Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mark & Aisling's MTR Challenge

In a break from my usual blogging, here's a little snippet from our Hong Kong life. I have all of the photos up on Facebook anyway, so it only makes sense to throw them all together in one big entry. There are 83 stations in the HK metro system. I don't know if anyone has visited them all, and I'm even less sure if anyway has taken a picture at each one. But I do know there are at least two people that have done both - us! 

(Thanks to Nacho & Thanda for putting them together into this lovely poster for us!)

We started this whole thing in January 2013 and just under a year later, we made it to our final station. I doubt we realised at the very beginning how many there actually were, and in fact, they're building more as we speak, so we have an excuse to come back and visit again some time in the future. We lived in Hong Kong for three years and it will always hold a special place in our hearts, which is why I'm extra glad we took on this task and snapped all of these pictures - the perfect memento from our time here.

And, as an added bonus, I'll try to give any stories or explanations behind each photo (if indeed, there is one). So, without further ado, it's Mark & Aisling's MTR Challenge!

Tung Chung Line

What better place to start than Hong Kong itself! Emmm... for this one... I'm eating rice with chopsticks, because... that's what they do here... (Wow, I'm struggling already).

The milk here comes from Kowloon Dairy, so here we have Aisling drinking milk, with the added bonus of our little, black and white friend, Frankie! (Kow-loon, right?!)

One of the few stations that's in English so that made things a lot easier. And what better opportunity to show off my 'Ka Fuk Wing Chun school sports day 2013 - Parent/Teacher Relay silver medal'? There's also a little homage in there to athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the 1968 games (Olympic games that is, not the Ka Fuk Wing Chun school sports).

Ok, the first in a long string of stations that really don't have any rhyme or reason. Here's Aisling reading the Pyongyang Times after our recent trip to North Korea. Can anyone think of a particularly good play on words for Nam Cheong?

With a hairbrush in hand, having a bit of a sing-song (tsing tsong) in Tsing Yi. Fun fact: I taught in Tsing Yi during our last 4 months here. It was not enjoyable...

Here's Aisling again adding some much needed colour to the otherwise quite dull sign for Sunny Bay. Fun fact: we bought that umbrella in Mongolia! (These fun facts probably won't be very fun, or factual...)

Getting my tongue out for Tung Chung.

And the last stop from the Tung Chung Line (even though it's technically on its own special line) is Disneyland! We actually did spend the day in Disneyland itself after taking this photo, so don't worry, it wasn't just a passing business trip.

Kwun Tong Line

Having a little kip at Shek Kip Mei. Incidentally, this is one of my favourite stops colour-wise. Isn't that just a lovely shade of green?!

Definitely up there with one of the most embarrassing photos to pose for, never mind the obvious physical discomfort! Whipping a thong out in public is never easy at the best of times, and it didn't help that this is one of the busiest stations in Hong Kong! On reflection, I probably should've used this idea for Kwun Tong or Yau Tong, somewhere a bit quieter.

Lok Fu, you know, like Kung Fu...?

One station that was more based on what's in the immediate vicinity, rather than a poor play on words. So, this one goes out to Wong Tai Sin Temple.

Aisling showing off her bling bling at Diamond Hill.

Choi Hung is one of the few words I actually know in Cantonese, all because of this station. And unsurprisingly, it means rainbow!

Goggles at the ready for a swim in Kowloon Bay. I'm not actually sure if there's a beach in Kowloon Bay. We maybe should have researched this whole thing a bit better...

In some places, we had a play on words or some landmark to work with. For some, we had nothing so we just did a funny pose or used random props. Here, we had nothing at all. Even the colour is horrible!

And speaking of random props that have nothing to do with the station - Aisling in her Red Riding Hood cape!

Here's my little lamb impression. It would probably have been better if we could actually find a tin of lamb, if such a thing even exists.

Tsuen Wan Line

This one is hopefully obvious for people in HK. Here I am selling some jewellery and trinkets in TST.

This one is actually based on a photo of our friend, Jordan, who was visiting HK over Hallowe'en, and the funny image of him having a smoke, dressed as the pope. It was either that or getting Aisling to 'black up' as Michael Jordan. (So much potential wasted...)

This is actually one of the first photos taken in the series, you can tell by the lack of props and the vague posing. Here I'm drinking a little 'cupán tae', to borrow the Irish phrasing.

This one was quite fun to make, snapping a pic of Ais as she whipped her hair back and forth. Check out the relating pic from Mongkok East!

Giving my best Edward Scissorhands impression. Again, you can tell it's an early photo by the lack of scissors or any sort of real effort!

Sham Shui Po is kind of like an electronics district, so here I'm boogieing down with my headphones and ipod.

Don't worry, you're not missing any clever word play here. We made fajitas for dinner the night before and had one tortilla wrap left over, so we cut out a face, and used that... That's it.

Our original idea for this one was to buy a few lychees, and manufacture them into some sort of cock shape. It could have been spectacular, but it turned out that lychees were out of season at the time! Instead, you'll just have to use your imagination that my cock is indeed made of lychee.

Another station where we didn't have much to go on, so Aisling just wrapped some cling film around her head. It seems like there should be better for Mei Foo... something to do with the Foo Fighters, maybe...?

Here I am, taking a Facebook selfie in the hopes of people 'Lai King' it! (Even when we do have an actual idea, it doesn't mean it's a good one!)

I don't think I'm alone in always mixing up Kwai Fong and Kwai Hing, so to reflect that, we've paired them up for this set of photos. Here's Aisling putting on her lipstick...

...and me on the receiving end of said lipstick! This was also another quite embarrassing one to take.

There are a lot of "Tai" stations in HK, so we had to use some ties for at least one of them. It even works with all three characters - Tie? Woah! How?!

I know I should also be embarrassed by this one, but I think I actually pull off the look pretty well! This wig was left over from Hallowe'en when 5 of us dressed up as the Scooby Doo gang. I was not Daphne that night, but looking at the picture now, I definitely could've been!

Island Line

The first picture ever taken! And that's the only reason it stayed in, compared to a few other early snaps that we decided to redo. The logic behind this one was that the Macau ferry leaves from Sheung Wan, so I think I'm doing a kind of 'motion of the ocean' kinda move...?

In honour of Lan Kwai Fong, here's Aisling getting shitfaced in Central.

I actually looked up an online tutorial on how to make a paper boat for this one. Look at all the fun you can have with a sheet of A4 and a roll of cling film!

Our lovely home, Wan Chai. And what better way to represent it, than by saluting the place where we ate about 40% of our meals in Hong Kong - Subway! Fun fact: In this picture, the cup was empty and the wrapper is just filled with bits of rubbish. We were going to do it for real, but didn't want the food to get cold, so we ate it...

Here I am reading, in honour of Central Library where we used to stock up on books. Fun fact: It's not actually a book, just my day planner as it was the only book-like thing we had on us at the time.

Another temple related pic, this time for Tin Hau. Hopefully you can just about make out the incense that Ais has stuffed in her hair.

The trouble we went to for some of these pictures. In HK, there's a chain of kitchen appliance shops called Fortress, so I carried our oven all the way to Fortress Hill just for the sake of this one photo!

North Point, get it?! Fun Fact: For interchange stations, we were originally going to take two photos, with each of us in different poses, so there actually exists two photos from some of the early interchange stations.

Another from the original batch. I'm working in a quarry. That's all.

Yes, those are real $500 bills. We're just that loaded! Doesn't it look like the cover of a rap album or something? This picture actually has a reason too, Tai Koo - like Tycoon...!

One of the many stations where we had to wait about 10 minutes, until there was nobody around. We almost got it a couple of times, then someone would walk around the corner at the vital moment and I'd have to quickly throw my clothes back on, which probably looked even more suspicious. Looking back on these now, I'm not really coming off very masculine...

Another station that has a great colour to it! For this one... K for Shau Kei Wan. Hmmm.... I'm not really sure...

Heng Fa Chuen - where even is it?! Who knows, and quite frankly, who cares!

And to round off the Island Line, here's Aisling with her super cool and super real tattoos!

Ma On Shan Line

This line was so far away, and at the very end of it, Wu Kai Sha. Again, we had no idea, so we just raided our kitchen drawers and used up the end of our Christmas wrapping.

This was one of the final lines we did, so at this stage we had friends donating props and getting their own little shout-outs. This one was for our Irish contingent who previously lived out in Ma On Shan. Ais even has a tiny shamrock painted on her face.

Another donated prop (thanks to Andy, Shaun and Imo!), and another less-than-masculine pose. Those don't even look like my hands!

Another rare moment where we actually used the entire station name, as we see Aisling 'tie' her 'shoe', letting another pair 'hang' around her neck.

This one had no motive, other than we thought it would be a good picture if I could do a handstand. But afterwards we realised that the second character in the name, so the "Mun" part, actually looks like a pair of legs in the air! I should've just said that was our idea all along... Fun Fact: I'm actually not doing a handstand at all, I'm just lying on the ground with my legs in the air.

Here's Aisling wearing my Lo Gwai United jersey. It's the same colours as Man City, so our thinking behind City One was a sort of scoreline, you know like, Man City 1 - Aston Villa 2 (and yes, I am an Aston Villa fan).

Potentially another 3 syllable success, although there's no pride to be taken here. I was going for a kind of 'Shat in, why?'. Yeah, maybe the less said about this one, the better.

So, that's another line complete, and another temple to portray. Fun Fact: We got those lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam, which is where I also got the suit jacket I'm wearing for the Tsim Sha Tsui pic!

East Rail Line

This line goes all the way up to the border with mainland China, where it connects up with the Shenzhen Metro. This was the only Lo Wu sign in the whole station too, so it's not as colourful as some of the other pics. We got a fair few stares while taking this one...

The other border station, so here I am with passport in hand. You can also see Aisling's reflection in the blue of the sign!

Nothing really to note from this one, but have you noticed our positioning in the pictures so far? Aisling always stands on the left, and I, on the right. Fun fact!

Fanling is where I taught for two years, and where I won the medal as seen in the Olympic photo. So, here I am doing my best teacher pose.

Another shout out here, this time to our friend Shirley who lives in Tai Wo and who owns the panda hat pictured.

Stocking up with fruit and veg from Tai Po Market. Again, I'm not sure if there are actual fruit and veg stalls in Tai Po Market, I've never been. Fun Fact: We just bought the eggplant in the picture because it looked colourful and exotic, we never actually ate it afterwards.

We had no graduation cap to throw in the air here, and even if we did, it would never fit into the frame, so just pretend there is one.

Here I am lathering myself in sun screen, because after all, why should you wear sun screen? Fo' tan! Fun Fact: We had no tissue to wipe it off afterwards so I had to use the broccoli from the Tai Po Market picture. It was not a good idea.

There's a racecourse in Sha Tin, hence the Gangnam-esque horse riding pose. There is actually a special Racecourse MTR stop, but it's only open on race days, so we couldn't go there. Another reason to return to HK again.

People in Hong Kong say "Wai" when they answer the phone. I don't know if it's the same Wai as this Wai, but it makes a lot more sense than some of our previous picture rationales!

If you can cast your mind back to Mongkok, where Aisling had her hair flung into the air, we now have Mongkok East, where it's delightfully positioned over her face, so there was some thought process there. Fun Fact: In Mongkok East, the two train platforms are facing each other, so everyone on the opposite side was looking straight at us while we took this photo. 

Pfft! No idea!

Tseung Kwan O Line

You'd rarely see a bench on a station platform, so seeing as we had no other ideas, we had to use it in some way. Funny story: There was an old woman parked on this bench when we sat down, so we said we'd take the picture as soon as she leaves on the next train. The train came and went, and she was still on the bench! We wondered why she didn't get on, as the trains were only going one way, so we just waited for the next one, hoping that she'd get on that. She didn't. We couldn't wait around all day for this woman, so we thought how could we make her move? How could we make a Hong Konger not want to sit next to us? So, we started coughing violently. You've never seen an old lady run so fast!

Trying to hang up some washing, with a sock in hand and pegs clipped onto my face, as if to ask - "Hang, how?". Fun Fact: Those pegs hurt. A lot.

Aisling with mini footballs in her hair, because you play football in the park... maybe...?

Using bubbles to put the "O" in Tseung Kwan O!

A contender for station with the worst colour scheme. We had no plan for this one either, so we just put a bag over Aisling's face. The end.

Again, no ideas for this one. I should've really worn a thong here instead...

West Rail Line

We were going for a kind of 'Tuen Mun' - 'Two-in-One', sort of idea here. It's probably the station that took the most preparation. I hope you can see all of the little details.

We bought a bib especially for this one and smeared Nutella over it. The plan was to then do the same to my face when we got to the station but we forgot to bring the Nutella! Instead, I had to buy a Cadbury's Caramel and mash it up in my pocket. It didn't really work as planned so in the end I just stuck bits of it to my face!

Playing the tin whistle in Tin Shui Wai. Fun Fact: I brought that tin whistle over from Ireland so I could learn to play it. I gave up after one song.

Ping, they're a brand of golf clubs aren't they? Well, let's say they are for the sake of this picture as I get ready for a Long Ping.

Our plan for this one was to get a jumping shot, but the pictures kept coming out blurry. So, in a tactical ruse, Aisling just sat on the edge of the railing and pretended that she was in mid-air. Clever, no?

Kam Sheung Road... pillow fight... blindfold... I'm sure you can fill in the blanks yourself... (please?)

Seeing as we had a little link between Mongkok and Mongkok East, we probably should have done the same for Tsuen Wan and Tsuen Wan West... But, we didn't. So, here's Aisling with a face mask and some hand sanitiser.

It felt like there was so much potential here, but nothing really worked. Austin Powers? Jane Austen? Stone Cold Steve Austin?! In the end, Austin Texas, led to Texas Holdem, which led to me holding cards with cards stuck to my head. Should've gone all out on a Stone Cold costume...

There's a mosque here, although it's actually a lot closer to Tsim Sha Tsui... still, 83 stations! It's hard work!

Airport Express Line

AsiaWorld-Expo is where a lot of concerts and performances are held, so here I am showing off my mad juggling skills.

And this is the end! Taken as we flew out of Hong Kong, a fitting finale to the series and the only photo we appear in together.

We're back in Ireland now, with plans afoot to visit all of the 32 counties in a similar fashion. As for Hong Kong, I'm just looking it up now, and there are an awful lot of new stations opening up in the next few years, so hopefully the MTR manager will see these pictures and pay for us to fly back over for each new grand opening! Sound like a plan?