While I Can

Me at the abandoned school

I wish to find more ways to represent myself in the city. It’s always in my mind that when I get to the prime of my career or be important, I can live like a real person so full of confidence. It’s the golden age of everyone’s life during the 30s. I’m already a true display of the generation. And that had led me to think, I must dress well, look better while I still can.

Fashion has always been on the loop to me. I never try anything complicated and the nature of casual wear which I love should never be that complicated. It all derives from denim (my jeans). Thanks to my teenage grunge rock influence and a popular Japanese reality show (電波少年) back then. Who’d have thought someone with a broken pants can be on the stage rocking in front of thousands, right? It’s so much joy to see all the little details (stitching, buttons, rivets…) vary from brand to brand. I had invested my favorite and probably the most expensive pair so far to a Dutch brand 2 years ago. The Dutch designers just know denim!

Inevitably, fashion comes with a price…

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Golden moment

It was interestingly enough that I did my first ever visit to the Art Basel HK this year. As I’d imagine, the exhibits were everywhere. However, none of them makes any sense to me. I did know know what the artists’ intentions were, what messages they tried to convey. On the other hand, I carefully observed the visitors in front of each art. Almost all of them were snapping pictures, selfies. Everybody care less about which master did it anyway. This type of fair is less than ideal to appreciate art. The fair and gallery curators had assumed the public already knows about the artists they represent. I’m sure their job is just to sell as much as they can.

It’s just very odd. This reminds me of the wine trade shows for trade visitors only, but they somehow let the public visitors in. One thing that I’m certain, neither of us has earned any art knowledge, nor raised our art awareness.

$3

choices

I was somewhere in a Hong Kong (MTR) subway station waiting for my friends to arrive. I was thirsty and it was sensible to get a bottle of water when the restaurant we were about to head to might not accommodate. The convenient store nearby at the station was selling HKD $8 per bottle for the 250ml distilled water that’s made locally. I’d normally get it when I travel and work. But this time around at possible one of the poorest districts, I thought this was totally wrong to make that $8 purchase.

I went up to the ground and tried to look for a place that sells in a more reasonable price. I was unable to find a shop that sells refreshments in a block distance other than another convenient store that sells at the same price.

This got me thinking how much we got sold to believe the prices are optimal for consumers. It was absurd and I wanted to use it as an experiment to see what I could find in this district. After meeting up with my friends, we headed to the restaurant and on our way there’s a non-franchise convenient store/pharmacy. They had the 750ml bottle from the same brand earlier. It only costed $3.

This tied to some of my recent observations. You could be an idiot the first time and second time if you can’t find the alternative yet. But if you settle for the third time and on, then this is just a wrong cycle for a business that do not deserve. You may argue for a person’s acceptance level. That rule does not change however. I’m only worry that the majority of people settle below the acceptance level, because they all think everything’s fine this way. The acceptance level keeps pushing lower and lower until nobody knows where the initial level was.

Night/Day

I’m a night person. I’m most awaked when in the evening. I don’t sleep until midnight or some say almost the early morning. It gets worse when I’m working flexible hours. Half of my daytime can be my bedtime. The night is when I think I begin seriously working on jobs and projects. I often think I should do the best out of the day (before sun down), so instead of working, I head out just to do whatever I want to.

Over the years, it’s just depressing to sit at a desk in front of office. Unnecessary meetings and gossips had consumed all the mental resources of a good man.

The Day

Before the Night

When the real day begins

I remember a walk in the near by the promenade after lunch was a usual habit to balance out my confused thoughts. It’s still my routine to have this stroll even now and then when possible.

I always had this thought, I should get a taste of how things would be out of the standard 9-6. Precisely, I want to stay out of all the busyness during the peak hours where everything becomes a chaos. Ironically, I’m exactly at it.

Others are thinking how are you going to live with THAT income. It’s simple, as much as it sounds irresponsible, I’m really not. Maybe it’s not about a career switching or how doubtful with my path. I just think it’s a good time, a good opportunity to experiment life with my own provision.

I do believe everyone needs to work hard to get to where you want to be. But an effective way to work hard is far greater than its alone. I want to be able to collaborate and contribute instead of because someone is a boss. Not the ramification I’m referring, it’s the inherited social class from their family that leads to a disconnection with their staff. How they think they’re different and superior had already set a clear boundary for all. It can be intimidating as much as a stranger taking hold of all the activities.

Finish Line

Red Maple

2 bottles of 750ml water, a banana and a few of my favorite Taiwanese cookies. That’s what I had during my longest hike 19.7km (7 hrs).

Every other week, I opened up the web and check out this Plover Cove Reservoir route. The reservoir is the largest in surface area in Hong Kong. How large exactly is it? On a relatively clear day, you can hardly see the other end. It was originally part of the sea until in the 60s where the former Head of Water Department visited there on a boat trip and decided this can be the perfect place for a reservoir ( fresh clean water was scarce during those years).

My previous longest hike was 17km (over 6 hours). I knew all I needed was to get up early and everything would go as planned. This day I got up at 6:45am. After breakfast, an hour and a half plus some wait at the bus stop, I arrived at the starting point – Wu Kau Tang.

Plover Cove

There were warning signs saying the route is extremely challenging, steep and unsheltered. Do not walk this trail in hot/unstable weather to avoid heat stroke, lightning and severe cold. Without sufficient equipment, food and water or physically unfit should not attempt.

I was told that the terrain is mainly loose gravel. It’s very slippery even on a dry clear day. I slipped but managed not to fall without a hiking stick (never used them) on my entire trip. Throughout it was a test of my endurance.

The infinite pool

The whole time I was thinking what’s on the other side of this reservoir, where these little islands connected and the longest dam going back to the main island. The dam was so long (2km) that took me 40 mins to walk from one end to another. They were all new to me. All the tiredness were gone when I completed the route.

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Hiking has gotten so popular these days. It has everything to do with the social media and how the city living is changing. Karaoke is no longer a place to hangout, not everyone has the luxury to travel, eating out and sitting at a cafe can be static and boring. So now casual people can go on those family trails, seasoned hikers can go on those off-road trails, or someone like myself who yearn for challenges (while still able) can go for the extreme. My journey so far has been my spiritual communication as much as my written journal of my trips every other week. Maybe the life struggle we see isn’t all that bad. Don’t treat it like a race, whatever comes next, just let it happen. You fall, you get up; you lost, you double back; you tired, you refuel; when you reach the finish line, remember to rejoice!

Finish line

Behind the Greater Good

Taste it

The Individual Visit Scheme (multiple-entry individual visit scheme) was launched to boost the Hong Kong economy after the devastating SARS. It was a crisis and an aftermath and the scheme was not all that annoying until last few years’ parallel trade activities near our border districts. Lots of shops closed down and replaced by pharmacies that sells daily necessities. Train stations filled with these traders packing and lining up to the platform. Clearly, it’s a supply and demand business equilibrium until it affected the districts’ residents. That had caused our local shortage in baby powder, the government had even placed a restriction to no more than carrying 2 cans out of the border after this incident when critically complained by the public.

The swamp of Mainland tourists on Canton Road (The Fifth Avenue of HK) while it’s not as sickening as it’s away from residential districts. It’s mostly avoidable. Franchises such as the luxury fashion brands, electronic retailers and pharmacies have took over most ground level shops in many hotspots in town. Maybe it’s good for the retail and perhaps the overall economy; but as a general citizen who just wish to wonder in town, it gave up our choices, possibilities and rights.

I agreed for the greater good, some of us may need to sacrifice; only when we all know where to draw that line. Our conscious community have been reacting to it by holding rallies, touring through various districts. It’d gotten worse in 2013-2014. I was at first annoyed by it very much. Until recently I realized all that had to be done by these concern groups and political parties, in order to alarm our slow reacting government or the situation would continue to get worse. You may argue there has to be another way. I believe nobody wanted the ‘angry’ way, it’s clear that it’d brought noise and concern to the authorities a lot quicker. It had then stirred up debate in the city.

Last year the authority had finally revised the scheme to become “single visit per week”. It was to respond the public concern and officials finally recognized it as an issue.

A world we see

The bigger picture we now look at is, for the past 12 years we had no have any new major tourist spots being developed. We had relied so much on the mainland tourists for quick turnovers and ignored the quality world tourists we should also cater. Many mainlanders only visit Hong Kong for consumer goods, there aren’t much for them to see here. “There’s a huge distinction between consumer and tourist.” (Reference: A short documentary in Cantonese)

The city’s development had inevitably wiped out many architectural heritage we once had. It’s important to not only conserve and restore the remains in full scale, we need to embrace it as our history. There’s history in Hong Kong, we cannot put all these behind and shove them in the museums. Not only they can be a visual landmarks, it’s a respect to our land and facilitates our sense of belonging. Unfortunately, the respect to our land is only tied to money – government revenues as land auction to the property developers.

Maybe the still yet-to-be-developed West Kowloon Cultural District is the major (long-term) tourist attraction in the city. I do very much look forward to it after visiting the equivalent project in Taipei, but for now we could just wait and wait some more. We’re at least 10 years behind from the original timeline and the second phase is even pushing longer until 2026-2030. I hate to see it become just another random public parks or shopping malls.

Struggled in the Stream

In the Stream

“I stepped out of a mini-bus with my tiring legs and body, dragging myself to the nearest 7-eleven. I wanted any chilled beverage so bad. I gobbled up half of a bottle in just 2 seconds. That moment on I realized I was dehydrated. I looked at my arms each with no less than 12 minor scratches. I was lucky this time.”

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From my 9 months of experience, I had climbed peaks or sorts, I have seen the prettiest coastlines with waves hitting through it, nothing but the sea and sky. I’ve been to the widest beach on the hottest day of the summer. I was at the marine conversation zones where the water was so sparkling clear. I’ve seen the longest waterfalls here. I’ve experienced the non-stop wind in under 5 meters of visibility. They’re all some fond memories just by myself.

This hike I’d done recently to Lantau Peak could be the wildest wilderness experience I’ve ever had. It was the longest climb 450 meters in height and most spots required the use of hands. You may think it’s only physical enduring, it required plenty of environmental assessment on each move and the follow up steps, such as the best gripping point without loose rocks and slippery algae. It was much like connecting the dots wherever I tried to move. It later became my second nature where my legs could step on where I’ve just grabbed. There must have been lots of these repetitions. To sum it up, it was just a long slope full of grass and trees.

I did not expect this 2 hour climb would be that challenging. It’s very well be an advanced level climb. Even at some point, I thought only the lone wolf fictional character Ethan Hunt (Missions Impossible) would dare doing this.

I looked down and asked myself, “How was I able to climb this rock when there’s nothing to fall on?”

It was all well until I picked the wrong way down. Not only I could not find a way to the peak, I found myself actually moving deeper and deeper down a rocky stream. And that was my first time knowing how dangerous it can get as I was racing against time (before dark). I was desperately rushing down the stream, and it was not as easy to find the safe path with those vaguely placed ribbon as guidance. The environment was totally uncontrollable, I cannot run, I cannot recklessly jump down. There was the running water, slippery rocks, densely grown thorns I had to avoid. These 3 hours I spent in the downward stream was something I’d not try again alone.

As I tried to sleep on that night, the moving images kept waking me as I shut my eyes. Oddly, the morning after I’d decided I should return to where I’d got lost on a similar clear dry day. I need to go back and next time with better prep. I’m amazed by this difficultly rated route that actually challenged me.

Survive

Look back

The contrast of our city ranges from skyscrapers to mountains, monotonous grey to colorful neon signs in evening on the old districts. This populated city also has one of the highest concentration of eateries among the world’s cities.

People

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A few of my recent quick bites at our city’s top budget fast food chains made me realize how crappy their food is representing us as a whole. By all means the prices are competitive, not expensive to this day but certainly not that cheap either. Consumers should ask: Are we getting what we paid for? Do you get similar food quality and dining experience with this price range?

I’d paid $56 HKD dollars for a Cantonese BBQ with rice including a drink. For a fast food restaurant, it’s fine. But if you care about what you eat (quality and taste), It was totally not worth it. It’d be a waste of both money and food. It did kill my mood for the rest of the day. Even more so if you see the cook do not care much about your food. That is, treating the serving bowl like a kitchen sink; dumping food into it without zero presentation. Not only it affects your appetite, i cannot see the effort, the heart and the respect for food.

That’s why I’d rather pay for more for the food I deserve. I deserve to feel good when I eat, not only for the purpose of satisfying my stomach.

Farm

I hate to see some of the independent restaurants getting closed down due to the raise in rents and operating costs. It’s scraping off our crowned title as food paradise. We’re getting to a point in most accessible places, restaurants are all operated by restaurant groups and franchises. Long time restaurants got replaced and making all districts the same. The replaced restaurants are either offering average food no matter how well they renovate the shop or at a jaw- dropping price for casual meals.

Concrete Homes

I’m in the food and beverage industry. I hear from our well-informed colleagues over time that the low-mid end restaurants only go for the cheapest ingredients for their food preparation. And they are not competing against their rivals, they are saving costs to survive (longer) until the day they can’t afford the rent.

We do have choice for food, most of the times they’re just not in the most accessible locations. I can’t even find a joint that sells dessert tofu near by, not even a proper Cantonese bakery shop. Steamy buns and egg tarts have been my childhood memory and dessert tofu came in later in my teenage years when my mother used to buy from an old lady underneath a bridge near the market. None of these are fancy, they’re just essential to my knowledge. We have to have them in order to live as a Hong Konger.

This is life, this is Hong Kong.