Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walking Tour: The Races at Happy Valley

This week's Hong Kong tour covers a popular event: the horse races at Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island. Every Wednesday night gamblers and tourists gather to place bets and cheer on their favorite horses. During the weekend there are also races at the Shatin Racecourse in the New Territories. This one of the few places in Hong Kong where gambling is legal, and last Wednesday I decided to check it out.

I took a taxi to Happy Valley and entered by the public entrance. Jockey Club members have their own entrances around the corner.

The space inside the entrance was full of promoters, beer tents and spectators.

The stadium seating stretches along one side of the racecourse, and there are private boxes and restaurants above it.

There were dance performances to help pass the time between the races.

The Happy Valley skyline provided an impressive backdrop for the event.

We explored the starting gate area...

...and checked out the horses that were warming up on the track.

This is the one I chose to bet on.

He wasn't the winner though... I was out 20 HKD (less than 3 USD).

Some people take the betting very seriously.

We were just there to enjoy the atmosphere.

We still followed our horses' results closely though.

And cheered them on as they raced.

We explored the stadium in between the races.

It got pretty crowded by the middle of the evening.

And there were some serious racing fans following the stats.

Even though I didn't win anything... was a lively way to spend the evening.

Thanks for joining me on another Hong Kong tour. You can visit the tab at the top of the page for more Hong Kong walking tours.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bookspotting: Week 44

This has been a highly successful bookspotting week. For that I credit my new smartphone, an HTC Desire
S, which has turned out to be really convenient for recording book sightings on the spot. I saw a woman on the MTR reading a Jodi Piccoult book, although I couldn't tell which one it was. I saw one man in a coffee shop reading How to Win Friends and Influence People and another man reading a hefty paperback that could pass for The Brothers Karamazov or The Magic Mountain. I sat next to a woman reading a Paulo Coehlo book. A man walking through the MTR station was carrying a Tom Clancy paperback. I spotted a teenager on the train reading a movie tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly on the cover. I saw another teenager carrying Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 through another MTR station. I saw a man carrying A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin on the covered walkway near the Central post office. This might be the most books that I have seen (and remembered) since I started bookspotting around Hong Kong.

I also attended the launch of Access: Thirteen Tales by Xu Xi at City University, where I saw many copies of the book of the moment.

What are people reading in your town this week?

Saturday, November 26, 2011



Prolific Hong Kong author Xu Xi has just released a new collection of short stories through a new Hong Kong press: Signal 8, an imprint of Typhoon Media. I am currently doing some voluntary work with Signal 8 thanks to a conversation with Xu Xi herself. It's an exciting opportunity to get some extra publishing experience as I pursue my goal of working as an editor full-time. Meanwhile, I get to read some very cool new books and help to promote them. Because of my affiliation with Signal 8, I won't write about ACCESS in my usual review format.

The collection explores different kinds of tales: tall tales, old wives' tales, fairy tales, circular tales and beastly tales. A majority of the characters are women, and they struggle with family dynamics, aging, relationships, and the balance between independence and duty. Xu Xi's characters are usually mobile, international Chinese searching for an identity in a global context. The tales feel open-ended in the same way that real life is open-ended. She leaves her characters with unanswered questions and unrealized resolutions, while creating compelling pictures of the way people live and struggle for access. My favorite tales were Famine, To Body, To Chicken, and Lady Day, which is a provocative masterpiece.

This is a thought-provoking, thoroughly modern collection that I recommend without hesitation.


On Friday evening, Xu Xi officially launched ACCESS at City University. She read selections from four of the tales (Famine, Access, Iron Light and To Body, To Chicken) to a fully engaged audience. Xu Xi has a powerful reading voice, and it is always a privilege to hear her in person. She discussed her work with the publisher of Signal 8 Press and answered many questions from the audience, which included students of Xu Xi's MFA program as well as local writers and academics.

Xu Xi spoke about the sprawling nature of her tales as opposed to tight, classic short stories. She is interested in creating whole worlds, even though short tales may only capture a slice of those worlds. A student asked about the writing life in Hong Kong, and she acknowledged that it can be a difficult place to be a writer, although the literary scene has improved since she first began pursuing her writing career. She discussed the future of the publishing industry, and she is interested in exploring the possibilities of ebooks by writing shorter works and essays to supplement her long career as a novelist.


My reviews of novels HONG KONG ROSE and HABIT OF A FOREIGN SKY


The Kindle edition is $8.99 (in the US) and the paperback is $15.95 on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walking Tour: Cat Street

Welcome back to Walking Tour Wednesday! This week's tour takes you to a popular tourist stop that retains a lot of old-fashioned charm. Cat Street is known for its eclectic collection of antique shops and souvenir stalls.

Start out at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.

Directly across the street from the temple you can see the top of Ladder Street.

Walk down the Ladder Street steps.

You'll see a street to your left.

Turn into Upper Lascar Row, also known as Cat Street.

You'll find stalls selling a motley collection of Chinese knick-knacks.

Some of the shops are closed on Sundays...

...but many will be open for business.

Along this street...

The shops sell antiques...

...and artwork of all kinds.

You'll see plenty of mass-produced souvenirs outside the shops.

Make your way along the street...

...and see what treasures you can find.

There are smaller lanes with more shops branching off from the main street.

There are scrolls hanging everywhere.

Pick out some little gifts for your family...

...or consider an investment-size piece for your living room...

...or buy something scary for your front door.

I like the lights...

...and the colors of this street.

Keep walking past the many antique shops...

...and market stalls.

Consider a detour to the right, toward Queen's Road West...

... or to the left, towards Hollywood Road.

You're nearing the end of the street.

You can stop for a bowl of noodles and a pot of tea...

...or walk on past one of the last shops on the left.

The wares become less decorative and more functional...

...and you can see the evidence of their creation by the street.

The doors are ordinary now.

And there's one last curio shop on your right.

You've reached the western end of Upper Lascar Row.

Turn left and walk up the steps.

Before you know it...

You'll find yourself back on Hollywood Road.

I hope you enjoyed this Cat Street tour. Come back next week for pictures of a day at the races!

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