Tag Archives: street

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.

 

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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Day 8: 17 January, HK

This is one of the loneliest days. I was hoping that KK might have been able to make some time at the weekend, but there are no messages. I don’t feel like doing much, but can’t sit indoors. I decide to see what’s at the western end of the tram line in Kennedy Town. Victoria Park is empty. It is cordoned off as preparations are being made for an event for the Spring Festival. The Filipino maids who usually gather there on their day off are clustered on the pavement and under the flyover. Admiralty looks busy with shoppers. Kennedy town is definitely an end of the line place. Quiet, seems to be home to quite a lot of Gweilos and full of western restaurants, with western prices. I have a late breakfast of various breads sitting on a bench looking over the harbour. Feeling a bit empty and listless. There is nothing to see here and so I walk East along the great named Belcher’s Street then Queens Rd West. Here I come across a trestle table stall where members of the Democratic Party are writing pithy new year’s wishes on slips of red paper. Passers-by queue up to get their carefully calligraphed slogans to hang on their doors.

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In getting off the main road I end up under the dramatic sweeping flyover that carves a swathe over Hill Street.

I climb some steps which take me up to Pok Fu Lam Rd. Ahead of me is an impressive collection of towers and sky bridges: this is HKU. Curious I cross a bridge and am among the university buildings under one of the towers. It’s a ghost town, but everywhere seems accessible and no security guards, barriers etc.  A small group of men are practising some form of self defence.

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I pass them and climb 10 (?) flights of steps on the outside of the Biological Science Building. I’m very high up as the tower is pierced on the flank of a hill. The view looks over the northern towers of Sai Wan and beyond to Kowloon. Beneath me are several smaller, older, colonial-era buildings. One of these is the main building of HKU, which I visit later. It has the feel of a museum with its inner cloistered courtyard. Students have come here to take pictures of each other in graduation robes.

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On Bonham street I enter Sai Ying Pun MTR by means of a lift which takes me down through the hill to underground level. I am taking the MTR to Tsim She Tsui and ISQUARE. Here I visit and Indian restaurant and sit on the terrace above Kowloon Park Drive as the sun goes down with a really good thali and lassi.

I’m tired. I can’t remember much more.

Day 7: 16 January HK

I dither around Oil St for a while and have a wrap for breakfast. Follow the back streets to Tin Hau MTR and sit on the square outside watching an elderly couple at a charcoal fired chestnut and sweet potato stall. Some kids are chasing pigeons. A sad lonely woman sits opposite.

I meet Marco at Prince Edward station. He is bigger and less cynical. I haven’t seen him since the Railway Bell in Brighton 4 years ago where we regularly met to watch football. I missed him when he left. We go to a down at heel Dim Sum place and sit not very comfortably side by side. The tea is nothing special, Marco attempts to order vegetarian dim sum but one of the greasy snacks is topped with bacon. We talk a lot about HK. I’m surprised at his lack of knowledge about the student leaders of the umbrella uprising, even though he graduated in IR.  When we part he says we should meet again. We don’t. Kind of sets the tone for my visit…

After we part I wander past Yao Ma Tei market towards temple street. Back to an area that fascinated me before. Around the temple are little tables with people reading palms and tealeafs, and curious karaoke tents where seemingly limited to the elderly, some with wonderful voices, some atrocious, singing songs from bygone times. In and around are very crusty scabby homeless people. This seems a closed little world and I really don’t know exactly if these people are busking or if I should pay them for sitting and watching.

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I have dinner in a busy place that I went to before. Last time it was starchy and dry and the same again. Looking at what other people have ordered I feel sure I chose badly from the big menu again.

Around temple street I buy a juice and while queuing am accosted politely by a guy who, he informs me, is a taxi driver who has lost his licence for speeding. I give him a few dollars to get rid of him. I take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui and the mtr from admiralty back to my little cell.

Day 6: 13 January, HK

Breakfast is various buns from the bakery. Then I take the bus across the harbour to Kwun Tong and the Public records office. There is an exhibition here based on a 1970s survey of the bus system on HK island, which contains some fascinating B/W photos of areas that I have become familiar with. The speed of change is striking

http://www.grs.gov.hk/ws/online/bus_stops/en/index.html

Afterwards I walk further into Kwun Tong. It’s raining a little. I track down lunch in a weird place: a health vegetarian restaurant attached to a yoga centre in an up-market tower block. A uniformed courteous concierge patiently makes sure I get the right lift. An interesting phenomenon in some of these buildings is that not all lifts go to all floors.

I hang around a mall and walk people posing and taking selfies in front of an elaborate and tacky new year’s centrepiece of cockerel and fake pink blossoms. I watch life here for a while. Outside the mall street life is more down at heel. Around the bus and mini-bus stops are small alleys and lanes with tiny shops: copiers, tailors, pawn shops, stalls on the streets where spivvy jewellers, magnifying lenses jammed into one eye scrutinise watches and rings, looking to make a quick buck.

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I’m tired and decide to get the MTR back to Fortress Hill for a rest. This is not a great idea as later on I have to cross the harbour again and get to Junction Rd. By bus this takes an age and the traffic jam in the tunnel is tedious. I’m off to watch the

Raise the Umbrellas at HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity

Raise the Umbrellas explores the origin and impact of Hong Kong’s 2014 ‘Umbrella Movement’ through the inter-generational lenses of three post-Tiananmen democratic activists – Martin Lee, founder of the Hong Kong Democratic party; Benny Tai, ‘Occupy Central’ initiator; and Joshua Wong, the sprightly student leader – alongside voices from unknown ‘umbrella mothers’, student occupiers (Yvonne Leung and Vivian Yip), star politicians (Emily Lau, and ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok Hung, as well as the pro-Beijing heavyweight Jasper Tsang), prominent media professionals (Jimmy Lai, Cheong Ching, Philip Bowring), international scholars (Andrew Nathan, Arif Dirlik and Hung Ho-fung), and activist Canton-pop icons Denise Ho and Anthony Wong. Driven by stirring on-site footage in a major Asian metropolis riven by protest, Raise the Umbrellasreveals the movement’s eco-awareness, gay activism, burgeoning localism and the sheer political risk for post-colonial Hong Kong’s universal-suffragist striving to define its autonomy within China.

Director Biography

Evans Chan

Graduated from Northwestern University for his Doctor degree in Visual Culture. He is born in China, raised in Hong Kong, Chan is a critic, dramatist, and award-winning director of two feature films: To Liv(e) (1991) and Crossings (1994). His films have been exhibited and awarded in various international film festivals, e.g. in Berlin, London, Rotterdam, Moscow, Taiwan Golden Horse Film Festival etc. He is a former advisor to the Hong Kong International Film Festival. He is ‘the most intellectual of the current crop of Hong Kong directors’, wrote Barry Long in Hong Kong Babylon (1997, Faber & Faber).
Apart from his engagement in film industry, Chan also known as a veteran cultural critic. Chan’s publications including Dream Tenants, a collection of essays and stories, and The Last of The Chinese, a collection of critical essays on dance, cinema and literature, are all highly praised and circulated.

http://www.hkindieff.hk/indie_vision03.html

It was worth seeing, but I got there after it had started and was uncomfortably sat in the front row before a massive screen. I felt the film tried to do too much and didn’t have a coherent narrative. What was interesting was the LGBTQ thread: there is a parallel with the story of Pride. In fact this is referenced by Andy Wong, the canto-pop gay singer who becomes one of the figures of the Occupy events, as his inspiration to get involved. Some naive quotes from students: “Before Occupy I didn’t like his kind of people, but this changed…”I didn’t stay for the Q&A (a Skype link with the director): the translation on the wi-fi loop was hard to keep up with and drowned out by the volume of the Skype call.

I have a quiet late evening wander afterwards which takes me back to some places from my time with KK in the summer. It’s interesting re-visiting places under different circumstances and alone. I wander around Kowloon City park, the site of the demolished Walled City. It’s dark, cool, lonely, more or less empty. Adjectives you don’t usually use to describe Kowloon. An eventual walk down to Prince Edward Rd East, where KK and I had looked for the approach to the former Kai Tak airport. Getting to the bus stop “home” is extremely complicated as road bridges and diversions of footpaths send you back and forth over the busy highway in the most convoluted way.

Day 4: 11 January, HK

I think I might have skipped breakfast and instead had an early lunch on Fuk Yuen St in the alley under the foot bridge, where the old ladies sit outside their recycle shop at night and play cards, and where the homeless have built homes around the public benches, out of cardboard sheets, old mattresses and blankets. There is a waffle shop, a fresh fruit stall, and  hole in the wall veggie eatery. I think I went to the veggie place, where the owner spoke great English, but the food was a bit dull.

Afterwards I get the tram to Sai Wan Ho and look for the HK Film Archive, here I pick up info about a film festival and spend a long time viewing an exhibition about special effects in HK movies. The exhibition readily admits that techniques in HK movies were inferior to those in Hollywood and in most cases were pale imitations: multiple exposing, matting, back projection, models. The one area that HK has excelled in and exported to HW and transnational collaborations is wire work (just think of martial arts fight scenes).

I’m hungry and follow Hungry Cows in search of Golden Veg on Shau Kai Wan Rd. This is a delight. Really good venue, well cooked tasty food and in spite of limited English smiley, chatty friendly staff. I learn that many people who come to this place (and other veggie places) do so once a week in an effort to be “healthy”. The waitress I chat to (I wish I could remember her name) is a buddhist and committed vegetarian. She is impressed by my 31 years of vegetarianism. This topic is often a good entry point for a conversation.

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The rest of the evening is a long intriguing walk back to Fortress Hill: along the busy Shau Kai Wan Rd, full of photo opportunities: reflections, iconography, tinted glass doors, and general bustle; the shores of Quarry Bay park. A relaxing contrast from the claustrophobia of Kowloon. People have the space and opportunity to have a more leisurely lifestyle. There are women practising Tai Chi, men rehearsing movements with swords, groups of enthusiastic joggers, dog walkers. And the fresh breeze off the harbour. It feels good to walk. Back in North Point, Java Rd is closing down. The last remaining open store is a pet shop: puppies in glass boxes in bright shop windows, cooing couples cuddling kittens inside…..

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Day 3: 10 January, HK

Today I go to the congee shop on Kings Rd for mandarin and red bean soup for breakfast and plan my day. I intend to take in some alternative culture and head for the Cattle Depot Artist Village in Ma Tau Kok near Hong Hom on Kowloon. I get there by ferry from North Point. The terminal lined with golf with stalls full of tanks of freshly caught sea creatures and fish. The sun is shining, I almost wish I had my sun glasses. I take a wrong turn and end up on a foot bridge on which a homeless woman has hung her clothes to dry. Beneath the bridge is a cluster of religious icons: bud has, virgins etc. I walk alongside the roaring East Kowloon Corridor which cuts like a canyon through the forest of high rise and disappears into a lengthy tunnel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_Depot_Artist_Village

The Artist Village is a turn of the century listed ex-abbatoir, complete with concrete troughs and hitching rings. I’m looking for the base of Videotage but they are closed up. There are various artist’s workshops housed in the peripheral buildings. A sculptor surrounded by old domestic appliances, plastic and metal junk welding a new masterpiece. I look at an a couple of exhibitions: one tacking community and living space, the other the fruit of a series of workshops with teenagers.  I watch a documentary filmed in Shau Kei Wan market. I’m disappointed at how little I find and how uninspiring it is. It’s time to walk. The side streets are high and narrow and are populated by car workshops, and lines of washing hung out of faceless windows. Around one corner is a demolition site, the face of a lowly 2-storey house is all that remains of what once was there.

I follow To Kwa Wan Rd a little way, many of the buildings are peeling and date from the 1960s. This is not space age shiny new Hong Kong. There is a workshop in which Lambourghinis and Ferraris are being fixed. Along a less busy road I come across a throng queuing to get into a restaurant, politely being pestered by both pro and anti-Falun Gong.

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I’m searching for a place to eat. The one I’m hunting for is closed and I head further west and into the district of Hok Yuen, a strange mist-mash of shiny new malls, low-rise scruffy streets full of recycling depots, where men are sorting metals, crushing and bailing them, then loading trucks. One small street is lined with fancy elaborately decorated vast restaurants. The street is festooned with red lanterns and christmas stars. At mid afternoon, the street is empty, the restaurants empty. I am intercepted by a woman from the office that manages this private street, and have to account for what I’m photographing. “Not people, not you…really…just the nice decorations…” haha. I eat something unmemorable in a little vegetarian eatery. There is a boy, a college student I guess, who I find quite fascinating.

I end up accidentally walking to the Whampoa. This seems to be a huge luxury private residential development. At its entrance stands the incongruous weirdness of a shopping centre in the shape and form of a ship. Once around Whampoa I am at the harbourside at a steel and glass Harbour Grand Kowloon. Smart bellboys and doormen attending to visitors drawing up in scruffy red HK taxis. I decide to walk in, fully expecting to be stopped, but the doors are open for me. The warmth of the sun over the water fills the lobby through its glass walls. I loiter, linger, look at the cakes in the cafe-bar and watch guests, certainly not moneyed business people, arriving. There is some kind of group thing going on. I catch the ferry from Hung Him back to North Point. It might have been that evening that I went to the buffet restaurant. I can’t remember now.

Day 2: 9 January, HK

This is really the first day of the trip, and it’s one where I’m very much guided by my instinct and on-line maps, and reading stuff on the internet. rather than KK. It’s quite a solitary time here, in which each day I struggle to get up and out, having no awareness of the outside from my cell. It’s not until I get out descend in the lift and exit the lobby that I know what the temperature and weather are like, and if there is anything going on on the streets. Today I am concentrating on the local. My goal, or perhaps my meaning whilst I am here, is to work with photography and soundscape. I have set myself the task of using a fast portrait lens to explore the layers of colour, shape, information, movement and behaviours that are stacked up in the canyon-like streets of HK. The technical aspect of this are a challenge. Working with these parameters  and shallow focus, the margins for error are very small, and as the lens refocusses as I look through the layers of crowds, with people criss-crossing in the foreground, to an interesting face. It means I am not as reactionary and more a sniper than a gun-slinger. Sure I miss decisive moments, and probably I will things to happen in front of me. Perhaps the faces I photograph, to some extent, are ones that already know they are being watched and have been tracked in my sights. I look back at these photos and wonder if it is me that is on their minds, and if so what their feelings are to me. Sound is something I havent worked with before and my handheld recorder could do with a wind guard. I find myself lingering on the fringes of conversations and product demonstrations  on street corners, in a language I dont understand. It is the music and texture of the voices, and later the machinery (trams, subways, lifts), that attracts me. If only there was a way to record the smells of a place, as I feel these are often so distinctive and evokative: in this case, the heady herbs and spices of the Chinese medicine shops and steaming buns.

I feel a bit like a spy and there is a sense of loneliness and isolation in my existence here. I go and get a glass of soya milk from a congee shop. I use my drilled rehearsed Cantonese to ingratiate myself “Mm goi; yi go ne go”. This is interesting: I get what I want but I have no idea whether the sounds I produce are perceived as Cantonese, Gweilo grunts in some unfamiliar language or just unintelligible noise. I wonder does it even matter that I try to produce sounds. We find when we travel and have low local linguistic ability that we use basic stock phrases where probably you would achieve the same results just by pointing and persisting. Sometimes I don’t bother, sometimes I make the effort. Another area of marginalisation. It’s the same when I consider my subject matter. We will never have a conversation about how they feel and who they are. These narratives are the narratives which I project onto these people and attempt to draw out when others look at my pictures. I am very uninformed. I miss many details. I’m not sure what it is that draws me to my subject: it certainly isn’t an understanding of them. Perhaps it is the impenetrability I experience in looking. Imagination and fancy play a big part.

Today is spent in Northpoint: the Kiu Fai Mansion under the State Theatre; I peer through the doors of elderly homes like the one in “A Simple Life” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2008006/

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the mirrored lobby of Sunbeam Theatre on KIng’s Road; the market around North Point Rd; a crowd of housewives watching a guy demonstrating some magnetic window cleaning device, some face-mask clad women stacking the bamboo poles used in scaffolding buildings here, supervised by a scrawny bare chested tattooed leader; the covered multi-storey market on Java Rd; the rows of jewellers with windows full of gold ornamentation.

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I spend time watching construction and road diggers around Wharf Rd and Tong Shui Pier rd. I spend time on Tong Shui Rd pier, beneath the sweeping flyover of the East Island Corridor. There are sparrows, an old guy comes to feed them. Other retirees with nothing to do pass time on the benches. Another performs stretching exercises. Ferries, fishing boats, freighters and container ships share the channel in front of me. Dusk falls, and the sun glows feebly as it sets.

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I had lunched in 3 Virtues on Kings Rd, a spacious dim sum place above a small mall. Round tables, white table cloths, mandatory pots of tea, and groups of elderly set for the afternoon to nibble, gossip and sip. The waitress is gracious and attentive, not pushy and advises me on which noodles to order. This is quntessentially HK. This is the kind of place KK doesn’t like.

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I think I had dinner at Ahimsa Buffet behind King St. A place I frequented before and usually quite late in the evening. It seems popular with 20-something educated types. There is a good choice of food, but having got there late I have to rush before the hot buffet is cleared away. I ask for a discount because of this, and the young guy who holds court with his friends, performing tea rituals, happily obliges me. Somehow he reminds me of Erique.

My evening continues as I go back to my room and begin to process, sort, edit and delete photos. This is a ritual that becomes a time-consuming and obsessive habit each evening.

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.