Big Smog Blog

Macau leaps HK as number one mainland tourism destination

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We’re used to public holidays in mainland China corresponding with floods of tourists crossing the border, ready to shop until they drop in our city's glamorous shopping malls. It’s something that is never far out of the headlines and is a constant source of simmering tension in our city, as highlighted by the recent ‘bladdergate’ phenomenon. Well, here’s some news that might surprise you…

Stats have shown that over the recent Chinese ‘mini Golden Week’ Labour Day public holiday, from May 1-3, fewer mainland Chinese people visited Hong Kong than last year. There was a 2% drop in Chinese visitors, from 394,476 in 2013 to 388,070 this year. This is the first time the number has dropped year-on-year since 2005.

Interestingly, Macau witnessed a staggering 20.3% increase in visitors over the same holiday compared to last year, welcoming 551,957 visitors in total over the period.  

After a year of rising Hong Kong-mainland tension, with ‘anti-locust’ protests in Tsim Sha Tsui and spats over everything from manners and housing to school places and baby milk, it’s perhaps not surprising that Chinese are starting to think of other places to take their holidays. What do you think are the reasons behind the trend? Anna Cummins

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We're looking for young guest editors!

 

TIME OUT HONG KONG IS LOOKING FOR YOUNG GUEST EDITORS!

In June, Time Out Hong Kong, the city’s leading lifestyle magazine, is releasing a very special Kids Issue – and this year, we want HK’s youngsters to guest edit the magazine!

We imagine that most kids are sick of their parents telling them how they should spend their holidays, so for this issue, we want Hong Kong kids to tell the city’s parents what they really want to do.

In short, we’re looking for special guest editors to help us put this issue together. We’re after enthusiastic children between the ages of six and 12. They’ll get the opportunity to experience working in a magazine, run an editorial meeting, design the magazine pages and provide ideas on the best things to do in the city for youngsters. The chosen applicants can spend as long in the Time Out office as they would like, from a few hours to a few days.

So, how do the kids get involved? It’s easy! They just need to email us at kids@timeout.com.hk with a few details:
- Name
- Age
- School
- Their recommendation on the best thing to do in Hong Kong
- Why they want to be a Time Out Hong Kong guest editor

The cut-off date for applications is Friday May 16. The applicants need to be in Hong Kong and available to do their guest editorial stint in the week of May 26 to 30.

After that date, we’ll choose a group of talented young Hongkongers to become Time Out’s very first young guest editors!

Get your applications in now!

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Gaudi comes to Hong Kong!

 

A fan of the great architect Antoni Gaudi? Can't get to Barcelona to see the works up close? No matter. Gaudi is coming to Hong Kong!

From April 30 to June 1, Times Square hosts the Gaudi Architecture Exhibition, featuring all 14 of Gaudi's famous works, in various forms. A 10m-tall paper model of his incredible La Sagrada Familia? You bet. Elements of his quirky Park Guell? Indeed. Models of his iconic structures on the roof of Casa Mila? Oh, yes. And plenty more.

It's running until June 1, so get up close to one of the greatest architects to have ever lived. 

Gaudi Architecture Exhibition, Apr 30- Jun 1, Times Square, Piazza and 2/F Atrium, Causeway Bay.

 

 

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Tseung Kwan O skatepark now open!

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Photos courtesy of Warren Stuart 

On Wednesday April 30, a brand new skatepark opens in Tseung Kwan O. Skaters have been waiting impatiently for this day since the park was completed several months ago, but it has (finally) been approved as safe to use by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The new park has a variety of fixtures including bowls, plaza and park terrain and caters to a variety of skill levels. The park is located near to Hang Hau MTR station, next to the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome. For more information, check 8Five2.comAnna Cummins

Tseung Kwan O Skatepark, Po Hong Rd, Tseung Kwan O. Open from April 30 onwards, from 8am-10pm daily.


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Pedestrian precinct in Central?

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On April 28, The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP), in collaboration with MVA Hong Kong Limited (MVA), City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and Civic Exchange, released a new proposal to turn a section of Des Voeux Road Central (between Pedder Street and Morrison Street) into a green ‘tram and pedestrian precinct’.

The MTR is soon to open up at the nearby Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town, which will herald a change in the bus routes in the area. HKIP sees this as a perfect opportunity to reconsider how we use our main roads, and divert traffic away from the busy Des Voeux Road Central. The aim is to improve the quality of the air in the area, as well as providing a relaxing and enjoyable space for people to walk. The area would include trees, landscaping features, resting spaces and a ‘grassed carpet’, running along the tramway.
 

“The proposal represents an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish what many cities have achieved – to create an exhilarating and comfortable pedestrian environment in the heart of the city,” says Dr Peter Cookson Smith, Immediate Past President of the HKIP. 

This proposal was formally submitted to the government on April 24.



 

"This project demonstrates the benefits of reclaiming road space for pedestrians from vehicles in Hong Kong's central business district, and it echoes with a similar trend in other world cities like New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai”, says Simon Ng, Chief Research Officer of Civic Exchange. “A pedestrian-friendly Des Voeux Road Central will enhance connectivity and pedestrian movement, reduce traffic congestion, promote business, and improve roadside air quality.” 

To find out more, visit bit.ly/TramPrecinct. Anna Cummins 

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Joyce is not here, anymore

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Photo by Roger Price

Cult artist bar Joyce is not here sadly closes after eight creative years on Peel St. Anna Cummins spoke to owner Joyce Peng about the reasons she’s calling it a night.

Peel Street will be a little quieter, and will have a lot less soul after July 28, when artist bar and cult hangout Joyce is Not Here closes its doors after eight years. Taking its name from the fact that owner Joyce Peng was often too busy with her interior design job to get to her bar, the family-run space has long been a welcome haven for creative types.

Owner Joyce Peng told Time Out about the free-spirited nature of her bar. “I like the concept of doing whatever you dream of; no rules, no boundaries... don't care about others, live your own way,” says Peng, who also runs Peel Fresco jazz bar just across the road. “For example, our opening hours are from 4:53pm until we get tired, and we have sad hour, instead of happy hour. It never really seemed like running a business, it was more freestyle.”

It’s certainly a dark day for the artistic and musical scene in Hong Kong, and there have been many people shocked and saddened by this announcement. The bar is closing for two reasons. Firstly, the rent was recently hiked by 80 percent, rendering the space simply unaffordable. Secondly, a barrage of noise complaints from neighbours has meant that the bar was shortly to lose its alcohol license. Joyce asserts that “97 percent of the noise complaints found nothing [no basis for complaint]… we have been harassed by someone who wants to kill Peel Street.”

The bar opened back in 2005. Joyce remembers ‘I just wanted to create a place to gather with designers, architects, artists, filmmakers... just like the places we always go in Toronto’. This concept café quickly developed into a hub for the local artistic scene, with the bar continuously packing an impressively eclectic schedule of performances – including poetry Wednesdays, open mic Thursdays and movie nights on Sundays, with world class Jazz on Friday and Saturdays; alongside rotating art exhibitions, band performances, jam sessions and comedy gigs. And when we ask Joyce what her personal highlights over the years have been, she simply declares, “forgive me, really (there have been) too many nice people and nice happenings here, that I can't list them at all!”

There is, thankfully, some good news though – Joyce is Not Here’s sister bar, Peel Fresco Music Lounge, is still just across the street and will, hopefully, manage to remain alive and kicking for a while yet. In the meantime, Joyce will remain as busy as ever. “I want to focus on my interior design business for a while and make some money first… aha, I have really contributed all my savings into this bar and into Peel Fresco.” Joyce also reveals that a movie about the bar is potentially in the making. “Then, I think I will start to write down all the touching stories of these eight years here on Peel Street. Maybe can find a sponsor to make a movie as well, because I also studied film making last year as a very bad student!”

The good news is that Joyce hasn’t let these events faze her. “I think I will reopen next year sometime; still in Central, but I’m not sure where or exactly when,” she says. For the bar’s final few weeks, Joyce has curated an expectedly eclectic schedule (here - on.fb.me/1dhz2Yz), which definitely deserves to be checked out.

Pay Joyce a visit and say bye before July 28, at Shop D, G/F, 38-44 Peel Street, Central.

 

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The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal + Mariner of the Seas!

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Kai Tak
Royal Caribbean's cruise liner: The Mariner of the Seas

We head on board the Mariner of the Seas to check out Kai Tak's maiden berthing. On Wednesday 12th June, amidst much fanfare, Royal Caribbean's cruise liner Mariner of the Seas became the first vessel to dock at the new $8.2 billion Kai Tak cruise terminal. It heralds a new era in cruising for Hong Kong (yeah not that kind of cruising), with the largest ships in the world now able to dock in the harbour – something that was never possible at the smaller Ocean Terminal dock in TST.

Kai Tak
The arrivals hall looking shiny and new

The new terminal is set to transform Kowloon, boasting an immigration hall that can clear 3,000 passengers within an hour, one of the largest landscaped gardens in Hong Kong, (23,000 sq. metres) as well as a gigantic car park and transport terminus. It is capable of berthing the largest cruise ships in the world, which weigh in at well over 200,000 tonnes.

The vessel which docked in Hong Kong for two nights this week, Mariner of the Seas, is 310 metres long, holds over 3,000 passengers and is 15 stories high – yet is not even close to the size of the largest ships, which accommodate closer to 6,000 guests plus 3,000 staff. Wowzer.

Time Out went on board the Mariner this Thursday, to have a sneak peek around the new arrivals hall and the vessel itself, before its departure later that day. We grabbed a few photos for you to check out as well...

Kai Tak
The swimming pool on the cruise liner Mariner of the Seas

Many of the airport-style scanning machines in the new departures hall were still encased in their bubble wrap, indicating just how new this building is. We also proceeded to nosy around the ship itself - it's often commented that there's nothing you can't do on a cruise ship and Royal Caribbean seem to be taking that mantra very seriously, with activities ranging from ice skating to bumper cars, via theatre productions and hairdressing. Perhaps the only thing you can't do on a cruise ship is get married. Oh, wait – you can.

Kai Tak
Passenger gangway at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

Whilst environmental issues concerning the pollution of Victoria Harbour abound, cruise operators are well aware of the concerns and seem to be at least trying to reduce the impact they'll have on the harbour, using marine gas with a low sulphur content whilst in port. The future of our city as a tourism hub to rival Singapore and Shanghai is important and, despite a couple of teething troubles so far, this terminal really is set to rival the best. Anna Cummins

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Fill My Tank

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Living on the doorstep of the world’s second largest consumer of fossil fuels, and being extremely energy-hungry ourselves, there’s no surprise Time Out Hong Kong’s dedicated section for news and social issues is called Big Smog.

The search for answers to the global energy crisis, and the pollution it generates, remains an uphill battle where ‘breakthroughs’ often create more problems than they remedy, such as the detrimental effect on world hunger posed by first generation biofuel crops such as corn.

Fill My Tank, a new eco-travel show, hosted and produced by Hong Kong environmentalist Sean Lee-Davies, explores a potential solution for the smog that threatens to envelop us all. The experiment in question? Turning used cooking oil, which would otherwise be thrown away, from hazardous waste into biodiesel that produces 60 percent less emissions than regular diesel. Airing every Friday until March 15, the show will follow Lee-Davies as he drives over 2,500km from Singapore to Cambodia using the recycled fuel, with other sustainable energy pit stops on the way.

Tonight's episode has him beginning his road trip, stopping first in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; with next week's episode revealing a slightly dirtier option for renewable energy, namely pig manure…

Fill My Tank airs every Friday at 8.30pm on Cable Channel 76, and Channel News Asia.

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Rory McIlroy: Into the swing

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With towering skyscrapers in the background, Rory McIlroy teed off on Tuesday from the Peak as he inched one shot closer to this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open. The world number one golfer sent his ball soaring through the air with an effortless swing – though it didn’t quite reach Victoria Harbour. Not that he was aiming for it anyway – the water hazard would have earned him a one-stroke penalty. No, McIlroy was aiming for something else: to defend his UBS Hong Kong Open title.

The long-awaited golf tournament is set to be a cracker this weekend. And Time Out Hong Kong was there at the launch to take in the tension. It’s 23-year-old McIlroy’s sixth visit to Hong Kong Golf Club. “Hong Kong has always been a place that I really enjoy coming to,” he said at the Peak. “Hong Kong is just a great city. It’s always got a great buzz, a great atmosphere and there’s something about Fanling and the Hong Kong Golf Club I really enjoy.”

It’s been a fantastic year for the Northern Irishman. He finished top of the list in both Europe and the United States this season, and was just named the PGA of America’s Player of the Year. What he wants to do most, though, is to polish his skills and play even better next year, he says. “I just want to keep improving and keep trying to become a better golfer.”

Also playing at the championship in Fanling is 19-year-old Steven Lam. The local teenage golf star will be caddied by Tiffany Chan, 19 – another standout Hong Kong golfer. Being such young players in a star-studded field of elite golfers is, of course, nerve-wracking – but the pair say they are more than ready for the challenge. “If I’m lucky and make the cut, I’ll be happy," says Lam. “But if not, I won’t be upset.”

Chan has caddied for Lam many times and hopes to use what knowledge she has to help. “I’m another person who can help with the on-course decision making,” she says. “I hope he can enjoy the game and if he plays well, he’ll make the cut.”

The UBS Hong Kong Open tees off on Thursday November 15 at the Hong Kong Golf Club and takes place over the weekend. See ubshongkongopen.com for details. Mary Hui

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Say cheese!

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Who doesn't like to carry a camera around Hong Kong and take a shot of anything from the city at night to that hotpot you enjoyed with friends last week? We all love to think we're world-class photographers here but, let's face it, not all photos are worthy of a place on your wall. Sometimes it's best to leave it to the pros. Step forward Michael Yamashita, who has produced a series of gems in his new book Shangri-La: Along the Tea Road to Lhasa. A famed National Geographic photographer for years, Yamashita brought a taste and some tales of Tibet to share with a packed house of Hongkongers on October 2 at the Kelly and Walsh store located in Pacific Place. For more on the event, see kellyandwalsh.com.

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