香港 Snapshots: Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong was such a fantastic experience; I had visited before but I’ve found that blogging and taking pictures of the world around me when I travel really makes me engage with what I’m seeing and as a result I feel like this time I actually experienced the city. When you take pictures of a place you really pay attention to what’s going on, and thinking of what you’d like to write about forces you to think about what you’re seeing. I definitely think this is a good way to travel; even if no one actually reads your blog about the place you visited, writing down what you did and carefully thinking about the place while you’re there gives you a better memory of it. I know that my mother would tell me this is why she forced me to write a holiday diary when I was younger, but for me it’s the fact that other people will potentially see it that adds the drive to properly record my trip.

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I have already written the obvious posts; the posts about the Buddhist tourism spots in Hong Kong and the amazing food, but I haven’t gone through the rest – we were there for 10 whole days so we did a fair amount of exploring. Here are some ‘snapshots’ of various things we saw and did while we were there, some are mini posts in themselves and some are just single pictures that I felt like sharing as part of my experience.


You may have noticed in my previous posts that we were visiting Hong Kong around Chinese New Year (19th February this year). This was great but also an inconvenience; there were loads of New Year themed decorations around but as New Year is a public holiday in which people visit family, most shops and restaurants took 4 days off.

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There were sheep themed displays in most shop windows, the market was selling New Year’s decorations, and there was an impressive Chinese Zodiac animals display in the IFC building. Half of the animals were in one main display and the rest were scattered about the mall. We hunted them all down. The last one we were looking for was the dog, as some of our group were born in the year of the dog. When we finally found the dog it was a poodle. Yes, a poodle. I’m sorry if you love poodles but they are not the majestic dog of the Chinese Zodiac (for the record I’m’ a rooster, not a dog, so there is no bias there). I think the pig was my favourite, so big and fluffy looking. Pigs aren’t normally fluffy but they certainly suit it. I also liked how the rat was riding the Ox, as it was in the original story.

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Chinese New Year in Hong Kong was a lot like being in the UK (or other western countries) during Christmas, the holiday atmosphere was palpable, and much like our New Year there were of course fireworks. We went to watch them on top of the IFC building (we did spend a lot of time there for some reason). Sadly there was very little wind on that day and the fireworks created a smoke cloud that swallowed the later fireworks, making the display a brightly coloured cloud. Enjoyable but not as impressive as it could have been.


We visited a market on one of our first days in Hong Kong. The market filled both sides of the street, creating a narrow path through the stalls. There were a number of New Year decorations as well as ‘copy’ brand watches, key rings with car logos (presumably so you can pretend to own whatever car you want without actually spending the money), fans, traditional clothing, a paint-by-numbers stall, and a huge variety of other wares.

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I bought a card for my mums birthday at the spectacular pop-up card stall (said card has since been destroyed by a poodle, might explain my distaste for the poodle statue) and as a group we got paint-by-numbers canvasses to try in the evenings. I found that Hong Kong markets are also one of the last places you can buy iPhone 4 cases, a blessing as mine had died (I dropped it…). The market was definitely a good place to grab cheap goods, very good for souvenirs too.

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On one of our adventures we found a statue of the chief manager of HSBC between 1870 and 1902, Sir Thomas Jackson. Interesting to see as HSBC has been in the news of late for helping wealthy people avoid tax. Not sure if Sir Thomas would be pleased with this criticism of his bank; he helped build the bank into the main bank in Asia. He became known as ‘the architect’ for the work he did for the bank, so it seems right that he got a statue for his efforts. He was also made a Baronet for his contribution to the bank.

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Hong Kong was a fantastic city, full of colour, food and history. I would certainly go back there again and I would recommend it to anyone visiting East Asia. Not quite China, with notes of the UK and it’s own unique atmosphere, there’s nowhere exactly like Hong Kong.

京都 Snapshots: December

I have had quite a busy December in terms of work and socialising and as such I don’t have a great deal of snapshots. Most of what I’ve been up to has slotted neatly into single blog posts. However I do have some tiny temples left over as well as some pictures of the snow for your enjoyment. My third month in Japan was great and I was lucky enough to experience snow in Kyoto twice!

Takoyakushido Eifukuji Temple 蛸薬師堂 妙心寺

This temple is located in a busy shopping area near Sanjo. The area has many different shops and is also covered, which was great because the snow and ice made it very hard to walk outside. Though the snow looked beautiful, walking around in it was a different story. Walking to university I saw a tragic sight: a man was walking his dog down a very icy street. The street was like a rough ice-rink, I was sliding everywhere and I was worried I might slip into the ditch at the side of the road. The man’s dog was not doing so well, falling over quite a bit, but the man kept pulling the dog onwards. As I carefully navigated my way around them I realised that the dog only had one front leg, making walking on the ice impossible. The poor dog kept getting up and trying its best, as dogs are animals that do not give up. Thankfully soon after the owner crossed to the non-icy side of the road (the sun had melted the ice) and the dog had some respite. Poor dog.  Basically, walking around outside was not a great idea in that weather but I digress.

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The temple appeared small from the outside and I thought it would be a simple matter of walking around a small area and getting my stamp done, but actually there was a narrow corridor back to a courtyard where there were some statues and another place to pray. It is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddhist God of healing.

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This temple was founded in the 13th Century, with the official name of Eifuku-ji. It got its second name of Takoyakushido a few hundred years later. The temple had been known to the people as Takuyakushido, where ‘taku’ means marsh, denoting the area where it stood. Tako means Octopus, and this is the tale of the octopus temple.

There was a monk studying at the temple named Zenko whose mother was very sick. He tried to nurse her back to health but nothing worked. She told him that she remembered eating octopus in her childhood and said that maybe if she had some she would get better. Zenko, being a Buddhist monk, was not allowed to buy living things to eat, but he was so desperate to save his mother that he took a wooden box to the market and bought octopus. As he carried the box back to the temple people grew suspicious and demanded to know what was inside. Zenko, unable to refuse, prayed to the god of healing for help, and when he opened the box the octopus had transformed into the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra. People were amazed and praised him and soon after his mother was miraculously cured. Since that incident the temple was known as the Octopus temple, with the ‘taku’ in its name turning into ‘tako’.


Anyoji 安養寺

This is a very small temple in the same vicinity as Takoyakushido, just opposite an arcade. I thought it was a proper temple with stamps but it was quite confusing. There was a small portable shrine on the ground floor with all the information about the temple but we couldn’t find the actual official temple. It turned out to be up a rather treacherous flight of steps which were covered in snow. We made it up the steps and found the inner part of the temple with its statues and incense. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of this part, but there were several golden statues inside that made the stairs worth it.


This temple also has a foundation story. The story goes that the monks carved a lotus pedestal for the statue of the Buddha but it seemed as if it was going to break when the statue was placed. They ended up placing the lotus upside-down and it did not break. As a result the temple became famous for its upside-down lotus flower. This became a symbol of salvation for women; there was the belief that women, being inferior to men and stupid according to ancient Buddhism, had the lotuses in their minds upside-down and therefore could not enter the Pure Land. Women would go to pray for salvation at this temple in order to enter the Pure Land (or be reborn as a man, because then you are good to go).


Anyoji was founded in 1018 in Nara, but was moved to Kyoto in 1110. It was finally moved to its present location by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1580. I wouldn’t really recommend visiting it as there isn’t much to it,


Though it was hard to walk around outside I did take a brief trip around my local neighbourhood to look at the snow. The snow was so early that there were even a few red leaves left here and there. Here are a few pictures from that trip.

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That concludes my December snapshots. Somewhat short but hopefully next month I will have more to share with you. I visited some great temples yesterday so new posts on that coming soon!