Peruvian Immersion For A Day @ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Date of Visit: March 29 2014

If your much anticipated hiking trip to Peru is cancelled what would you do?  Well, Bestie and I made a road trip to Canberra to gawk at the exotic Inca treasures of the ancient Peruvian civilisation at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra – aptly called ‘Gold and The Incas: Lost World of Peru” (here).

The exhibition is a key component of Canberra’s centenary celebrations in 2013 and also significant in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Australian-Peruvian diplomatic relations, and is organised in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.  As such, the works of art are lent by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú and its fraternal collections, the Fundacion Museo Amano, the Museo Larco and the Museo Oro del Perú – museums that were on our trip’s agenda –  as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Would it  surprise you that the Inca Empire lasted only 100 years?  This is a very short time for such a vast and famous enterprise!

In a nutshell:

“The Incas conquered all of Peru and much of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador.  The state governed from the capital city of Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards.  20,000km of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication.

The Emperor was The Son of The Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society.  The Inca state region demanded scarifices, human and animal – even textiles were burnt as offerings to the Gods.  Architecture, e.g. the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of the Inca culture (and still is!).  Temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry.

Sadly, our knowledge of Inca society is filtered through the world view of Spanish chroniclers. The Inca state of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and new diseases, especially smallpox.  Perhaps 90% of the native population, more than 10 million people, was killed or died of disease and famine after the conquest.

Almost every artefact that survives – what we see at the exhibition today – was buried with their owners.  As the cult of the dead infers, both noble and common people were interred in different ways according to tiers of importance – from ruling lords, priests, military leaders and retainers – as exemplified by their respective accoutrements and placements in their graves.

A rather kooky rite is that adorned mummified Inca elites form part of annual postmortem ceremonies where their corpses were paraded around the city of Cuzco.”

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Poster Child of the Exhibition: Gold Relic of the Sun God

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Children’s’ Discovery Area where photography is permitted

In summary, this is a well-curated exhibition with over 200 objects showcasing  exemplary artefact from each period of the Peruvian civilisation  from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths.  So, don’t miss out!

*****

It is only appropriate to round up our excursion by having a Peruvian themed lunch at the Sculptural Garden Restaurant.

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‘Cones’ (Bert Flugelman, 1976/82) in polished stainless steel

Finding it needed a bit of detective work as it is located outside the gallery, tucked away to the side of the garden and in a tent by the Marsh Pond.

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Sculptural Garden Restaurant

In the Marsh Pond (part of the sculpture garden) is a powerful work by Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian artist based in Darwin.  The pond is filled with bronze heads with extra eeriness supported by the mist-maker.  His works speaks of victims of oppression and social injustice.  If I remember correctly, this piece, “Heads from the north’,  is about the genocide in East Timor.

(PS:  Would I want to hold a reception in the restaurant by a pond filled with heads?  Probably not!😰)

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‘Heads from the north’, Dadang Christanto (Photo credit: http://www.pbase.com)

For this special occasion in conjunction with the exhibition, the interior of the restaurant is styled by designer Megan Morton to play up combinations of colour, good times and of course, corn – to accentuate the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture delights in!

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Interior of Restaurant

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Maize ‘Chandelier’

Only Set Lunch is served in the restaurant.

What we got for our 2-course Set Lunch at $35 per person

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Wholewheat Damper

ENTREE

Presented on a wooden paddle pan as is very fashionable now,  we have Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander.

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Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander (GF)

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Jumbo White Corn

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Quinoa: Baked quinoa toped with avocado wasabi cream and a rocket leaf. This is bourgeois peasant food!

MAIN COURSE

Sometimes, it is best not to heed recommendation of a fellow diner who you don’t know…

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Twice-cooked Beef Short Rib with Chimichurri and Huancaina Potatoes.

This is a plate of disappointment of sorts:  The beef was dry – yet full of fat!  The most obvious explanation is that it is not a good cut of meat which has been pre-(over)cooked and reheated thus rendering it very beef-jerky-like in texture.  The exotic sounding ‘huancaina’ is basically a spicy cream which is otherwise ‘meh’.

Check out my leftover plate of fat!

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FAT!! Fat-Die-Me! 😱 😱 😱

Not a very satisfying lunch, so a Diet Coke at the Gallery Cafe is in order…

Chocolate Fantasia @ Gallery By the Harbour

“With the artist’s fantasy of chocolate and his crazy imagination, Gallery by the Harbour will be transformed into an amazing illusionary space, leading the audience to enter the artist’s fantasy world.”  

And a fantasia it was!  A dizzying psychedelic world bursting of colours and butterflies to mesmerise the audiences!

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View of Gallery: Wall-to-floor covered in abject art. Crossing the boundary from 2-D to 3-D, leading the audience to enter the artist’s fantasy world.

This is a solo exhibition by renowned Korean contemporary artist Jang Seung Hyo who conjured up a surreal chocolate world in conjunction with the annual Chocolate Trail 2014 in Harbour City.  His  created a chocolate fantasia through collages by juxtaposing  images of chocolates and sweets.   Thus, transforming the 2-D photographic images into 3-D art pieces.

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3-D Butterfly on canvas on-top of the collaged wall, make it a bursting array of psychedelic colours

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Chupa Chups!

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Detail of collage: Random photos from the artist’s archives

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A 3-D sculpture

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A tiger out on a prowl in a Hong Kong

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I see Guylian chocolates Smarties and Jelly Beans, do you?

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Hard to see in the snapshot, but try if you can, this is a 3-D butterfly

Try as I did, it was hard to photograph with my iPhone because it was very colourful and I’m at loss at which angles, details and how to capture the artworks as they were all too beautiful!  If you are in Kowloon, grab your camera and do me a better job!

Where and When?
Chocolate Fantasia @ Gallery By the Harbour
Date: Now – Feb 16, 2014
Shop 202, Level 2, Ocean Centre (Near Jean-Paul Hevin)

Dim Sums With The Sunday Hikers @ Ming Court, Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 26 2013

Bro informed us that he had booked Sunday Lunch at Ming Court, a 2 Michelin Stars Cantonese restaurant at the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, which is on Level 4 of the hotel we are staying.

“Lunch at 10:30am and there is a dress code”, he reminded us.

“Lunch? At 10:30am, that’s very early”, Mom said, “Are you sure?”.

“Well, there was a choice of 10:30am or 1:30pm, nothing available for 12pm.  I don’t think they serve lunch!”, came Bro’s reply.

So here we, at 10:30am sharp standing in front of Ming Court amid a mini crowd. After registration with the maitre de, we were seated promptly. The restaurant is very classy, with a collection of Ming replicas and ink landscape paintings.  However, there was no baby stool for my bag!  This is not quite the Michelin restaurant that I expect after our experience at Yé Shanghai yesterday.

The restaurant filled up rather quickly and we noticed diners dressed very casually in their ‘Sunday best’ of in hiker shorts, T-shirts and even Crocs, some even arriving with backpacks! Did these people hiked here and where is the required ‘dress code’ we all wondered.  Mom being her observant self, then said to Bro that he must have made a reservation in English through the hotel reception, which he did.

Apparently my Bro has been mistaken for a gweilo or laowai (depending on whether you are speaking Cantonese of Mandarin).   The hotel has to make sure that house guests do not turn up in wife-beaters, T-shirts or flip-flops! Or God forbid bathrobes!  Well, you know how simple some people can be – the resto is in the hotel, it’s a matter of riding the lifts, pressing the buttons down and up, so why not?  That aside, we had experienced in  Japanese fine-dining establishments where guests turned up in hiking gears (totally spoiling the chichi atmosphere), it was hard for the  restaurants to turn them away because that would mean a loss in business – and Japanese economy is ‘no good’ at the moment.  (Know the word ‘RESPECT’ dudes? Duh!)  Moreover in ryokans, they specifically put notices on dress codes in theirrooms – NO YUTAKAS IN RESTAURANTS!

Anyhow, since it was only 10:30am, we were not eager to eat heavily, thinking that we will go somewhere else for a late lunch or tea later. Hence, we only ordered only 5 dim sums to kick-start our day.  Urmmm…the food were…

Condiments on our table consists of XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans Sauce

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XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans

1)  Pan-fried Turnip Cakes: Pretty good with bits of Chinese ham in it but nothing outstanding.  (When I was a toddler, I could eat 1 basket of steamed turnip pudding all by myself, so that’s kinda makes me an expert! Hear! Hear!)

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Pan-fried Turnip Cakes

2)  Char-Siu Rice Roll: The rice roll was good, thick chewy skin which did not stick to my teeth. The char-siu was savoury sweet with added parsley for a herby kick.  I like!

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Char-Siu Rice Roll

3)  Pork dumpling with foie gras paste:  Sounded interesting on the menu but very ordinary in reality. The skin was too thick and doughy, sticking to my teeth.  There was no hint of foie gras at all.  Disappointed!

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Pork dumpling with foie gras paste

4)  Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets:  This is another of my all-time dim sum favourite, Ming Court’s version has all the right ingredients of minced beef, parsley and chestnuts, but lacked a certain finesse.

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Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets

5)  Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf has a lot of conpoy, the rice was perfect. The whole package was very fragrant.  This is the best dimsum dish.

Every year, during the Tuen Ng Festival or Dragon Boat festival, Ming Court will prepare Rice Dumplings for sale. When I was living in Hong Kong, I never fail to buy a couple – and they were generously stuffed with convoy, mushrooms and meat in steamed rice.

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Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf

So there you have, the brunch was pretty ordinary, not 2 Michelin Stars material, nothing to sing about.  It was better off eating at Club L (the hotel’s in-house lounge), the dimsums are  catered by Ming Court anyway.  In hindsight, after perusing other reviews, we should have done dinner instead, since this is where the gastronomic experience lies.

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Dimsums for breakfast at Club L

After brunch, we went to Times Square Shopping Mall in Causeway Bay.  There were many people, but not as many as I remembered – where are you, people? Disneyland?

In front of the mall, I was awestruck.  There were 2 huge robotic figurines standing imposingly.  Apparently, they are Gundam and Zauku II, making their first appearance outside of Japan, in the event called “Gundam Docks in Hong Kong“.  The 2 models are approximately  7 meter  which are scaled to 1/3 of the original Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo.  I’m not a fan of them, so left after taking some pictures.  However, if you are interested to see more, I found a You Tube link here – Enjoy!

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Gundam

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Zauku II

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Zauku II

Hello Kitty Under The Lion Rock, Back To 1960s Exhibition @ Langham Place, Mongkok, Hong Kong

***This is my 100th Post and a celebration with Hello Kitty is in order***

Who loves Hello Kitty? Me, me, me… AND ME!

If you had said to Ms  Yuko Shimizu back in 1974 that her cat with a huge head, 2 startled eyes, a button nose and no mouth will become a global phenomenon someday,  would she have believed it? Or even guessed it? No way! But this adorable cat has withstand the testament of time and leading the bandwagon of Kawaii in the culture of cuteness.

Kawaii is a term in Japanese popular youth culture denoting innocence, adorability and loveliness. However, for the politically correct, the mouthless Hello Kitty has been chastised for her subservience because she cannot and does not speak out for herself (because she has no mouth).  Nevertheless, why get so bogged down with sexism?  It’s only a cuddly toy and despite all those sexism talk, my love for Hello Kitty stationeries had prompted me to take up architecture.  Ridiculous, right?  But tell me, which occupation uses the most pens, pencils, colouring texts, etc..???

Let’s not waste time and let’s follow Hello Kitty back to the 1960s, shall we?

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Hello Kitty Promotional Poster

Although the exhibition opens from 11am to 11pm daily.   When I visited on a Sunday at 10:30am, there was already a huge crowd of eager people waiting for the exhibition to open and the opportunity to pose with the larger than life Hello Kitty and Daniel.

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The Sunday crowds at 10:30am

Although conceived as an expansive marketing display, the significance of 1960s in Hong Kong was not lost.

The 60s was a booming time for Hong Kong as she developed into a major manufacturing center. Economically, this era is considered a major stepping stone for Hong Kong.  It is considered the first turning point for Hong Kong’s economy as she is rises to become one of the Four Asian Tigers.

Anyone remembers Roman Tam’s song  “Under the Lion Rock” (獅子山下)?  This song indicates the spirit of the Hong Kong people.  (Check out the song here)

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Let’s stroll down the memory lane under the Lion Rock, in this case, ‘Cat’ Rock

Lion Rock Tunnel is the first road tunnel in Hong Kong connecting Sha Tin with Kowloon. It opened in 1967

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Lion Rock Tunnel with the basic staples on exhibit – salted fish, rice and wine

Rickshaw Rides:  Rickshaws (and the Junk) were symbols of Hong Kong for the layman tourists during its Colonial past.  Sadly, if you want to find the last rickshaw man in Hong Kong, you have to drop by the Lion Lookout Pavilion on Victoria Peak.  Rickshawing is a fast extinct trade with the rise of motor vehicles.

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Hello Daniel as The Rickshaw Man.

Ding Ding Trams:  A convenient mode of transport started in 1904 and still popular today in Hong Kong Island.  It is also very cheap.

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Hello Daniel as the tram conductor (the position is now redundant. We use Octopus)

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Ding Ding as moving billboard

Streetscapes of Kowloon City

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Typical Hong Kong vernacular

Imagine the roaring planes flying past overhead during the good old days of  Old Kai Tak Airport.  Really bringing back the nostalgia…

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Planes overhead circa Kai Tak Airport

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Vernacular of Shanghai Street, complete with the drying laundry on bamboo poles

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Shanghainese barbers give the meanest shaves and haircuts around, and they still do!

Shops

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Teddy Bear the hawker

Cross Harbour Ferry:  The most convenient and scenic mode of transport between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (and very cheap, in fact Seniors travel free).   A ride on the ferry is listed  in the List of Top 100 Bucket List.

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Daniel dressed in the sailor’s outfit
(The Old Ferry Pier in Central has now been relocated)

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Ferry

Tsim Sha Tsui:  The famous clock tower still stands but the train station has relocated to Hung Hom.

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TST Big Ben

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Hello Kitty at the Big Ben

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Hello Kitty in the fashionable qipao of the day

Photography:  Alluding to the photo-crazy people of today, people in the 1960s has just caught on with photography and the HK film industry is finding its wings.

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Lights! Camera! Action! (Or sit still… whichever…)

Yum-cha in the tea-house:

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Drinking tea in the tea-house while listening to the birds in cages and spiting into the spittoon makes a relaxing day.

In the 60s, dimsums were hungs around around the neck and sold by young pretty dimsum muis.  Today, if we are lucky, we have old hacks wheeling their dimsums in creeky trolleys

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Hello Kitty the Dimsum Mui.

Cantonese Opera:  This was the favourite past time.  Watching Opera in the open air.  One can actually learn a lot about the fallacy of  life from these operas – bad against evil, karma, etc!!

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Make-shift bamboo stage for the Opera

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Hello Kitty and Daniel in traditional Opera garbs

The exhibition finishes on September 15, so if you are in Hongkie-Town, hurry down to Langham Place, Mongkok to stroll down memory lane with “Hello Kitty Under The Lion Rock”!