Walking around Central Hong Kong on a Sunday morning, possibly in search of happiness

When I read the following passage on Francois Lelord’s book, Hector and the Search for Happiness, I knew he was referring toa familiar sight in Hong Kong where domestic workers gather in parks and practically every available space, mostly around the Central business district, to enjoy their day off.  It was my first tiime to see for myself the convergence of these workers on a Sunday morning amidst the rather fancy backdrop of massive buildings and adverts for luxury goods.

Most of these workers are Filipinas coming from various regions and talking in varied dialects and accents, and it is during this one day off in the week where they meet amongst friends, sometimes making calls to families, trade gossips and stories, and share food that remind them of home.


Hong Kong CentralHector began sipping his large coffee and watching the entrance to the tower.

And he saw something he’d seen several times before when he came to his neighbourhood: a group of Chinese women had spread an oilcloth out on the ground and were sitting on it in a circle, like schoolchildren having a picnic. on closer inspection, Hector noticed that they weren’t exactly like Chinese women; they were in general slightly shorter, and quite slender and dark-skinned. They seemed to be  enjoying themselves, continually chatting and laughing. He’d seen several groups like that when he came to his neighbourhood, with their oilcloths spread out beside the entrance to the towers, under the footbridges or anywhere that gave shelter from the rain, but always outside the buildings.



Hector wondered whether they got together like that in order to practice some new religion. He would have liked to know what it was, perhaps the same one the old monk practised, because, like him, they laughed a lot.

… There were also westerners like Edouard, and Hector tried to guess where they came from just from the way they looked. No doubt they got it wrong a few times, but since he couldn’t check he didn’t know, and it amused him, and from time to time he laughed to himself.

Edouard’s colleagues didn’t look amused at all as they left the towers, they looked tired, and some of them were staring at the ground as if weight down by worries. When the group of them emerged, talking amongst themselves, they looked very serious and sometimes it seemed as if they were cross with one another. Some looked so preoccupied, so caught up in their own thoughts that Hector almost felt like going up and prescribing pills for them. This cafe would have been a perfect place to establish himself as a psychiatrist if he had been planning to stay longer.

Finally, he saw Edouard, and he felt glad, because it’s always more heartening to see afriend in a country than simply to come across him at home, even if you are slightly annoyed with him. Edouard looked very pleased to see Hector, and he immediately ordered a beer to celebrate…

Central Hong Kong

…He asked Edouard who the groups of women were that he’d seen everywhere sitting on their oilcloths. Edouard explained that they were cleaners, and that they all came from the same country, a group of small, very poor islands quite a long way from China. They work in this city (and other cities in the world) so tat they could send money to their families, who’d stayed behind.

‘But why do they gather here on those oilcloths?’ asked Hector.

Hong Kong Central


‘Because they’ve nowhere else to go,’ replied Edouard. ‘Today is Sunday, their day off, so they can’t stay at work and they don’t have enough money to sit in cafes, so they meet here and sit on the ground.’

Edouard also explained that as their country was made up of small islands, women from particular islands or villages often sat together, and it was almost as if all their oilcloths formed a map of their impoverished archipelago in the midst of these very wealthy towers.

Hong Kong Central


Hector watched the women who had nowhere else to go and who were laughing, he watched Edouard’s colleagues coming out of the tower looking very serious and he told himself that the world was a very wonderful or a very terrible place — it was difficult to say which.

When they left the cafe, Hector wanted to go over and speak to these women, because he felt that it was very important for his investigation. He walked towards a group of them, and as they saw him approach they all stopped talking and smiling. It occurred to  Hector that they might think he was going to ask them to move along. But people usually quickly sensed that Hector meant well, and when they heard hilm speak in English they began laughing again. He told them that he’d been watching them for a while and that they seemed very happy. He wanted to know why.

They looked at one another, chuckling, and then one of them said, ‘Because it’s our day off!’

And another added, ‘Because we’re with our friends.’

‘Yes that’s right,’ the others said, ‘it’s because we’re with our friends.’ And even with their families, because some of them were cousins.

Hector asked tem what their religion was, and it turned out that it was the same as Hector’s! This dated back to the time, long ago, when people of Hector’s religion had occupied their islands, because at that time they tended to think that everything belonged to them.

But they didn’t seem to hold it against Hector because all said goodbye to him smiling and waiving.

From Hector and the Search for Happiness  by Francois Lelord. The book is being translated into film, starring Simon Pegg as Hector.

Now, you can add videos to your Instagram

Just when you thought oversharing with pictures wasn’t enough, the latest update on popular app, Instagram, now features videos, presumably to compete with Vine.

“The new feature is video. It’s neat: Now you can record video on Instagram. I wish I could say more, but that’s kind of it. When you update the app on your phone, you’ll find a Record button. To do video, hold that button down. You can capture multiple clips, but the total length of your video is capped at 15 seconds long. Why 15 seconds? Because Vine, the near-identical video app that Twitter launched in January, lets you record 6 seconds total, and Facebook wanted to do something 150 percent better.*

“That’s a joke, but I worry it’s one Facebook takes seriously. In the past, I’ve praised Facebook’s talent for quickly, deftly stealing other people’s good ideas. It copied subscriptions from Twitter, automatic groups from Google Plus, check-ins from Foursquare, and created versions of Snapchat and (before purchasing it) Instagram. Nobody should be surprised that Facebook has now cloned Vine, too.”

On Slate: Attack of the Clones

Taking the Cable Car and Walking around Ngong Ping Village

Ngong Ping 360 Big Budda

We were blessed with clear weather on the day we scheduled a trip up Ngong Ping Village via cable car. The trip takes 25 minutes each way, and it is best to get to the cable car station as early as possible to avoid the crowds of tourists lining up for tickets. Otherwise, you may opt to purchase tickets in advance.

Ngong Ping Cable Car
The crowd waiting for their turn. 

Ngong Ping Cable Car
Shades, sunblock, and hats do come in handy when visiting on a sunny day.

Ngong Ping 360
Different ways to say “Welcome”.

There are two options for cable car rides: by standard cabins costs HK$135 return, while taking the “crystal” cabin, which has a glass floor, will set you back HK$213. This page has more information about ticket prices.

Ngong Ping Cable Car, Tung Chung Bay
Due to the number of people lining up, we had to share a cabin with other guests. However, we got  lucky to be sharing it with a nice family from Singapore and avoided the rowdy kids from… uhmmm… somewhere else!

Ngong Ping Cable Car
Passing by towers always freaks me out, for some reason.

Ngong Ping Cable Car, Lantau Island
Lantau Island

Ngong Ping Cable Car, HKIA
You can see airplanes landing and taking off from Hong Kong International Airport Between
Towers 2B and 3. 

Ngong Ping Cable Car
Tung Chung Bay

At Ngong Ping Village

The village has a number of restaurants and souvenir shops…plus a Starbucks and
a Subway branch.

Ngong Ping, Switzerland Cable Car
My favourite at the International Cable Car gallery.

A lucky tiger (cat?) installation at the entrance of one of the many shops inside the village

Where I come from, these warning signs would only be treated as suggestions. Glad to know some rules are still being followed somewhere else.

Dawg’s chillin’ by the gates

The walk towards Po Lin Monastery

Much as I wanted to see the Tian Tian Buddha up close, I wasn’t too keen on climbing 240 steps.  Some other time, maybe, when I’m back on my fitness routine.

Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping Village
I wish I had my DSLR so I could take better pictures. This was as good as I could get with
my point-and-shoot.

Vanity, Narcissism, or Hubris?

Some people do live in a bubble, and maybe need to get a good, expensive haircut.

Source: Vanity Fair

“Robbie” would be Robbie Antonio, a 36-year-old real-estate developer and voracious art collector who has spun a golden web and ensnared some of the world’s top creative names for two eye-poppingly ambitious projects.

The first is the Manila home, which also serves as a museum for his ever expanding art collection, with works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon, and Jeff Koons. The building, by Koolhaas and his team at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), is referred to by the name Antonio gave it, Stealth. Its cost—upwards of $15 million—is in somewhat stark contrast to the average annual Filipino-family income of $4,988. Indeed, the building, under construction on a small lot in Manila’s most exclusive neighborhood, has been kept largely quiet until now. It’s a series of boxes stacked together in an irregular pattern, with scooped-out windows that call to mind Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum, all wrapped in a charcoal-colored concrete-and-polyurethane “skin”; the roof features a pool flowing into a dramatic waterfall.

Antonio calls the second project Obsession: a series of portraits of himself by some of the world’s top contemporary artists, including Julian Schnabel, Marilyn Minter, David Salle, Zhang Huan, members of the Bruce High Quality Foundation, and Takashi Murakami.

So far, two dozen portraits are under way or completed, with nearly $3 million spent on them. Antonio is aiming for 35 in the series by the end of the year, all of which will be housed in a special gallery within Stealth, open only to invited guests. The level of effort he’s put into Obsession and Stealth over the last two years “tells you about my personality—going to extremes, down to the minutest detail,” he says.

 On Vanity Fair: The Museum of Me

Also: This piece that looks like it was never checked by a proofreader is better read while listening to a Carly Simon classic.