Tai O 大澳

Friends and I visited Tai O on 4 March.  It's about 3 weeks ago.  That day, we were blessed with sunshine. Since then we haven't seen any sunshine but grey and sometimes rain.

We could enjoy the tranquillity once we've got off the bus. On the left is the pier. Fishing boats parked along the coast.  Just follow the crowd to squeeze into the main town.  Shops on the both sides are selling dried seafood.

We started a bit wandering in the main town.  Both sides are mainly dry seafood shops. We left shopping as the last activity and proceeded to the market to purchase fish as part of our lunch.

Our restaurant 海韻素食菜館 is located in a village within Tai O. We went there via a more scenic route: passing through the pier, crossing a long bridge with nice sea views.  Finally we arrived at Nam Chung Tsuen.


We had sumptuous food,  Great dishes kept on flowing onto our table.  The most impressive is the duck stuffed with different ingredients and cooked for long hours to make it tender and soft.  Other signature dishes include tofu (soft and intensive soy flavour) and deep fried taro. Even friends who are extremely cautious on food did not stop eating deep fried stuff and put their thumbs up.

Our first program after lunch is to visit Tai O Rural committee Historical and Cultural Showroom.  It displays stuff used in the daily life in the old days.  It includes all sorts of containers, lamps, wedding clothing and sedan chair.  Click here for more photos. 

The next hours were very leisure, without strict program. We just walked along the main path, passing through stores selling all kinds of stuff, food, market, temples, houses with poor living condition, the sea with nice blue and reflections. Food stores and restaurants do not look very appealing but with long queues.  I enjoyed the mood, the hint on hard working, lonesome people, old heritage and memory of the old days.


Our last destination was to visit the Heritage Hotel. It was redeveloped from the old police station to become a 9 room boutique hotel.  The architecture is very colonial and delightful. It  will be nice to enjoy a leisure lunch or afternoon tea.  

Next to the reception is a small detention room.  At the back of the building, a corner shows the trace of 9 bullet holes left by a fierce shooting dated back to 1918.

We had a very nice day in Tai O. The day was short in the late winter.  I will come back one day.


Since most of us live in Shatin, we started the trip with an airport bus (E42) passing through Shatin, Tai Wai, Tsing Yi and then we got off at Tung Chung to change a bus (Route 11) to Tai O. We needed to wait one or two buses due to the queue on Saturday.  The bus journey took about an hour.  If you are from Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, you can choose to take a ferry.  The journey time is also about an hour.  But it is much less frequent than the bus.


Santa Maria Presso San Satiro

Dated back to the 9th century,  a sacellum (a small shrine) was standing at Via Torino 17 of Milan.  It was dedicated to Saint Satyrus, an old saint and the brother of Saint Ambrose, patron saint of the city Milan. This little shrine was already an important place. Apart from this fact, a miracle occurred here in 1241: a young man attached with a dagger the fresco of a Madonna and Child, and the wound had started to bleed.

At the end of the 15th century, duke of the city, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of the city at time, commissioned Donato Bramante to build a church. Bramante was one of the best architects of that time. He introduced Renaissance architecture to Milan an dHigh Renaissance style to Rome. His other works include the cloister and apse at Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan), Palazzo Caprini (Raphael's House) in Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica of Rome, Cortile del Belvedere of the Vatican.

Building a church at Via Torino 17 was a big challenge, almost an non-achievable mission. The place was very tiny. And there stood the small shrine already.  And the surrounding buildings limited the space to build a church. But Bramante managed to have all key elements built for Santa Maria Presso San Satiro.

Bramante gave space and volume to Santa Maria Presso San Satiro.  When you step inside the church, it looks like a normal church.  But it is just out of visual deception. Trompe-l'ceil, or architectural optical illusion was popular in the late Renaissance and Baroque period.  But Bramante took the visual deception to an entirely new level. Standing at the entrance you will have an impression of much deeper space. The illusion is aided by the light conditions inside the building. When you get closer, you will see a very narrow apse, 40 inches only. But it interacts with the other elements nicely.  A small church, has everything a normal one possesses, and beautiful.

The sorrow, forlorn expressions seen on Mary and followers.  Impressive!

The sculpture above is frightening.  To me, it's a man who did not get the love from his beloved woman.  As so, he killed her.  Huge suffering........


Streets of Art Nouveau

Industrial revolution started in Britain in the 18th century. The economy changed from agriculture and handicraft to industry and machine manufacturing.  It gradually spread to the other parts of the world.  In the 20th century, The Novecento ('new century), the middle class of entrepreneurs and industrial families emerged.  It marked the beginning of a new era in the country's history.  Milan rose as the capital of Italian finance.  The new class challenged the tradition by erecting imaginative, eclectic and bizarre new residences in the heart of the old city.

The area of Porta Venezia, near Via Malpighi is where a handful of art Nouveau / Liberty style houses have been standing for close to/exceeding  a century.  Our eyes are easily trapped with inlaid with floral friezes, polychrome majolica tiles, wrought iron and reliefs of all kinds. In the new era, rules were cast aside. Neoclassical forms were combined with Baroque eccentricity and modern rationality. Leading architects setting the trend of the time were Giuseppe Sommuruga and Giovan Battista Bossi.  They had big teams of artisans with one purpose: win the the competition with the most imaginative presentation.

Walking along Via Malpighi made me feel that I was back to Prague which Liberty style art architecture is popular.

You won't feel alone when walking in the area of art Nouveau because windows and balconies are flanked with elegant male and female figures watching the street amid trees and grapevines.  The bold provocations were common for this new entrepreneurial class that was not bound by the tradition but creative, unconventional.


Cattelan's L.O.V.E. Sculpture outside Milan Stock Exchange


A giant middle 'Finger' stands in front of the Milan Stock Exchange. It is an expression of FXXX YXX to the bankers and CEOs, reflecting the grievance and annoyance from the 'people' who have been 'butchered' by the entrepreneurs dominating the Italian stock market for generations.  They win, profit from the losing public.  The government just keeps their eyes blind.

The anger was expressed by Maurizio Cattelan, famous for work of controversy.  He created this 36 foot marble middle finger in 2010, with a title L.O.V.E.  It stands for Liberta, Odio, Vendetta, Eternita (Freedom, Hate, Vengeance, Eternity). The artist did not comment the 'finger' but most people assumed it referred to the economic crisis that affected Europe, and Italy in particular.

The statue was supposed to stay at the square for a short time.  The inauguration sparked debate and controversy. The upper ones protested against it.  But the public thought that it represented their anger towards the 'upper', eating into the only wealth of the 'poor'.  18,000 people signed a petition to keep the statue at Piazza Affari.  I smiled.  At least, artists in the west can do that.  It won't happen in China or Hong Kong.  It will be demolished!  It won't last!