Tag Archives: KK

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 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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Day 1: 7-8 January 2017, arrival HK

I’m not sure that writing a blog retrospectively really is such a good idea, but then again we can never right at the moment; there is always a temporal delay, some processing and editing in how and what we choose to record. This is 3 weeks late.

So, this was my second trip to HK, and only 4 months after the last one. Was it too soon? What were my expectations and how far were they met?

In choosing where to go cost is a factor and I’ve developed good skills in searching out dates and costs and destinations that match my criteria and work within my parameters. Travelling over Christmas and New Year is prohibitively expensive. 5 weeks without work with few friends becomes unbearable, so I have to get away.

I was hoping to see KK. I was planning to pursue a photography project. I didn’t want a “holiday”, rather to spend time living for myself and being active.

The journey lasted an age as I had a 7 hour stopover in Dubai. I toyed with the idea of leaving the airport to see what this place was like and take in the tallest building in the world. To be honest, there wasn’t much to entice me. I opted to search out a curry stall in the airport that I remembered dimly from a previous trip. I walked the length of the vast terminal 3 finding nothing but costly franchises. A waiter in one place, on failing to secure my custom, told me there was an Indian at C gate. Which involved getting the shuttle train back again to where I had first been looking. After almost 2 hours I found A Taste of India, excited to get my longed for mango lassi and masala dosa. Dismay and disappointment. No dosa at night. I had to settle for idli, dry samosa, and a small lassi, over-priced, unsatisfying….The remaining hours at the gate were tedious.

On arriving in HK, and queuing at immigration, having skipped baggage reclaim as I had only hand baggage (something I had longed to be able to do each time I’d come to Asia), I checked my phone and had the pleasant surprise of reading that KK would be picking me up. Once through passport control and avoiding being swabbed for viruses, I spied KK in arrival and he takes me to the family vehicle, which is more minibus than car. The weather is warm, around 21 degrees. The smog is heavy and the views of Kowloon are obscured as we drive over Tsing Ma bridge. KK tells me about his exciting new venture: some kind of shared workspace where he is building a sound studio.

We are heading to Fortress Hill and to the Yesinn Hostel. After parking in a tower block multi storey, we are on the streets of a neighbourhood I have become familiar with. The concierge in the lobby of the tower block in which the hostel reception can be found is stroppy and antagonistic: fussing stupidly about my not having the door code to enter the building. Of course I don’t. I havent even checked in. After taking the lift to the wrong floor we end up in the reception on floor 15. My room is in another building, on Tin Chong Street. On the corner is the ex-National Theatre, a place which fascinates us both. Underneath is a rabbit warren of corridors of boarded up shops, hair dressers and workshops; we see the neon sign maker’s shop (this is the guy who tried to make me write my name in Chinese last time around). This almost forgotten mansion fascinates me and I return to it on several occasions.

My room is better than the one I had in the summer: lots of drawers and an enclosed shower area rather than having to shower over the toilet. I discover later that it’s noisy. The walls are thin, and the plumbing loud. My neighbours’ showering and running taps is clearly audible. The pipes rumble. Conversations are loud. Light is an issue too as my window has no blind and gives onto a shaft that other residents’ windows give onto. I use a blindfold to sleep with.

After a quick unpack, and presenting KK with his gifts we go out onto Java Road then Electric Road looking for somewhere to sit and drink. I am dead tired and KK has little time as he has to get home for a family dinner. Reluctantly (for me) we end up in Fortress Hill McDonalds as it sells ice cream. It’s full of Sunday families and has no finesse or calmness. We percha at a messy table and have about 10 minutes to chat before a sweaty lump with a tray loaded with burger, fries and soft drink elbows himself a space onto our table. This signals the time to leave. Our meeting is almost over. We cross over Kings Rd agin, this time by the green foot bridge, I want to linger on the bridge and re-orientate myself. Much of my familiarity comes form the photos I took last time and have looked at on countless occasions. Even how I see KK is shaped by a photo, and he assumes a pose on the bridge where he leans his chin on his hand and rests his angular elbow on the railing of the bridge. I ask him if he misses UK. I don’t think he really understands this question. On Electric Rd we investigate a brick building which stands out among the new and modern: a low building backing onto Electric Rd enclosed by a high wall, east, west and south. We walk through the gate in the south wall and find ourselves in a courtyard and notice signage for the dismantling of an exhibition in a building resembling a cricket pavilion. I spy a board on the gate and read up to discover that this is the ex-Hong Kong Yacht Club, and old colonial building which would have looked onto the waterfront. This has long lost its access to the harbour, due to reclamation of land making room for the Island Eastern Corridor and office development. This is Oi, an arts space.

http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/APO/en_US/web/apo/about_oi.html

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I walk KK to the car, and accompany him as he negotiates the spiralling ramps down the 5 floors of the car park. We say goodbye, and make no plans. He has not been very communicative on his availability during my visit and a feel a bit deflated. I’m hungry but crave sleep more than food, and go back to rest. I make the mistake of unnecessarily using the aircon and feel cold during my sporadic sleep.

Departure day 22

The rest of the afternoon played out slowly. I poked around the business district a bit. Glass, steel, designer brand names, gweilo faces.

Hong Kong Central

A world apart from the side alleys lined with old guys with stalls selling hand carved chops (personal seals). It would be cool to have one, but I’ve spent nearly all my money. I want to take the star ferry for a last time and cross to tsim Sha tsai, and sit among tourists watching boats cross the harbour. I feel a little empty and sadness is creeping. Having spent an hour there, I cross back with the ferry and pick up my bag at fortress hill. My timing is good and fortuitous, the airport bus stops in front of the hostel and takes me through high rise causeway bay, admiralty and centre before sweeping through the tunnel under the harbour, coming up in Kowloon, crossing 2 massive suspension bridges and onto Lantau and the airport. Here I meet Kk, who has taken several hours out of work to see me off. We eat at a Japanese fusion restaurant and I give him the weird Chinese combination lock I got in the antique market, and a dice to help him take risks and arrive at decisions! It’s quite an emotional goodbye. We have done a lot together in the last few months and it’s strange to bring it to a halt until we don’t know when. He videos me as a pass through immigration. It’s like his departure from Brighton -it’s only farewell till the next time. We will meet again soon. That’s for sure.

Hong Kong day 7

After much dithering over breakfast I get an egg tart and sesame bun before heading to Kowloon tong to meet Kk. It’s a busy mrt station and Kk explains time his fascination with the sounds here. On swiping your octopus card to exit through the turnstile different electronic tones are made of different pitches according to whether you have a standard or concession fare. It’s a kind of wallpaper of bleeping but is a strange music. The soundscape is completed by babbling voices, footsteps and tannoy announcements repeated in Cantonese, mandarin and English embedding order and correctness subliminally. I can barely catch all the words. There is no “any abandoned luggage will be destroyed” like you would get on the tube in London, instead messages along the lines of “if you clear your throat use a tissue and dispose of it in the bins”. There is a nanny-ish obsession with hygiene here.
Kk takes me into a swish shiny upmarket mall called festival walk. It is aesthetically styled with multiple escalators, reflective glass walls, shiny floors, sitting areas (a luxury in hk) and a huge picture window framing lion rock and its residential foothills. We check out a fancy food stall called Taste, and it’s rather different from the Wellcome we visited yesterday. Western branded goods and European wines, an extensive cheese counter, waitrose labelled teas, olive oils. I’m interested who is buying these high ticket goods, and notice the shoppers with their minuscule trolleys only seem to be buying a handful of items. A weekly shop here would cost a fortune. Almost all the stores are western franchises and stylish jewellers. There is an ice rink named glacier ringed by eateries. It’s skating class time for kids, anything from 4 to 11 years old by the looks of things. When they fall down they don’t get hurt. Kk and I exchange our own single experiences on ice and are similar in our avoidance of doing anything that we can’t be good at or makes us clumsy. Later we see adults gingerly edging around the edge desperately grasping the rail. That would be us. Kk gets fascinated by the tractor that comes on during a break in sessions that polishes the ice. It looks like a simple but satisfying job being the driver. We have lunch in a western fusion type place by the ice. Kk has some lump of fish in a black bun. I have linguini in mushroom and truffle sauce.

Afterwards we leave the air con coolness to find a green minibus to revisit KK’s old stomping ground. He wants to show me la salle college, where he spent 12 years of his life. I try and imagine him here in his formative years. We can’t go in but survey the white block with its crest, so different from uk school architecture with its 9 floors, the statue of the benevolent founders, and a couple of kids playing football. School is out at the moment. On the wall of the opposite la salle primary school is a plaque which acknowledges a well known alumnus, Bruce lee. The plaque mentions the school’s reputation as “a breeding ground of the elite”. Is my friend a member of the future elite??

Kk shows me Kowloon tong, which is an old residential area full of eateries, and is familiar to me from the incredible photos of planes almost touching the houses as they came into land at the old airport. Kk seems to think the locals didn’t mind the noise so much.. At least not compared to the hike in property prices as the area prospered.

    
I want to visit the walled city park. This is a landscaped garden with water features and pagodas, which are pretty, but I’m interested in what once stood here, which is the famous dense labyrinth of the walled city, pulled down now 20 years ago at the behest of the British. This was the most densely populated land in the world, was home to lowlife, immigrants, triads and opium smokers, as well as containing cheap property for dentists and artisans. It evolved from a fortified settlement and all that remains now is the yamen ancestral home. There are diaramas, an interesting graphical cross section of life in these buildings rising 19 floors with no foundations. There is also the excavated remains of the original 16th century gate and a broken slogan. The garden, though relaxing in layout is plagued with dragon flies and we are jolted and vibrated by the pounding of a jack hammer that shakes the ground a block away. This deafening rhythmic thud bounces from mountain side to blocks and back again creating reverting all around us. It reminds Kk of primary school when they had to tolerate the same din for a few weeks. Apparently this kind of activity is restricted to an hour each rush hour time.
I’m keen to see the old airport but of course it is now being redeveloped and the spit of land that was the runway is now a pier for massive cruise liners. There are remains of access roads which sweep up and over the bypass, suddenly ending on the far side. They are overgrown and blocked off but we climb over a barrier to walk up and look at the view.

I head back to Kowloon with Kk, where he is meeting his parents. I carry on walking south in search of temple street market. Along Shanghai street are sea food restaurants with blue lit tanks of crabs and various fishes lining the Windows. There are neon lit games houses, and, I suspect a cluster of prostitutes on a corner. I come across the Art Deco 1920s cinema now the home of the hk opera and dwarfed by its surroundings. Next to it is a crumbling wholesale market that looks of the same era. At the top end of temple street I eat in ying vegetarian. It has a great menu but I probably order the wrong thing as its a bit dull; mock beef rice pot. Temple street market is cut in half by a busy road and after climbing around the temple garden I’m in a back street under the flyover, where there is a curious mix of fortune tellers and penned off areas which I can’t quite grasp. They could be bars, but there is no bar. In each one there are a few tables and chairs of the garden variety. Some of the ground is covered with carpet. Sitting there are old men in vests, smoking and drinking. At each of these 4 places someone is singing tunelessly into a mic. At one place the singer is accompanied by an old codger playing a keyboard. The singing clashes with one another. When I try to take pics, one guy gets a bit mad with me. Further down the street a guy is swaying to the music on his chair then gets up to slowly dance with his arms in the air with a not particularly willing passerby. Then I’m in temple market. It’s full of tourist tat, paintings, DVDs, tshirts, souvenirs. At an intersection is a stretch of bars mainly catering to gweilos drinking. I’m not interested in this kind of place.

I hit Nathan road which is full of night time promenaders. On the street corner opposite Chungking mansions are dodgy looking non oriental Asians whispering to passers by about their wares. Counterfeit watches was something I was offered. The big green mosque is closing for the night. I intend to take the star ferry from tsim Sha tsui, and take an underpass that is some long gallery depicting the history of the city and detailing the lives of its stars. This is the avenue of stars. It brings me out quite far from the pier so I walk around the back of the space museum, where there are strange little Astro grass islands, each crowned by a tree under which young couples lie looking at the sky or embracing. 

After disembarking at admiralty I undertake the long walk to fortress hill, pausing to watch late night football on the multiple pitches on Victoria park.

A few nights ago I was confused by alighting from the lift of my building and my room not being where it usually is….how can a lift take me to a different place not he same floor? Tiredness obviously was a factor. Today I noticed that the concierge’s desk was slightly different and the layout of the lobby too. But he seemed to know me and let me in. As I was waiting for the lift it struck me I might even be in the wrong building…it would have been too embarrassing to walk out, so I resolved to take the lift, go up and come back down as if I had visited someone briefly. On the 16th floor it all came back to me. This is where I was before. There are two entrances to the block on the same street 2 doors apart. And I hadn’t gone crazy. Anyway the adventure didn’t stop there as my key card wasn’t working so I had to go over the road to reception to sort things out. It was past 11pm… Had to hope someone was there. Yes. To my relief.

Hong Kong day 6

Writing this on the hoof standing on the mrt. On the way to meet Kk at Kowloon tong. I’m a bit late as I dithered over breakfast choices finally settling on egg tart and red bean bun.
Yesterday I did a lot of travelling. I went north to meet Kk in the north territories and experienced some of the complications he has getting about. I took 4 metro lines, a train and a light railway (a reject from the French, which runs like a tram down tong tai road. My instructions are a bit like a secret mission as I don’t really know where I’m going and Kk changes the plan as he has missed a bus. Meanwhile I have had to do some backtracking as I miss a stop, and later get on the light railway in the wrong direction thanks to a well intended station employee who obviously didn’t understand me. It’s about 12.30 when we finally meet on the platform at tai tong road and I discover I’ve been travelling without paying as I didn’t swipe my octopus card when I changed at sheung shui. We are in yuen long. It’s a busy hustling satellite town lined with shops catering for mainland Chinese who come from the nearby border to shop cheaply. Baby milk powder dominates the street displays of so called chemists. There are many gift shops selling beautifully packaged moon cake. Our mission is to mind a cake shop where the pastry is not made from the usual lard. It’s very very hot and not particularly relaxing. We eat our cakes standing up at a market where there are cheap lean-to eateries. Later we explore the market area. A lot of old people collecting flattened cardboard boxes strapping them to trollies to take to sell at recyclers. Some vicious looking butchers, arrays of tropical fruit including durian. Kk wants to shop me a McDonald’s or rather a McCafe. He extols the virtues of these places, where you don’t meet the usual impatient service and which serve as a community space for the elderly. Along the main drag are adverts for night school crammers. One particularly huge poster resembles the electioneering posters we have seen all week. 4 young smiling respectable men who could equally be advertising skin care products or hair styling products. They describe themselves as Dr Koo’s dream team.
We hop on a bus to Ping Shan. On the horizon we can see the dim and sinister sky line of high rise Shenzhen in mainland China. The heavy smog is ominous. We get out at Ping Shan and here we pick up the heritage trail. This is enclosed in the old tang walled village, though there is only a small fragment of wall left. This clan are one of the oldest settlers in hk, coming here in the 12th century. Although he is called tang and I’m willing myself to believe it, unfortunately Kk is not related to this clan. The area is decidly low rise and bucolic. There are car parks among greenery, probably prime future development land and notices warning strangers not to park and that any damage to their vehicles will be their own responsibility. The rural environment means mosquitoes. We both get bitten and are feeling extremely hot. The various historic buildings are partially restored, interesting, but not engrossing. A temple, an an ancestral hall, a well. We don’t complete the trail and yearn for coolness.

So we take a bus to sheung Shui and this really is frontier town. Kk gets irritated by the mainland Chinese shoppers with their unruly crying kids who are given no attention. The mall has electrical cosmetic and clothes shops and a familiar sight is a group of Chinese on their knees outside stores packing and repacking suitcases they have brought for their mass purchases. It’s a comic and desperate sight. Outside the streets are full of similar day trippers sticking up on fake baby powder and other stuff. We see a ramshackle makeshift temple in a square. The air is notably stinky of cigarettes, something that Hong kongers seem to shun. On the foot bridge by the bus stop runs a rare cycle track. Hk cyclists seem unstable dangerous and wobbly. Along the bridge are campaigners for various political candidates, hanging out leaflets and trying to drown each other out via megaphones.

 I wait with Kk for his bus then make my multi vehicle return to fortress hill. I’m delighted to find the Amrita buffet open. The food has almost all gone so the friendly manager offers me a half price feast of tasty vegetable dishes with rice and noodles, dessert and some great teas, including a walnut one.

Hong Kong day 5

Today is an early start. I have ted bean and dried mandarin soup downstairs then get the metro to central and walk to the piers to meet KK. We are going to Lamma island, a quiet island of 2 villages and a coal/ gas power station. It’s quite a choppy ride on the ferry around the west of Hong Kong island through busy the bay busy with freight ships, Macau catermarans and tiny lurching fishing boats. The view of the island and the glass towers glittering in the sun is a wonderful sight. South of Hong Kong island Lamma comes into sight with its incongruous 3 chimneys rising above the hills. Yung shue long is the larger of the 2 villages and is a cluster of narrow streets, I believed to be serene but with frequent urgent traffic of quad bike tractor type machines driven by tanned sweating locals delivering goods. We walk past numerous sea food restaurants and tanks of fish unaware that they will be chosen and plucked out for someone’s lunch. By 10.30 it is very hot and the sun is strong. We have a pit stop at a ramshackle stall with a covered seating area for some sweetened tofu custard. The old man serving is rather confused with his maths. Through KK’s eavesdropping we learn he is 86. He has an audience with some kind of visiting social worker who is rather harsh and cruel in her speech as she talks about his difficulties to the group of teenagers with her. Maybe they are her students. Quite soon an old woman appears. Evidently the wife and 82 years old. She is critical of this woman but also her husband for not clearing the tables. This ancient sprightly woman leaps to work all the time cracking jokes in hokkien with some other customers. Eventually the daughter appears and takes over. We walk a little further to hung shing ye beach. A Christian youth group are sat in a circle reading the bible on their phones. Several people are swimming. A shark net demarks the safety zone. We sit in shade by the barbecue pits. Kk isn’t too keen on sea and sand. We talk about religion. We get hungry and have to retrace our steps ending up in the bookworm cafe. The walls are full of books. Coincidentally we are sitting in front of the philosophy and theology section. We both have something South American. Mine is a plate of tortillas, and a vile green looking shake, which doesn’t taste bad. I spy a learn Cantonese book and cd and challenge KK’s comprehension of my poor pronunciation of stock phrases and numbers. I use this guide to ask for the bill.

Our walk across the island resumes. Back At the beach we stand in sweltering heat and harsh sunlight under an umbrella as KK resumes his filming of a wall of sand next to a small channel slowly collapsing. Like seven sisters or Grand Canyon he says. After 15 minutes his phone is over heating so we stop. The path across the island climbs shrubby hills revealing views of the power station. It feels a little Mediterranean. At a peak we stop at a gazebo and buy a freshly cut slice of pineapple to share and end up getting sticky. We are beginning to get bitten by mosquitoes. I point out banana trees and their phallic flowers to KK. He has not seen this before. There is another orange pod like fruit that I can’t identify. We descend into a hamlet where locals are drying grasses and down to the quiet beach of lo so shing where I have a tranquil float whilst KK paces up and down trying to avoid insects. We time our departure from the beach well as dusk falls quickly. We pass a cave full of water that is supposedly a half finished bay for kamikaze boats of the Japanese. We round a muddy estuary, pass a small temple and find ourselves in a narrow alley in sok Kwu wan lined with seafood restaurants, not so busy as it is a week day. I have a beer, KK a coke, as he likes the bottle, and we wait for the ferry. I’m feeling a bit nauseous and think I have a bit of heat stroke. I have an early night.