I still can’t quit Facebook, despite being aware of its harmful effect

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The mass exodus from Facebook is real. It is obvious that people don’t log in, share or comment as much as they used to. Facebook  has become uncool.

Cambridge Analytica was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even celebrities like Elon Musk  and Will Ferell have hit the delete button. But this isn’t what made Facebook unpopular. As any avid Facebook user will tell you, it was evident to everyone that Facebook was spying on us even before the evidence became public.

Though Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to  Facebook users, it still feels like the social platform is playing psychological games on its users. I get all tensed and reluctant  before logging in. People and pages I have unfollowed show up on my feed, and it feels like information I’m not interested in is constantly being shoved down my throat. Why? The Facebook algorithm is clearly taking the piss out of its users.

Facebook has become like the nasty next-door neighbour that you don’t like, but are obliged to greet on a daily basis.

Still I have no plans to delete my Facebook account. Why?

I am not ready to give up on the Facebook groups

Throughout the years I have joined a number of common interest groups, that I am honestly not willing to give up . They are not just information gold mines, but genuinely great digital communities for sharing your passions, thoughts and insights.

Back in 2015 during a dark phase in my life I deleted my Facebook account. My life immediately transformed for the better. My stress levels dropped, I made new friends and focused on myself. It was like a huge weight was suddenly lifted off my chest.

It was also like the ‘virtual reality’ lens was finally switched off and I could see the real world around me. I felt liberated.

However after three great months of abstinence I decided to join Facebook again because I missed those online communities (especially my Hong Kong photography groups). But most importantly, as soon as I started taking freelance writing work, sharing my work on Facebook was seen as crucial. I simply couldn’t afford staying off Facebook.

I use Messenger- a lot

Having made friends and acquaintances from around the world, I never use people’s phone numbers to contact them. It just has to be online.

You are right thinking this sounds lazy AF. Surely there’s Skype, Viber, Whatsapp… and what happened to e-mail…?

Facebook has dampen my social skills.

The thing is that until now everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, had Facebook, whereas not everyone used the same messaging platform. It takes time and energy to trace down people digitally, and Facebook made that so much easier. (The downside being,of course, that you waste so much time wishing people you don’t really care about happy birthday, instead of contacting those that you do care about.)

Now that this is changing, I am willing to explore new platforms as my primary messaging platform. I suspect that as soon as I do that, I will communicate in a much healthier way with others, and give priority to people I genuinely care to contact.

Fear of Missing Out

Even though FOMO is clearly the reason why everyone should quit Facebook right now and never look back, it is also the reason why some of us stay.

And by FOMO I don’t mean browsing other people’s carefree look-at-me pictures but rather knowing that the mommy group from your child’s school is having all the important conversations on their Facebook group page.

That’s right, Facebook still has me by the balls.

In any case, Facebook is bad for your mental health

I often have vivid flashbacks of life before Facebook. I am so amazed at how simpler things were before this social media craze.  I realize that insidious platforms like Facebook and Instagram completely changed every aspect of how I saw myself and how I saw others.

Joining Facebook was like putting on goggles-I started seeing life through a blurry lens. What’s more, when I signed up I didn’t realise I was giving up something I wouldn’t be able to get easily back (despite being ‘free’ to do so): my freedom.

There’s no doubt that Facebook is damaging our mental health, as social media addiction pushes us on the brink of a mental health crisis.

But when push comes to shove, it’s up to us to fight back and just say no. It’s not easy. You don’t ask an alcoholic to give up addiction by drinking less.

But I hope that I manage to take longer mental strides away from Facebook’s mind control practices, at least until a less domineering substitute becomes available.

Freedom is a state of mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry and Meghan’s wedding was splendid, but, let’s be honest, it gives women the wrong message

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I am a huge Harry and Meghan fan, but when the two finally tied the knot last Saturday I admit I let out a sigh of relief. The 24/7 wedding coverage can finally now stop and life can bounce back to normal.

Naturally, ‘fairytale’ is the word that best describes the whole affair. The bride looked sublime walking down the aisle in an Audrey Hepburne-style Givenchy wedding gown in a star-studded ceremony. The couple gazed into each other’s eyes in sheer adoration, and soon  jetted off to start their charming life together, no doubt already packed with royal duties such as touring the Pacific islands or inaugurating charities in Africa.

If I am honest, being a royal sounds pretty awesome.

At the wedding party the bride broke tradition and gave a speech, while she declared herself a feminist and an advocate for gender equality on the British Monarchy’s website.

And here is where I kinda feel that the frantic royal coverage should pause for a second, and the media should take a minute to self-reflect. Because it’s one thing to marvel at the blessings of this beautiful couple, and another to try to brand them as role models for young people and ambassadors for modern values .

Because they are not. And as someone who has in the last months wrote extensively about Meghan Markle’s life and romantic relationships (it was work, I swear) I must say that Meghan’s Cinderella love story isn’t something most women should look up to. Simply because it gives a message that is not only depressing, but obsolete and false.

And frankly, it isn’t feminist either.

It is the message that if you wait long enough you’ll eventually find your Prince.  That divorcing someone to focus on your career is the way to go, because your career can lead you to more powerful men.

Don’t get stressed if you’re pushing 40. Mr. Big can always cover IVF expenses and you’ll soon get twins. Bam, problem solved.

In short, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Most single career women I know that are Meghan’s age would rather stay in and watch Netflix than go out on another Tinder date. They meet more sleazy married guys who see them as easy prey than eligible bachelors who are willing to reward them for all those years of holding out and kicking ass at work. Many guys their age, especially if they are professionally accomplished, will often look for a younger partner.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that if you focus on your career goals, life will reward you with a great man. It could happen, but it is also a possibility that it will not happen.

We keep hearing about how men today like strong and independent women. Gender equality? Sure, but if you never have any house chores to divide, or fights over whose turn is to take children to karate class or splitting the bills, what’s the point?

Harry and Meghan have embarked together on their very blessed life. I wish them all the happiness in the world, but I believe that they should enjoy their privilege humbly and without too much fanfare. This would be not only the most honest, but also the most royal-like thing to do.

 

Three Films For Triad Film Buffs

As a freelance writer I am asked to write “free samples” a lot. Even though sometimes  prospective clients are legit, and they end up offering me wonderful writing opportunities, a scarily large number isn’t. Quite often, scammers take my work for free and disappear. 

This morning I was asked to pass a 2-day test to be considered for a writing job. The “test” was in 3 stages and, amongst other writing tasks, asked me to read a 200-page academic book on Philosophy, and then write a 5-page summary of the book. For the life of me I can’t imagine why a Marketing agency would ask writers for such a long, academic article. 

Below is a sample I wrote a while ago for a travel and lifestyle blog.  This sample landed me a gig for the Culture Trip, which was an overall positive experience. So, I guess not everyone who asks for a free sample is a fraudster. 

But still, it makes me sad how vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation freelance writers are .

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Young and Dangerous was the ultimate 90s hit

 

In the early 80s and throughout the 90s, in the dawn of major political changes, the Hong Kong film industry experienced unprecedented cultural proliferation.

This change was part of the wider “East Asian Miracle” which brought about increased cultural production in the region, divulging the need to define Hong Kong identity. In the decade heralding the 1997 handover to China, came an increased interest in the colony’s affairs, as well as the Cantonese language and distinct culture.

A new wave of triad films were made in Hong Kong featuring fast-paced action scenes in the city’s busy streets. The following three films bring together gangster narratives and Hong Kong urban imagery, while they are inextricably intertwined with the city’s colourful cultural identity.

Young and Dangerous (1996): A true 90s classic, Young and Dangerous and its five wholesome sequels became a popular tv series. A mishmash of action and comedy, the film follows the lives and adventures of young and hip Triad members that dream big in the streets of Hong Kong. Andrew Lau’s Young and Dangerous is an entertaining film which nonetheless does not go overboard with gangster violence. It gave birth to the “Triad Youth” genre which stylized “Triad boys” lifestyle, and made youth around the world dream about Hong Kong adventures.

Election (2005): On a different tone, Johny To’s Election has been dubbed “the Godfather” of Asian cinema. A true gangster film for those who love the original genre, Election, peruses the Triad hierarchy, and examines its customs and laws with crude bluntness.  Hong Kong triad members are summoned to elect a new chairman through a “democratic” election, which sparks lethal rivalries between its two main contestants, Lok and Big D. This is a film that scrutinizes the conflicting elements of ancient religious beliefs and traditions with modern Triad lawlessness and raw violence. A fascinating contradiction, just like the city of Hong Kong.

Infernal Affairs (2002) Tony Leung’s Infernal Affairs narrates the heart-rending story of an idealistic police cadet who infiltrates a triad with the purpose of exposing its secret dealings with the police. The brave man risks his life to nose out the “mole” in the Hong Kong police department.

Does the story ring some bells? That’s right, Martin Scorcese’s “the Departed” bears a chilling resemblance to the original Hong Kong film. Tony Leung’s 2002 film (it took two sequels to tell the whole story) is a fast-paced, stylish cop drama that delivers great performances by its main characters. But unlike Scorcese’s version, most of the action takes place out on Hong Kong’s busy streets, crammed shops, vertigo inducing high-rises and cramped Tsim Sha Tsui blocks. A real treat to watch for those who love the city.

 

 

Hong Kong: Asia’s Art Capital

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When Hong Kong emerged as Asia’s art capital in 2012, some eyebrows were raised. What does a city of bankers and office workers really know about art?

But the ball had started rolling. The lively Chinese metropolis had already been branded Asia’s World City. since 2001. Under its hard and lustrous capitalist shell, it is also known for its vibrant culture of rich Cantonese traditions, a prolific film industry, as well as venerated, ancient Feng Shui practices. Once home to the now demolished Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong’s “dark” and seductive side has captured the imagination of artists around the globe.

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However, Hong Kong’s rise to the top of the art world meant that it had to cast off the pessimism that has haunted it in the last decades. For a start, this historical port city appeared to be more preoccupied with its past glory than with its future potential. Cynics easily dismissed it as merely a money-making machine and a point of transit with no distinct cultural identity. To add insult to injury, professor Ackbar Abbas had famously warned about the death of Hong Kong after the 1997 handover to China. 

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But despite the voices of doubt, Hong Kong in the recent years has proved that it is has what it takes, as it successfully transformed into an exciting art hub and the place to be for creative souls.

And, surprisingly, its money-making capacity served as the catalyst. 

Being a vibrant entrepôt for trade between China and the world, a former colony with long-standing relationships with the West, as well as one of the most iconic vertical cities in the world were all determinants of its artistic proliferation.  

In the years that followed since the Sino-British Joint Declaration there has been an ongoing discourse about Hong Kong Culture and Identity that inevitably derived from the unique political status as “One Country-Two Systems”.  It triggered a process of awakening and self-reflection as well as  a wave of handover angst. In this climate of alertness, the interest in self expression increased, and a new creative vibe took over the city.

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But perhaps the major driving force behind this success has been China’s growing appetite for art, which lead to important investments by new and already established art collectors. As a result, the funding for arts in Hong Kong has nearly doubled since 2008, making Hong Kong the most important arts capital after London and New York.

Events, Galleries and Institutions: In the recent years, Art Basel Hong Kong and its edgier peer, Art Central  placed the city  right in the centre of the international arts scene. With annual shows running yearly and featuring more than 3000 artists, they showcase art from the most established art galleries in Asia and the globe.The brand new M Plus, Hong Kong’s new museum for visual culture that is destined to open in 2019, already presents diverse programmes and “nomadic” exhibitions such as the M Plus Rover, a travelling creative studio that tours at secondary schools and community places.

In addition to these major events, a plethora of local galleries enrich the city’s diverse art scene. Experimental contemporary art space Para Site was founded 1996, preceding Hong Kong’s handover to China, and has since served as one of the most important independent art institutions in Asia. Gallery 10 Chancery Lane showcases work from South East Asia’s emerging artists including Cambodia and Vietnam, and supports established and emerging artists from around the world. 

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What’s more, the city became a hotspot for important foreign galleries that wish to expand globally,such as the White Cube galleries that since 2012 founded its first non UK branch in Hong Kong Central, and has hosted major exhibitions including Damien Hirst and Gilbert&George.

The cultural institution Tai Kwun which is housed in the former Central Police Station, one of Hong Kong’s most iconic colonial buildings, aims to serve as “a cultural brand for Hong Kong”, and is planning to host contemporary art exhibitions, heritage and leisure programmes.

Street Art and Public Art: In a climate of unprecedented proliferation of creative ideas, local and international street artists scramble to put their mark on Hong Kong. Recent projects include transforming a worn-down dirty building in Sham Shui Po into a rainbow-coloured three dimensional work of art by Madrid based Spanish artist Okuda, as well as eye-catching graffiti brightening up the streets at the annual graffiti festival Hong Kong Walls. Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto transformed a moving tram into a work of art in his work Debris .

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Public Art Hong Kong (PAHK) is a leading public art promoting organisation which strives to make public art accessible to all, while its vision is  to enhance the quality of life of the people in Hong Kong by bringing excellent contemporary art that offers impactful experiences to the people and the cityscape.”  It promotes several temporary and ongoing projects in collaboration with the Hong Kong Arts Centre.

Being such an important part of the city life, the Hong Kong public art scene has proved that it has the maturity and confidence to embrace challenges. From a giant inflatable rubber duck floating in the Harbour by Dutch artist Florentijin Hofman, to  Anthony Gormley’s rooftop sculptures, Hong Kong welcomes bold projects.

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In 2016’s Event Horizon, Gromley installed 31 “naked” men sculptures on rooftops in Central, often letting passerby people to think that they were humans attempting suicide. Even though the exhibition was no doubt controversial, it was the most extensive public art installation ever seen in the city.

Hong Kong is not only a famous tourist destination and a dynamic architectural hotspot, but a culturally rich and diverse Asian city, whose art scene is enriched and organic. 

To those who love the city, Hong Kong is a time capsule that is transforming into a large, vibrant and colourful art piece.  All eyes are on Hong Kong hoping to see more exciting cutting edge art originating in this unique Chinese city.

Keep your calendar open: From January to December there is always something cooking in Hong Kong, and that’s not just the treats for the Hungry Ghost

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From Hungry Ghost to Chinese New Year and Dragon Boat there is always a reason to celebrate in Hong Kong. Unlike the Western religious celebrations, the Chinese festivals are rife with colour, dance, music and shared excitement, while they faithfully preserve the ancient beliefs that generated them. In this part of the world, it is all about fierce dragon parades, romantic lanterns, festive cakes, joyful music and a great vibe, as families and friends all get together to honour the remarkable Chinese traditions.

Here are the major annual Chinese festivals that have crowned Hong Kong empress of Chinese Culture and its fascinating centuries-old customs and beliefs.

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The Big Festival: Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is Hong Kong’s biggest, happiest and most glamorous annual extravaganza, which has been rightly described by Forbes as “Thanksgiving, Christmas and Western New Year’s all rolled into one glorious occasion”. It is certainly a lot louder and busier than Christmas, with people celebrating en masse outdoors in the beats of the carnival and the dragon dances, instead of quietly curled up by the fireplace. It is the time of the year for Chinese people to visit home and reunite with their families, and then take to the streets to enjoy the traditional Chinese performances and the magnificent fireworks. Even though as a tourist you are often advised against travelling in China during this particular period of time, it is a once-in lifetime experience if you are feeling intrepid enough to join in this absolutely massive celebration. Colorful Dragon dances and carnival processions, exuberant flower markets, festive horse-racing events and the world’s most jaw-dropping fireworks displays over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour iconic skyline,are some of the major highlights of this endless party that in total lasts for about 23 days .

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The Romantic Festival: From ancient Greece to the Aztec Empire, nearly every culture has practiced lunar worship, acknowledging the powerful impact that the Earth’s only satellite has on every living creature on our planet. And thus it is no coincidence that the Chinese Moon festival takes place during Autumn, when the moon is closer to the Earth creating a “supermoon” phenomenon. Once a harvest festival dating back to the Tang dynasty that worshipped the powerful harvest moon on the 15th day of the 8th month, it was also considered to be a symbol of female energy as this was personified in the Moon Goddess of Immortality,Chang’e. With all the Moon bathing, the candles and Chinese lantern displays it is undoubtedly the most romantic and quaint event of the year. Other highlights of this beautiful celebration include carnivals, a fire dragon dance and gorging on scrumptious mooncakes.

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The Sporty Festival: Dragon Boat Festival: Also known as Tueng Ng Festival, Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festival is the Summer’s most anticipated cultural highlight. It takes place near the Summer solstice, on the 5th day of the 5th Lunar Month, and it is scattered all around Hong Kong.  There are different theories regarding the origins of this centuries- old festival, one of the most interesting being that the festival originated from the ancient Chinese Dragon Worship. The most prevalent theory has however been that the custom was created to honour the prolific ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself after being banned from court. The boat paddling, is symbolically performed to distract fish from eating his dead body, and for the same reason, people also throw Zongji-rice dumplings-in the water. (It is perfectly normal, however, if in the spirit of the festivities you enjoy the delicious Zongji yourself.) In Hong Kong the races have gradually become really competitive as the racing tradition has been passed from generation to generation. The festival is rife with traditional Chinese imagery: Colourful boats with dragon heads and tails decorated with flowers paddling in the beat of the drum, the cheering of Zongji-appreciating crowds, and a unique carnival vibe, all make the Dragon Boat Festival one of the most iconic Chinese celebrations of the year. Every year the event attracts thousands of visitors and more than 140 participating teams, while its reputation has spread around the world, with its most famous siblings being the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York, and the London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.

And the Spooky One:  In Hong Kong and in China in general, commemorating the dead an important part of life. Instead of flowers, it is not uncommon to bring fruits, meat, snacks and drinks to the grave of the deceased, as well as to burn incense and paper money or anything else a person can use in the other world.  The Hungry Ghost Festival that takes place every September in Hong Kong is meant to appease the spirits of the dead that roam the earth for a whole month, (the entire seventh month of the lunar calendar.) Bearing fascinating similarities with the Mexican Dia de los Muertos,(which is also related to All-Saints and Halloween) the Hungry Ghost Festival has ancient Chinese roots that reflect the worldwide belief that during certain months of the year the spirits can access our world, and so it is important to make sure our ancestors and malignant spirits don’t get hungry or angry.

The Festival takes place all over the city with paper money and incense burning on pavements and corners of residential buildings, accompanied with lighted candles and food offerings, that eerily remind us that we might not be able to see them but they are among us. Some of the Chinese superstitions to keep the ghosts away and to avoid attracting malevolent spirits include advising people to not cry, whistle, or hold and open umbrella.

 

The Ding Ding Tram Is Proof that Hong Kong Heritage Matters

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When in October 2015 a government proposal to scrap the Hong Kong tram in order to ease traffic congestion was put on table, the public reaction was overwhelming. For many Hong Kongers the Tramways-otherwise affectionately known as the Ding Ding- has been an integral part of the city’s history and just like the Star Ferry and the Peak Tram it belongs to a cultural heritage without which the city would be poorer.

But the tram is not only a charming British hangover that reflects the city’s past. It has traditionally been the most affordable and most environmentally friendly means of transport. Furthermore, its existence as a cultural symbol of Hong Kong has great emotional value for a large part of the local population that do not want to see rapid modernisation and technological innovation destroy the few remaining historical treasures of the city.

In a world that changes with whirlwind speeds, there are still some things that remind us that we sometimes need to slow down and reflect on who we are. Ding Ding is just that, a dear reflection of the Hong Kong’s identity.

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Brief History: The tram was first introduced in 1904 by the British Hong Kong Tramway Electric Company and twenty six single deck trams were imported from England. At the time the trams offered first class and third class seating. A few years later they were replaced by the iconic double deckers we all know, that until today belong to the few remaining double-decker trams in the world. For many older Hong Kongers the tram was the very first transport they ever used and they hold fond memories of those early rides. Unlike bus conductors, the tram conductors were nicer to the people, allowing them to jam in.

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and the Peak Tram-Chatham Path

By the mid 1950s the number of tramcars increased to 146 and they were completely remodelled.The 1950s antique tram 120 is still in use today and it passes through Shau Kei Wan, Happy Valley and Kennedy Town. The 1970s introduced major changes to the tram service.  The tram panels were rented out for advertising purposes, a practice that has since rendered them the chicest and most fashionable means for eye-catching advertising in Hong Kong. Furthermore, female conductors appeared, and class distinction in trams was abolished.

Today,the tram fleet consist of 163 tramcars, two of which are antiques. It is not uncommon to see fully painted ads on trams bodies, a practice that brings life and colour in the busy streets, and attracts art lovers and creative spirits from around the world. The antique tram no 28 is unique with a rare open balcony design and light bulbs that make it glitter at night,  and it is used exclusively for city tours, parties and promotional events.

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So, what are you waiting for? Hop on! The trams, being slower than other means of transport such as the MTR, are less busy and are one of the best ways to see Hong Kong.

The service is pretty straightforward, it goes East and West on the Hong Kong Island, and runs along some of the best parts of the city such as the historic Sheung Wan, the business centre in Central and the commercial Causeway Bay. The passenger can get a good idea of the different aspects and dynamics of the city on a single tram ride. If possible, grab a seat at the front row of the upper deck for breathtaking views of the imposing architecture and the fascinating street life.

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Today there are no tram conductors but your Octopus Card will grant you unlimited use of all Hong Kong’s transport, and you can also use coins. A four day pass is also available that allows you to hop on and off as much as you like.

Taking Tram Journey to a whole new level: Realising the trams immense cultural value, gave birth to a number of different services and creative ideas. The TramOramic Tour is a comfortable and stylish way to see the city on an open top 1920s tram and offers plenty of spectacular 360° snapshot opportunities. It also provides seven thematic journeys including Colonial, Art, Foodies, Shopping and Nature, where passengers get to choose their own itinerary based on their specific preferences and interests. 

Party On a Tram?  One thing that Hong Kongers know how to do well is party. You can party everywhere in Hong Kong, in the streets, at the beach, on a junk boat, on a helicopter and why not, on a vintage open-top double-decker tramcar! This is probably one of the most romantic ways to experience the legendary Hong Kong night lights and the city’s extraordinary festive vibe. Enjoy fine champagne and the city’s balmy nights, as the tram trundles through the bustling streets. Bespoke tram parties and events are available.

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And the most famous Tram of all: The Peak Tram funicular that carries passengers from Central to the Victoria Peak was built in 1881, and it was the first tram in Hong Kong. It was constructed to speed residential development on the hills as well as serve the privileged residents of the Peak,which before that were carried on the mountain by local bearers on sedan chairs. However it was considered a revolutionary form of transport in Asia, and for many today it is the city’s emblem.

Once you are at the Peak take some time to visit  the Peak Galleria where the Hong Kong Trams Station Museum displays valuable Tram memorabilia  including rare old photos and route maps.

I originally wrote this travel guide for Mavel

From traditional Kung Fu to the Triad Gun Fu, the Hong Kong film has shaped Hong Kong Identity

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Hong Kong film is an integral part of the city’s cultural identity. The city’s dramatic cityscape provides is an ideal backdrop for fast-paced action and urban cool.

In one sense Hong Kong resembles a large film-set or a large China-town that encompasses several different micro-worlds in physical proximity.

Like a three dimensional  vertical metropolis, Hong Kong has been a source of inspiration for movie makers around the world. Watching films like Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell  you cannot help identifying various aspects and corners of Hong Kong. It is the epitome of the Asian futuristic metropolis.

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During its early years, the critical factor behind its flourishing success was colonial Hong Kong’s more liberal stance towards martial arts.  The city welcomed numerous talented artists and teachers, who were not allowed to practice their art in the Mainland. In Hong Kong there was no shortage of talent, and there was the freedom to put it to work.

The Kung Fu Tradition in the Spotlight with Enter the Dragon: The famous statue of  Bruce Lee on the Kowloon waterfront blends in with the iconic skyline of Hong Kong Island and becomes part of the city’s narrative. Lee was the kung fu genius who put Hong Kong on the radar with Enter the Dragon (1973), which was one of the most classic-and according to some the greatest- martial arts film ever made.

The Kung Fu genre was the basis upon which the Hong Kong Film industry confidence was built. Not only did it introduce a relatively unexplored genre that shed light on the thousand year old Chinese martial arts traditions, but it was also a tool of empowerment.

It introduced the Chinese hero who stands up to the Western imperialists, a storyline that became a popular theme used until today in the new “nostalgic” martial arts films like Ip Man and its sequels. The foreign official in these films is depicted being the Chinese “Gweilo” , the foreign devil. Narrow minded, unrefined and coarse, the “Gweilo” understands very little of the Confucian principles of peace, dignity and respect that underlies the behaviour of the Chinese hero.

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Jackie Chan has been Hong Kong’s unofficial tourism ambassador

Enter the Dragon showed the world that Hong Kong is more than a British colony, and even though its heritage is no doubt predominantly Cantonese, it is a unique place where cultures, stories and identities meet. In the years that followed its release and the death of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, a talented martial artist, comedian and stuntman reached stardom with comedic kung fu films like Drunken Master and Project A.

The importance of these Kung Fu icons should not be overlooked. They are regarded as legitimate-albeit unofficial- cultural ambassadors of the city and its heritage.  Jackie Chan’s documentary “Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong” is a great example of this.

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Young and Dangerous is the ultimate 90s hit

The Years of Transformation and The Birth of the Triad Film. During the 1980s, as the city frantically speed up its vertical expansion, the Hong Kong Film Industry reached its most prolific period. 

However, with the impending 1997 Handover to China, the awkward Gweilo character was already becoming outdated. The action had shifted to the Triad underworld and its constant battle for power and resources in a complex city-labyrinth that never sleeps. The thin line that separates the policeman and the triad member is a popular theme in these films, that aims to show that there can be goodness in a scoundrel, and evil in a man of law.

John Woo became the pioneer with iconic gangster melodramas such as “For a Better Tomorrow” and “The Killer”  that replaced Kung Fu action with fast-paced gun play-otherwise known as Gun Fu- in the street of Hong Kong. In the 1990’s ‘Young and Dangerous” films made it cool to be a young and hip Hong Kong gang member and combined action with light comedy. 

Even though these first triad films were initially heavily influenced by similar Hollywood classics, they didn’t stray from their cultural origins. Johnnie To’s Election (2005) is one of the most honest depictions of the Triad world, and for some it is considered the Godfather of Asia. American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was heavily influenced by Ringo Lam’s “City on Fire” (1987) when making Reservoir Dogs, while Martin Scorsese’s “the Departed” is the american version of Andrew Lau’s intense cop drama “Infernal Affairs”.

The Triad/Underworld killer became something of a cult figure in Hong Kong film, and a quintessential figure. For example, Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels is a film with stylised parallel story telling, that is more about social alienation in a modern metropolis than a gangster film. However, one of the main characters is a paid killer and member of the underworld. The plot develops mainly at night in the dark alleys and narrow spaces of a complex and claustrophobic city, in the heart of Hong Kong. In a very similar style, the famous Chungking Express by the same director explores the ideas of love and alienation by featuring an underworld killer-a woman this time-  being the mystery woman with which a  lonely policeman,falls in love.

The heart of Hong Kong’s cultural identity and heritage lies in its film industry. Film lovers can only hope that Hong Kong will remain a vibrant art capital that uses film as the vehicle to express the unique imagery, energy and spirit of a truly historical city.

I originally wrote this blog post for Mavel

You don’t need Bear Grylls’ endurance to enjoy Hong Kong’s gorgeous outdoors (and you can still be in time for mojitos at night)

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Don’t let the towering skyscrapers fool you. Hong Kong has mountains, sandy beaches, trekking trails, waterfalls and practically everything you expect to find in any other Southeast asian country that is known for its wild, unspoilt landscape. With 40% of Hong Kong reserved as parkland and 80% of its total area green, it is one of the greenest places on our planet, and is home to a diverse landscape that offers nature lovers endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

For families, Hong Kong is an ideal destination to enjoy nature in one of its large and perfectly preserved country parks, or spend your day soaking up the sun at the beach, while at night you can still return to the top notch food, shopping and entertainment options that the city offers. It is a city that has it all, so why not enjoy it all on your holidays?

Read on to discover the top outdoor activities in Hong Kong for families and for those who are looking for easy, enjoyable hikes through the countryside’s most scenic parts.

Dragon's Back

Take a Trail or a enjoy a relaxed stroll in Nature: With Dragon’s Back named as Asia’s Best Urban Hiking Trail by TIME magazine and the MacLehose Trail as one of the world’s best hikes by National Geographic, hiking is one of the top activities to enjoy in Hong Kong. Even though the famous mountain peaks are often considered tough treks, there are great alternatives that do not require too much physical strain. And the best part is that you don’t need to travel far to discover emerald hills, shady trails and secret waterfalls.

The Victoria Peak Circle Trail, that runs around the Peak, Hong Kong’s number one attraction, is a gentle 3.5 km hike that allows you to enjoy jaw-dropping ,panoramic views of one of the world’s most jaw-beautiful harbours. To take the trail, simply hop on the Victoria Peak Tram to the Peak, and take the Lugard Road near the Peak Tower. 

To completely escape the cityscape, The Hong Kong Wetland Ecotourism Park in Northwest New Territories is a fantastic place to watch Hong Kong’s native flora and fauna, including birds, butterflies and dragonflies. The park is designed as a hands-on interactive experience in the ecosystem and includes themed exhibition areas, indoor play areas and a cafe. It is ideal for families with small kids.

For a more fearless adventure, the Monkey Mountain in ShaTin’s Kam Shan Country Park will bring you close to 70% of Hong Kong’s Rhesus Macaques population, most of which are descendants of a few pets that were released the 1920s. When close to the animals, pay attention to the signs and do not feed the monkeys or carry food with you, as these sweet creatures can become aggressive. The Kam Shan Country Park facilities include a morning walkers’s area, jogging trails, as well as special barbecue and picnic areas. If on that day you are feeling particularly brave and feel like having an intensive hike with a historic twist, you can head for the Smugglers Pass Trail in Kam Shan, a 6km long trail along steep hills and slopes which is found between two major hiking trails, Wilson and MacLehose. The Smugglers Pass served as an important defence position during the Second World War and thus there are some major wartime ruins such as British military bunkers and trenches still standing among the ridge.

 

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Lamma Island

Visit the gorgeous isles: Hong Kong Island’s’s dense urbanisation often makes visitors forget they are on an island ,but a short ride towards the south reveals a completely different landscape.  The gorgeous Big Wave Bay Beach at Shek O is small oasis that is popular with windsurfers as well as hikers that finish the scenic Dragon’s Back trail. There are easier ways to get there too via MTR and bus, and of course by taxi.

Less than 30 minutes away from Central, the tranquil Lamma Island is one of Hong Kong’s most laid back, picturesque destinations. Being free of cars and public transport and relatively empty makes it ideal for family walks, bike trips and day adventures. The Lamma Island Family Trail is an easy hike in nature that traverses the island and walks you along its beautiful coast past white sand beaches, Buddhist temples and breezy pavilions as well as interesting historic landmarks, such as the  Kamikazee Cave, a spot of strategic importance for the Japanese during the Second World War. The trail starts at the ferry pier of Yung Shue Wan village at the northwest part of the island and finishes at the quiet traditional fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan, with its quaint junk boats and array of waterfront seafood restaurants. Do not leave Lamma without tasting its famous fresh and delicious seafood in one of its well known restaurants, such as Lamma Rainbow.  If you are in Hong Kong this November do not miss the  Lamma Fun Day beach music festival, a fun charity event that has run for sixteen years, and is very popular with music lovers and families.

Shek-O beach …very nice on a sunny weekend!

Shek-O Beach

Another great island destination for a relaxed day trip is Cheung Chau. This island may be tiny and more “modernised” than Lamma, but it offers interesting attractions, such as the colourful 1783 Pak Tai Temple, which is also famous for its April Bun Festival, as well as the Cheung Po Tsai “Pirate” Cave. Cheung Chau is certainly the best way to slow down and have a lazy day outdoors and away from the hustle and bustle of the Hong Kong city. With fresh seafood in every corner, make sure to go there hungry!

I originally wrote this travel guide for Mavel, a blog that is no longer available

Netflix’s Love Ending Was Sloppy and Unfair to Fans

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As you’ve probably already heard, there’ll be no more Love on Netflix. It’s hard to see why Netflix decided to kill Judd Apatow’s seemingly successful series . I however feel that all in all, the gritty romance of Gus and Mickey deserved a more sentient finale.

I watched the whole third final season on a binge and was somewhat disappointed by the hastiness the producers decided to wrap up the story. Let’s not forget that last season ended with Mickey finishing things with ex Dustin behind Gus’s back after a frantic chase at the farmer’s market.

The third season felt like it fell short compared to its  predecessors.  For all its soul-searching, it didn’t compensate with hilariously candid action. Mickey’s emotional woes resurface when she finally meets Gus’s parents, but by that time viewers wonder why would anyone want to be serious with someone as wayward and unpredictable as Mickey.

She takes great offence at one of Gus’s careless comments about the relationship (which really isn’t that big a deal compared to the things she has done not so long ago behind his back). This incident eventually triggers the next phase in their relationship, ie. taking things to the next level with Gus.

Perhaps the producers really didn’t have the time to give the couple a more comprehensive finale. But a wedding doesn’t really feel like an organic part of season 3, but rather a forced way to wrap it up. The -problematic-dynamics of their relationship are still there: She is the hot girl dating a less hot guy, who naturally dances to her tunes.

For a few scary moments the final wedding episode even had an awkward Big Bang Theory vibe about it.

The ending didn’t really explain how an impromptu wedding is the solution to keeping Mickey’s  several addictions at bay. What’s more, there seems to be a gaping hole, where the whole Dustin karma should have returned to move the story forward.

The highlight of the whole season is without a doubt Bertie’s much anticipated new romance. “Bertie’s Birthday” is hands down the best episode of the final season, and the one that truly reflects Love’s original spirit. It’s such a relief to see this girl meeting someone more compatible than needy freeloader Randy.

It also gives a final positive, (and why not,also feminist), message: The key to finding love, ladies, isn’t to make safe choices and date less good-looking guys. It is rather to be open-minded, and allow yourself to meet people in whose company you feel great, and who make you want to be a better person.

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong, A Food Mecca For Every Self-Respecting Foodie

Hong kong streets/Image: Hong Kong - November 2011© MojoBaron/Flickr

Hong Kong streets/Image: Hong Kong – November 2011© MojoBaron/Flickr

Other than being an exciting global city, Hong Kong is also a foodie’s paradise. It’s not just the number and quality of high end restaurants in almost every corner of the city, but also the dazzling selection of local and international flavours that satisfies even the most demanding taste buds. So whether you’re in the city for a short break or on a long culinary mission, you should definitely skip your hotel’s all-inclusive buffet meals, and instead explore the numerous gastronomic treats that Hong Kong has to offer.

Here’s a quick introduction to Hong Kong’s essential food map.

Fiery flavors. From trendy Korean eateries and super spicy Sichuan cuisine to  real mexican tacos  (to wash down with Cuban cocktails at Mamasita’s Cantina), Hong Kong has something spicy for those of us who like it hot.

Michelin stars everywhere . There are around 60 Michelin Star restaurants in the city for year 2017. Considering how small Hong Kong is, this clearly shows that food is a serious business in this city. And the best thing is the MS list doesn’t include only upscale restaurants, such as the exquisite Four Seasons Lung King Heen, Umberto Bombana’s vero Italiano Otto e Mezzo or Shikon’s  famous Sushi. The world’s first  Michelin Starred Street food Stall is the latest innovation in a city where street food is little short of sacred.

Street Food Hong Kong Style © David Guyler/Flickr

Street Food Hong Kong Style © David Guyler/Flickr

And speaking of the devil… Nothing beats a good food truck or a quaint food stall. I personally feel instantly happy when I see one, it just adds so much colour and life to a city. Street food, found in the local food stalls otherwise known as dai pai dong  is an important element of the Hong Kong spirit, and a must-try for every serious culinary tourist. Some of the delicious local treats include Hong Kong curry fish balls, egg waffles, egg tarts, and pork ramen. For more adventurous foodies, stinky tofu is another Hong Kong classic.

Traditional Chinese Dim Sum Tea Houses. Dim Sum, the local version of brunch-like tapas, is the heart of the Cantonese culinary culture. You can enjoy dim sum like the locals do, traditionally as a morning tea gathering, or during any time of the day you crave a fluffy white bun and a hot cup of tea. Dim sum signature dishes include steam pork buns, shrimp and pork dumplings, and delicious rice rolls filled with pork, beef and vegetables. Located right in the middle of the high end Central, Luk Yu Tea House has been a dim sum hotspot since colonial times, and has still preserved its colonial-style design and retro charm.

Image: Fresh BBQ pork noodles© Ernesto Andrade/Flickr

Image: Fresh BBQ pork noodles© Ernesto Andrade/Flickr

Hong Kong native Cha Chaan Teng. Since the 60s the Cha Chaan Tengs in Hong Kong have been serving the Chinese version of western food at reasonable prices. Nowadays, they are more a cult thing, but they are still extremely popular as an important part of the city’s identity and history. Famous Cha Chaan Teng such as the Australian Dairy Company, and Capital Cafe serve generous portions of comfort food like scrambled eggs with rich buttery thick toast and milk tea.  Don’t miss Honolulu Coffee Shop’s famous egg tarts, while retro Mido Cafe will take you for a trip down the memory lane to Hong Kong in the 60’s.

You can always rest your tired feet in the Bing Sutt Starbucks. The  traditional Bing Sutt restaurant has been something between the basic dai pai dong and the more upmarket Cha Chaan Teng. In the 50s a Bing Sutt was basically the standard Chinese diner serving Chinese Western food classics. A wave of nostalgia in Hong Kong has revived the interest for Bing Sutts, with Starbucks opening the world’s first Bing Sutt Starbucks in Duddell Street. If you’re in Central, you can have Starbucks coffee with a twist, in a 60s cult ambience of tile floors, green-metal-frame windows, old fans and vintage wall posters.

Image: Hong Kong Duddell Street Starbucks© tszchungwing/Flickr

Image: Hong Kong Duddell Street Starbucks© tszchungwing/Flickr