A Sleazy 'Sexual Culture Festival' in Guangzhou, China [Viewer Discretion Advised]

Every year China hosts a 'Sexual Culture Festival' in one of it's main cities.

This year was Guangzhou's turn to host the '7th Annual Sexual Culture Festival'. Ostensibly, the expo is supposed to be about sex education, but somehow over the years it has degenerated into a perv fest. The biggest draw for most fair-goers seemed to be the 'lingerie show', where middle-aged men appear to be the main demographic.

Middle-aged men, who, strangely enough, came equipped with a wide variety of cameras, hand-held mobile devices and camera phones.

I arrived at 4pm on the final day of the three day show. The room smelled of stale sweat. A trash can had been upturned scattering filth all over the floor. I stood on it to take these shots.

The official government sex education exhibition was an eye opener too. Bizarrely, a video that shows people the correct way to have sex was being shown on a big plasma screen out of the back of a white van. I can just see the headline now, 'Man In A Van Brings Porn To The Masses'.

As one progressed through the sex education area the items on display got stranger still. Large posters of naked women's bodies, cropped at the head and the knee. The whole series was on display. Photos of human females. All in a state of undress. From the cradle to the grave. Each snapshot of a human female taken at one decade intervals from birth, the saggy boob poster above being the last in the series. The full series, not seen here, includes large framed posters of material which could be construed, in some circles, (Interpol?), as child porn. Now I'm a huge advocate of press/internet freedom, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I will most definitely not be posting photos of people looking at large photos of naked children here. Then the exhibition got even wierder, as if that was possible.

On display were various malformed foetuses, preserved in jars of formaldehyde. I have no idea how they related to the main message of the exhibition, 'safe sex'.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw this little guy(s) with two heads.

Back to the nuts of the show. Like anywhere in the world, sex in China means big business.

As you would expect at a sex show, vendors were busy selling porn DVDs and VCDs.

And stock sold fast, as prices had been heavily discounted during the final hours of the last day of the show. I guess the vendors didn't fancy schlepping heavy boxes all the way back home.

Also on sale were various aphrodisiacs used in Chinese medicine. Deer horn, ginseng, that sort of thing. Not wishing to speculate, but I would not have been the slightest bit surprised if someone had offered me tiger penis 'under the counter'. The domestic sale of tiger penis is prohibited in China under the CITES agreement.

In contrast to those positively ancient Chinese aphrodisiacs, a more recently invented western pharmaceutical was on sale too. Fake viagra anyone? [NB: I really hope this blog post will not open me up to an army of Russian spambots!]

On appearance, it seems as if a show that is supposed to be about sex education has morphed into a gathering of wholesalers that supply sex shops in China, and horny men online the world over.

Lending the show a badly needed air of respectabilty were a collection of Mao-era cultural revolution posters.

On the way out, visitors could pose by a large virility totem placed near the exit doors. Outside the venue the air smelled clean and fresh. And that's saying something in Guangzhou.


BYD Electric Car Factory Visit, Shenzhen, China

BYD electric cars are selling like hot cakes in China, and I've just returned from their factory in Shenzhen.

But I was only allowed into their showroom and 're-charging facility' near the factory, so sensitive is the R&D going on there. More about that later. Here is an E6 'pure' electric car being charged. The PR person was rather coy when I was took this shot. "What are you taking pictures of?", she quipped. "Just focus on the re-charging equipment, not the car, as the E6 is not launched in China yet", she ordered. This is rather strange considering the E6 was on display at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, and at the Eco Expo Asia in Hong Kong last week. The "dark side" does indeed move in mysterious ways. Like she was doing me a favour.

Of the two photos above, I prefer the 'clean' shot with no person it it.

So here's a shot focusing on the E6 not the re-charging equipment! The E6 is special because it's a pure electric, ie non-hybrid, electric vehicle. It can reach a top speed of 100 mph, do 0 to 60mph in 8 seconds, and can travel 250 miles off a single 8 hour charge, making it the first electric vehicle that can seriously rival its normal gasoline counterparts on such crucial deciding factors for undecided customers as speed and distance traveled. This is in addition, of course, to the car's obvious environmental appeal. An eyebrow-raising moment for me was after an engineer finished re-charging his E6, he did tyre-screeching wheel spin then sped off almost silently. That little electro-boy racer was probably trying to impress the PR ladies. But the cars are fast, there's no doubt about that.

And the man in the above photo is about to re-charge his F3DM hybrid with a regular 220V household plug. Nice. BYD electric cars are now the fastest-selling cars in China, although I do recall reading in the business pages of the South China Morning Post a few months ago that the electric car manufacturing sector in China still remains largely propped up by the state. Huge subsidies are the name of the game. Ring any bells? General Motors, perhaps?

The above image is interesting for the fact that it not only shows factory workers returning to work after their lunch break, but it also shows a test vehicle driving around. An E6, if I'm not mistaken. The red character on the license plate is the Chinese word for 'try', so 'Test Vehicle 091' would probably not be a such bad translation. The image was taken from the closest point I was actually allowed to get to the factory floor itself. The PR posse were adamant, no photos in the factory. Secret. No photos in the factory. No photos in the factory. And, no photos in the factory. Secret. I had been bugging them since April. And still, you guessed it, no photos in the factory. I pushed and pushed as far as I could with this one. And when the door remains closed, sometimes you just have to accept it and move on.

In the afternoon I moved on to the Sex Culture Festival in Guangzhou. More about that tomorrow...


The American Military Are In Hong Kong Again...

The American aircraft carrier 'USS George Washington' arrived in Hong Kong today, for what an onboard US military spokesman said was a routine port call.

During a press conference on the flight deck, David Lausman, the Captain and Commanding Officer of the large steel hulk, said how happy he was to be back in Hong Kong. "And we'll be back," he continued, "again, and again, and again, and again." Hmmmm. Is this not more than just a little presumptuous? One can't help but wonder, did he ask China for permission to bring his big guns back into Hong Kong, which as we all know is China's sovereign territory, "again, and again, and again, and again"? I doubt it. If there's one thing the Chinese, or anybody else for that matter, don't like, it is to be taken for granted.

Who knows, maybe Barack Obama and Robert Gates did perhaps ask Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. And maybe Captain Lausman feels confident in saying what he did because US-China military ties are supposedly strengthening.

A US aircraft carrier shoot is always the same for a wire service photographer: "Get the flag in! Get the flag in! Now we need someone walking past..."

This guy, fixing his F18 fighter jet, was the only thing we were able to shoot for about half an hour, coralled as we were by sailor boys, and penned in by white ropes - forced to endure a predictable press conference in the hot end-of-October midday sun. So everyone got this shot.

Once the presser ended AFP, AP and I were kind of, sort of, semi-free to roam around with a token ethnic Chinese, but American, sailor boy escorting us around.

We got up early to board the aircraft carrier. We bobbed around at sea for an hour on a taxi boat waiting for them to sort out the pontoon so we could embark. Then we were forced to listen to a press conference that people only pretended to be interested in out of politeness. (Except for maybe Kanwa, who lapped up every word). And finally we were released for ten minutes to get our shots, before a senior looking naval officer came over and told us time was up, muttering something about a tight schedule. Be at Fenwick Pier at 8am, they told us over the phone the night before. We got back to Fenwick Pier at 1pm. Five hours of faffing around for ten minutes of freedom to photograph the military muscle of what is still, but probably not for much longer, the world's biggest superpower. But that's the name of the game. And we expect it.

Here's a US marine responsible for the aircraft carrier's security.

And here's another.

And here's a photo of three US marines huddled around a machine gun which was pointing in the general direction of Lantau Island. After taking this photo, a man in a stripey shirt ran over and told me that I was not allowed to photograph the onboard US marine security detail. Of course being a good guest I deferred to him right away, whilst Reuters laughed. Then the senior-looking naval officer came over and gave stripey shirt man a good bollocking, saying something along the lines of, "...now that really shouldn't have happened, should it?". Oh well, soldiers and machine guns are what make war machines interesting to photograph, right? I mean, there is nothing wrong with photographing guns pointing at Mui Wo, which are, of course, ensuring the region's stability and keeping the peace in Hong Kong. Is there? Anyway, I walked away alive.

Pent-up testoterone.

Gagging for it, these navy boys are lining up to get off the boat. Preparing to hit the girly bars of Wan Chai. Ladies of the night, get ready to be ravaged...

And finally, here's an unrelated image taken from the flight deck of the 'USS George Washington' that shows a passing container ship set against the Hong Kong sklyine. As usual, the air pollution screws up what, under normal atmospheric conditions, could be a quite a nice shot.


An Environmental Expo In Hong Kong Gives Hope To The Exasperated...

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

For those of us who have to endure staggeringly high air pollution on a daily basis, the sight of an electric car in Hong Kong is indeed a sight for sore eyes. This week some 600 exhibitors from all over the world are gathered at Eco Expo Asia in Hong Kong to showcase their latest innovations in environmental protection technology. State of the art electric car technology from Asian car makers Mitsubishi (the MiEV car shown above), BYD (not shown) and Guineng (below), were highlights of the show.

Also on display were solar panel Venetian blinds,

solar panel briefcases,

compostable toothbrushes,

compostable alternatives to the much hated polystyrene foam,

compostable doggy poo bags,

and even compostable sunglasses.

All good stuff. Our solutions for the next generation, you may surmise. It's probably not enough to counter every problem in our apocalyptic age, but it's a good start. Finally the world is waking up to the realization that it is possible to make money peddling solutions to global environmental problems. Will capitalism and market forces save the day? Maybe. I think the Sex Pistols called it 'Cash From Chaos'...

And could the compostable toothbrushes be the solution to this problem?

I really do hope so. For more information about the problem of plastics in the ocean visit Project Kaisei.


Hong Kong's Threatened Bus Terminal

The Government of Hong Kong is set to relocate a historic bus terminal, a move which could have far reaching implications for the city's iconic Star Ferry - a mode of transport little changed since early last century, and used by thousands of tourists and commuters each day.


Hong Kong Sets A New World Record For Luxury Property Prices. Again.

Fancy a five bedroom luxury duplex overlooking Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour?

If you do, that will set you back a cool $439 million Hong Kong dollars. That's just under US$56.7 million dollars for a 6,158 square foot apartment.

That works out at around HK$71,280 (US$9,198) per square foot.

The flat in question is on the 68th floor of this building: '39 Conduit Road', Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. The numbers above present a new world record for the most money ever paid for a duplex anywhere in "the entire Solar System", (thank you Mr Hemlock). The previous world record was set by 'One Hyde Park' in London.

The weather was a bit murky as I followed the 'morning trail' on Lugard Road, Victoria Peak to take these shots this afternoon. The top three photographs above were taken through a grotty and humid mist and air pollution combo.

Unlike the above handout photo of the view from top of '39 Conduit Road', which I was sent by Henderson Land's PR firm this afternoon. It was taken back in July when the weather was delightful.

But I digress. Back to the business side of things. According to various media reports, the flat on the 68th floor was purchased by a client who spoke Cantonese with a 'with a strong mainland accent'. It seems the flood of hot money into Hong Kong from the mainland is continuing unabated. This, along with low interest rates and cheap mortgages, is making the city's property prices surge like never before

Essentially what I think we have here are mainland tycoons paying insane prices for giant shoeboxes in the sky, so that they can boast to their mates back home that they own the most expensive property per square foot in Hong Kong. Or am I getting it completely wrong?

What financial crisis? What economic downturn? What recession? Please tell me if I am missing something...


Trashion Show In Hong Kong

Students at Rennaisance College, Ma On Shan, held a 'Trashion Show' tonight, to showcase eco-friendly creations made out of recycled materials.

The show was held at their school to raise awareness about recycling in Hong Kong.

This dress is made from recycled aluminium soda cans.

It looks good front and back.

Other garments worn by the students were made from cardboard, plastic bags, packing tape, bubble wrap, car tyres, plastic bottles...

... old Chinese lanterns... 

...and discarded Chinese Lai See packets.

Over 1,200 plastic bottles, 100 kilograms of cardboard and 40 car tyres were collected to the create one-off fashion pieces.

A bubble wrap corset with bubble wrap angel wings.

It's great to see kids in Hong Kong raising awareness about the importance of recycling.

For commercial reasons, recycling is not a common activity in Hong Kong. Definitely not as common as it is in Europe (especially Germany), the United States or Australia.

Louis Kang, 17, (C), the Korean student who directed the show said “Hong Kong really lags behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to recycling. The trashion concept shows that you can create something beautiful out of almost anything. We hope it makes people think twice before they throw something away. Instead of adding to a landfill or littering the city, you can be creative!”

I couldn't agree more. I usually shoot Hong Kong Fashion Week twice a year. But the flair and creativity I saw in the collections presented by the young designers at Rennaisance College certainly beats hands down some of the rubbish that I see at Fashion Week.

Young designer Jane Tan, 17, (C), has applied to study fashion design at St Martin's in London. I do hope she gets in, as her garments not only look wonderful, but can have a positive impact on society. Changing the way Hong Kongers view their 'lapsap' would be a great feat indeed.


Hong Kong Bus Terminal Time Lapse

According to the Hong Kong Government, this historic bus terminal on the Kowloon waterfront will be demolished in 2010 to make way for "an Italian-style piazza-cum-retail space".

Dating back to 1921, yet another slice of Hong Kong's collective memory will soon be wiped out forever.

First it was Central Star Ferry that had to go. Then it was Queen's Pier. Now the battle for Hong Kong's heritage looks set to resume at the Kowloon waterfront site.

Activists are getting ready for a new showdown with an administration that lacks sentimentality and appears bent on sanitizing the city in favour of property developers and the tourism industry.

After the old public transport interchange has been relocated, the walk from the Star Ferry to the new interchange will, at 20 minutes long, be so impracticable that even the continued existence of the city's iconic oceangoing vessels is now threatened.


Hong Kong Shark Fin Soup

Here is a photograph that I took last night of people in Hong Kong eating shark fin soup. I have blacked out their faces to protect their identities.

And here is a photograph of a bowl of shark fin soup.

And just for good measure, here is another.

And finally here is a short video clip of a waitress serving shark fin soup.

Serving Shark Fin Soup In Hong Kong from alexhofford on Vimeo.

Enough said.

For more about the critical environmental issues involved, click here and here.


CEO Of BYD Tops China Rich List 2009

Remember this guy?

It turns out that Wang Chuan Fu has gone from being the 103rd richest man in China last year, to being the country's No1 richest man this year, according to Hurun, a Shanghai-based consultancy. And that's all thanks to Warren Buffett, (read the full story why, here).

This is not exactly news, as the Financial Times broke the story on the 29th Spetember. But it's news to me, so I thought I'd share it with you, my blog crowd.

And here, just for kicks, are the winners of the Hurun No1 Richest Person in China list over the last eleven years:-

Year  Name  Wealth US$m Company   Industry
1999  Rong Yiren  1,000  Citic Pacific  Investments
2000  Rong Yiren  1,900  Citic Pacific  Investments
2001  Liu Yongxing, Liu Yonghao & bros  1,000  Hope Group  Pig feed
2002  Larry Rong Zhijian  850  Citic Pacific  Investments
2003  William Ding Lei  900  Netease  Internet portal
2004  Huang Guangyu  1,300  Gome  Electronics retail & real estate
2005  Huang Guangyu  1,700  Gome  Electronics retail & real estate
2006  Zhang Yin & family  3,400  Nine Dragons Paper  Paperboard
2007  Yang Huiyan  17,500  Country Garden  Real estate
2008  Huang Guangyu  6,300  Gome  Electronics retail & real estate
2009  Wang Chuanfu  5,100  BYD  Electric cars & rechargeable batteries

(Table courtesy of Hurun Report)

I'm still waiting for BYD's PR to get back to me with a date when I can visit their Shenzhen facility. But I don't think they need much publicity right at this moment, so I may be waiting a while longer...


All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011