Monday, January 24, 2011


I did a brave thing today. It was to be my first big day exploring and I had it planned to a tee. I knew how to get everywhere, I had it all marked out on my map, I had lunch and dinner planned, I had my boots and my guide and I had my breakfast and walked out the door. I was feeling empowered, I was feeling excited, the potential for awesomeness was 10 on the Richter scale. Stepping outside into the cold – my veins constrict – blood rushes to my brain – adrenalin kicks way into my heart – and now I get a little crazy. I decide to do a crazy thing, but it’s a brave thing. It’s courageous, it’s challenging, and it could end badly.

I put my iPod on shuffle.



And for good reason. An 80 gigabyte iPod on shuffle confronts you with the horrors of your own choosing. It unleashes an assault on your ears which is incomparably bitter because you know, deep down, that you have brought this shame upon yourself. Each decade reminds you of the fads you got sucked into. Classic milestone albums of the alternative scene (you downloaded them out of fear of someone discovering you didn’t have them) start playing, and you realise you never even listened to them.  The end of a song finds you cringing, shoulders tight, scowl on your face, wondering what horrors might come next. 

An iPod is the perfect metaphor for your wardrobe – you only wear 20% of it, 80% of the time. The rest? You can’t bring yourself to get rid of it. You’ll “fit back into it”. It’ll come back around… 

And so it was, that the experience of Hong Kong was garnished with absolutely random selections from my two decades of audio collection. Each destination had a radically different feel. I would walk differently, interpret things differently, see everything in front of me or nothing. The soundtrack was inseparable from the visual information. They grew together. As if I was watching a “choose your own adventure” movie. It was bloody brilliant.
The bravest thing of all? I’m sharing the results with you.

1.    Victoria Garden – "Any Way You Want It" by Journey

There are gigantor walls that go around most of Victoria park. It hides it from the rest of the city, and I have no idea why because it’s bloody brilliant! If people could see this place from the road it would be so wicked! It’s like the whole community comes here. All for different purposes, but kind of the same reason you know what I mean? There are old dudes doing tai chi all together with crazy swords! Then all the young girls set up picnic rugs and put food out –  but they kind of don’t eat it cos they’re all so busy talking and gossiping and laughing. And then you have these designated paths where people can ONLY jog, like the fast lane of a public pool – and these pairs of horrendously dressed women with full faces of makeup do that hilarious power walking where your ass shakes side to side and your shoulders go up and down. LOL. There are different chunks of the park with different kinds of plants, its pretty cool. But then there is a big square of grass and they ALL JUST SIT DOWN AND ENJOY THE SUN AND FRESH AIR. Everyone is all together getting along, chilling the fuck out from the big city. SUNDAY IS THE SICKEST DAY OF THE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tin Hau Temple - "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes

You could almost walk past it, the entrance is around the corner of an alleyway. The doorway is small and it’s so dark you can’t see inside until you’re inside. Before anything else, the incense hits you and fills your head - your eyes can’t even adjust. You trip on the cobbled floor and you start to sweat because it’s damn hot in here. Glancing up at the ceiling reveals coils and coils of the source of the smell. Their burning tips reach down at you like rattlesnakes with gleaming red eyes.  People shuffle around. They are silent and they pretend you aren’t there. Pulling their wallets out, they pay for handful after handful of incense sticks which they light and then gaze at the flame as if enchanted. Then they blow out the flame, and the flickering light is replaced by a plume of pungent smoke enveloping their heads. With watering eyes they stick the sticks in the pots of sand and say their prayers. When it’s all over they just walk calmly out, but if you wait and watch you see the keepers of the temple come in behind them after mere minutes. With thick gloves they pull the incense from the pot, drop it into a bucket of water just long enough to hear the sizzle, and then it’s destined for the bin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place, but the irony is just too goddamn sweet and strong to miss. 

Hong Kong Central Library - "Ride Wit Me" by Nelly featuring City Spud

First things first, this is how a quality library should be. You cruise up a sweet set of marble steps, and then you get a faceful of fountain. It’s some seriously royal shit. Big dudes guard the big glass doors and then you get inside and it’s one word – respect. People are quiet and actually reading like you’re supposed to in a library. Eight stories high with natural light and clean carpet makes me really dig this place. A whole floor is dedicated to magazines and periodicals with a massive area of comfy chairs so that your average working Hong Kong woman doesn’t have to buy her own Cosmo, and your average working Hong Kong gentleman doesn’t have to buy his own newspaper. Top level is reference and it’s pimpin. You got really old books hangin up there alongside crazy ass cartography stuff. Get me some of that.

Super Fancy Cake Store - "Stir It Up" by Bob Marley and The Wailers

Honestly I was having such a chilled day, I was walking so slowly down that street I was seeing everything I could have seen. My feet just took me into this cake shop, like I didn’t have to even think about it. Maybe I just smelt my way there. It did smell really good. I saw the brownie section and I was pretty keen, and then I actually read the different names and one was called “Yoda Brownie” hahahaha so I just bought it. It looks like the answer to every question in the universe. Actually it kind of looks like a planet. A planet on a brownie. Kind of like that image of Earth on a turtle, but this is Mars on a block of chocolately goodness. Yeah

Noonday Gun - "Path of Least Resistance" by Modest Mouse

I’ve never heard this song before, and I’m only seeing this gun because it’s in the book. I also only just realised that it is now twenty past twelve, and this is a noonday gun so I missed the actual ceremony thing. I stare at it from across the road (it’s much smaller than I anticipated), and as I wonder whether it’s worth the walk up the pedestrian overpass, the song finishes. It was like, 20 seconds and it wasn’t even a song. This isn’t even a gun, it’s got a black tarp on it. Not worth it. Moving on.

Lunchtime in Causeway Bay - "Breathless" by The Corrs

You know what? I’m gonna veer off the spaghetti road, I’m in a spontaneous mood, I’m feeling adventurous, positivity, new experiences, that’s what this whole trip is about. Ok!!! I am going to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. This place is traditional Cantonese, and it’s called ‘Delicious Kitchen’ -  I’m in! I get a window seat, wonderful! I get a hot cup of tea, great! Perusing the menu, people watching, it’s a beautiful sunny day. I get a little crazy and go with #32 Mock Chicken and #63 Mixed Vegetables with Special Soup. It’s cheap! The waitress is lovely! I’m feeling fine. Then the food arrives and I can’t help but laugh. Five minutes later I am not laughing. I have no idea what the fuck those rubbery tentacle things are and the chicken thing was NOTHING like chicken in any way whatsoever. I have four cups of tea and read an art brochure I picked up. It’s not so bad, I guess. Bri, the tea is great! You’re great! No worries! It was funny! You can say you tried! Ok, let’s get the bill and get going!!!

Wan Chai MTR Station - "Lovegame" by Lady Gaga

Bodies cram against each other to get to the escalator down to the station. Line up dutifully, swipe your card and move into the sea of chaos. Everyone is getting somewhere else. Urgently. We are all in heavy coats because it’s freezing outside, but down here is another story. Low ceilings trap the heat from the masses of bodies and you can feel the sweat on the nape of your neck. You can see the sweat on the neck of the young man in front of you. Very close in front of you. The bead of salty liquid runs down past his collar and as your eyes follow the train arrives. A push from behind moves you forward involuntarily, hundreds of humans with a collective conscience – get on the train. Insecurity plagues your mind, you hold your pockets but the cram is unbeatable. Don’t try and fight it. Red lights flash as the doors rush closed and the heat escalates again. The train lurches forward so everyone grips the poles and handles, but your front brushes a stranger’s back as the machines rockets forward. Hundreds of mouths, but there is silence until the announcement of the station sounds. You squeeze out onto the platform, following the mass to the exit. Three levels up this time – every escalator ride provides you with more actual oxygen. By the time you reach the real outside the world again, it’s like the whole thing never happened. Most people in Hong Kong do it twice a day.

Hong Kong Arts Centre Pao Gallery - "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" by Radiohead

Expansive and serene, the wide gallery space is white and almost void, echoing the noise of heels on cement. Minimalism is utilised in order to accentuate the exhibit. The space is designed as though intended as a blank canvas, but the sheer emptiness in itself is enough to draw my attention from the art and to the architecture. Perhaps this is because the artwork is inherently underwhelming. I came from the busy, dirty city street into the gallery – and I am presented with poor quality images of busy, dirty streets. No wonder I am losing faith in the development of modern art, it seems so pathetic. The photo is printed onto watercolour paper, and is signed by the undoubtedly self-important artist as if this creation is somehow unrepeatable. I could find better images in the free newspaper, and this artist claims a heightened ability to interpret humanity. If his genius interpretation is general unimpressiveness, then I suppose he is in fact quite accurate. The artist statement is an essay, the first half of which is a self indulgent bibliography. The only reason I even read that much is because it was beside the elevator. I had pushed the button and longed to leave.

Wan Chai Street Markets - "Women's Realm" by Belle & Sebastian

The sun is lowering on the horizon giving everything a soft, pinky glow. Stalls of things you don’t need catch your fancy and people bustle through happily, doing business and doing things. It’s a normal afternoon and this is life and it is just pleasant. Dried fish hang next to socks which hang next to phone cases and make me laugh at the differences between this world and my world back home. A cool breeze says ‘adios’ to the day, and adjusting my scarf is a salutation to the rising moon. All of us together live by the same rules of time and space, but we do the small details so differently. Interesting things like food and shopping are so new that every second that my eyes and ears are open I learn something. Then I see a small child cry out to her father, arms outstretched towards his faraway face. He lifts her in the same way all fathers do, and she rests her tired head on her father’s shoulder as all young daughters too. It seems as though I am not so far from home at all.

Walking home through Soho - "Take Five" by Quincy Jones

The sun is gone, and the sylish have arrived. Soho is the place to be after dark, and I’m seeing the chic people stream into the narrow streets. Red wine glasses arrive simultaneously, music plays, and tapas flow as quickly and tastefully as the conversation. The women are incredibly beautiful and the men are more than handsome – fine pairs walk the street as if waltzing on the night air. I am here and gone quickly, just passing through, an observer. Perhaps tomorrow evening. Perhaps indeed...

I got terribly lost multiple times so when I got home I decided to figure out where I had gone... Haha.

1 comment:

  1. you made me laugh out loud many times. Especially with that lunch time meal.What the?? What an experience. Congrats fearless one!!! xxx


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