Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Of cannons and teacups

Three stops today and all involved museums. First a Folk Museum, which involved an ethnic Chinese Hakka house. Then a museum, which is a converted fort with lovely views of Hong Kong, and then a Museum that dealt with tea ware. And if you thought tea ware isn’t interesting, well then think again!

The Law Uk (uk means house) Folk Museum is essentially two houses – one of which was shut when I visited – which tell the Hakka story. The Hakkas are ethnic Chinese who settled in Hong Kong but by the 1960’s, all their villages were eaten up by urban redevelopment. This house is a remnant of the Hakka's material culture. Ps, trivial fact: Chow Yun-Fat is Hakka :)

It’s not much to look at although they did have great signage and literature relating to the museum.

Inside the museum they have artefacts depicting household items. Literally the two small windows you see are the only windows in the whole house. This was apparently to guard against thieves. Interestingly in two of the rooms there were lofts which were used for storage and as bedrooms for children.

On the right is the staircase leading up to the loft

In fact looking at the whole area, it is easy to see how looming house estates can overtake identity and culture.

These buildings look squeezed in, don't they?

My next stop was the Museum of Coastal Defence. I had been recommended this museum not on account of the artifacts but because of the wicked views of Hong Kong. The museum is itself startling – looming over the visitor and greeting us with tanks and cannons.

A more unlikely Nina I haven't seen

The Viewing Platform was shut unfortunately but I managed to get these views.

The haze corrupts most views quite well :(

The Museum’s name is self-explanatory and it dealt mainly with how Hong Kong protected itself through the centuries. But one of the more interesting things I read about was an amazing adventure which involved the daring escape of 50 British Navy men with a one-legged Chinese Admiral when the Japanese occupied Hong Kong. That exhibition titled 'Escape from Hong Kong - Road to Waichow' was like a page turner. Each panel did the job of being the ‘omg, what’s going to happen next’ bit in your head. And believe it or not, the descendants of all the marines that escaped put together this exhibition to commemorate their bravery and courage.

The 2nd interesting thing was that Japan apparently fought a war with Russia during WWII. I mean you consider the length and breadth of that tiny little country and you wonder how on earth did they manage! In the end, it really does come down to the people, doesn't it?

The afternoon’s heat was getting to me and I headed out towards cooler climes, my hotel. But I had promised myself at the start of the day that I would finish the Museum of Teaware today. Boy am I glad that I went there. Tea seems to be a big pre-occupation here, much like in India. The museum had a video, which demonstrated how tea should be poured aside from the pictorial representations. Did you know you were supposed to use a bamboo whisk to prepare the tea?

And check out the insanely creative teaware I saw at the museum.

They have competitions to select the best ones every year believe it or not! There were such pretty tea cups for sale – my practical side had to fight very firmly with my shopaholic side :)

I ended up my day with some very fine duck at one of the better restaurants in Central (somewhat like South Mumbai where all the businesses are). Actually, last night was an extravagant night gastronomically - you name the meat, I ate it :)

The night lights in Kowloon are flickering away merrily...night is truly here.

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