As inspired by Kuwahara Natsuko’s quirky (and self-explanatory) photo book, Bread and A Dog.
Over the four days of the Easter break we spent a lazy home staycation, waking up with the sun shining on an apartment newly full of plants, and napping with the breeze playing in the curtains off the Pok Fu Lam strait. I read, we listened to old Bjork records. I had a fun night out, and a disastrous hang-over afterwards, cured with a cool swim in the outdoor pool at Wong Chuk Hang and sunny, summery trips to the flower market. It was a perfect pint-sized break.
Over the long weekend we somehow made five or six trips back to Prince Edward to the Flower Market, a buzzing couple of blocks near East Mongkok railway station where stores sell succulents and orchids, street vendors hawk bonsai trees and large, well-appointed shops line the main roads with all manner of pots and palm trees. The footpaths here are always crowded with plants and browsers. As we explored more and got to know the area better though, we discovered some more surprises.
The first was the huge disparity in prices. Similar plants could be on sale for as little as ten or twenty Hong Kong dollars and five times that in other places, or even more compared to stores on Hong Kong island! It is one place where it definitely pays to shop around.
In a little alleyway running through the flower and plant stalls we found a shop selling African chameleons, clambering around the aquarium tanks with wildly swivelling eyes, and then Hay Fever, a glamorous downstairs-plant-shop upstairs-cafe, seemingly modelled after something you would imagine in Aoyama or Jiyugaoka. On the main road was a restored 1920s apartment block, its high-ceilinged lower level spaces now converted into a zen-inspired vegetarian eatery. And tucked away in a corner, overlooking the action through plate glass windows in another old apartment block was the “House of Moments” teahouse, this time reminiscent of Taipei, where we ate tofu-cheesecake.
Ursula Le Guin is my favourite sci-fi writer. Her immaculately-constructed worlds echo the goals and ghosts of the 1970s – feminist worlds, planets riven by capitalist-Communist cold wars, anarchist moons, environmentalist Vietnam War parables set in outer space – works of speculative anthropology as well as fiction, imagining how things could be. Her writing is immersive, brimming with rich details as well as fully realised characters. “The Dispossessed” tells the tale of twin planets Uras and Anarres, the latter an outcast society on a barren world which operates without laws or governments as a kind of whole-planet kibbutz, fiercely protective of its non-hierarchical way of life. On its parent planet meanwhile, the wealthy “West” and authoritarian “East” fight proxy wars in developing countries and governments seek to oppress liberty, whether in the rich countries or the poor ones. A visitor from the egalitarian moon of Anarres must decide how to engage with this world or if it is best to leave it all alone and hide in isolation.