Monday, November 22, 2010

Back in the SAR.

It’s early evening and I’m sitting in my new favourite bar in the Mid-Levels area - The Phoenix. The place is small, quiet and most importantly devoid of Internet access. I’ve found being disconnected from the online world has always been a great source of muse. And besides, it’s Happy Hour.

I’ve been living in Hong Kong for just over two weeks now, and I thought it was about time I posted my observations on the foreign city that has quickly become my new home.

Firstly, for some strange reason, most shops don’t open until around 11am. This has become quite a nuisance for my morning coffee ritual as it means I either need to brew my own at home, or simply wait for lunch. Not that the coffee is overly good here, but it does result in very low alertness levels until after midday. The upside is that you can buy necessities at 9pm…like a dishwasher…in the off chance that your one happens to flood after dinner.

Not only this, but everything in Hong Kong is significantly cheaper than back home. Except rent. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot for example, is about half the price it is in Melbourne, whereas renting a two-bedroom apartment here is approximately double the amount you would pay a month for a terraced house in Fitzroy. You do the math. I did, and bought the damn bottle of bubbly to celebrate my new city of residence.

Let’s talk about the city itself shall we? First of all, the Chinese have a bizarre obsession with everything new and modern. To them, a one hundred year old building is deemed an inconvenience, as the site could potentially hold an apartment block for a thousand people. To combat this, they dismantle the building, brick by brick and move it to a storage facility until they can find a suitable place to resurrect it. Usually somewhere where it won’t hinder future modern developments.

An excellent example of this occurring was in 1982, when the Murray House (previously a barracks) was pulled apart to make way for the impressive Bank of China building. It was finally reassembled nearly 18 years later on the Southern side of the island in Stanley and now houses several tourist-oriented restaurants. Crazy Chinese.

On the topic of construction, this place is really one big construction site. Almost every second building is undergoing renovations and the sound of heavy machinery echoes through the narrow streets of busy Central.

The most amazing part about all of it is Chinese scaffolding. Instead of erecting the seemingly safe and sturdy metal scaffolding that most Westerners use, death-defying workers scurry about on temporary structures made of bamboo, that sometimes completely cover buildings over 30 floors high. Men oblivious to the meaning of fear (a harness is rarely used) hang meters above the ground, lashing the bamboo together using lengths of twine. They look like monkeys scampering through the trees. It’s a real treat to watch.

Speaking of watching (my segue skills are top notch today) a great skill to learn in Hong Kong is how you walk in the streets. Usually I’ll just watch where I am walking; taking care not to trip on a crack in the pavement or step in a puddle of dog piss. Here, you have to watch where everyone else is walking, or you’ll end up in more front-on collisions than foreign tourists on ‘Le Carrousel de l'étoile.’

Personally, I prefer not walking anywhere and instead like to find a nice spot overlooking a crowded area (beer in hand) and simply ‘people-watch’ from the comfort of a chair. This city has such an eclectic mix of Chinese, expatriates and other Asian nationalities that just sitting and observing becomes a very interesting pastime. Funnily enough, The Phoenix happens to be one of those excellent ‘people-watching’ places. I think I’ll close my laptop lid and do that right now…

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turning Chinese.

"Hello again." I say to no-one in particular. "Did you miss me?"


Yep, I'm back. And this time I will be documenting the 5 or so months I am about to spend on China's greatest asset - Hong Kong. But let's start the journey in transit...

I'm sitting in what appears to be an extremely generic American-style sports bar in the furthest corner of Kuala Lumpur airport. It's all rather dull and depressing waiting for a connecting flight and so far all I have to while away the time is to unsuccessfully justify the merits of professional table tennis (and more importantly why I'm still watching it) and to devour what is apparently meant to be 'chicken 'nuggets' but comes across as more of 'deep fried recycled newspaper.' Delicious.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am currently 4 hours into a 6 hour transit from Melbourne to Hong Kong. I'm heading there to work for HK Magazine as an editorial intern, and I'm slightly (read: extremely) excited about the prospect of writing professionally for the first time in, well, ever.

As always this page will be my creative outlet; giving me a place to reflect on the observations, adventures and experiences that happen to me while living in such an incredible city. I hope what I do share inspires others to do exactly the same. Jóutáu.