The other day, after watching a report on the state of Hong Kong after the new laws on “sedition” were introduced, I was hit with the realisation that my trip there in 2017 was certainly my last to a “free” Hong Kong. Whenever I go back, if I go back, the atmosphere will never be the same as it was when I visited. With this in mind, I have decided to publish the parts of my diary concerned with Hong Kong here, that anyone who failed to visit before the bell tolled might catch a glimpse of how it was.
Woops I forgot to write anything yesterday. Couldn’t find time between all the hiking and partying. Did I even finish the entry for the 14th? I don’t think I did. Apparently, stuff like sweet and sour chicken/ lemon chicken doesn’t actually exist in China; they’re heavily Westernised dishes according to David the Australian (and literally everyone else I’ve asked who’s been here for more than three days, residents and visitors alike). The night of the 14th was spent playing cards with a Scottish mountain climber (former 3-D animator) who takes people rock climbing on Vietnamese islands and then jumps off into the sea. She said that one day the police shut the harbour claiming the sea was too choppy, despite her having sailed through much worse. She thinks they were just looking to line their pockets a bit, as they opened it up again without a change in the weather. I forgot how much fun ‘Spit’ is.
Yesterday was mostly spent walking up to Victoria Peak with Oleg, a Russian from Vladivostok who’d locked eyes with me, which then obviously had to lead to a conversation. We planned to cross the river and walk all the way up and all the way back down, taking just under two hours each way. Before that though I needed to get breakfast/lunch, and I wanted to try the good-looking dumplings literally ten seconds away from the hostel. I didn’t realise until I bit into it that there was a thin broth inside, boiling hot, that burst everywhere, scolded my lip (I can still see/feel it the day after) and squirted all over Oleg. The laughter didn’t help my apology sound genuine, but then I left my water bottle behind so karma was pretty swift in that case. The walk started with many bridges and healthy chunks of motorway. Oleg and I passed the time by talking about Vladivostok and Russia in general. Russian-Chinese food is not great, apparently. Also, Putin and Medvedev don’t care at all about the Russian people and only want to enrich themselves further. Putin wants to change the constitution to extend presidencies to six years. Oleg says that the Soviet Union during the 70’s/80’s wasn’t too bad because the government actually cared about the people, unlike the government now. St. Petersburg is better than Moscow, and Muscovites consider their city to BE Russia and Russia to BE Moscow. If you don’t enjoy certain drinks, you’re called a Belarusian (which means ‘White-Russian’. Belarus itself means ‘White Rus’. No connection to the drink unfortunately).
The conversation carried us most of the way to the base of the mountain, where a few cockatoos chewed on leaves in a tree as we planned our route up. We were starting to leave the din of the city behind us, replaced by the songs of dozens of invisible birds, and the main road began to narrow more and more. We were already higher than most of the high-rises by the time the real climb began: a half-hour walk, up a 45⁰ incline, through tropical tundra, was not the best place to continue trying to talk together. We kept running out of breath. The walk altogether wasn’t too bad though, as the footpath was pretty well maintained. One mad guy was actually running up it, which seemed a bit try-hard to us. Eventually we reached ‘The Peak’, which isn’t actually the peak but just what the shopping centre’s called. Yes, they built a shopping centre at the top of a mountain, hanging off the edge like melted cheese off a table. Which is probably why they added a pizza restaurant to the building to keep the theme.
Oleg had a cigarette while I fetched a bottle of water, and once I was back, I suggested we walk round to Mount High West before heading to Victoria Peak itself. It turned out to be a pretty good idea in the end as the route meant we would loop around Victoria and detour to High West on the way. The path was also extremely flat which allowed us to focus more on nature and less on uphill lunging.
And what a sight we were rewarded with! The slope down the other side of the mountain was steep at first and gradually levelled out into the smattering of skyscrapers on the coast. The foliage stretched out like a blanket, covering all in a lush, deep green on all sides down to the sea. Islands could be seen in the distance, although mist/pollution hung in the air and made the whole thing feel eerily like end of the world, like the ocean extended all the way to the land of wind and ghosts. Hong Kong was completely silent now, and one could sit in peace contentedly if they so wished. There were unexpectedly numerous playgrounds and workout areas on that walk. Tea trees, rubber trees with their roots drooping down, waterfalls slick with algae; it all felt so jarring considering how close to the city we were. But that’s what I mean when I say Hong Kong feels like it was built between nature. To have this piece of ostensibly virgin forest sitting comfortably next to one of the most densely-populated areas in the world is quite incredible.
We missed the turn for Mount High West and carried on back around. Oleg and I tried to find a higher path to take that would maybe lead up to Victoria Peak, but the best we could do was a slightly higher vantage point. Walking around yesterday really made me sad that I can’t explore any of South-East Asia after this. I wish I were headed off to explore all those great places and walk through real jungles and discovering all the hidden villages and ancient monuments – at least that’s the fantasy I have in my mind. As it was, we took some great pictures of Hong Kong and made it back to the shopping centre, where we had a light dinner of massive greasy Burger King burgers.
By now it was getting dark, so we made a swift trip to the very top of Victoria before walking back down to the base. We ran into a porcupine on the way back and it was frankly embarrassing how long it took for Oleg and I to deal with it, but we got a video out of it, so at least it wasn’t in vain. When we returned (around 8pm) Oleg took a power nap, and I managed to assemble a motley crew of hostel peeps to head out drinking later. We played cards until Oleg was ready to leave (I miss how cheap beer was in Tokyo) and then we left for LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) where we partied through until 5am. Then I spent today recovering, eating chicken, and writing this. That’s why I’ve kind of rushed the ending because I’m getting tired and don’t really feel like writing about last night that much because it was pretty standard. I will say though that in a place where the cheapest drink at a bar costs HK$60, the 7/11's made a killing on their HK$20 cans of beer, when they weren’t being shop-lifted blatantly by the hordes of ‘customers’. A significant downside to having a cornershop directly opposite all the clubs. I felt bad for the owner. And when you can drink in the street and still hear the music, what’s the point in even entering the clubs? The plan ended up being this: drink outside; dance inside. That carried us through the night. AND I got to sing Robbie Williams again! Top night.