” If you start by strolling down Nga Tsin Wai Road gradually find yourself trespassing upon scenes from a classic Cantonese movie”. A friend from Macau, quoting a Chinese contemporary artist, made me curious about this place. The Hong Kong I knew, the corporate, “suited”, sky scrapered city didn’t really rhyme with that last sentence. That curiosity moved my feet on a rainy day, with typhoon warning level 1, to cross the city and find this place. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I found. A small Island of Persistence. In the middle of the concrete, a clear of old houses, shacks, little stores businesses. Also, I came to find some of the most generous, kind people I found on this trip. As long as I live, the memory of meeting Man and his friends, I will never lose. They were just there, around the corner. As if they had been waiting for me all along. They immediately pulled up a chair, sat me down and chatted with me in Cantonese and a bit of English. Beer and lychees were drank and eaten, with the horse race narration in the background. Oh the lychees, so good this time of year! I can’t express how happy I was by this encounter. Unfortunately the appetite of progress doesn’t diminish, and the Village is bound to be demolished in September. A sad cloud, in the middle of so much Sun.
An Island of Persistence
“I came to find some of the most generous, kind people I came across on this trip. As long as I live, the memory of meeting Man and his friends, I will never lose. They were just there, around the corner. As if they had been waiting for me all along. They immediately pulled up a chair, sat me down and chatted with me in Cantonese and a bit of English. Beer and lychees were drank and eaten, with the horse race narration in the background. Oh the lychees, so good this time of year! I can’t express how happy I was by this encounter…”
Sometimes the duration of your trip is not what matters. Sometimes intensity does. The best trip of your life can last only a couple of days. In China, I only had seven days. Seven days to feel the pulse of an immense country in constant flowing change. I can’t say I succeeded in that, but normally I don’t really mind what I don’t see… I do care about what I see, and the moments I can capture… It’s about where your steps take you, what your eyes see… In Shanghai, I was able to contact a completely different culture, but in my own way, with my own approach… I do have to thank Shanghai and its people for the warm moments it has given me… Moments of high human value, of all sorts… From hilarious, peaceful, to simply puzzling… It was a great learning…
Early rise, elbowed my way through the Metro rush hour and waited with the crowd for the train to arrive. Short nap, waking up, miming session with the Taxi driver. “Canals, Water… errr” I actually had to make him a drawing… And I’m not very good at that… After the busy morning, Suzhou revealed itself in all its splendor. Little canals and nice benches to relax, gazing at the reflection of the water. The facade of the place very neatly arranged, with Chinese motifs all around. But that wasn’t enough for me… At first chance, I turned into an alleyway and I got completely lost. My temporary “neighbors” looked quite surprised to see me there, and greeted me sometimes… Rambling around, I even got chased by some very territorial canine friends… Oh well, it was quite worth the stroll!
A little stroll around Shanghai will tell you how restless and eager for development the city is. Kind of a personification the Present China, with Past and Future all juxtaposed and fighting each other for presence. Yes, Shanghai is also all that. It’s also luxury items, high rises and a more Western way of life. If the other day I brought you the persistence of Chinese tradition, today I bring you the paradox of its reality… but don’t think Shanghai is not China… It’s actually as China as it can be…
Small housing and high rises… remove the background and this picture could be 50 or 60 years…
Where could I be?
The New Chinese Humor
“Shanghai is not China”. These were the words stressed and underlined by an Italian expatriate, living in Shanghai for a year. During our train ride, he talked and talked of how Westernized it is, how the habits of living are not Chinese at all. I always said that, as a traveller I prefer to experience things for myself, read between the lines and immerse myself into a place’s culture… No matter what it is. What I found during my first meanderings around the city was a very Chinese city. A city in constant change, yes. With cranes constantly ripping your horizon, with Western stores and brands and luxury stores. But that’s not define entirely Shanghai. Cultural changes are in general never sudden nor total. With all due respect Matteo, I decided find that persistence of traditional Chinese culture and habits… I hope you can forgive me, for we are here in two different moment, different situations… I’m a traveller… You are living here and what we look for is not the same…
Little alleyways where people gather
In a public garden, a man hangs his clothes on a tree to dry
Afternoon Tai Chi
Eels? Duck? Snake? You name it!
On my way to China, a stopover in Hong Kong… As I step out of the ferry, the city seems more lively than it was on my previous visits… As if that was possible. I wonder what’s going on? Mystery solved with a quick look at the time… No it’s not rush hour, it’s lunch time. Everybody’s out enjoying their lunch break, unwinding from a morning of hard work, or simply walking furiously to the next take away restaurant. In such a huge corporate city, the lunchbreak seems to be more than just a break… it’s a simple pleasure of life…
White Collar and Blue Collar
The other day, I was honored to have witnessed a workshop with the playful children from the schools of Macau. It was set at an art gallery, from the Rui Cunha Foundation ( to whom I leave a big thank you). It had the intention of stimulating the taste for art in the young ones. It was a great afternoon with the kids, joking around, watching their bright eyes learning something new… and me learning with them. Having worked as a teacher, I realized I kind of miss working with children… you do learn so much with them. At the same time, thinking about it… I haven’t been doing anything else but that… every day on my trip: Being a child has a lot to do with surprising yourself with the world around you…