I’m meeting KK at mong kok. First I have breakfast in a little veggie shop nearby. The sole lady customer there translates and I get the default fried noodles and congee. We chat about travel and hiking and she unexpectedly pays for my breakfast. She warns me of pickpockets in China.
The metro escalators have signs reassuring us that the hand rails have been sterilised regularly. This is a hangover from SARS. This closed down hk for a week. KK told me the schools were closed and lessons took place remotely. Elsewhere you see labels on doors in public places also confirming sterilisation. I’m later reprimanded by KK in a restaurant for not serving myself with the third pair of chopsticks given to us.
KK is waiting for me at mong kok station and takes me on a tour of the market streets. The so called sneaker street is being set up. Red white and blue shrouded trolleys with goods are wheeled into place. Steel frames and white awnings erected by shirtless deep brown skinned swearing traders. There is a street that sells predominantly baby milk powder, popular with Chinese visitors… We see goldfish street, with shops full of tanks and bags of brightly coloured fish being carefully selected and fished out with little nets on poles by customers. Other shops have puppies and kittens in little Perspex boxes that little kids point at with joy. I feel pity. There are bowls full of miniature tortoises and tanks containing handsome reptiles. At least these are not going to be bought to be eaten. KK takes me to a music shop full of erhu skinned with snake skin and guzheng with beautiful carved decorations. We are here for strings for KK’ s erhu which turn out to be made in Germany. It’s raining outside. I delight in photographing people struggling with umbrellas and old street people struggling with loads pulled by ropes over their shoulders. There is a foot bridge lined with clusters of scarves young women sitting on sheets, sharing boxes of food, brushing their hair, taking selfies and video chatting. They seem cheerful and are not homeless. This is where Indonesian and Filipino maids gather and socialise during their time off. Kk’s family have a mid. He says they earn quite good money. We pass by a pro Falun Gong banner and leafleters. Adjacent it is an anti Falun Gong banner and photos of prominent members mocked as demons. The guy manning this display has a body cam and films us, we are sure. This cause KK to take some distance. KK wants a pineapple bun or a custard tart but I’m afraid i direct us to a veggie Buddhist place where we share a round table with a woman who recommends some dishes to us. She pours me some ta from the communal flask and KK instructs me to kowtow by tapping my fingers on the table to show thanks. With more heavy rain we need a new plan. KK suggests a bus trip to west Kowloon. It takes a while before a bus that isn’t overcrowded comes along. We see KK’ birthplace – the hospital, a bunch of international schools, the hk media university with a military camp strategically planed right next to it, and end up in a residential village ( the term used in hk for housing estate) backing onto lion rock, which only vaguely looks like a lion to me. We walk through the tower blocks to the Wong tai sin temple, which is closed. There is a shopping mall next to it with large imitations of coiled incense as a decorative motif. KK has to leave now, and I remain in the square watching the beginning of a political rally, a small boy playing in a puddle and a couple of skateboarders. It’s dusk and I feel a bit introspective and think about the start of the day when I opened Lisas email telling me how valued I am and by the way I haven’t got the job. It’s not nice feeling rejected, and to be honest either way I’m not looking forward to my work situation when I get back.
I have dinner at an Indian near Nathan road. The thali is great and the lassi refreshing but rather expensive. The Indian at the next table keeps belching loudly… Different culture, different manners.. Around tsim Sha tsui huge groups of teens are gathered looking at their phones. It doesn’t require very close inspection to realise that Pokemon go has taken over the city!
I get the metro to admiralty then change to fortress hill. I investigate the food bridge that crosses in front of my block and find it carries on over an alley into electric road. Under the bridget there is fascinating local nightlife here. It’s too hot to be inside with no air con. An old foursome sat around a foldable table playing cards, a number of makeshift homes that seem to almost be permanent are carefully constructed from cardboard and blankets. There skinny shirtless skinny owners talk quietly on the benches nearby. I’m going to my little room.