Hong Kong, December 6, 1999
Hong Kong is the dream we all dream of
Montreal, Miami, New York, Los Angles, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore,
Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, Washington DC, Istanbul, London, Paris, Munich,
Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Moscow,
Ulaan Baatar, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Jakarta. Yes, I've seen many cities
in my travels, living in a few of them long enough to frequent the same
club twice, but the little chunk of concrete know as Hong Kong is now my
No where else in the world can I walk out of a cheap ($7 a night!) hostel, into downtown Kowloon chaos, and make a right into a serene park to type this page by the sounds of birds and fountains. No where else can I go from intense urban jungle, HK is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, to intense natural jungle, where only yellow hash marks on a few trees keep me on the trail to the beach, via a ten minute bus ride. No where else do I share the sidewalks with a literal United Nations of nationalities, languages, cultures, and styles, feeling like a lonely Westerner until I realize we are all bound together by the English tongue.
This is Hong Kong and I love it!
Yesterday, I was lying on a secluded beach, half and hour from downtown Hong Kong, watching a surf contest. As I looked around at the green, unmolested mountains surrounding the cove, I had a moment of confusion. Was I not on Hong Kong Island, with the highest land prices in the world? You wouldn't know it by the sun baked beach restaurant that wouldn't be out of place in the backwaters of Costa Rica. Only the dozen or so paragliders, floating gently in the updrafts formed by the mountains they jumped from, reminded me of the wealth and prosperity of the millions just around the bend. The days of tranquility are only one reason I love Hong Kong. My nights of stardom are another.
There I was last night, chilling in a Hong Kong bar with my friend Jennifer, who was an exchange student at my high school 10 years ago. She and I were just relaxing and catching up on the years we've been apart all evening until it was time for her to run for the last ferry to her boyfriend's house on one of the islands.
Instead of joining her, her man, and their friends in an all night mahjong & drinking feast, I decided to stick around the Central district of Hong Kong. I was standing at a street corner, watching the show & eating ice cream (of course), when a crowd climbed out of a van.
All the party kids had glitter around their eyes and it was scaring the locals because no one would take a group photo of them. Well, you know me, I'm not shy, so I volunteered. One thing lead to another, and I was soon whisked into a nightclub with the glitter club kids.
I quickly learned it was a special party, a birthday party for a local celebrity. Some guy called 'Neon.' He arrived a while later, to the blinding flashes of paparazzi cameras and the deafening screams of young girls. 'Hey, this guy must be famous,' I thought.
So there I was, in the middle of a birthday party for a guy I didn't know. What do you think I did? When it was toast time, yours truly got up and thanked him for the great time we had partying few weeks ago, and the autographed panties my female boss now has framed on the wall of her office.
I stumbled out of the club in the early morning hours, slightly blinded by the paparazzi who though I might be famous (ha!), and into a waiting bus going back to Kowloon. On the way, I started talking to this guy who was duly impressed I was partying with Neon that night.
It was only this morning, as I was headed into a supermarket for bananas, that I saw a poster for my party pal. Apparently, I spent the night with Leon, not Neon, who is one of the 'Four Kings' of Hong Kong's music and movie scene. Not a bad night for a newcomer.
Round out the Hong Kong situation with plentiful jobs and a myriad of beautiful women, and I'm happy to make this city my permanent home. Well, that is if it can keep its act together. The same papers that tempt me with section after section of job ads for Westerners, scare me with stories about Hong Kong's new masters and their tightening grip on the 'Special Administrative Region'.
See, the PRC (People's Republic of China) doesn't like Hong Kong. Yes, they are glad to have the territory back, but not for the reason of 'Reunification of the Motherland' that they say. From the way the PRC acts, they wanted Hong Kong back to kill it. Slowly, of course, so no one could say it was the PRC, but good and dead none the less. China is embarrassed that the only city that works in a land of 1.6 billion, is one that works because a foreign presence, the British, and a competing ideology, capitalistic democracy, allowed the Chinese to excel.
Beijing would like nothing better if Shanghai surpassed Hong Kong, as SE Asia's financial capital in the next millennium. For the PRC, it would be a vindication that the PRC can mix free business and controlled politics, even though Shanghai wouldn't be shit if it weren't for the commercial and ideological foundation laid by the Western powers that occupied it for 100 years. Unfortunately, I think Beijing will win too. It has the patience and the power to slowly choke Hong Kong's freedoms and commerce until it's surpassed, but by Singapore, not Shanghai. The PRC still doesn't have the trust of the West, and rightly so.
So now that I fully comprehend why the Brits cried when they had to leave in 1997, what do I do? Stay here and look for a job a place, and a scene? Hell no! Read my next Weekly PhotoJournal for more of the Belly Button Window on the world!