Hong Kong’s colourful umbrellas

Navigating  your way through Hong Kong when it’s raining is like going swimming at the beach during blue bottle season. You have to be on guard the whole time, making every movement a deliberate decision trying to dodge the stingers, or in rainy Hong Kong, the umbrellas. We are amazed at how the city can adapt to so many situations, utilising the space in practical ways we wouldn’t have even thought of, yet when the rain comes practicality goes out the door.

What we think of as a space-saving solution – the rain coat – just doesn’t cut it here. This is potentially because there aren’t cute, trendy BAPE designed raincoats yet, or perhaps it’s because you only think about how you need one when it’s actually raining, and after all an umbrella is more affordable.

It’s hectic in the already overcrowded public spaces on a dry day, add the umbrellas and it is mayhem. It is fascinating though, to see how reactive the local market stands are. I’m not talking about how back home supermarkets put out one rack of monotone boring umbrellas, I’m talking whole carts dedicated to umbrellas, with every coloured design you can think of, replacing their usual stock of electric toy safes and the latest penguin game that’s just been shipped in from China.

This week was just as colourful as some of those umbrellas in the cart…

Happy Valley Races

The Happy Valley Races, which to be honest could renamed as ‘The Expat Playground’, has been on the to-do list since we got here. It is seasonal and so with that in mind, and whilst we live in walking distance, we thought we might as well take advantage and see what the fuss is about.

Essentially it’s a hump day party. With jacked up McDonald’s and beer prices, from what we could see the races formed a social event for basically every expat living on the island. The kicker is that they’ve started to theme the race nights, and this month they decided to try and make it an Aussie theme. I’m going to assume the benefit of the doubt that they are unaware of the sensitivities of making light of parts of Australia’s culture, but they decided to call the series “Boomerang”, you know, because it’s the event that keeps on coming back. Funnily enough, despite the (bad) content I was served on Facebook, the only ‘Aussie’ activation at the event was a food stand serving a hamburger, quiche, stuffed capsicums (?!) and lamingtons, and a photo booth where you could have your photo taken in front of  a jockey and a boomerang. I’m not sure if this is how the rest of the world sees us, but this seemed a bit far-fetched in my opinion.

Putting this aside, it was an interesting night to meet new people, but most of all to people watch. The crowd seemed divided – just like back home – into those who were there just to socialise, and those who didn’t wan to speak to anyone and just watch the races which happened every half hour or so. The great thing is though, it was much more casual. You could rock up in a t-shirt and sandals and fit right in.

I’m not sure when we’ll be back,  but it is a cheap activity for a Wednesday night – only $10 HKD to get in. Some people even brought in their own food and beers…cheap night out!

Super Pool Installation

This week we checked out another free installation, forming part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival (similar to the Chorus installation we saw last week). The thing I really liked about this one was that it’s interactive! Made of circular LED lights, each ‘stepping stone’ was a pressure sensitive light which changed colour each time you stood on them, creating a soothing colourful pattern. Accompanied by a calming soundtrack, this was something I could stand and look at for hours – especially when I was trying to figure out how the patterns worked!

Goldfish Market

We’ve noticed a pattern in Kowloon where the shops tend to be grouped by the type of product they sell. For example, the mechanic shops will all be in the same street, similarly the electricity or lighting shops, and so on. This interests me for a few reasons. I don’t understand how each business stands out from the others for securing customers – why do people choose a particular shop when they’re all next to each other and have similar, if not exactly the same prices?

Trade shops aren’t always that interesting, but we stumbled across the ‘Goldfish Market’, a street lined with shops selling all things fish related… and then some! We saw lizards, turtles/tortoises (of all sizes), stingrays, crabs, worms, fish of every breed you could imagine, bugs and more. It is both fascinating to see, yet disturbing seeing how the animals are kept while they are in the store.

It was definitely an eye opener – and a nostril opener at one end with the stinky tofu at the snack store. I opted for a treat slightly more suitable for a western palette, a cheese tart from Red Tea Cafe, and it was delicious!!

Until next week, that’s a wrap!

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