Whenever my husband and I travel, while I make sense of train or bus routes from the airport to where we’re staying, I can always count on him to appear beside me with a handful of useful maps and brochures gathered from the information counters. Outside the Hong Kong International Airport, while we waited for the bus (see other ways to get to and from HKIA below) he began showing me his latest stash–one of which was a brochure to an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
We were traveling with another couple and made the mental note to find the time to see it. And on our third day in Hong Kong, before we met up with friends, we spent our Friday morning ooh-ing, ahh-ing, and gazing at Warhol’s works. Later on, I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the street corners of Sheung Wan.
The exhibit, “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” is reportedly the biggest retrospective of Warhol’s work to be shown in Asia. It covers all his years as a visual artist, even personal mementos from his childhood years to commissioned works in the 1980s and everything in between (the Campbell soup cans, Marilyn Monroe silkscreen painting, the Mao portraits, The Factory, the ‘In the future, everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes’ quote and so much more).
A few minutes after we got into the exhibit, elementary school students likely out on their educational field trip, started filing in. The quiet and sedate atmosphere typical of museums was replaced with high spirits and humor. Apt for a Warhol exhibit, right? Most of the kids, not surprisingly were drawn to the room with the silver pillows. (The video below is the version in the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh. Just add about 15 kids laughing and playing. And museum staff shh-ing them.)
And while I gazed at Campbells soups and Marilyns, the conversations the kids were having were priceless. Or awkward.
“I love Campbell soup!!! What’s your favorite?!”
Or the teacher explaining who Marilyn Monroe is, that she was considered the most beautiful woman back in the day, and that she committed suicide. “What’s suicide?” “Why did she do that?” Goodluck with those questions, lady.
After going around the exhibit, we took the Star Ferry from Kowloon (the pier is just nearby) to Hong Kong Island. I couldn’t find a BluRay copy of Chungking Express, but Godhelpme we were going to find those mid-levels escalators. My friends and I got out of Sheung Wan Station, walked (back towards Central, if I’m not mistaken), got lost a bit, saw some signs and finally found them!
Of course when you see the Central Mid-Levels escalators without Wong Kar-Wai’s cinematic glasses, the first instinct is to think, ‘This is it? Now what?’ Ride them escalators is what. At 800 meters long (when you put them all together) it’s supposedly the world’s longest covered escalator. But halfway through, I forget about Faye Wong and get distracted by the neighborhood below (there’s a marketplace!), the hip-looking cafes on the upper floors of the buildings, the pretty furniture shops…I wanted to get off and explore the streets underneath.
When we finished ‘riding’ the escalators and got back on the street, we got a chance to explore Hollywood Road in the side of Sheung Wan (the road stretches until Central) and a few nearby streets.
A few minutes of walking the sloping narrow streets, lined by shops, cafes and old and new apartment buildings, and minus the mass of fellow tourists (except at Man Mo Temple where they arrive by the bus loads) and I knew I wanted to keep coming back to this area. The vibe was less hurried (though watch out for speeding cars!). Or at least that Friday afternoon it was. (I read in this engaging blog, Gastronaut, that Hollywood Road gets overrun by tourists and antique shoppers by day; I guess we were lucky. If you want to know more about Sheung Wan–particularly the restaurants nearby, which sadly I didn’t get to try–read this blog post by Gastronaut, who’s a resident of the area.)
Among tourists, Sheung Wan is known as the place to go to for antiques. Particularly in Cat Street (Upper Lascar Row; immediately across Man Mo Temple). Sure there are antique shops selling Chinese furniture, ceramic and porcelain ware, Buddha sculptures, and other items way beyond our shopping budget, but there’s also the flea market stalls outside selling small Chinese crafts and curios, Mao memorabilia, posters, prints, fans, costume jewelry, and other kitschy decorative pieces. We ended up buying posters and several souvenirs there.
From the airport: Another lovely thing about Hong Kong is the efficient transport system that takes folks to and from the airport. (1) The Airport Express, the train which takes you to Central in Hong Kong Island in 24 minutes (we didn’t take this just because we didn’t want to drag our luggage in the train stations, make the necessary transfer to take another train to Kowloon and haul the luggage up the stairs); (2) public buses also stop at the airport, it takes longer but it’s also cheaper (price range between HKD18 to 48) and in our case, the bus stop in Tsim Sha Tsui was conveniently just a block away from where we were staying; (3) and there are, of course, cabbies (the price from TST to the airport was around HKD215).
Hong Kong Museum of Art: 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; +852 2721 0116; open Friday to Wednesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” ends March 31, 2013