The Umbrella Movement – Day 14

Today marks the 14th Day of the Umbrella Movement. The week went by without any violence and drama. The students are still out there occupying the streets but things have normalised. Shops, schools and government offices have reopened. Even the stock markets are doing just fine.

Highway-walking is my new weekend activity. Psychologically, it is quite a joy to stroll on the empty highway without the cars. The occupied streets have underwent a lot of transformation since my last visit a week ago. From the increasing numbers of tents, beds, supply-stalls and make-shift shower shelters, it seems that the demonstrators are determined to settle here for a long time. With the cooling good weather, I believe more and more people will turn up to occupy Central.

Despite the inconvenience caused by this occupation, the Umbrella Movement has given Hong Kong a new breath of life. Ground Zero has transformed the cold concrete city center into a never-seen-before haven of peace, unity, love and freedom. Here, air is fresher and people are a lot nicer. There is no need to worry about food, water and shelter. People are super nice, considerate and thoughtful. It is almost surreal. This occupation creates a brand new state of mind and freedom. There is art, passion and zen everywhere. It is so peaceful and relaxing here. Travellers who decided to skip Hong Kong may be in for a loss. Instead, I encourage them to come to Hong Kong to enjoy this “money-cannot-buy” experience.

Perhaps this is what every one needs now. A good break and ample space for every one to rediscover their life priorities and sense-of-purposes. It may not be a bad thing for a city to slow down a little for every one to connect their minds and souls. I see this more than just an occupied highway. I see Hope, Unity, Kindness and Greatness of Hong Kong people. Welcome to the new Freedom Highway – where all great things begin.

The Umbrella Movement – Day 7

It must end today, warned the Hong Kong government. Today marks the 7th Day of the Umbrella Revolution Movement. It is more appropriate to call this a “movement” than irresponsibly sensationalise it as a revolution, said my good friend. It has been a very dramatic week. From a peaceful protest, the first tear gas against unarmed students erupted into this large scale of civil disobedience. Social harmony was eroded when the pro-Beijing and triads arrived. Overnight, the city witnessed many episodes of petty violence. The Hong Kong Police was criticised again for its slow response to the violent attacks against the unarmed students. And many pointed fingers towards the police for orchestrating these violence.

There have been many discussions and advises about the outcome of this movement given by political experts and observers circulated on the internet. Many took sides with the students but urged for a more realistic demand. Every one knows Beijing will not give in for the sake of China’s social peace. To give in to Hong Kong would sparked off unrest in other troubled lands like Tibet and Xinjiang and possibly Taiwan. Sitting and occupying the streets will not move Beijing or get rid of the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Instead, it is going to divide Hong Kong and put China in a very bad position. If this continues for another one week, I am afraid the students will lose their public support and more external forces will implicate the current social-balance. Already, there are many evil propagators online trying to fuel this into a more dangerous protest. No surprise, some syndicates will do anything to disrupt China – even at the expense of misusing an international city like Hong Kong.

This is going to be a long battle and the students should know they cannot achieve the impossible by sitting on the streets for another week or month. Political reform is a long road and the best way to change things may be from the inside. It is disturbing to let Hong Kong youth of this generation to shoulder all these. What the students need to do is to conserve their energy, withdraw with dignity and plot another strategy to engage with the government. This occupation has already sent a strong signal to Beijing that Hong Kong youth are passionate and serious about their voting rights. Now, the important steps are to stay free/alive (and not detained), win all Hong Kong people to continue the fight on another effective platform. (See live feed by Apple Daily TV below)

Beijing leaders should recognise the world is changing and they must take the initiative to hold talk with the students and compromise for a win-win outcome. Beijing shouldn’t be afraid of negotiating with her Hong Kong people. CY Leung should gracefully take the exit as he is partially to blame for the escalation of this crisis. If he is capable enough to unite and win Hong Kongers’ heart, Hong Kong won’t be in this state today. That’s the problem with Hong Kong – it lacks of a credible Hong Kong Leader to succeed CY Leung - one who is popular, fair and tough enough to meet eye to eye with Beijing. In fact, there is none! The succession planning of Hong Kong’s future leaders is apathy. The opposition parties behave like thugs and overly-emotionally-unstable individuals. The influential tycoons who are respected by both sides aren’t interested to be embroiled into this political mess and chose to do nothing. I don’t see another suitable male leader clearing this mess. Hong Kong needs a compassionate and hardliner female leader like Margaret Thatcher to bring balance to the table. Someone who is willing to listen, make swift decision and has the balls to handle Beijing. Perhaps number 2, Anson Chan can fit this role.

The only good news is more roads have opened up since Friday. The students gave up many key occupied areas to give way to the community and congregated at Admiralty. For me, it was a refreshing 10km to and fro the demonstration sites. I took a 2-hour walk from Central to Causeway Bay yesterday afternoon. It was such a different sight. The main streets around Lippo Center and Bank of China were so quiet and empty. Less than 10 students stationed at the barricades. Business around Wanchai and Causeway Bay was badly affected. I visited Wanchai Computer Center, there were hardly more than 30 shoppers!

Just before the police arrive to reclaim and cleans up the streets, I went to capture some of remaining “street voices” marked by the demonstrators. A good historic mementoes for tomorrow’s generations. And I sincerely pray for Hong Kong’s unity and sanity.

The Umbrella Revolution (雨傘革命) – Day and Night

Oct 1st – Today is China’s National Day and it marks the 4th day of the Umbrella Revolution. The riot police has long left the scene. Ground Zero (at Admiralty) has been very peaceful for the past 3 days. It is a totally different atmosphere compared to last Sunday’s violent crackdown against the demonstrators. On the contrary, it is very difficult to find any policeman within the occupied zone. The occupied zone has since expanded from Admiralty to Wanchai and Causeway Bay. Over at Kowloon, demonstrators have also occupied key shopping streets at Mongkok and Nathan Road.

It is national public holiday today, Tracy and I decided to take a stroll from Causeway Bay to Central. As most of the main roads are occupied, we took the subway to Causeway Bay station. The train ride wasn’t as crowded as I have expected. In fact, things looked very normal underground!

The occupants at Causeway Bay are extremely friendly, peaceful and considerate. The demonstrators kept a wide walking lane for the pedestrians. It was a breeze to walk from Sogo to Times Square. Usually we would need to wait for the traffic light crossing, now with the roadblocks, traffic flow seemed smoother for the pedestrians. Shops were open and crowded with shoppers.

It is such a rare sight to see Hong Kong without cars. The pace is slow, quiet and very peaceful. The air seems fresher too! We saw many people walking on the main highway. Demonstrators, tourists and even families with children! Many came dressed in black with a yellow bow to support the movement.

Along our way to Ground Zero, we saw and learnt many great things. It totally changed my perception of a cold, commerical-minded, self-centered and vain Hong Kong. I salute those who stood there day and night, rain and shine. From distributing free drink and food to collecting trash, every one has a part to play. Already, the world has been writing amazing reports about Hong Kong demonstrators. There is a sense of strong integrity within this occupation. Demonstrators are wise and alert not to tip over the scale of this movement. They are watchful for suspicious commotions and undesirable intentions to unbalance this peaceful protest. There is no fear or panic, just smiles and love for the city. What we witnessed is the unity, the gracefulness, the calmness, the maturity, the bravery and the selfless spirit of Hong Kong.

The same spirit of solidarity can be witnessed online too. There have been dangerous voices for independence and the demonstrators rebuked those calls. Hong Kong students still recognise and respect China’s sovereignty. Many even asked western powers not to intervene as it will only invite more complications and slow down the progress of the negotiations. What the people want is true Universal Suffrage so they can have a say for their future. The demonstrators stay focused and united against all external distractions and interruptions.

This movement has bring Hong Kong people (overseas and local) together. And it will make them stronger than before. I am proud to witness this priceless historic moment. And very proud of Hong Kong people! You are clearly the world’s most polite, helpful, friendly, caring, disciplined, responsible and peace-loving demonstrators!

The day when Hong Kong Police betrayed its own people

Hong Kong is a different city today. 

After so many years of peaceful demonstrations, protests and rallies, 28-Sept marked the day when Hong Kong Police betrayed its own people. Instead of keeping order and protecting its people from harm, unarmed students and peaceful demonstrators were attacked by the police’s tear gas and pepper sprays continuously. Time after time, the demonstrators came back in force. These senseless attacks only fuelled the anger of Hong Kongers. It showed the weakness of Hong Kong government and its police force. No matter what happens in next few hours, the Hong Kong government and police may even win tonight’s battle but they have already lost the world’s respect.

I was shopping at IFC Mall this afternoon and there was a big crowd surrounding an electronic shop. On the big TV screens, I saw the tensions between the demonstrators and the police. Outside the mall, there were students holding cards asking the public to go to Admiralty to support their fight for true universal suffrage. Tracy and I decided to walk over to take a look.

Admiralty Hong Kong was in total chaos today. The demonstrators sat on key highways, locking down the financial district. Long queue of cars, buses and trams were forced to a complete standstill. Amazing, no one in the vehicles horn. At around 4pm, the first tear-gas was fired into the crowd. Tracy and I were standing about 800m away when thousands of people retreated towards our direction. I was wondering what caused the panic retreat. Just before I was about to go nearer to the conflict zone, the tear gas stung my eyes and throat. It was unbearable! We weren’t prepared for this.

The gas forced the crowd to retreat to Lippo Center. There, I witnessed a small tussle between the policemen and a large group of demonstrators. The policemen were violent and used their batons against the unarmed demonstrators. In the end, the demonstrators won and drove the policemen away. They managed to seal off another main road and a volunteer was seen maintaining the traffic.

Throughout the entire demonstration, the people maintained their cool and refrained from any violence against the policemen. A couple of volunteers were seen picking up trash on the streets and some were distributing drinks and food to fellow demonstrators. The demonstrators cheered one another and encouraged one another to stay united and strong. Together, they stood bravely against the senseless attacks. I was touched by their unity and passion. This is the never-say-die Spirit of Hong Kong!

I believe this is just the beginning of a long road to achieve true universal suffrage. And thanks for the calls and messages from my friends and loved ones from Singapore, we are perfectly safe and well sheltered. I am blessed to witness this historic moment and may God bless Hong Kong. My prayers are with all the young and brave students (and reporters) who sacrifice their time and safety to safeguard the future of Hong Kong people. Hang on, you are not alone, the world is here with you. You have made history today.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people, said Alan Moore from V for Vendetta”. Hong Kong Police, did you hear your people sing? Time to remove your masks and gears and embrace your people. History has taught us that only peace, wisdom and love can win this war. Never violence and bloodshed. Stop attacking your own people and let peace opens a way for meaningful settlement.

Watch the live feed below:

Guilin – Where Chinese Painting comes Alive (桂林山水甲天下)

Since young, I have heard so much about Guilin and seen tons of images of its famous sceneries. I was very excited when my company selected Guilin as this year’s conference venue! It is certainly one place I always wanted to visit!

Guilin is such an important place that it earns itself a spot on the back of the RMB20 bill. Not to mention we named a small lake in Singapore as Little Guilin! It does strike a very similar resemblance to the real Guilin!

The flight to Guilin from Hong only takes only 1 hour. Being a trainspotter and a railfan, I opted to take a slow 13-hour overnight train from Shenzhen to this beautiful city.Joining me were 3 lovely female colleagues – Celia, Chowpo and Tracy. We booked 2 private cabins to ourselves. Come Dec 2014, there will be a new 3-hour speed train connecting Shenzhen and Guilin. I might be one of the very last few to experience this old route.

The four of us boarded the train at Shenzhen Lowu Station at 4:44pm. This was Chowpo’s first overnight train ride. She has never taken a soft-sleeper train before. What an experience for her! Just 5 minutes into our long 13-hour ride, we found out a nasty surprise! There wasn’t any eatery on board! Imagine there is an eatery on board the Hong Kong Guangzhou train (which is only a 2-hour ride), I was awfully shocked when I heard the news! We were so desperate that we hijacked the food cart and wiped out all the instant cup noodles.

The train ride was very smooth and comfortable. The mobile tablets and wifi kept us entertained till midnight and we slept through the night. 13 hours passed so fast and we arrived at Guilin at 6am the next morning. We arranged a private pick up to fetch us from the train station to the hotel. Along the way, we stopped by to eat the famous Guilin Rice Noodle (桂林米粉)! What a yummy breakfast!

We parked ourselves at the new Club Med Guilin Resort. It was surreal, it was walking in a living Chinese painting! Opened 2013, the Club Med Resort Guilin is built within the scenic spots of Yuzi Paradise and Yan Han Botanical Garden. The resort was very well landscaped and spacious. The young vibrant Club Med GOs (Gentil Organisateur – the resort staffs) were extremely friendly and warm! Here, we experience the Club Med’s signature hospitality where the GOs and GMs (Gentils Membres – the resort guests) mingle, play, dine, drink, and party together every day and night! There was no need to carry a wallet. All food, drinks and activities were free! We had such great fun at the resort! I love the environment, it was so peaceful and heavenly!

It was a 3-day-2-night company trip. It was a pity that we had to spend two full days inside the resort for training and team-building activities. I wished we had conducted the training outside the resort, high up in the mountains! Nevertheless, we had lots of fun and rewarding moments here! I love my team! We may be young and hyper, but we are one big passionate and united team! I just love the energy and company of these wonderful lovely people!

Thankfully, there were some leisure times when the organisers took us outside Club Med to visit some of Guilin’s most beautiful and iconic spots at Yangshuo (阳朔). On our first night, we watched one of the world’s most renowned and largest outdoor light-shows – “The Impressional Sanjie Liu (印象刘三姐)” at Li River. Directed by famed director, Zhang Yimou and performed by a huge cast of over 600 people, all of whom are local residents of the Li River (漓江), the 1.5-hour lived up to its name of “Human’s Masterpiece Cooperated with the God”!

And on our last day, the organisers took us on a 1-hour boat tour along Li River (漓江) and later in the evening, we had our farewell dinner near Yangshuo’s shopping district at Xi Street.

The next morning, most of colleagues flew back to Hong Kong. My group (the trainspotters) were the last to depart Guilin. Our departure time was at 9pm, we had more than 8 hours of dwell time to spare. We hired a local tour to bring us around Guilin City. We visited The Pierced Cave (穿山岩), 7-Star Park (七星公园) and Guilin’s most famous landmark, the “Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山)“.

Despite being an ancient and important tourist venue, Guilin is still under heavy development for further tourism growth. Overall, I feel Guilin’s natural landscapes have been overly reshaped by man-made objects and structures. I was very disturbed when I cruised along Li River and toured the limestone cave. It seemed that these beautiful natural geo formations were poorly preserved and terribly exploited over the decades. The Chinese government should leave nature untouched and preserve them as much as possible. With the new speed-train route opening in Dec 2014, I am sure more tourists will pour into the city. If you haven’t been to Guilin, please visit it soon before more man-made structures destroy its original beauty.

A Little Sweet Mid Autumn Reunion Treat

September school holidays are here and my darlings are with me for 10 good days! I was hoping to get the attractive deal on Cathay Fanfare but I couldn’t get the tickets to Maldives or Perth. The other destinations were either too expensive or the timing was just not ideal. With limited options left, I decided to plan “a little sweet treat” for them in Macau.

Elkan was a little disappointment when he found out that we were heading to Macau for the weekend. He never liked the City of Sins as there’re little things for him to do. He begged me a couple of times to stay in Hong Kong so we can play soccer and hike the mountains together. In order not to spoil the surprise of the “special place”, I acted cold and indifferent to his pleas. I lied to him that we will be shopping and nothing else. Elkan was grumbly throughout the journey. (See some of his photos, he didn’t even want to smile!) To divert his disappointment, I added a short outdoor hike (at Monte Fort) in the itinerary at the last minute. Felicia sensed something amiss with my “unusual poor planning” . She asked me quietly in a mischievous tone, “mmm, what are you planning?” I replied with a straight cold answer “Nothing to do leh, maybe catch a movie later.”

You see, I was buying time to keep them occupied till 3pm as that was the check-in time for my “little sweet surprise” at the legendary Banyan Tree Macau. Famed for its luxurious suite featuring a spacious living area and an indoor private relaxation pool, Banyan Tree Macau is infamous for its unavailability and exorbitant price!  The room I wanted was often fully-booked many months ahead. Thanks to Mid Autumn Festival, the occupancy during this festive holiday was surprisingly low. I was extremely lucky to secure the room one week ago at a very special price!

The moment Felicia and Elkan walked into the suite, both of them were delightfully dazed! I love watching their priceless expressions! None of them expected this! Felicia gave me that stern “I-knew-you-had-something-up-in-your-sleeve” stare and Elkan’s eyes were watery. My boy felt guilty for all the bad feelings towards me during the trip. Knowing he was overly touched, I went to give my silly boy a big hug!

This is Elkan’s dream playroom - a 100sqm space with luxurious bedroom, expansive living area complete with spacious 3m wide relaxation pool and custom 2-person wooden bathtub complementing an opulently furbished bathroom!  The pool was constantly kept at a perfect water temperature between 27°C-30°C overseeing unparalleled views of the Cotai City. All thanks to the simple and great space design, the room was so indulging that we stayed indoor most of the time. We spent our Mid Autumn Festival watching TV, selfies in the pool, face-timing my parents, niece and nephew back home.

I am so glad that I didn’t disappoint them. What an unique and memorable experience for the family! When it was time to leave, Elkan asked me to bring him back to Macau in Nov and he promised he won’t be grumpy anymore. Hahah, my silly happy boy.

Remote Control Paperplane by PowerUp 3.0

Thanks to the advancement of smartphones and remote-control devices, there are more and more flying objects in the air. I am not talking about drones. Recently, I got an unique gadget from a Kickstarter initiative. Introducing the PowerUp 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane – now we can remote control via bluetooth and extend flight time of our very own home-folded paper plane.

It is a very small and durable device. It is a stick with an aero-head and a propeller attached on the other end. Simply attach the paper plane to the aero-head and use the smartphone to navigate its flight. Like most remote control drones, the only dissatisfaction is the short flight time, each full charge lasted only 15 minutes.

This afternoon, Elkan and I took turns to test the flights at Victoria Park. It wasn’t difficult to master and we managed to keep the plane slightly more than 10 secs in the air. Some of the passersby stopped as they thought it was an unusual flying paper plane. As the device was so small, it was difficult to notice that it was a battery-operated plane.

For USD49, it promises many hours of fun and explorations. Time to be creative and test different foldings for the most optimal flight. Enjoy our little video.


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