|3/29 - 4/08/2012; hong kong
||[Jun. 4th, 2012 | 04:02 am]
leave nothing on these streets to explore
I feel a very specific kind of rush in Hong Kong. I haven't been somewhere- granted I haven't been to that many places- that fills me with as much fascination. Walking down any of its streets lets you fall in step with the collective pulse of everyone moving with you. I walk taller, and faster in Hong Kong.
The landmarks in the postcards and coffeetable books are all real. The Bank of China tower is there. So is the IFC. Lan Kwai Fong exists. The streets really are that smooth. The trains really are that efficient. The food really is that good.
But besides the familiarity of the obvious, there are worlds and worlds inside Hong Kong which you get to by walking down a specific alley, heading up to a certain floor, waiting til just before rush hour or after, each one only a certain kind of person can take you to. Sometimes that person is family, and sometimes that person is a new friend.
Unlike my last trip, I spent most of this one at the mercy of my family and my grandparents. My grandparents like malls. My parents like obeying my grandparents.
Not much else needs to be said. Sometimes, I got out though.
On the first day, Aunt Sheila asked who wanted to come with her to bring China to school, and I had never done that, and the knowledge that my next trip to Hong Kong would have me facing an even less innocent and more manipulative China meant that I needed to treasure things. It was a nice trip. China's school is so... clean.
Aunt Sheila is my favorite aunt because she's somehow very aggressive and independent, but caring and sweet, and very aware of how modern the world now is, and extremely smart with dealing with what she knows.
I want to be that, without the kids.
She brought me around to places she'd relax on her own, or with her father. We went to the Hong Kong Country Club after dropping China off, and we went through the restaurants and closed-off sections to see the view towards Deep Water Bay. Then we had breakfast at a patio a few feet from Ocean Park, which I didn't notice until she pointed it out. I suppose that sometimes the best moments are un-photographed, and it's true.
I spent the rest of the day at home, and went to Lee Gardens in the afternoon to see Aunt Sheila again and my cousin Ramona. I'm not used to this kind of lifestyle, but when in Rome, you just kind of go with it and say thank you a lot.
China weaseled her way into her favorite restaurant by offering to go with me. I didn't know she wasn't allowed to eat out for a week or something like that. Sneaky.
AUNT SHEILA: One day, you will either be president, or serving a life sentence.
CHINA: I just want cake. And dominion over all.
Ra! She now works at a new mixed martial arts center in Central. She broke her foot or thigh or lower body part from doing those violent things she loves. She is very cool. Over the trip, someone accidentally congratulated her for winning in a cage fight or something in front of our grandmother, and she almost died. By "she," I mean both my grandmother from shock, and Ra from our grandmother.
I lost track of the days over the trip, and letting it happen was great. I don't remember these photos so well. Looking at them makes me remember a little more, and smile. This is Jake, who is now almost as tall and as gorgeous as me, Nina, who will probably invent something life-changing when she graduates from Industrial Engineering, and my mom, on a very good day.
This is a typical day at home. China is fake-crying and Aunt Sheila is real-scolding.
I would wake up to this view, and it would just fill me with awe.
The trees were budding when we left the house one day. That's all.
We all went to Central to walk around and wait for my grandparents at their usual spot after their usual morning walk in Landmark.
This is basically us.
This is basically Landmark. I saw a Dries Van Noten store. I went inside. I wept, but in secret.
We went around more down to earth places after that. It was too much. One of these places was called H&M.
For some reason, this particular road was empty.
It's comfortingly familiar: we go through this route at least once every trip with my grandparents.
Then we went to lunch, and decided to walk the next 100 meters, which usually is hell on earth in Manila- also known as a leisurely, fascinating stroll in Hong Kong. Hi Dad! Hi Nel!
This was my one request over the trip: that we eat in Hanagushi in Lan Kwai Fong and I get the sea bass. It's the most perfectly cooked fish I've had in my life. The fillet has a gorgeous, caramelized teriyaki crust, and it flakes moistly and perfectly. (Apparently, "moistly" is an actual word.) Eating this for the first time in around two years made me so happy. Finding out that Hanagushi would be closing a few weeks after we had eaten there made this lunch almost meaningful. Even if it only meant that I might never eat fish like this again.
After that stunning, perfect lunch: walking.
With everyone, China, and Uncle Ramon.
Many days, we would stay home to digest everything we had eaten. That day was one of those days. When I finally digested lunch, I remembered this cat cafe I had read up on which was just a walk from where we lived.. Actually, I think everything is just a walk from everything in Hong Kong.
This. I entered thinking of cats and cats and cats.
CATS! Or more accurately, cats, and the dozens of other people who had obviously read the same blog post as I did.
I sat down in a corner with a lost-looking girl and a very distracted couple, and ordered a salad to not look out of place. Then, I got a membership card! And I waited for the cats.
Sadly, they all brushed past me, or went to hide in various places. I think the cat cafe got too successful too fast, and the cats were like, fuck this human profiteering shit.
Spot the cat.
The place was very charming though. You can see the resident cats' photos posted on the window. And vaguely, that the cat cafe is right across a gigantic Muji. My retail soulmate.
Too many people, not enough cats, strange salad, but a very cute membership card- it wasn't so good, but very interesting, like most first times.
There's the cat cafe from across the street. From Muji. Where I went right after.
I walked home, and for some reason the sky darkened more slowly than I expected.
My path home passes this church I've seen a total of nobody enter, and the little road to its right which goes straight to where we live.
After dinner at home, I went out again to meet up with Joe, whom I had met one night in Moonleaf with Thysz, Ziggy, and some other friends.
He's based in Hong Kong, and works in the English department of Hong Kong University. Tell me if this is incorrect.
He's the new friend who brought me around new places, where I believe more sophisticated, successful, foreign people go in Hong Kong. Or at least where one goes to look at, pretend to be, and mock them.
We walked through the blocks in between Central and Sheung Wan, somewhere I hadn't been before. The streets were tiny and winding. The alleys had little doors leading to bars I'd probably never go to.
It was drizzling slightly I think, and cold.
From Sheung Wan, we walked all the way to Lan Kwai Fong again. Til now, I don't know how I was able to walk that much.
More walking! More photos! More Joe! He was great company. Very interesting and opinionated, and knew Hong Kong island like he had lived there for years, which he did.
Walking all the way to motherfucking Hong Kong University. The things you do with new people. I bid Joe goodnight after I began to lose sensation in my toes. I hope he visits Manila again sometime.
Another day of nothing passed. Or maybe something happened, but I just didn't photograph it, which happens more often these days. But for dinner, we went out! Again!
Smoked eggs. INCREDIBLE. You notice my increasing usage of sentence fragments. It's 3 am as I post.
After that was possibly the nicest surprise of the trip, next to the sea bass in Hanagushi. I did equate meeting my good friend Raymond in a foreign city to eating fish. But clearly you don't know how excellent both Raymond and the fish were.
We met under the Central escalators, both for drinks, and for a shoot I did not expect.
This is Zoe. She works in Hong Kong as an art advisor, and connects Filipino artists to prospective buyers. She is very cool. We all got very drunk.
Zoe brought us through her own selection of little bars and secret basements. It was one of many crazy, fascinating moments.
This is her fantastic husband Victor. He runs an editing house. He took our photo.
After Zoe and Victor headed off, Raymond and I went uphill- this is important to know in Hong Kong- to the Flying Pan for breakfast.
It was shit. But the company was great. I love Raymond.
On our last day, Aunt Sheila surprised us by bringing us here.
It's called Wong Nai Chung Reservoir, one of a few reservoirs tucked into Hong Kong island. We arrived on a foggy morning, and the weather was actually perfect.
We rented some of the boats, and paddled into the fog.
It was surprisingly peaceful, and we were the only ones there most of the time- a dad and his son were feeding fishes with us, and then they left.
Aunt Sheila packed us some bread to feed the fishes, and they would come up in schools when we would throw pieces into the water. It was me and Nel, Jacob and Jas, and Nina and China.
We would share bread, because some of us got overzealous.
Though there were so many more interesting and fascinating parts of the trip, this trip to the reservoir is my favorite. I always have ideas about how Hong Kong is, and many times it goes beyond my expectations. This peacefulness wasn't even expected.
We didn't hear anything but a few birds in the distance and the water splashing behind us as we paddled. It was so quiet, and I only saw one cluster of condominiums in the distance. Every so often the fog would roll in and for a brief moment the horizon would disappear, and I'd lose my bearings and wonder how far out the water stretched.
After awhile, Aunt Sheila came back from her coffee break or whatever she does when she's not finding cool places to go, and we got back onto the pier.
I saw a froglet. It was extremely cute. I wish it the best of luck.
Boats! Or, gondolas. Ha!
Bye, Wong Nai Chung Reservoir!
We went back home after that to pack, I think. It was a very long trip, with that surreal Macau detour which I'll never forget.
I went out to Causeway Bay one last time, because I never get to walk around like that in Manila.
With Uncle Ramon's suggestion, I went to Times Square to get a haircut at the place he always gets his.
I foolishly didn't expect to pay as much as a working businessman in Hong Kong should. But it looked fantastic, and grew out beautifully, with a little help from Jules in the Bench Fix salon in Greenbelt 3 back here in Manila. Meanwhile, there was food everywhere around Times Square, and the air was chilly and wonderful.
On my way back home, I saw the nicest cat guarding a store full of dried things I'd expect to find in my grandfather's storage. I probably would if I tried, and I've probably ingested half of the store without knowing, thanks to him.
It was a great last night.
The next day, we set off for the airport, and that was it.
I saw a veritable mountain of sandwiches, and to this day I regret not buying at least two.
This is what my hair looks like now, by the way.
Thanks to Antonio Aguila for the photo during the last Philippine Fashion Week, photos of which will be up by 2050.
If there's a place I can tell you to visit, despite the many amazing places and things in this world which I haven't been to or seen or experienced, it's Hong Kong. Go to Hong Kong. Follow the brochures and signs and your heart. Ask friends. Take elevators. Ride the train. Wear nice clothes because everyone is well-dressed. Spend. You will regret nothing. Except not buying the sandwiches in the airport.