Wan Chai carries on as usual

Apart from the protest sites during the specified protest times, the practical nature of Hong Kong people never fails and life goes on as usual.

Certainly in the lifts, trains and buses, you will see most individuals glued to their phones… perhaps checking for the latest updates on the chief executives announcements or the reports of injuries endured by the police and protesters alike. But being glued to the phone is not unusual, and it’s just as likely that a favourite movie is being watched, a game is being won or lost, or just good ‘ol online e-commerce shopping.

I’m writing this post because I have received numerous messages and inquiries from friends and family all over the world. They are concerned for our safety, as the international media portray the worst of the events and it creates the impression that the whole city is experiencing civil unrest.

Wan Chai, business as usual

The protest sites get ugly once the police move in to clear the demonstrators out, the injuries seem to be getting more serious as the riot police increase their arsenal of weapons and protection armour. What we do is follow the news, avoid going to the protest sites and like many other families, self-impose a 6pm curfew.

Movement within the city is otherwise still unrestricted and enjoyable if you can bear the summer heat. The destruction is very much for show and HK workers are so efficient, cleaning up the mess by the next morning.

The airport and local train systems are now a focus site of the protest, I’ve heard some speculating that the reason for the authorities to close it was not so much for passenger safety but to prevent the international audience from being alarmed upon their arrival.

I hope the flights resume, and if you’re thinking of visiting, all the theme parks are less crowded and hotels are less expensive.

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Lennon Wall on a busy bridge

By now everyone in Hong Kong and beyond has heard about the Lennon Walls, set up in various parts of the city for the expression of most recent dissatisfaction with the government.

The original one is in Admiralty along the concrete staircase by Legco building and on the overhead bridge but since then, these walls of post it notes have sprung up in underground passes and pedestrian walkways, designed to attract maximum attention from the passers by.

In Wan Chai, there’s a Lennon Wall on the pedestrian bridge linking the mtr station to Immigration building. Not everyone stops to take a look because the crowd is presently focused on getting to the book fair at the convention centers.

It’s literally moving waves of people. They might be trying to get in these few days before the weekend when the wave of protestors plan to visit.

Trees of Hong Kong and Southern China

To help me identify the trees of Wan Chai a little better, I decided to attend the talk by Sally Grace Bunker and Richard Saunders at the Royal Geographical Society.

They were introducing their book which was a culmination of almost eight years of work by Sally. She’s a trained but largely self taught botanical artist, who depicts the full loveliness of the tree and it’s various functional parts. It reminds me very much of the work by William Farquhar (who drew a tree very much loved by me).

Some scenes:

Autographing the books
Full house
A glass of wine before the talk

It was a good session, full house with rapt attention and lots of questions. Both speakers gave a very personal and passionate speech about their involvement in the project and in their own areas of interest. The slides they presented were insightful and highlighted the work that had yet to be done.

My only issue with the book is it’s size. It’s a huge heavy hard copy that is good for the library or the coffee table. But most of us don’t have the space to be keeping reference material. So one question that was posed to them was whether there would be a “travel version” of the book. Sally didn’t dismiss the idea…

They’ll be speaking at a few more events to promote their book so just google to see when the next event is.

大游行 and recent scenes

It’s impossible to live in Wan Chai and avoid or resist seeing and experiencing the energy of the latest civic movement.

Here are a few sights and sounds which show the more peaceful side than what’s often on the main pages of the news.

Taken last Sunday 16/06/2019

and it continues…

And suddenly it’s gone

Demolition is so discreet these days. None of those explosives, messy hauling trucks that remind you of a mine site.

Within a brief instance of a few weeks, a building that was an architectural icon for its time and stood for decades disappeared to make way for a shiny new one.

All that’s left is a whisper of a memory to what was there before. And an old blog post. I hope the new building connected to 28 Hennessy doesn’t disappoint.

Johnston Road Post Office Reopens in a swanky new location

Suddenly the post office on Johnston scratched off their logo and bagged up their post boxes. Up was a sign the size of an A3 with font size 14 print announcing the closure of the branch.

All the residents of Wanchai walking by stopped to take a look.

Where’s it gone?

According to the sign posted, it’s now up on the first floor in the brand new One Hennessy.

I’ve not been in it yet, but I’m guessing it won’t be quite as convenient to access.

Creative Tourism- can Wanchai culture be manufactured? A letter to District Councillor Clarisse Yeung

Dear Clarisse,

I read this article in the SCMP with great intrigue. The Tourism commission wants to promote Wan Chai as a creative community by installing instagram-able art walls.

Ignore the directional landmarks indicated, it’s incorrect!

Thank you Tourism Commission. I do like the idea of having beautiful walls to look at. I’ve admired the art work on the sidewalk of Stone Nullah Lane, the mural that suddenly appeared beside Tang Shiu Kin Hospital and the flowers that now decorate the overhead bridge to immigration tower from the mtr does make the walk seem less concrete and more relaxing (you can spot the animals in the changing landscape).

Images of flowers replace on bare concrete

But is that really it?

In the article our Wanchai District Councillor Clarissa Yeung opined that the walls may go unnoticed by the residents and some residents don’t even like the art they see (despite the specific local cultural significance attributed to the motif). Can you please tell us what alternative proposals you have suggested to the Tourism Commission? Anything utilitarian? Residents want what they can use… for example well maintained, covered walkways and pavements (to protect us from being poked by umbrellas and having to maneuver around trees or potholes), smoke free zones so we don’t have to keep waving as we walk, barrier free access to all buildings (and bigger lifts or ramps for the existing public infrastructure), lower streetside pollution.

How about these suggestions Clarisse? You can say you heard it from a Wan Chai resident.

1) Pedestrian Car-free Day on Sundays on Johnston and Lockhart Road. To allow us residents to properly admire the art and enjoy the neighbourhood. If the authorities doubt how useful pedestrianized areas are, please look at the crowd on Lee Tung Avenue admiring the art there. Open up the streets for everyone to come to Wan Chai to enjoy. This would allow residents from all walks of life to meet and build connections. Trams can still operate and bring a bike or scooter? (Mostly, kids have scooters). A Sunday morning once a month from 6-11am would be very well received, other top world cities have done this.

2) How about Pop-up playgrounds? If you want the tourists and locals to bring families into the city to spend and stay, this would be an awesome project for the district. Instead of exhibits that cannot be touched (again, see Lee Tung Avenue which rarely allows anyone to touch anything…yawn *boring*…or high class Art Basel), how about getting an experiential artist who can design an installation and play spaces that will bring real lasting and fun memories to the next generation. Who brings the next generation? Well, this generation and very often, the one before. You’d be getting 3 generations which would be much more meaningful than the current exhibits. There’ll be a ton of social media sharing.

3) Force landlords who have commercial property sitting empty for more than 3 months to rent it to a cha chaan teng or convert into an indoor playroom. Ok, I admit this is a huge challenge but looking at empty “for rent” spaces while landlords wait for asset inflation creates just as much of a visual and featureless hole as art installations decorate one. (This would be a follow-on of the residential vacancy tax). The property next to the temple on Queens Road East facing Tai Wong East Street has been empty for almost a year and what a waste of space. There are many more to be seen as you walk down the street.

Wan Chai has a dearth of facilities for young children or moms and grandmas to get together. (Please do not suggest that the sitting out areas are appropriate or sufficient because they are not. Some are by busy polluted streets, others have benches at linear intervals that do not promote conversation and almost none are good in hot humid rainy weather).

The Stone Nullah art installation should remind the authorities to preserve more al fresco style casual restaurants or eateries. I’ve heard that St Francis Street is losing its only cha chaan teng very soon due to redevelopment. Locals and regular visitors to this 60-year old establishment will feel its loss, both for its nostalgic link to the past and its current popular menu. The red light district and its supporting establishments have their own means of advertising, public money need not go towards promoting it further.

Please share any other ideas you have with me in the comments section.

P.s. I’ve had to give advice and directions to tourists with families asking for the nearest playground and family friendly eating cafes. If you could get the Tourism Commission to put these into that fancy app, that may make it a lot more useful.

With reference to: Why Wan Chai is unlike any other place in Hong Kong – and it’s not just because of its sleazy red light district

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3006972/why-wan-chai-unlike-any-other-place-hong-kong-and-its-not

Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty