The Beijing Subway (Part 1)

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Entry 入口 - Hong Kong MTR
Sign seen in the Hong Kong MTR

Besides that Beijing International Airport’s new Terminal 3 looking totally like a newer, fresher version of HK’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport (compare Hong Kong‘s to Beijing‘s), both the HK MTR (see photo above) and Beijing’s new subway (see photo below) Line 5 look strikingly similar in terms of design.

Beijing Subway Line 5
Beijing Subway

The doors and general design looks eerily similar to Hong Kong’s. A noticeable change is the font, whic was replaced with something like Helvetica, that totally does not match, or is a poor design choice.

Perhaps the reason for this was that HK-based MTR Corporation (the private corporation running the rapid train system in Hong Kong) was commissioned by the Beijing government to build its new subway lines, including the north-south Line 5.

Shenzhen’s rapid transit, also MTR-made, has all the feel of the MTR, but with an even worse font set, using just the alphabetical roman characters of the Chinese font… But after Hong Kong and Taipei, any other metro in the world would seem to lack something.

“Go Olympic! Go China!”: Chinese Canadians on Parliament Hill on April 13th

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Anyhow, closer to home, a large demonstration (in French) in support of the Beijing Olympics was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last Sunday, with demonstrators coming from across Eastern Canada. Zhimin Hu, also the host of CH Montreal’s Sino-Montreal Cantonese-language show, captured moments during the protest and posted it on YouTube. One of the Montreal organizers of this protest, Jacques Liu was present at the rally on Parliament Hill: “(Our organizers) think that 10,000 people came, but 6,000-7,000 is my estimate . The RCMP thinks it was 3,000, but there were already 60 buses just from Toronto, so it must be more than that.”

There you go. I am in Beijing now, behind the great firewall, blogging on a site that is blocked in China. Reportedly, it is not just because of keywords taken out of context, but maybe a sweep on other sites hosted on this IP, because it was blocked before I ever posted the thing I think would’ve been sniffed out. Besides, this website that you are currently reading is so low-consequence that probably no human sensor would waste his time blacklisting…

The Beijing Olympics in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Tramway colored Olympics 2008

While my hometown is hockey, my temporary one is Olympics. While not overly in-your-face to the point of seeing only that, the Beijing Olympics are quite noticeable in Hong Kong. It is a lot more than it is in Canada (more so because of the volume of advertisement here, I think) and the ads are not necessarily associated with commercial partnerships, as demonstrated in the previous picture of a Hong Kong tramway. Hong Kong people strongly support the Olympics (see opinion poll), and the feeling about the Olympics here is a far cry from the sentiment felt in Western countries.

Moreover, equestrian competitions for the 2008 Olympics are to be held in Hong Kong, for hygiene reasons, and probably also because of the territory’s long horse racing tradition.

I was in Taiwan last week for a week, and any Olympics-related advertisement was nowhere to be seen (but I did not go look for it).

I am about to board my flight for Beijing, so I might be able to tell you in a week how it compares!

Hong Kong by the numbers + what’s in the news here

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South China Morning Post - April 13, 2008

(See recent survey published by the HKU POP) ESWN brought my attention to this opinion poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong.

Other than that, what has been in the news lately?

– A queer histoire de moeurs involving the “Prince of White Flower Oil”, Stephen Gan, who was accused of sexual harassment on a local taxi driver.

Ma Ying-jeou. The president-elect of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is always in the news. His vice-president visited Hainan province in the PRC, and met with Chinese president Hu Jintao in what was called the highest summit meeting between the two sides since 1949. We predict that Ma will visit the Mainland sometime during his first term. Major stuff.

– The open space debate has been raging for weeks before I arrived in Hong Kong. Private developers (housing, commercial) control land that does not belong to them, but that is rather considered “public space”. We talk about plazas, the pavement, the street and all that, which is normally “public”, but is under the jurisdiction of private companies that define rules for them as if it were their own. Times Square, a popular shopping mall in Hong Kong, is at the middle of the media storm.

It’s a shame that I don’t have the time to take more photographs of the South China Morning Post, the most-respected English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. I think that their editorials and opinion texts are 100 times more balanced than what we read in North America or Europe, with respect to particular current events. We also do take things with grains of salt, and hope that this will not degenerate into a new episode of the Clash of Civilizations.

Looking for the Habs in Hong Kong (Part 2)

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The Keg, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Yesterday morning, for Game 2 of the Montreal-Boston NHL playoffs series, I again went to Lan Kwai Fong to see whether I could find a bar that was open, and showed ice hockey live… The answer was a simple no. The bar most often cited as showing hockey, often taped in advance, but sometimes live, if the game’s in afternoon, was The Keg, located up the slope on the LKF block. Unfortunately, just like most of the other establishment at this hour (8AM), its doors were closed shut, and noone was to be seen.

I left a message under the door, and the lady managing The Keg called me back. She said that the bar, of Canadian ownership, only opened for business at 5:30PM, and closed at 4AM. If there are games in the afternoon in North America, it was possible that they can be shown live… This is how it goes here for hockey! So, either receive it on some special satellite channel (don’t know how) or watch it illegally on the web!

I am flying to Beijing tomorrow, and will be looking there again. A few names have been mentioned, but who knows…

Parking ticket in Taipei

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Parking ticket in Taipei

A few days ago, I wondered how parking tickets were handed to offending motorists in a large Asian metropolis. And I had my answer the day after, while walking around in the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial area in central Taipei.

Parking ticket in Taipei

Parking ticket in Taipei

It was a middle-aged lady on a bicycle! Despite the ragged look of our supposed parking agent, she carried an electronic device like our local agents, and issued tickets that were very real.

I don’t know if it’s a standard practice there, but a regular bike is the perfect vehicle for such work in a crowded city like Taipei, which narrow streets would not suit very well cars that make frequent stops. A scooter probably would not have been an economical (or ecological) choice to cover small areas, especially to fine consecutively parked vehicles. If you look more closely into the agent’s basket, there was an EasyCard, Taipei’s transit chip card. The surgical mask: for health or privacy purposes?

Looking for the Habs in Hong Kong (Part 1)

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Canadiens in Central Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong from Taipei yesterday night, and woke up early this morning to try to catch live, Game 1 of the Habs’ series against the Bruins.

So, I decided to make my way to Lan Kwai Fong, otherwise known as the expats’ party area, near the business district of Central. Streets were expectedly empty (it was 8AM, after all), and I walked around the block, to find only one bar open (and open is used broadly). The lady there told me that they had live sports from America in the morning (not exactly this, but we assume it’s that), but it was more probable in the weekend.

I walked passed The Keg, which several expats mentioned to me as a place to go for ice hockey on TV, but was unfortunately closed, as seen on the picture.

Finally, I settled for a web broadcasting of the game. I struggled a little with PCCW’s hotspots, and went to Central Government Office down the street, where I used a free wifi hotspot provided by the local GovWifi program.

Laptop w/ streaming hockey game in HK

I shall look again on Sunday morning, for Game 2…

Taipei Day 1 and 2

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Taipei 101

Yesterday night, I met with my Montreal Taiwanese friend Frank’s cousin and his friends, university students in Taipei. We hung out at this cool (I’d say hipster) student cafe called the Mo!Relax in the area near the Taipower Building metro station, also located strategically between two or three of Taipei’s universities, I believe.

cafe mo!relax

It’s sort of what our Montreal’s Cagibi would be if it was in a bustling Asian metropolis of several more millions people. Like, not even, this is a bad bad comparison, as there is nothing quite similar to be found in Montreal. It’s just this small cafe with loud hip music, CDs of foreign and local indie bands lining the walls, university students behind their laptops, perhaps procrastinating. (Edit: obviously, there are cool student cafes in Mtl… Just have not been, cannot think of anything right now…)

Then, we hit the night market and had simple extremely cheap, somewhat healthier than what you’d get for equivalent price back home. It was, for two people, a snack of noodles, boiled vegetable with a hoisin/garlic sauce, and some tofu with the same sauce and green onions, for the equivalent of 4CAD (not everything is cheap, say at the cafe…).

Then, today, I ventured off to the biggest Eslite bookstore in town, located in a new area of Xinyi, where Taipei 101 is built. The “bookstore” in fact spans several stories and is probably like the big Barnes and Noble you find in New York (or Chapters in Toronto?). It’s really big. Each floor specializes in something, and one of them is the music store! They hold a lot of interesting products, and I got out of there with 60CAD worth of Taiwanese indie music CDs.

The Wall - Live House in Taipei

Then, I headed back to the university area, one stop further along the green line, at Gongguan. I stopped at The Wall, one of Taipei most famous live houses. It’s a basement, that also has a cafe, a tatoo parlour, a cute stuff store, and one of Taiwan’s most successful independent record label store called White Wabbit Records. I think that they mostly specialize in indie rock stuff. Among other things, WWR distribute stuff for Arts and Crafts in Taiwan (and in Asia?) and hold stuff from Stars, Emily Haines in store. I’ll write something more specific later.

Night market at Shilin

Finally, after getting lost between Gongguan and Taipower, I connected with the metro and jumped all the way to Shilin, beyond the river. After walking outside the station, thinking that I got off at the wrong place, because there was noone on the streets, I finally hit the stretch of alleyway where the Shilin Night Market starts. It is one of Taipei’s most famous, and I passed several people who weren’t locals. This one in particular is not only a food stall market, but also a market for clothing and cheap jewelry stuff. Also more on night markets later…

Now, if I can wake up in time tomorrow morning, you may catch me on 102.3 FM Radio Centre-Ville, at 10:30 PM EDT, when I call the Cantonese-language show to talk about my trip to Taiwan.

I am back in Hong Kong tomorrow evening. I’ve been following hockey, and may try to find a bar on Friday morning to listen to the first Habs playoffs game… Or hack my connection to watch it on the web!