Day 11: 20 January, HK

This is my last day. I’m not sure what to do, and almost accidentally I end up getting off the MTR in Sham Shui Po, which is north of MongKok, and has a large street market. There is a mall full of little stalls selling a myriad of computer components and technological paraphernalia. I find a shop that just sells tofu. The blocks of bean curd are stacked between layers of wooden boards which are weighted down. It looks deliciously fresh and soft. I have  cup of soya milk here.

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In the side streets are metal recycling sheds: compacted tin, copper, aluminium squeezed onto racks.

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Through a doorway a group of hand workers catch my eye. As I venture into position with my camera, one of them calls out in a friendly way. we chat about the weather in the UK. They are fixing zippers. The shop is full of racks and shelves of different types of zippers. This is all the shop sells.

On a street corner I spy what looks like a squatter camp: A low sprawling structure covered by assorted coloured plastic sheets and tarps, the outside festooned with banners. I venture inside. It is a labyrinthine market, dark, with narrow alleys, each rammed almost as high as the low ceiling with stacks and rolls of fabric. This is a fabric bazaar. As I explore cautiously, not sure if I am welcome, a lady called Margaret, sitting at her sewing machine calls out and proceeds to chat. She spend the next hour filling me in about this place, its history and its future. This is Pang Jai, the last remaining bazaar of its type and it is due to be demolished by the council who have sold the land for redevelopment. She gave up an office job abroad to come and take over the family business here. She says this place has become famous and and go-to place among fashion designers, students and costume makers in the film and theatre industries all over Asia. The traders have been campaigning for several years by running a number of events involving teachers, designers, school groups and communities to keep this place in the public eye and attempt to sway the decisions of the planners. She shows me some of her designs (which tend to be canibalised denims onto which she has stitched shells and beads and badges and slogans, meaning each of her garments has a story) and what she plans to wear at Saturday’s event: interesting PVC flower printed designs with Japanese undertones. I say I will attend the event, even though I can’t. Somehow this shows a loyalty to the cause.

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KK has texted me, and it’s late in the afternoon. I had more or less given up on seeing him before I leave. We have about 30 minutes together on a wall in a noisy MongKok square, which is not the best way to part. Both of us have one eye on other appointments that we have made. He suggests next time we don’t meet in HK…I’m inclined to agree.

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In the evening I meet up with Tom and we go to the buffet at Fortress Hill: to my surprise it’s really really busy. On my previous visits, I had enjoyed the slowness and quietness of the place.  We talk about career and his family situation. At 9.30 we have to leave. I go and pack my small bag ready for the long long trip back home tomorrow.

 

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Day 10: 19 January, HK

Today I embark on a little excursion which I had been putting off for a while. I get the ferry from Central to Park Island (formerly Ma Wan), a 3o minute ride. The island lies beneath the motorway from Lantau and Tsing Ma bridge. There is no private transportation access, and it is home to a modern private residential development, and some dumb looking attraction called Noah’s Ark. I’m here to walk past all this crap and find the original village of Ma Wan on the western shore. There are some paths over the hill with “private property signs” which lead down to the main street, which snakes past some wharves, rotting old stilt houses hanging over the beach, a little temple, a ghostly children’s play area and the shells of windowless empty shells of abandoned houses. The street lights still work…The villagers were forcibly ejected to make way and increase the prestige for the new luxury developments. Some locals still fish from the beach and use empty houses as bolt holes. I explore a couple of houses, and climb up flights of stairs onto their flat roofs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI miss the ferry to Tsuen Wan, as I’m engaged in a chat with KK. This leaves no alternative but to get the ferry back to Central, which is a pity as I had wanted to go somewhere new. In Admiralty I find a vegetarian “cafe” which sells fusion food and I have an interesting  laksa risotto. I walk up Hollywood Rd to Man Mo temple, and take in the smokey atmosphere before waking back east through the antiques streets to the mid -central escalators. On the way I come across another calligraphy stand: same political party, same process of writing out good wishes slogans. I pass by Central, a building that captivated me last trip with its many mirrored surfaces. I spend a while exploring the optical effects with my camera and get some great shots.

It’s the end of the work day. Under an elevated walkway is a busy Chinese medicine shop, with workers following recipes to source ingredients from walls of labelled wooden drawers then weigh them out with hand balances. At the door a man is selling herbal teas from vast metal urns. I try one. It is acrid but feels good. I sense this is an old and traditional shop….but when I looked for it on Google Street view later, I saw an empty concrete shell, suggesting that it hasn’t been around for very long at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have an anxious hunt for a recommended restaurant on the 23rd floor of a block in Wan Chai/Causeway Bay. Anxious as my phone battery has run out, and then because my Octopus card is empty so I can’t go anywhere else as it’s late. I’m the last customer in this buddhist place and I feel like a curio or inconvenience to the staff. Anyway the food is good, in spite of the hidden charges!

Day 9: 18 January, HK

Today is the day that KK and I finally get together but it turns out to be a disappointment. His business venture has gone sour and his mind is fully occupied with that. After meeting in Mong Kok, where I have been killing time looking at the Anti-Falun Gong stall  on Argyll Street, he drives me to the east of New Territories to Sai Kung, a very small fishing village. On the way we stop at a derelict ATV TV studio. KK is concerned about leaving the car anywhere and fears vandalism. In Sai Kung we walk for a while looking for somewhere to eat. Many places are closed, and anyway KK isn’t hungry. In the end I chose a Turkish-type place and have a falafel wrap. Not that great, and not really the nicest place to talk. KK has some kind of stomach issue and rather than enjoy being together and looking around, finding toilets becomes the goal of the afternoon. The afternoon is a bit of a disaster, and I feel a bit sad, as I have been here 9 days and I know we won’t have any more opportunities, and worse, I don’t know when we might meet again. HK is rather far from UK. As we both put it in a chat the other day: our time was wasted.

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Back in Mong Kok, I roam around photographing the bustle of groups of people eating snacks on the streets, goldfish street, and a busking old man playing the erhu. I get lost in a mall and find myself at the wrong MTR! Eventually I make it back to Fortress Hill.

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