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Hong Kong Mahjong Culture 香港麻將文化

Faat Choy

Ahhh….. Mahjong, the quintessential game that is associated with Chinese people the world over and it really is a fun game to play.  It is deeply rooted in not only Chinese culture as a whole but especially rooted in Hong Kong culture in many ways.

I wont get into the deep history of the game dating back to ancient China, you can do that research on your own.  Here, I’m going to just give some history of the Hong Kong scene as it was and is today.

It’s safe to say that pretty much every person from Hong Kong has some sort of experience with the game of Mahjong.  Mahjong is played at home with family. People rent Mahjong rooms at Mahjong clubs with their friends and play through the night.  Restaurants have specials that you can play Mahjong and have a break to eat a nice meal and then continue to play for a few more hours.  When going to banquets of all types in Hong Kong, if you get there early you can have time to get your Mahjong on.  Housewives play hours and hours of the game and seniors are told that it is a great game to keep dementia and Alzheimer away as it helps to keep the mind working to play regularly.  Chinese New Year is met with multiple days of Mahjong at different places through-out the three day festival.  It truly is the game of the people of Hong Kong as you can also look over shoulders in the MTR and see people playing it on their phones and even live games can be played of your phone.

Folding Mahjong tablePeople who do play usually have a set of tiles in a box somewhere and at least have a Mahjong board to slide on top of their table or have a folding table that can also be used for entertaining more people at their home.  Some people who really like playing have a fancy electric table that with a push of the button ‘washes’ the tiles.  ‘Washing’ of tiles is after a hand is played and all the tiles need to be mixed up ‘washed’ together to set up the walls to start the next game.  The electric tables set all the tiles up and rise out of the table nice and quiet like.  I think the washing by hand on the table adds to the fun of the game and the skill of staking the walls is a necessary skill that players need to have.  Early on in your learning you squeeze the tiles so tight to get them on the second tier and they explode everywhere.  It’s great.Automatic_mahjong_table

How to Play

There are a few different varieties of Mahjong but they’re all played with the same principal of getting 3-4 of a kind or 3 in sequential order of the same suit.  You take turns taking a tile and putting a tile that you don’t want back at which people can take if it gives them 3 of a kind pong (碰) or if the next to you in the direction of play needs it for the sequence of 3 tiles seung(上).  If you’ve ever played the card game Gin Rummy then you know how to play Mahjong.  It’s actually quite easy.

There are 4 of each tile in the whole set of 144 tiles so you have to actively keep a count of how many of a tile have been discarded and if you really get into it, you watch to see who is discarding what to try to guess what they have in their hand.  You don’t want to give them the piece that they need to win or you will lose more than the other players.

Gambling

Gambling is a big part of the game’s popularity as it is widely known that a lot of Asians have a penchant for wagering bets on just about anything.  Mahjong is almost never played without some sort of denomination being won or lost, even if it is in the cents category of money.  In my early days of wanting to get some practice in and trying to find people to play with me so that I could learn to play.  I would ask people if we could play for free and no-one had any interest in playing with me once I asked that question.  Needless to say, I lost a pretty penny cutting my teeth on getting comfortable being on the table with the big boys.

It is this aspect of the game that also creates fanatics about playing and shows the dark side of people once they lose a few dollars.  Many people always mention that back in the day, a father would invite his daughter’s boyfriend over for a game of Mahjong to test his character and see how he reacts when he loses at the table.

Different styles of play determine how much you lose on each hand.  Often playing with people you know you play a style that usually take more time and once the hand is won you count up the points faan (番) and based on the predetermined amount that is stated before play starts and usually written down is what you will pay or collect.  A lot of people don’t have a clear understanding sometimes on how to count the faan and always rely on others.  This also sometimes creates a bit of debate after some hands when interesting combos are held by the winner that equal a greater number of faan.

Just don’t cheut chung (出冲) as this always means that you will pay the winner.  This means that you gave the winning piece to the person that won.  Depending on which style you play, if you don’t cheut chung then you may go a long time without paying out any money at all.

In the Mahjong parlours around Hong Kong, they use a style called ‘Running Horse (跑馬仔)’ Mahjong.  This means that the game is set up to win/lose very quickly as a parlour is basically a casino that only has one type of game to play.  This style has it that no matter what you end up paying money for every hand that you play so that you can’t just sit there and not spend any money.  The parlour will get a cut of every hand as well and that’s how they make their money.

The Parlour

Now this is where Mahjong in Hong Kong stands out as a solid cultural experience that can not be replicated elsewhere.  The parlours have such a great history about themselves that when walking by you’re curious as to what is going on inside.  The doors are closed and you can hear the clatter of the tiles moving around and see people going in and out and always try to get a glimpse inside when the doors swing open.

Movies gave Mahjong parlours a bad rep and while it is true that Triads have a bit of an interest in the Mahjong parlours it isn’t as seedy as it once may have been.  Now you see nice electric tables and big chairs, good ventilation systems cleaning that cigarette smoke out as quickly as it is puffed.  The services that the Mahjong parlours now provide are great from all you can eat and drink to going to the market for that housewife to pick-up the evening meal that will later be cooked for the family.  You often even see the guys that work at the parlours in their vests going to the ATM to get money out for players.  All in an attempt to keep them playing and letting those dollars hit the table.

Lam Kwok-keungThe first licensed parlour opened in 1956 to Lam Kwok-keung and he opened Kai Kee on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei.  Since then the government has allowed Mahjong gaming to happen under the letter of the law and is routinely busting underground Mahjong spots every year.  You can still find Kai Kee doing business just up the street from where the first place was and it is a nice looking place with brisk business and with a few other locations as well.

Recently, a Mahjong parlour in San Po Kong opened its doors to the public to see what the old school parlours looked like and how they did business.  There was a line down the block when I arrived to see the exhibition.

The place was set up like a museum almost with a video presentation and then a guided tour around the parlour to show the different elements of the business on the inside.  Although many people love the game, very few in comparison have ever stepped foot inside a Mahjong parlour.  It was quite a treat to see inside and get a feel of how the ‘secretive’ (which actually isn’t) world of the Mahjong parlour looks and smells like.

The parlour can be a fun place to visit if you like to play and think that you have the skill to play quickly and want to test your luck against some strangers.  The beauty of the parlour is that you can just walk in and always have someone to play with (because you need four people) and if you just want the experience then you can play one or two hands and get up and leave.  Those one or two hands will only take about 5 or 10 minutes and would give you a great first hand experience of what it’s like to play in a Mahjong parlour.

Finally

Mahjong is a great game that can be played with your friends and family.  The feeling of playing is very fun and enticing as there is lots of chit chatting and fun poking at each other.  There are specialty terms and that gives you a feeling of being apart of something.  There are many people that do not know how to play at all and have no interest at all in playing.  Some people have seen family members play a lot and gamble a lot and that image puts them off from wanting to take up the game but others really like it because it brings people together and is played for hours at a time.

If you’re learning Cantonese, then Mahjong is a great way to socialize and learn some Cantonese at an authentic level with tons of new and old expressions to learn and major points if trying to get on the good side of a mother or father-in-law.  You will quickly be welcomed into the family provided that you’re a quick learner and not a ‘water fish’ (水魚).  A water fish is essentially a sucker in gambling that is quick to lose money.

I hope that everyone can have a chance to learn the game and enjoy as it’s history goes back a few thousand years when the tiles were made of wood, bone or ivory.  There are now even world competitions where players can win millions of dollars and become celebrity players.  So try your luck but remember, don’t cheut chung!

 

KOMK

San po gong1
San Po Kong 新蒲崗
San po gong 7
Newspaper clipping from way back
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Letter from the British government addressing the change in legislation about Mahjong
Old style parlour tables
Old style parlour tables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table tags are hung above to show gambling amount to players
Table tags are hung above to show gambling amount to players
Rules are posted outside of all Mahjong parlours
Rules are posted outside of all Mahjong parlours
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Cantonese is a must

Back in March I came across this article and meant to comment on it sooner, but as we all know ‘life’ gets in the way of some things.  My small allotted time for writing on this site has been purged back and back that for the past 7 months I haven’t been able to really sit down here and write anything.  Yet, I have been saving some thoughts on this article and better late than never is what they always say, right?

DeWolf makes some really good points and kind of covers all of the bases in terms of expat Cantonese learning in Hong Kong.  He himself being an expat in Hong Kong with few Cantonese skills to ‘speak’ of, makes good mention to the moral responsibility to learn Cantonese.

The moral responsibility is something that I find at times to be at the forefront of spending some of your precious time to take some classes and learn Cantonese.  In America, there are a lot of people who bark a big game of foreigners living there ‘must’ learn to speak English or as some have put it unknowingly accurately, they should learn to speak ‘American’.  I think that the same sentiment is there for Cantonese in Hong Kong.  I often question how is it that someone can live here in Hong Kong and not be able to speak to people or to understand what is going on around them?

I am fully aware that English is one of Hong Kong’s official languages and that there is a great base of English in everyone here in Hong Kong but when living in a culture that is so rich and so dependant upon language to access that richness, how could you not learn Cantonese?

DeWolf mentions the difficulty of the language as a barrier to a degree for learning Cantonese.  This point is a very valid one and is important to make when thinking about a lot of people wanting to learn versus those that actually stick with it and learn Cantonese to a certain level of proficiency.   When searching the Internet to see what is the most difficult language to learn in the whole wide world, guess which language pops up as being just about the most difficult to learn?  That’s right Cantonese.

Since Cantonese is so well known for it being difficult to learn, it is understandable as to why so many people give up or don’t even try to learn it.  When the city itself is so accepting of English and money is never lost by a customers’ lack of Cantonese, it is easy to see why so many expats in Hong Kong could really care less about the local language.

A statement made in the article that I 500% do not agree with is the quote from Kevin Chan of Chinese University. He said, “If you look like a foreigner, it’s not easy to practice what you’ve learned”.  From my experience and from what I have written in my previous posts about learning Cantonese.  It is EXTREMELY EASY to practice what you’ve learned from your lessons.  You just have to have thick skin and stick to your guns when on the street.  Stay in character!

The Cedric Sam wisdom in the article is very much true in the opinion of the King of Mongkok.  Life in Hong Kong becomes so much more full once you are able to rap with the people around you.  Once getting to a level of fluency and possessing good proficiency in Cantonese, your entire world opens up.  People that you only knew in English may have a completely different demeanour in Cantonese.  Discounts start to come your way around town because locals give you a bit more respect at times when they see that you have given their culture respect by learning their language.  And everyone wants to help you speak better.  Even if they do laugh at you a bit, it’s okay.

Overall, I think that it is a good article to read through and see where is it that you fall in the equation for the quest of Cantonese tongue flipping.  I sometimes think about how I would be getting by in Hong Kong, had I not spent so much time and energy learning Cantonese. I also think about how people are getting around not speaking Cantonese?

Hong Kong just becomes a beautiful flower opening up to you once you learn Cantonese.  A Bauhinia flower that is.

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Not A Champ Yet!

Official fight poster from Top Rank

March 7th, 2015

It was another great fight night in Macau at the Venetian Arena for the Showdown at Sands!

The night at the Venetian had three title bouts on the card with Zou ShiMing fighting for the IBF flyweight belt against Amnat Ruenroeng along with a slue of other smaller title fights with lots of fan favourites that made this evening a very special night for local fans here in Hong Kong and Macau as well as for our Mainland China brothers and sisters across the border.

1st Bout

Ismael Garnica (MEX)(13-5-1) vs Aston Palicte (PHI) (17-1)

Surprisingly the crowd was thick by the time this first bout got underway and it seemed that there was a lot more cheering than normal as well for two fighters that the crowd most likely hadn’t heard of.

It was a pretty decent fight from the opening bell.  Palicte though was pretty much in control of the whole thing from the gate and earned himself a TKO about midway through the 7th round over Garnica.  I think that we will be seeing him again at the Venetian on future cards.

2nd Bout

The second bout was about as weak of a fight that you could possibly witness.   It was between Raymond Sermona (PHI)(17-4-5) and Jose Felix Jr. (MEX)(29-1) 24 KOs.

So the opening bell ‘dings’ and about 80 seconds later you see Felix hit Sermona with an overhand right that literally brushed the top of Sermona’s head.  Sermona went down and didn’t get back up.  I’ve been around enough boxing in my life to know exactly what that was.  Without saying anything that discredits either boxer, I’ll just leave it as it was ‘weak’.

3rd Bout

Bring in the dancers.  Bring in the lip-syncing singers.  Bring in K.K. Ng Kuok Kun (The Macau Kid) 7-0.  K.K. had this dance crew and singers in his last fight on the undercard of the Pacquiao fight as well.  I guess they are a package deal now.

K.K. fought Chingchai Kiatpracha (THAI) (7-2) in what was K.K.’s 7th fight of his career. Kiatpracha was a bit taller than K.K. with a bit more reach and had partially bleached blond hair that was tied in a pony-tail in the back.

By this time, the crowd was feeling good.  They were now seeing someone that they knew and Macau was being represented.  As the bell rang you could see after a few punches by Kiatpracha that he was a bit unorthodoxed in his style.  Then all of a sudden— Boom — K.K. goes down.  But have no fear, K.K. got back up and it was what he needed to get him feeling like he had to punish the guy.

In the 2nd round Kiatpracha was smiling at K.K. after exchanges and that was firing up K.K., but he kept his composure quite well and finished the round well.

As the 3rd round got going and a few exchanges took place, you could see that K.K. was clearly in control and 2-3 combinations later Kiatpracha was knocked out and not getting back up inside the 10 count.  It was a great win for The Macau Kid and for Macau as well.  We are really looking forward to seeing K.K. on the July 18th card and he will surely rise up the ranks and continue to become a really good fighter in the future.

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4th Bout

Are you ready HONG KONG???!!!  That’s right, Rex ‘The Wonder Kid’ Tso Sing Yu (16-0) was up next and going against Michael ‘Blade’ Enriquez (10-3-1) from the Phillipines.

This fight was extremely important for Rex as he had just signed a 2 year fight deal with Top Rank Boxing and it was for the WBA International Super Flyweight Title.  Also, by winning this fight Rex will be fighting for a world title in his next fight on July 18th against Japan’s Kohei Kono.

After the introductions, the fight got going and for the first few rounds they were just punching the hell out of each other.  They both were landing good combos and standing mostly in the middle of the ring just going at it.  Rex was winning each round but maybe did so by connecting on only 2 or 3 more punches than Enriquez.

By the start of the 4th round they were well adjusted to each other and after a 3-4 punch combination Enriquez goes down.  A wet canvas might have helped that to have happened but nevertheless the ref was counting and got to a standing 8 count before letting them finish the round.

For the remainder of the fight, each and every round was both of them just standing inside each other trading close shots.  Both were getting some good cracking shots at times and I believe that this was the most that Rex had been hit so far in his career and you could see the evidence piling up on his swollen face.

Rex got taken out of his style.  He has really long arms for being only 5’7″ (170cm) and in all of his previous fights, he has used that length well and played that with his good hand speed and decent foot work to keep his opponents at bay with a good classic hit-and-move strategy.  This fight was a real true test and he showed great fortitude in handling this very good fighter in Enriquez.

Rex won by a unanimous decision after 10 hard fought rounds over Enriquez but the ‘Blade’ will also be back in Macau in the near future because he gave a hell of a fight.

20150307_RexVsMicheal24-1024x682
All of Hong Kong is proud of Rex Tso Sing Yu for representing the city and his best has yet to come.

7th Bout

Skipping over a few other fights, we get to the 7th fight on an 8 fight card.

Ik Yang from China at 19-0 with 14 of those coming by way of knock-out is always a highlight to watch.  Ik was going against Patomsuk Pathompothong (29-2-1) of Thailand.

Ik has fought in Macau 3 previous times before this fight and all were KOs and all were very entertaining.  This guy has a great personality and loves to play to the crowd.  Sometimes you come across fighters that just enjoy getting their opponent to the brink of being knocked out and mess with their mind a bit before delivering that final combination or punch that finishes the fight.  Ik is one of those kind of fighters.

Ik played with Pathompothong for 5 rounds with yet another boxer from Thailand smiling right before he got knocked out.  Ik secured a nice KO in the 6th.  I’m very eager to see Ik come back to the Venetian for another fight.  Let’s see if he will be on the July 18th card.

The Main Event IBF World Flyweight Title

Zou Shi Ming (6-1) vs Amnat Ruenroeng (14-0)

shiming

This fight was a fight that was hard to watch in a way.  I never thought that Zou should be fighting for a title so quickly into his professional career.  I know, I know… Zou has been a boxer for a lot of years but there is a major difference between amateur and professional.  The style in which you fight as an amateur and more so as an Olympic amateur is based on a point system and therefore you are not going after your opponent in the same way.  Zou has had enough hits to the head that the removal of head gear isn’t too much of a factor after a few fights.

I do think that Zou can be a champion but he needs a few more tune up fights first before he goes after that belt.  The fighter in the other corner of Ruenroeng learned how to fight while serving a prison sentence in Thailand. If anyone has read/heard of or has first hand knowledge of Thai prisons, should know that they are notoriously known for their harsh conditions and that is a far cry from coming up in a sports school in China learning to be an amateur boxer.  Though I still hold the belief that Zou will become a great fighter if he is able to make the turn into becoming a professional with professional abilities and tactics.

As for the fight itself, Zou was out classed the whole way through and didn’t really win one round in my opinion and in the opinion of the judges who gave an unanimous decision to the belt holder of Ruenroeng.

Final Thoughts

Overall it was still a really good evening of fights.  Top Rank is top class in how they organise their events.  Also, the Venetian Macau does well by its customers and I also enjoy myself very much at all of their events.

July 18th will be the next night of fights at the Venetian Macau and it will be filled with most of the fighters from March 7th’s card.  More titles will be won and more fun will be had.  I hope to see even more Hong Kongers and Macauers there for this one.

KOMK

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Bruce Lee …… Hong Kong Style!

Bruce Lee   bruce-lee-sm1

After looking at someone else’s blog about Bruce Lee, it occurred to me that I need to write something about Bruce Lee as well.

Why do I like Bruce Lee?

My own experience with Bruce Lee is a lot like the army of fans around the world.  I was a young boy when his films came out.  I used to watch Kung-fu theatre on Sunday mornings on public TV and I was hooked.  While many of the films were Shaw Brothers flicks, when a Bruce Lee movie came on you noticed a huge difference in what was being shown to you.  His moves were real.  All the other movies that you saw where tons of wire-work was used, had you knowing that it was fake but Bruce had you knowing that he could really fight.  Big difference!   So if you wanted to fight like Bruce Lee back in the early 80’s, what did you do?………………… You started taking TaeKwonDo/Karate classes!  And the martial artist in me was born.

Bruce Lee in Hong Kong Now

Bruce Lee holds a unique presence here in Hong Kong so many years later after his death and famed glory years.  While there is a museum now that is holding an exhibit about the Master of Masters, it is really a far cry to what really could be done in my opinion.  The exhibit itself does have a great 45 minute long documentary about him.  But as far as other attractions, it may be lacking a bit.  I only say this because as a diehard fan such as myself, it’s not enough.  I want to be entertained a bit more in my fantasy of the great Bruce Lee.  I want to come away having been wooed and wowed.  When I go to the space museum, I leave having thought that I was an astronaut.  I guess I want to leave thinking that for a brief moment, I was transformed into Bruce Lee.  Is that too much to ask?

Hong Konger’s Perception

Having lived in Hong Kong now for almost 13 years, I’ve broached the topic of Bruce Lee with many Hong Kong people over the years.  From fellow martial artists to the casual fan to the non-fan and uninterested in kung-fu at all local.  There is a popular sentiment that a lot of these people have in common with each other.  The way that he died.  I think that the way that he died and the ‘mystery’ behind it left a sour taste in many Hong Kong people’s hearts.  He was the golden boy, the one man show that put Kung-fu films in theatres all around the world.  He was a pillar of health and of fitness that people respected.  Many people that I’ve talked to, have the common feeling that Bruce was using some drugs and that he died from it.  The fact that he was at a woman’s house who wasn’t his wife makes the issue even more sticky.  Whether he was romantically involved with her or not, the fact of the matter is that he was found dead in her bed.

His House

If you want to visit the house in which he  lived and the yard that he trained in when moving back to Hong Kong, you can.  It will cost you about HKD$500 and that will get you about 2 hours of time to be in his house.  His house sits in a very plush neighbourhood.  The homes themselves would be somewhat of mansions in terms of size and grounds that you would get.  The location is as central as you can get considering the size of the house and the size of the land.  In this neighbourhood, you can find many houses similar or larger with some of Hong Kong’s most affluent citizens living there.  There are also, kindergartens and a few international schools and there are Buddhist temples and love hotels all in this same neighbourhood.  Bruce Lee’s house has been converted into the latter of those types of neighbourhood gems.  That’s right.  Bruce Lee’s house is a Love Hotel!  I think this is a sign to show how his legacy was not protected by anyone.  I also consider it to be somewhat a disrespect to who he was and what he supposedly stood for.

Bruce-Lees-two-story-town-001

Jackie or Bruce

A lot of people try to compare Jackie Chan to Bruce Lee.  I personally don’t think that there is any comparison.  Jackie, in my opinion, is an entertainer first and a martial artist second.  I give a lot of respect to Jackie Chan.  Having met him professionally while working on a commercial in 2007, he is an amazing person and his athletic prowlness is equally amazing.  He has done all of his own stunts always and has also written, directed and starred in many films.  As of today he has 123 acting credits to his name.

Bruce was first and foremost a martial artist.  He devoted a lot of time into developing his skill as a martial artist. That it is the reason that when watching his films that everyone can see the difference in technique and style in everything he did.   The unfortunate thing is that Bruce only did 4 real kung-fu flicks for the world to see although imdb.com has him listed with 32 acting credits, many of them were when he was a boy.

While Jackie Chan is a great artist in his own right, Bruce Lee was of a different breed of artistry.  There is no comparison.

Jeet Kune Do

tao-of-jeet-kune-do-extended-edition

Jeet Kune Do is a fighting style that Bruce Lee developed.  He wrote a book called ‘Tao of Jeet Kune Do’ and it is a style that incorporates elements of various styles into one complete fighting style.  He wanted to take all of the best components from different fighting arts and use them more effectively together as one.  It does have a following, but I think because of his untimely death that he didn’t have enough time to promote it the world and convince everyone of it’s effectiveness.  There aren’t many places in which you can learn JKD in Hong Kong. The June Fan Jeet Kune Do HK is a good starting point to find a place that might get you going.  There are some links to other schools on it’s website such as the Jeet Kune Do Federation and the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.

Final Thoughts

Bruce Lee will be continued to be talked about and more importantly emulated for many many more years to come.  In his short time on this earth he influenced so many.  He was truly an artist to the truest sense of the word.  He enjoyed reading and writing as much as he enjoyed training and growing his knowledge of martial arts.  I think we all want to be a little bit like him in the way that we all want to be great at something in our lives.

‘Be water my friend’ Bruce Lee

 

KOMK

 

 

 

 

 

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What is…..the Ladies Market like?

The Ladies Market is one of the several iconic tourist traps of Hong Kong.  Every person to ever visit Hong Kong since the 80’s has most likely taken a walk through the Ladies Market.

What does the Ladies Market have?

It’s not what its name suggests.  Back in the day, the street used to sell mainly ladies garments.  The government thought it would be better to regulate it as it was becoming quite popular and busy.  Thus it was dubbed the Ladies Market.  It now houses all the nick-nacks you could possibly want.  From clothes for your pooch to fake LV bags.  From kids clothes to fake Disney products.  From tourist T-shirts to fake Rolexes.  Okay you get the idea.

Yep, fake branded bags
Yep, fake branded bags

Tung Choi Street

The Ladies Market is on Tung Choi Street and aside from the centre part of the street which makes the market, the street itself has restaurants and shops lining both sides of the street that many tourists never see.

Because of how the market area is constructed, you can spend your whole time getting visual stimulus overload from the enormity of all of the things lining every booth from the ground to about 15 feet up.  Also, the market is about 5 good blocks long, stretching from Argyle Street to Dundas Street.  While a lot of the booths sell about the same type of goods and you will soon realise that you saw that same ‘I heart HK’ at about 10 booths already and there is still much market laid out in front of you.flat,550x550,075,f

Coming to Life!

It’s quite amazing how the market is erected everyday.  Legally, the street can not be closed off to cars until 12:00noon.  So, all the poles and tarps that make the structure of the market are laid out on the street strategically in a manner that when the signal is given to start erecting this giant erector set, they get it done quickly.  In a matter of about 20 minutes you can witness the entire market take it’s shape.  They then start to bring in the inventory in separate wheeled containers.  The market is then broken down in an opposite manner come about 11something p.m. as the street needs to be open again by 12:00midnight.

I often just go early to watch how they build the market.  It is truly quite amazing how the various street markets in Hong Kong are constructed in a similar fashion.  Built up and torn down every day.  Massive amounts of inventory take out and set up to be taken down that evening.

Tips for market shopping

I know everyone always tells you to never pay the asking price for things in Asia.  It is true though.  Even if you just haggle enough to get a few HKD off of your price then you will be given a market shopping approval by the sales person.  Keeping in mind that really all of the stuff on the market isn’t really anything that you need and it is all inexpensive for the most part. So, don’t haggle too much!  Most importantly, never buy anything right away.  As I mentioned, there are a lot of booths selling the same thing.  If you see it and buy it right away you risk seeing it somewhere else for a better price.  Even just see what starting price they throw out at you first and feel out the sales person’s personality.  Do they seem nice and kind of playful to engage with some banter?  Or are they giving off the attitude that tells you that they really don’t want to be bothered with you?  They don’t really value the customer very much in a way.  They see so many people everyday as it is a tourist area that the money will come either from you or the next person that is already ready with money in his hands or looks like they will pay any amount just as long as they can get that fake antique looking Chinese fan.

The walk off.  The ‘walk off’ is a great strategy.  You haggle a bit and then politely say, ‘No, thank you!’ and walk off.  Most likely if you haggled to a price that seemed reasonable to the sales girl but she just didn’t want to give in because she wanted to see if you’d break first, will chase you down the street saying ‘Ok, Ok’.  You will smile and you will feel victorious.  It’s a good feeling too.  You haggled $2 off of that Angry Bird change purse that you’re going to give your niece only to leave it in your suitcase or something and never end up giving it to her.

Lastly, the market can be fun in my opinion.  As a date night, this is a great place to have some fun.  Walk through the market and see everything that is there and when you’re tired of walking, jump into one of the many cafes that are on the street and relax or have a dinner at one of the many restaurants.  I recommend Bonnie’s Thai Restaurant.  Take some pictures for your Facebook page for the world to see.  It’s a fun place.  Don’t feel compelled to buy anything and just soak up the atmosphere.  It is crowded almost all of the time so keep that in mind and don’t let it bother you.  There is much fun to be had here.

KOMK

 

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How to Learn Cantonese in Hong Kong: Part 2

So, if you read Part 1 and felt any of what I was saying then Part 2 should be helpful as well.
In this post we will talk about those damn TONES, ways and things to practice on and what can you now do with your Cantonese to help you for future learning.

TONES

Tones have to be the most difficult thing to work on in my opinion. Unless you have someone that is really patient to sit with you while you go through the tones in a drill like manner, you really just need to sit and try to make the most correct tone as possible and always. This will be from mimicking what you hear and repeating it over and over.
Why are tones so important?  Keeping in mind that Cantonese is a tonal language. The tones make the words. Even if you say the correct word per se, if your tone is wrong then you’re actually saying a completely different word.  I’ll give you an example. I was sitting with a nice girl a long time ago and she expressed to me that she wanted to improve her English. So I eagerly said that I will ‘teach’ you. Now, the word for ‘teach’ and the word for ‘have sex’ have the same pronunciation yet have very different tones.  I said it in the wrong tone and let’s just say that she never became my student nor did we have sex.  It was a bit awkward.  Nonetheless, as I mentioned in Part 1, you will have situations similar to this and I always remembered the proper tone for both words there after.
Drill books are available but are quite scarce.  It can be difficult to really find a lot of good resources for learning Cantonese.  Especially since Mandarin is so widely popular to learn these days by foreigners.  So when starting your journey down the Pearl River Delta of the Cantonese language try to focus a lot on tones from the beginning in order to have some great tones down the road…..or river.

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Very old school tones drill book.

Ways and things to practice on

How to practice?  From the gate in my own journey to grasp Cantonese, I always put myself in a situation where I had to use the language. Obviously from the name of this site, I’m in Mongkok. I have lived in Mongkok for 12 years now and had made it from day one to always speak to everyone I cross paths with.
When you get up in the morning and go outside to do what ever it is that you do, speak Cantonese. Even if the only sentence you can say is ‘Good morning!’.  It is a start.  If you go to 7-11 to get your can of coffee, ask the clerk how they are today. They will enjoy that short exchange immensely and it will start to build from there.  Don’t get that morning newspaper from 7-11 where you don’t have to ask for it.  Go to the news stand and ask for that newspaper.  Learn the words that you normally use everyday first. Those are the words that are most important to you and those are the words and sentences that you can remember and practice the most.  Soon those words/sentences will become instinctual and you will be moving onto the next group of sentences and vocabulary that you use frequently.

One tip:

What I did for at least the first 3 years of my learning was that I carried a Cantonese dictionary around with me at ALL times.  Everywhere I went I would pull it out to see what the words were for what I was looking at.  Try to find one that also has the Chinese characters for the word as well.  That way you can ask someone who is sitting next to you on the bus (pretty girl/handsome guy, whatever you’re preference is) and get a native tone and possibly make a new friend.

This book is published and produced by Chinese University
This book is published and produced by Chinese University

Also, frequent the same places for your daily necessities.  For example, go to the same restaurant for breakfast or other meals for a while.  Very soon all of the staff will quickly know your name and your life story and will be your teachers of Cantonese.  Knowing more people is very important to learning Cantonese.  You can’t just hang around other foreigners all the time and expect to get some good Cantonese.  They are not learning it most likely and won’t be able to help you with your studies.  I’m not saying don’t hang out with them at all, just open your social circle a bit to take full advantage of being able to learn this amazing language from the large amount of native speakers that are all around you.

Use what you have now and it will help for the future

Using what ever bit of Cantonese that you have now all the time will help you a great deal in the future.  But keep in mind that it is only a building block.  You have to constantly be going after more and more Cantonese.  The language, like many languages, is very deep and complex.  There is no end to learning a language.  I’m a native English speaker but there is so much English that I don’t know.  The same is true for Cantonese.  Being in Hong Kong, there are soooo many colloquial expressions that it would take a lifetime to learn them and then to use them.  The language is perpetual in its growth.  New words and phrases come up all the time, so you have to keep your ear to the street.  The future of your Cantonese is dependant on your work ethics to keep learning it.  Even after a long time learning, even when you feel bored with it, even when you feel that you have enough to get around town and order some dishes at your local cha chan teng.  Keep going forward.

Lastly in consideration of your future learning, think about learning to read and write Chinese.  This will add a whole new dimension to your learning and you will surely move into a higher level of learning in terms of language learning.  Keep in mind though that the Chinese written system is complex and it truly takes a lot of dedication and a serious time commitment to get to a good level.  But it’s great!  More on reading and writing in a separate post.

Keep going and don’t stop moving forward.  Consistency is truly the key.  The more consistent you are, the more you will learn and in turn the more you will be able to talk to anyone about anything and all of Hong Kong will open up to you in a whole new and forever exciting way.

KOMK

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Macau Fight Nights

Let’s go to Macau to watch the fights.  I love being able to hear this sentence.  To finally be able to watch some good professional boxing so close to home is a good feeling.

I grew up a boxing fan and even did some amateur boxing at Finley’s Gym in N.E. Washington D.C..  So to be able to go to a good fight night in Macau brings a special nostalgic feeling to me and is starting to find its place in Hong Kong sporting culture.

The Venetian Macau

This is where the stage has been set and has already brought five fight nights to the city.  One of them being a major……let me say that again.  A MAJOR fight card with Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios as the headlining fighters.  I was even fortunate to have ran into Manny the day before the fight and got a pic with him. Not a selfie!  But the Venetian has a wonderful venue.  Pretty much anywhere you sit in the arena, you can see the ring.  If you want a more zoomed in view, you can look at the multiple massive sized screens for a detailed look or at times when they are fighting against the ropes or in corners.  Also, there is a way to get free food and drinks all night long while sitting in your seat, but I’m not going to tell you how.   Unless maybe if you leave a comment.

Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing

Bob Arum has promoted all of these fights and who else would be a better man for the job than him?  Michael Buffer was even the announcer for the Pacman fight.  Leeeeeett’s get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmbbbbllllle.  You know who I’m talking about.  Bob Arum is really trying to break into the China market with some Chinese boxers starting to lace up the gloves and get their careers going in the art of the sweet science, such as Zou Shiming.  Arum says that he plans to put on a fight in Macau four times a year, according to an interview he did with ESPN.  Hong Kong has a fighter Rex Tso Sing Yu, who is possibly going to be a world champion in his respective weight class.  Macau has a fighter as well that is coming through the ranks named Ng Kuok Kun.

 

Fists of Gold I
Fists of Gold I
Fists of Gold II
Fists of Gold II
Clash in Cotai
Clash in Cotai
Ring of Gold
Ring of Gold
Featherweight Fury
Featherweight Fury

China in the house.

With all of the Chinese gamblers in the largest casino in the world, if there is a Chinese national fighter fighting in the arena, they will watch and support.  As many of the punters on the gaming floor are so heavily cashed up, many will buy floor tickets and just stay to watch the Chinese fighters and then the casino floor starts beckoning them to return.  Leaving large portions of the floor seating area bare.  Although this seems to be their M.O., you can see a steady increase in supporters in the crowd for Rex ‘The Wonder Kid’ Tso and Ng Kuok Kun ‘The Macau Kid’ and that is impressive and fun to be apart of.

What is the future of boxing in Macau?

With Bob Arum saying that he will have a fight per quarter, I think that Macau has a real chance to build on the early success in the fight promoting business.  I think that a big determining factor would be the crop of Chinese fighters from China, Macau and Hong Kong.  If some good fighters can be trained to a level that is expected on the international stage, then Macau has a bright future.  Also, I feel that some of those fighters will need to be in some of the heavier weight classes.  Lighter weight classes don’t have a large appeal with all markets.  These fighters will have to be able to compete against good fighters from around the world and not just fighters from around Asia as well.  Let’s see if Macau can build a bit of a local fighting culture similar to Vegas where fighters come there to be trained and fight against other fighters regularly.  It has a long way to go but all is possible when you’re playing with casino money.

In conclusion, there is much to do in terms of creating a real boxing culture in Macau/Hong Kong/China but Bob Arum and the Venetian are really doing their part and getting the ball moving in the right direction. Champions of Gold will be going down on July 19th and if you haven’t bought your tickets and booked flights or ferry tickets, do so quickly as I’m sure there aren’t very many seats available by now.  If you are a Sands and Cotai Ring Club member you can get 50% discount.  Don’t forget that I know of a way to get free drinks and food all night long but it’s a secret.  I can’t tell everyone.

Champions of Gold July 19th, 2014
Champions of Gold
July 19th, 2014

Last but not least.  Keeps your hands up at all times and break when I say break.  Touch gloves and let’s have a good clean fight.  Let’s get it on!

KOMK

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Champagne

I went to the Jacquinot & Fils Champagne dinner that was held by the Wine High Club at the W Hotel in Jordan.
It was great — for the most part — because of the feeling of the event more so than the champagne, which was good as well.

The champagne:
Now, I’m not much for champagne as my palate just isn’t there yet to judge a good champagne from a great champagne. But I can say that the bubbly provided by Jacquinot & Fils Champagne was presented well.  Also, Jean-Manuel Jacquinot the winemaker was also in attendance to introduce not only his family’s vineyard but also to give some background to each of the 5 different types of champagne that was on offer.  Out of the 5 presented, the first, Private Cuvee, was my favourite.
The food:
I’m not really one for photographing food that much so the photos provided here are from Fu Man Chu, ‘The Man of Leisure’. The presentation was great, except for the last dish before the dessert. I don’t eat red meat or pork and requested something else to replace the beef dish and was just given 2 pieces of fried chicken on top of some celery. I’m from DC so I can always get down with some fried yard bird, but I was hoping for something that was at least similar in presentation as the other 4 dishes. But not a big deal as I was satisfied with the event for other reasons. The food was just a bonus.

South African Abalone Photo by: Fu Man Chu, The Man of Leisure
South African Abalone
Photo by: Fu Man Chu, The Man of Leisure
If only I could have eaten 12 of these. Photo by:  Fu Man Chu, The Man of Leisure
If only I could have eaten 12 of these.
Photo by: Fu Man Chu, The Man of Leisure
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Champagne tasting dinner, 23 June 2014

The people from Wine High Club were very nice and very knowledgeable as to their products  and the business of wine.  Thank you Kay and Red.  The other guests at the event were also very kool in the fact that they were all there to get some good food, good champagne and share in some good conversation.

I can’t wait for the next event from Wine High Club.

Another event that is on the calendar is the Malbec Challenge organised by the Hong Kong Wine Judges Association.  This will surely be a great event to be at and I hope that everyone can come.  The Argentine Consulate General to Hong Kong will be in attendance at this event and there will be more Malbec wine to judge and taste than the palate will be able to handle.  Malbec is my 2nd or 3rd favourite red anyway, so this will be especially great for me.

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End of the Road!

Sai Yeung Choi Street South:

This was a great street if not the greatest street in all of Mongkok/Hong Kong.  This street would be closed to cars from 4pm and stay that way until 12 o’clock at night every day.  Saturday and Sunday it would seem like it never opened to cars at all.  It was great because Hong Kong and Mongkok more importantly needed/needs streets like this that people can just walk down slowly and enjoy being out in the world.  Now sadly to say, it is open to cars full time and only closes to cars on Sundays.

Image
Sai Yeung Choi Street, South

It sucks in my humble opinion.

This is the way it is supposed to look and had looked every day of the week AND like everywhere in Hong Kong, it was completely safe.

The problem as the local district council saw it was that there had been a large numbers of buskers taking to the streets on Sai Yeung Choi Street and it was keeping people from going into the stores that line the sidewalks.  Business’ were complaining that it was too loud and crowded more than usual by people standing and watching performances rather than going in stores to shop.

Hong-Kong-2013-25-of-28
Street performers (good and bad) were starting to really do their thing. Sai Yeung Choi Street, South

This is where I get a bit of the ‘well in western countries….’ because street culture and performing arts in Hong Kong is a bit unseen for the most part.  While it has increased quite a bit over the past few years, there really isn’t  too much in terms of people going out and expressing themselves artistically in Hong Kong.  It’s just the culture of being a bit passive for some things.  Also, with the heavy culture of earning money here, you can see how many would look at street performing as a waste of time because of a low earning potential.

Sai Yeung Choi Street was beginning to unleash the hidden desire in so many people to just get on the street and perform and just as it started to get good——-BAAAAM!   The government slammed the door on it.  Some people have started to move north a bit though.

Shhhhh!  Don’t let ‘the man’ know that more performers are starting to do there thang’ on the footbridge that runs above Mongkok Road to the KCR station.  More on that later.

What do you think?  Tell us about your love or disdain of Mongkok.

 

KOMK

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Are You Becoming a Wino?

As I have started to enter into the world of wine, I wonder if this means that I am becoming a wino.

nw3
I grew up in Washington DC and the word wino has a very distinct sound and meaning to me (the picture is Ned the Wino from ‘Good Times’, btw). I think that others from certain cities would also translate the word in their mind in a similar fashion.  It was more of a popular term before crackheads hit the scene from the 80’s and 90’s crack epidemic.
A wino was the affectionate term given to those that were always hanging out on the corner by the liquor store and well…..they were drinking. Mostly, I don’t remember them exclusively drinking wine per se but always had a bottle in their hands (in a brown paper bag of course).  Even long before the liquor store opened at noon, these cats would just be sitting around waiting to get a bottle or still getting into a bottle that maybe they procured later in the night before.

Well, now that you have that image in your mind. Am I becoming a wino in that sense of the word?  I don’t think so.  In Hong Kong , you can buy alcohol 24/7 so I don’t need to hang out and wait.  But honestly, I really don’t like to drink but at certain times and now that I’m getting into wine……..well, I feel a bit more high class in my drinking.

The study of wine though is a very deep and complex subject.  I’m not just looking to sit around and drink and talk about sports at the local pub.  I want to be able to dissect a wine and discuss the various elements and complexities of the wine.  Where was it grown?  When was it bottled?  Who made it? How does it taste?  On and on with what could be talked about from just one taste of a wine.  A taste!  I don’t even need to swallow the wine to ascertain all of the information about the wine.  This is what I’m going after in my quest to truly learn about wine and all that goes into the wine world.

Wish me luck and I will post what I learn along the way.  I will also post things about wine and in particular wine going ons here in Hong Kong.  There is a lot going on with wine in Hong Kong as the Hong Kong government dropped the wine tax in 2008 making Hong Kong the wine hub of Asia.

Tell me what wines you like to drink and why in the comment section.  We can learn from each other.

wine-5_2375456b       RedWineBottlePour

KOMK