since I am traveling back to San Francisco today, I’m recapping my trip through the panorama shots (not in any particular order) in case you missed them in the headers.
Photos, top to bottom:
1. Dresden Altstadt
2. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
3. Konigstein, Germany
4. Chengdu, China
5.Gaocheng, Turpan, China
7. Hong Kong MTR
8.Guangzhou Civic Center
9. Chengdu Railway Station
10. Top of Emei Shan, Szechuan
Call or email me if we have been out of touch during this time. I have lots of time and would love to hear from you.
Auf Wiedersehen, Zai Jian, and can’t wait to see Gee Kin, Melissa, and Julianne! Time to get back to the Real World!
Classic Cantonese Dishes are the freshest possible, understated, lightly flavored, never heavy nor salty, and arguably the best if not the oldest gourmet cuisine in the world!
Photos, top to bottom, left to right:
1. Classic Menu based on original restaurant menu at Jade Garden, Causeway Bay
2. Medley of Succulent Barbequed Pork, Market Fresh Gai Lan Greens, and Side Dish of Soup Base Ingredients (whole Duck Legs and Pork with Fragrant Star Anise)
3. Steamed Tofu Pillows Stuffed with Prawns
4. Steamed “White Cut” Chicken
1. Roasted goose
2. Deep fried donut wrapped in rice noodle
3. Lightly seasoned snap pea, cauliflower and broccoli florettes with deep fried garlic
Elements of my last meal in Hong Kong with Cordelia and CF before takeoff. (Not shown: baked almond paste buns for dessert)!
Gourmet buffet at the East Hotel in Taikoo Shing was one of the best buffets I have ever had. Each dish was thoughtfully flavored, distinctive and delicious. Lunch consisted of cold salad and dessert bar.
Photos, top to bottom, left to right:
1. My friend George at the buffet table
2. Selection of cold salads
3. Melon and cold chicken salad
4. Voila! My plate including top quality prosciutto and lox
5. Dessert Table
6. My plate of chocolate, polenta cake and cupcakes
7. Inside Restaurant “Feast”, a very lovely outpost and well designed restaurant away from the madding crowds of Central
I thought Food for the next to the last post would be a fitting tribute to Honkers. It dominates the intellect and the drive for all citizens of this great city, and HK has the best dining variety and options bar none.
Bowen Path in Hong Kong Island’s Mid-Levels is a recreational path that preceded New York’s Hi-line Park. It provides respite and solemnity for Hong Kong residents, retirees, fitness fanatics, ex-pats, and amahs. Today I made a point to revisit an old favorite.
Much of the character is still there, with views of the world just beyond–Happy Valley Race Course, the Central higher-than-thou buildings of latter-day development, the newbies trying desperately to jam themselves in the tiniest of vest-pocket infills. They compete with the up-front views of 100-year old banyan trees, magnolia, daphne, and faint (real or imagined) scents and memories of yesteryear’s flora. A few of the vestiges of the past survive: the makeshift Buddhist shrine where paper money and incense was burned in honor of the departed; the badminton court; the lover’s hill.
But a disturbing impingement on this idle and fragile environment was undeniable: a score of new building sites and developments with green tarp were shrouding the railing ominously, trying their best to appear benign, and hogging the footpath like obese animals trying to tiptoe quietly.
I could barely decipher the building where I used to live. It was dwarfed by other developments, institutional and commercial alike. The Hopewell Centre, a round monstrosity from the late seventies, struggled to maintain its prowess from forty years ago. It clung by its fingernails and still managed to just top other newer developments in the area.
At first I tried to let go and allow all the messy and complex engineering calisthenics have their day. The construction blight seemed to be very simple: who are we to stand in the way of progress? Everyone needs a better place to live and work. But after seeing a desperate protest against construction of a road connecting to Bowen Path, I renewed my resistance to change.
This might be the last gasp for Hong Kong. Hong Kong may not have control over its fate, but this is, like a waterfront, something that is needed for its community. Its identity, well-being, and sense of place needs to be preserved. It is one of the few accessible and free walks in Hong Kong that can be appreciated by many future generations to come.
Photos, top to bottom, left to right:
1. Map of Path
2. Pastoral view of Path at daytime. About 20 people encountered along a 1 hour walk
3. View of Happy Valley in Distance
4. Complex Drainage System. Bowen Path manifested serious slope stabilization challenges and water from Victoria Peak can be torrential. Only 15% of Hong Kong’s land is build able due to very steep slopes into Victoria Harbour.
5. Reminder that trickles of nature can still survive despite human intervention.
6. The beginning of the end. Initial peace interrupted by massive construction sites along path and in Wanchai Gap
7.a wreath around Happy Valley
8. The steep pedestrian path to Kennedy Road
9. Hopewell Centre, a monstrosity at the time that is now barely a landmark
10.PR campaign explaining slope stabilization Projects
11. Practical sign indicating toilets ahead, but also how far away in time and distance! Now that’s something useful!
12. Grand View Tower, post ex-pat living, with a view to Bowen Path
LATE FLASH: here’s the Saving Grace! See my photos of North Point’s waterfront walk that equates to NYC Hi-Line in quality and functionality!
The purpose of my stop in HK was to visit with old friends. But it’s still irresistible–there are so many shops that you feel guilty avoiding them and not taking up the free AC at the front of the shop.
1. The equivalent of old Maxim’s Fast Food in the MTR at still not to be beaten prices–rice box with duck for less than $5US.
2. Apple Store flooded inside, even without a fancy staircase
3. Apple Store outside selling IPhone new release
4. Causeway Bay: the classic corner that takes 20 minutes to cross at peak–this was a sleepy weekday at lunch hour
5. more IPhone bargains
6. Boutique Deli items–Freeze-Dried Truffles, Chocolates, and other gourmet goodies
7. In case you are looking for snakeskin Remote-Control covers, hand over your $$$
Hong Kong was one of my old stomping grounds, so I was particularly excited about seeing old friends. After graduating from architecture school, I arrived here with $100 left in my pocket and a determination to work here for a year. I ended up staying for seven. Gee Kin and I met in HK, and, well, the rest is history.
I’ll tell you more about the my day traveling on HK’s mass transit system and today’s seminar on Vertical Cities that I attended through the annotated photos:
1. This was the interior of the car in the MTR system. After nearly 40 years since I first worked on it while it was under construction in 1976-78, the system has held up well. I remember trying to introduce some of the BART system concepts to the British who controlled development of the system at the time. They were not interested in the BART fledgling system, which was barely 10 years old at the time. Being true colonials, the engineers preferred to utilize the London tube or British Railway system as their precedents.
Nevertheless, it’s an efficient, well-maintained system. It hardly showed any wear and tear despite its mature age. I was told that there are some delays and breakdowns that are only just beginning to appear, but the system has run well until recently. This photo is a general overview of the train interior.
2. Cell phone mania is not particular to China. 5 out of 8 were actively using their cell phones in this cluster of people. If I had taken photos in other cities I visited, they would have been similar, and maybe only nominally lower in numbers.
3. A shop, inside the MTR selling pastries. The two unusual items that caught my eye were green tea and fig rolls (that I tried) and squid ink, tomato, olive and pickle pizza (that I did not try)
4. A upshot of high rises near Garden Road.
5. Speakers at the Asian Vertical Cities Symposium sponsored by the HK American Institute of Architects at the Asia Society
6. Asia Society Walkway design by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien to protect the local bat colony near HK gardens.
7. Flower arrangement in the Asia Society Building
The symposium consisted of an afternoon of presentations by local luminaries, followed by dinner and conversation. My good friend Peter Basmajian, a local HK architect who has lived in HK over 30 years, invited me to join him at this event. I also reconnected with George Kunihiro, a fellow architectural classmate from UC Berkeley. We had not seen each other for nearly 40 years! He happened to be visiting Hong Kong from Japan, where he now works.
A few salient comments from the symposium focusing on transit-oriented, high-density vertical cities included the following:
Ken Yang from Malaysia introduced his idea of green buildings and creating continuous linear parks as developed in the Solaris Building in Singapore for an ecological solution
In designing a building as part of a competition, you have to start with something interesting for a competition and end up with something different or unexpected, as shown in the winning design for the Crown Plaza project in Sydney, Australia.
Dinner topics included table discussions on sustainability, livability, affordability, and mobility. Many of the cities discussed include those in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that wanted to be a role model for my family. I just realized that they have been role models for me. Gee Kin is kind, patient and curious. What more can I expect in a partner? He teaches me to be better in those ways by his own actions. On his departure back to the U.S. and my getting ready to head for Guangzhou from Chengdu, Gee Kin still made sure that I had the address of the hotel in Guangzhou where I am staying by myself in Chinese, that I had a little raggie for my dirty little face first thing in the morning, and that I had enough toilet paper to get me through the all-nighter. You would understand these necessities if you have traveled by train in China. I’m still too rebellious and Western-propagandized to accept that dealing with these inconveniences are a personal responsibility.
Despite my denial of these essentials, I reluctantly agreed to take them at the last minute. Yep, he was right. Being on the train alone helped me to 1. Understand 2. Accept 3. Use all of the above. This public confession is a way for me to thank and acknowledge Gee Kin for his caring, patience, and kindness.
Melissa, for all her dedication and focused perseverance of her craft, has taught me the value of finding a passion and working hard at it. She has shown me that fame and fortune lie in one’s own abilities, and no one else’s. I give her a lot of credit for her achievements and a ton for independent thinking. She has reminded me to think more for myself.
And Julianne for asking why. She’s a milder version of Louis CK’s daughter and the skit Louis did on her asking why about everything. Julianne’s training in philosophy got me curious about what it was all about. The book she tossed to me on Schumann led me to Dresden. Her desire to engage people and ideas makes me want to do more of the same.
Chinese are not about bragging (except for material wealth, cars, how much they earn, degrees, etc., but please! never overtly!) For me, I just want to tell my family and whoever reads this that I love them and appreciate them. They inspire me, move me, and are MY role models. What more could you want in life?
Photos: from top, left to right
1. Gee Kin, on Emei Shan
2. Melissa and me, in Paris
3. Julianne, in a cafe in Berkeley