Many thanks to Georgiana Vines for her profile in the News Sentinel this morning! I am planning a tour for late May 2014 right now and am available to plan another one just for you and your group at the time of your choosing. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk! Zai jian (Bye!) Jean
After a lovely dinner it was time for the Beach Boys. Well, two of them, anyway: Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, who at least joined the Wilson family, Love and Al Jardine as early as 1965, plus four newbies. A guy sitting nearby said Brian Wilson had been in the band about six months ago when they played Hong Kong
but sounded so bad they invited him to leave. However, the Web says there was a rift after their recent 50th anniversary tour and Love/Johnston split from Wilson and Jardine. Whatever. The new, much younger, replacements sounded just like the originals and the 25-hit set list included not only all the BB songs I can think of plus some others from the era, including “California Dreaming” and “Barbara Ann” (or Bomperann, as I think of it), which just didn’t fit. The theater was probably only half full–young and old(er), Western and Asian, but exuberance made up for low numbers. One obviously overserved Western 40-something started it when he boogied down a side-center aisle and across the front and back a time or two. He had 100 times the rhythm Love did! Then dozens more joined him and from then on we were all on our feet. A guy ran onstage to shake Johnston’s hand and was hustled off but when two babes entered from stage right they were allowed to groove to the music. Discrimination?!
Overall a very good but not great concert, lasting just 70 minutes. (Remember, top-40 tunes in those days were only about three minutes long!) The new guys had the sound nailed,though, and it was something to write home about, literally!
[Dear readers, I'm sorry about bad formatting, but this is taking me so long to do that I'll take the easy way out and bunch up all the photos at the end of the posts or wherever they land. Just don't have the time to fuss with appearance via my iPad when HK is calling! Sorry, and thanks for your indulgence.]
My tourist goal accomplished, I didn’t feel guilty about enjoying several of the dozens of casinos and resort hotels. It’s easy to get around for free by strategically using casino shuttle busses. From the Ferry Terminal I took the Wynn bus from Taipa Island north to the main
section of Macau over a bridge that reminded me of the one across Lake Ponchartrain, and arrived just as the enormous golden tree emerged from beneath a dome covered with astrological signs, turned multi colors, and sank beneath the dome again. I have a five- minute video of it that someday I’ll try to post on YouTube. There’s a dancing fountain show
there too that I’m sorry I missed because it doesn’t start until 5 p.m. and this was just early afternoon.
The Wynn, which is very similar to its sister in Las Vegas, is walking distance to Senado Square and from there to the (unfortunately over-commercialized) warren of lanes that take you gradually up a slope to the steps to St. Paul’s. I had spent a few minutes at the helpful
tourist info center at the terminal where they told me that the Sintra (yes, I thought at first,”How interesting, there’s a hotel named after old Frank though they misspelled it”–not) runs a shuttle back south to Taipa Island and a sister property right across the street from my
concert venue, the Venetian, so I hopped on board and cruised on down. Took a look at the City of Dreams and Hard Rock Casinos before going to the Venetian. The exterior looks like the Doges Palace with a smallish Rialto Bridge over a moat/canal where gondolas are moored. Inside, though, it’s all Vegas, (except for the Sistine Chapel-decorated main hallway) as are all the others I saw today.
Macau, a former colony of Portugal which “returned” to China two years after Hong Kong left British sovereignty and went back in 1997, is teeming with East and South Asian tourists and gamblers. I heard more Mandarin than Cantonese on the climb to the famous ruins of St. Paul’s and saw very few Europeans or North Americans. The climate is great for the many palm, palmetto and banyan trees that line the streets, humid and in the 70s today. Colonial Portuguese buildings downtown are a nice contrast to the skyscrapers and apartment blocks of Hong Kong, and it’s nice to see names of streets and other signage in that language.
If you’ve seen any photo of Macao at all, it probably was the facade of St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in 1602 but destroyed in a fire 232 years later.
Behind it are some archaeological remnants of the foundation plus a chilly, quiet, crypt down about 25 steps at the back. I jumped when I looked closely at the walls and saw displays of bones on shelves. These are remains of “Japanese and Vietnamese martyrs.”
On a lighter note, returning to Senada Square I noticed a couple of Turkish guys making…Turkish ice cream by hand. It looked intriguing and I was hot so I bought a cone and this is a sensational discovery! It’s the most dense ice cream I’ve ever had and somehow was a bit chewy, as if it had a little Turkish taffy in it. Tasty and refreshing! I need to open a franchise at home!
Spring comes to the Flower Market!
Weather forecasters in Hong Kong seem to have as much difficulty with accuracy as those in East Tennessee do. Instead of rain, happily it turned out overcast with some sun and in the upper 70s as I walked down Nathan Road to the Star Ferry this morning. I started counting the number of offers for tailoring and copy watches after the first couple. The eventual tally was tailors-7, “Fauxlexes”-1. My favorite bookstore is on the little road just behind the Hyatt, but that hotel is no longer there, supplanted by yet another vertical luxury mall. Swindon’s was still in its place, though, and instead of stocking up as I used to do when Hong Kong was the last stop on my tours, I wrote down titles and later, I must confess, put them on my Amazon wishlist.
A must-do is sailing the Star Ferry from Kowloon to the island itself, so I cruised to the terminal where I was startled to see it awash in anti-Falun Gong banners and displays. FLG is a tai chi-qigong-style spiritual and exercise belief that startled the Chinese leadership in 1999 when thousands of followers surrounded the seat of government in Beijing, just sitting in silence. Since then the group has been demonized by the central government and evidently there’s propaganda afoot here in HK as well. I asked a young lady at the tourism office at the terminal what most HK folks think about the publicity and she said nobody cares.
Bussed to Stanley Market in search of something a friend wanted me to get and while unsuccessful in that task, I did find a book (which I bought) called, “The Leisurely Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong,” which sounded like it was written just for me. Most itineraries are two hours long with starts and ends accessible by public transportation, so I’ll try one or two tomorrow.
Happy Year of the Snake!
This spring is the 20th anniversary of my moving to Beijing to live for what turned out to be two years, following five earlier tours to China. To celebrate, I’m making my 50+ trip from March 18-April 15 2013 to check up on things. My itinerary is flexible, but as of now I plan to start with about five days in Hong Kong and cruise over to Macau, which I’ve never visited in all this time.
Then I’ll fly to Yunnan Province, to the far southwest, to revisit Xishuangbanna, which is on the border with Laos and VERY hot already this season–temps expected to top 100 while I’m there. I visited this area of ethnic minorities in 1990 and I’m bracing for a shock of the region’s development since then. I’ll be joining a small group on a (hopefully) easy trek to some minority villages through tea farms where the famous Pu’er variety is grown. Maybe I’ll get to see some elephants, and definitely will see some amazing flora in this tropical botanist’s delight.
Then I’ll let China’s excellent train system take me to Zhengzhou, in roughly the center of the country, so I can revisit the Shaolin Monastery where Kung Fu originated. I visited here many years ago but we were unable to see performances and practices because of a mixup (In China? Imagine that!) and I’ve wanted to return ever since. Back on the train again to Shanghai on the east coast where I’ll visit with some old friends made through the travel business and finally to Beijing for about a week. I plan to take one of the “bullet trains” on this leg, which run reputedly from 250-350 kph and cut the travel time from about 16 hours to five. In Beijing I plan to take some cooking classes so I’ll be able to make those hand pulled noodles you may have seen demonstrated.
I have subscribed to a VPN on my iPad and hope it allows me to break through the Great Firewall to update this website and to get on Facebook and major news sites, which are banned in the Middle Kingdom. Here’s hoping for some fun adventures to share with you!