Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Leap September and Occupy Central in Hong Kong

Leap September and Occupy Central in Hong Kong

If you’ve observed the Chinese Lunar Calendar, you may realize that there are 7 “leap months” every 19 years.  In 2014, we have a rare leap month of September.  How rare?  The last was 182 years ago, i.e. 1832, and the next being 2109, i.e. 95 years from now.  If you have a baby to be born in the leap month of Lunar September (October 24 – November 22), he or she would have to live to the age of 95 in order to celebrate a real birthday.

How Does a Leap Month Occur?

In China’s Lunar Calendar, Otsuki months has 30 days, Satsuki 29 days, 12 months a year of 354 days or 355 days, running short of about 11 days comparing to a normal calendar year3 years down, there will be a short of about one month. In the long term, there will be days of confused timing and strange phenomenon. To solve this problem, the intercalary” approach is being used. i.e. to add one month to that year, and that added month is called intercalary month or leap month.  Hence the leap year will have 13 months.  2014 is one of such leap years and has two Lunar Septembers.

How is the leap month being determined?

The Lunar Calendar has 24 solar terms, the odd number as "jie-qi", even as "zhong-qi." The odd and even appear alternately every 15 days.

According to regulations, each ordinary Lunar month must have a combination of jie-qi and zhong-qi. Only those months lacking one will be defined as the Leap Month.  For example, in 2014, Lunar September has only one solar term, and the next one falls on the 1st of Lunar October, hence September becomes a leap month, and there will be two Septembers in the Lunar Calendar.

In fact, there is scientific explanation for the rare occurrence of leap September. It is understood that due to the Earth's perihelion at different speeds and movement, the possibility of leap month occurs toward winter is very small.

According to statistics, the Lunar March, April, May, June, July has more occurrences. Leap November only occurred once in 1650, leap December and January had never happened.

Occupy Central - September 2014

The Implications of a Rare Leap September

Metaphysicians believe, "Chinese people are traditionally scared of rare phenomenon”, hence many seniors give red packets to their young family members as a means of safeguarding.

Mid Autumn Festival usually occurs in September of western calendar. However 2014 Mid Autumn falls on September 8th which is the earliest in the recent 38 years.  Why?  Due to a leap September.  The leap September also induces two Chung Yeung (double-nine) Festival.  According to tradition, people will only celebrate the first one and not the one on the leap month.  

Some Chinese believe if you were born in a leap month, and if that leap month occurs again ever in your life, you should go buy gold and that will bring you great fortune.

Many believe leap September brings disasters and political instability.  Believe it or not, ‘Occupy Central’ was kicked off on September 28 (September 5 in Lunar Calendar), although not in the Leap September.  I was forced to work from home yesterday, due to the road blocks.  Many shops in Central, Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Tsimshatsui were forced to close.  It’s really a great threat to the general public of Hong Kong. Well, no one knows how long this is going to last!

Others believe political instability may not be due to a leap September, it could be the effect of the year of Horse and Goat.  Looking back, China’s Cultural Revolution happened in 1966 (Horse) and Hong Kong’s Riot happened in 1967 (Goat).  Will you consider it as coincidence or superstition?

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Leap September and Occupy Central

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mid Autumn Festival 2014

It was the Mid Autumn Festival (August 15th in Chinese Calendar) yesterday, one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture. In tradition, Chinese celebrate the festival in three phases - Welcoming the Moon (August 14th), Admiring the Moon (August 15th) and Chasing the Moon (August 16th).

In Hong Kong, the public holiday falls on the Moon Chasing day.  It used to be on the Festival day, ie. 15th, but somehow the former colonial government said people admire the moon at night, they can still work in the day.  However people sleep late after admiring the moon, the following day became a holiday. And this has been practicing after the handover through now.

The Mid Autumn Festival is all about the moon, moon cake, lanterns and many other celebrations.  Let's talk about all these in Hong Kong.

The Moon - Although the moon looks the same anywhere in the world, but this was the one I took after dinner last night.  And I had a second chance of admiring her while on bed - she was shining on my bed through the window. Exactly what Li Bai said - 床前明月光.  It was a bit of luck, because admiring the moon all depends on weather.

Mid Autumn Moon in Hong Kong
September 8, 2014 - 8.16 pm

The Moon and Chang'e - the moon has always been a charming subject and hence there was a legend saying that Chang'e (a very beautiful woman) stole and ate some 'longevity pills' and flew to live in the moon.  In fact she was lonely there with only a rabbit friend.  Hence there was a poem saying 嫦娥應悔偷靈葯, 碧海青天夜夜深. (Chang'e would not stole the pills if she had a second chance.)

Chang'e Flew to the Moon - c.1500BC

The Rabbit Lanterns - this has been a forever symbol of Mid Autumn lanterns in Hong Kong.  When we were kids, we lit the rabbit with candles and we needed to handle with care as we were playing with real fire.  Nowadays there are electronic ones which are more safe.  Knowing that rabbit is the only friend of Chang'e in the moon, it is easy to understand why rabbit lantern is such an important symbol of the festival.

Rabbit Lanterns

Star Fruit Lanterns - there are several fruits more popular around the Mid Autumn Festival.  Star Fruit is one of them.  No wonder star-fruit-shape lanterns has also been one of the most traditional lanterns in Hong Kong.

Star Fruit Lanterns

Traditional Lanterns - although electronic lanterns are widely popular in Hong Kong, but it can never replace the traditional way we play with lanterns.  At home, we prefer to lighting lanterns with candles.  After all, it's more fun although we had to take extra care to look after them.

Traditional Lanterns

Moon Cake and Taro - what is the relation between moon cake and taro? 'Rich people eat moon cake, poor people eat taro'. What?  Is there such a rule?  Of course not, but in any society, there are rich people and poor people.  Somehow most Cantonese in Hong Kong have heard about this: 有錢人家吃月餅, 冇錢人家吃芋頭.  Mid Autumn Festival is a time when family members get together, enjoy food and celebrate.  If you want to eat something good but cannot afford moon cake, then eat taro instead.  This could be the poor people ridiculing themselves.

Moon Cake and Taro

Pomelo Lanterns and Peels - pomelo is one of the fruits exceptionally popular at Mid Autumn Festival.  As it is large in size, it is good for family members to share.  Apart from this, the pomelo peels are very useful.  You see, the peels are so thick, hence we make lanterns and food out of it.


Pomelo Lantern - it all depend on your skill.  Some people can make very creative pomelo lanterns such as the one here.  

Pomelo Lantern

Pomelo Peels Dim Sum - Some people even turn pomelo peels into food. Today (the Moon Chasing Day), I specially order this pomelo peels over my dim sum lunch as part of the festival celebration.  In fact, cooking of pomelo peels take a bit of time and effort.  My mother used to cook it at home.  We need to get rid of the zest first and then soak the thick peels until soft, add some seasoning before steaming.  When we were young, we had great fun helping our mother in preparing the pomelo peels and making of pomelo lanterns.

Steam Pomelo Peels with Shrimp Roes

If you want to learn more about the Mid Autumn Festival legends, stories and history, there is an article at the International Business Times.  Take a look and have fun.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Mid Autumn Festival 2014

PS:  Mid Autumn Festival usually occurs in September of western calendar. However 2014 Mid Autumn falls on September 8th which is the earliest in the recent 38 years.  Why?  We'll talk about this in my next post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Weird Queuing Culture of Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, people queue to buy all kinds of everything – houses, stocks, LV or Prada. Some people queue to buy these expensive or luxury items to speculate. What about queuing to buy cookies? When someone told me that people queue in Tsimshatsui to buy cookies and speculate for money, I was really unable to believe. This is the weirdest thing I ever heard. How much money people can make out of speculating cookies?

When I first pass by this shop with a queue of about 100 people, it made me wanted to find out what they were queuing for.  Cookies.  In fact, these are not celebrity cookies or luxury brand cookies.  I thought most of you may have never heard of this shop.  It is just a high street bakery with only two branches (one in Tsimshatsui and one in Central) and a 5-page website having only couple of photos on each of those pages.

Today when I pass by this shop again, it was midday around 34 degrees Celsius and the queue was as usual – LONG.  Each time only around 10 customers were allowed to enter the shop to buy cookies. What made these people to queue under the sun to buy cookies?  Certainly I’m not the only one curious about this weird scene.  Every time I pass by this shop there were many people taking photographs, although one of the shop posters says ‘photography not allowed’.

The legend did not stop there.  The shop had little to no decoration, having only a stack of cookie boxes at the entrance along with several posters.  One of the posters stated their rules of selling.

·     Accept cash only
·     Do no accept telephone or online order
·     Each customer can only make one purchase per day (not sure how they monitor this)

·     Each customer can buy a maximum of five boxes only

Top notice:  
Accept cash only

Middle notice:  
Working hours - 10am - 7pm Tue through Saturday, close on Sunday (What about Monday??!!)

Bottom notice:  
Price list in Chinese, Japanese and Korean

There were only two core products – 4 or 8 Mix Butter Cookies in large or small boxes.  Small box $65 (320 grams), large box $120 (640 grams).

I have an interesting calculation here.  Assume they can entertain 100 customer per hour and they work 9 hours a day, and each customer buy 5 boxes averaging $450 sales per customer, their turnover will look like this:

Daily: $450 x 100 x 9 = $405,000
Weekly: $405,000 x 6 = $2,430,000 (assume they work on Monday as well)
Monthly: $2,430,000 x 4 = $9,720,000

A cookie shop has a monthly turnover of close to HK$10 million is really amazing.  Would you consider quitting your job and learn to make cookies?  

Hong Kong Travel Blog
Weird Queuing Culture of Hong Kong

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

City of Demonstration – Hong Kong

Hong Kong dominates the headlines of most media worldwide today. July 1, the date of the establishment of the HKSAR, has been an important date for demonstrators in Hong Kong since 1997.

If you want to visit Hong Kong to see something which is REALLY UNIQUE here, July 1 is a good date.  However you have to be SERIOUSLY responsible for your own safety.  Look for some safe places or book a hotel along Hennessy Road and request a room overseeing the Hennessy Road.  I would say this is the safest way.  But mind you, you won’t be able to leave the hotel between 2 and 9pm, as there are road blocks for the demonstrators.

Hong Kong - July 1, 2014
Along Hennessy Road

Depart from the Victoria Park

Gathering at Central

Photo source:  Bloomberg

How Many Protestors Are There?

Was about 500,000 yesterday (July 1, 2014)

Was about 1,000,000 some ten years ago (July 1, 2003)

With these numbers, do you think you want to come to Hong Kong and see it yourself?  The good thing is, it happens VERY PUNCTUALLY once every year on the same date July 1, regardless of weather or anything.

News Headlines for Hong Kong, July 1, 2014

Now let’s review some of the headlines from some major media.

The Guardian

Hong Kong pro-democracy march attracts tens of thousands.Organisers expect 500,000-strong 1 July rally, and student activists plan 24-hour occupation of business district.

New York Times

Huge Crowds Turn Out for Pro-Democracy March in Hong Kong, Defying Beijing.

Wall Street Journal

Massive Hong Kong Democracy Protest, Unwanted Party-Crashers.


After almost 800,000 Occupy Central 'votes,' Hong Kong readies for massive protest.


H.K. Police Clear Protesters After Decade’s Biggest Rally.

July 1: a short history of Hong Kong's march for democracy

South China Morning Post has this video article.  Sit back and take one step further to get to know the history of Hong Kong demonstration.  Highly recommended.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - City of Demonstration

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hong Kong Police 170 years Anniversary

Exhibition Marks Force's 170th Anniversary 

The Hong Kong Police Force 170th Anniversary Exhibition will be held at the former Wan Chai Police Station on three consecutive weekends - May 31, June 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 from 10am to 6pm.

It features police uniforms and equipment from different eras, and awards handed out to commend force members for serving the community. The former Wan Chai Police Station report room and the officers' mess have been restored to their original condition. 

Vintage and serving police motorcycles are displayed at the compound for photo-taking and the Police Band will perform at the venue. 

Big Head in Green 大頭綠衣
Big Head in Green is a nick name of Hong Kong Policemen at the early stages.  The name resembles their outfit.  We had a brief chat with this 'Big Head', he was a retired policeman, used to serve in a special armed force at the Airport.  He even showed us some brilliant photos of his golden days.

Police motorbikes at various stages.  The one below is the current model.

I don't seem to see these traffic pagoda for many years.  Now we can remember this from our childhood and pretend to be a traffic police.
There were many volunteer tour guides.  The one standing behind the traffic pagoda.

There were also performance from the Police Band.

Free post cards and souvenirs on sale.

Hong Kong Police 170th Year

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hong Kong Chinese New Year Weather

If you want to find how the Hong Kong Chinese New Year weather is, you probably want to visit Hong Kong to experience the New Year atmosphere here. If that’s the case, I have something interesting to tell. 

Statistics indicates every three Chinese New Year (CNY), two of them fall on February. In the past ten years (2004-2013), there were 6 CNYs fall on February. 

Going through the internet, it’s easy to find some general information about Hong Kong weather in February, such as cool, dry, sunny, etc., easily accessed information that I don’t want to repeat here. But weather is sometimes predictable while sometimes not. The cool February here did have a record of 28C degrees in 2009. Dry February is also not true all the time.

Chinese has a saying of ‘dry winter wet year’. If this is your first time hearing about this, let me explain a bit. 

December 21 is the Winter Solstice. Chinese tradition weights Winter Solstice heavier than New Year, Hong Kong is no exception. Some companies even arrange for staff to finish work early in order to go home to prepare family dinner. Chinese believe if Winter Solstice has no rain, the upcoming Chinese New Year will rain. No one knows how this relationship is being established. One of the reasons could be due to its recurrence. 

While Winter Solstice is always December 21 (occasionally 22), Chinese New Year may be as early as January 22 (2004) or as late as February 20 (1984), the days between Winter Solstice and CNY ranges between 31 and 61 days. What has caused a relationship between a dry day in December and a wet day in the following year 31 to 61 days apart is something interesting to discuss. 

Let’s first of all define dry and wet. 

Let say dry means rainfall of less than 0.1mm; wet means rainfall of 0.1mm or more. Interestingly, over the past decade (2004-2013) were all "dry winters" in Hong Kong, and seven were sunny. However there were only four years of "wet year" and therefore "the dry winter and wet year" accuracy rate is only 40%; if we count in new year eve and the 2nd and 3rd day of CNY, the accuracy goes up to 60%. 

On climate science, Hong Kong in December by the cold and dry continental air, the higher the chance fine; began in January, warm and humid maritime airstream start to affect the south China coastal areas, the weather became cloudy with occasional fog, falls cold air southward, the two streams meet they form clouds and rain, so the "dry winters" and "wet years" is actually not directly related. 

Even so, ‘dry winter wet year’ did happen 5 years in a row (1992-1996).

Flower Market at Hong Kong Chinese New Year Eve 2010 - February 13

So how is the Hong Kong Chinese New Year weather like?  Apart from cool, dry and sunny, it may rain due to the ‘dry winter wet year’ effect.

2013 winter was dry; 2014 CNY falls on Jan 31, which means Feb 1 is the second day of Chinese New Year.  Considering the 60% accuracy of ‘dry winter wet year’, you’re on the safe side to visit Hong Kong with an umbrella, if you tend to come here to experience the Chinese New Year atmosphere.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Dry Winter Wet Year

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dog Parking at Stanley

Stanley is a good place for dog lovers to walk their dogs.  On weekends or holidays, you can treat this place as a mini dog show.

Today is the New Year Day of 2014.  To avoid the marching crowd in the city, I come over to Stanley and spend an afternoon here for a leisure walk and take some dog photos.

As there are many dog lovers in this area, there are many related services here - dog hotel, dog grooming, dog doctor, dog everything, including dog parking.  Dog owners just park their dogs outside the supermarket, and pick them up after shopping.

Dog owners can easily make friends, especially when their dogs start greeting each other.

Dog parking is also available at restaurants.  In fact, dog owners just sit next to their dogs, so they are still paying attention to each other.

Dogs of all sizes and colors can be found.  See, they even have their 'personal' carpet!

A leisure walk at Stanley waterfront would allow viewing two landmarks which were being relocated from Central.  Yes, relocated from Central.  

Murray  House was originally in Central and the whole building was being moved here in 2001.  You can now find all kinds of restaurants here.
So as the Blake Pier which was also situated in Central previously.

Blake Pier and Murray House