Being in Hong Kong at this time of the year is a blessing, as I got to experience the Chinese New Year (CNY) festivities first-hand. A few weeks ago was the Lunar New Year Fair at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. It’s like the Night Market in Toronto, but 50 times bigger, and they sell all sorts of (useless) things. This year, of course, there was a lot of tiger merchandise. It’s also known as the ”Night Market” or “Flower Market” because CNY usually falls around Valentine’s Day, just in time for you to spend even more money on loved ones.
I’m trying to recount the highlights of the past week, so excuse my grouping-everything-into-one-post laziness here. Last Saturday we were blessed with some very nice weather (22 and sunny!) so a group of us exchange students decided to check out Monkey Hill, Kam Shan Country Park, in northern Kowloon where macaques run around and attack people who feed them.
I thought it would be a nice stroll along a paved path, just with monkeys everywhere. Apparently I did not receive the memo about a 4-hour hike up and down a mountain. With a lot of stairs. And narrow pathways which were essentially cliffsides. I wore jeans and a thin sweater. Subsequently, I was sweating my ass off by mid-afternoon. Though I must say the scenic vistas made up for it.
Our first monkey encounter was when we just got off the bus. The monkeys are not scared of humans at all, so it’s quite easy to get close to them. Near the beginning of the hiking trail, our path was blocked by two monkeys having a moment, one picking bugs off the other. I wanted to observe for a bit, so I watched them. They stared back and suddenly one hissed at me. I prepared to make a run for it, and it actually grabbed my pant leg. Thankfully it let go and I jogged ahead towards our group. This didn’t really help instill confidence that I wouldn’t die a monkey-related death, but I was more preoccupied with making sure I didn’t fall off the path edge (fear of heights anyone?).
It was a friend’s birthday recently and a bunch of people were invited to her birthday party for dinner in Kennedy Town last Thursday. In total, 42 people (mostly exchange students) showed up and we spanned 4 large tables. The food was good but nothing really to rave about. Later on, a couple of us girls decided to check out the nightlife, so we headed for Fevar in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF).
I had heard a lot about LKF. The types of people that frequent it, the crazy stories, and the rumours. What I was not prepared for were the pools of people, mostly in their 20s or 30s, and a lot of businessmen, just swarming the streets. If you go to the clubbing district in Toronto, there are random spatters of club-goers lined up outside a few venues, but LKF was almost like a party on the streets.
Some basic LKF club scene facts I have amassed:
- For the most part, covers range from 100-500 depending on the venue, and it’s usually open bar.
- Thursdays are Ladies’ Night. Ladies get free cover in many clubs, and free open bar. Mens’ covers start at around 200+. This makes it very convenient for girls who want to go club-hopping.
- Many people just wander the streets, swigging alcohol.
- If you befriend the bouncers or DJs, you can get free cover and alcohol anytime.
- It’s very easy to get into clubs if you have no guys in your group. Also helps if you are a group of hot girls.
- The clubs have pretty good music, playing both Asian and western genres. ‘Nobody‘ comes on a lot. It’s fun, and everyone goes crazy singing/dancing to it.
- The clubs are open until very late. Back home, people start emptying out around 2:30 am. We left at 4:30 am and the place was still packed.
Some basic club-goer facts I have amassed:
- Most people are expatriates. LKF is the only place where you will find more foreigners than locals.
- Although smoking is technically not allowed indoors, everyone does it anyways.
- If there is a lack of space on the dance floor, people will just use their body to push you until you realize you aren’t even on the dance floor anymore.
- The guys in the clubs are very direct. They will dance with you and try to feel you up, make out with you, or both. Sometimes they will ask before they attempt to do so. Sometimes not. They will also try to isolate you from your friends, if you were dancing in a group. These are usually the locals; the foreigner guys usually just stick with the group they came from.
- A lot of girls are very willing to make out and/or go home with these guys.
- There are many creepy older guys who probably make a lot of money but club frequently looking for one-night-stands and hence are creepers.
- Bartenders are cute.
So those were my initial impressions. It was overall very fun, and we acquired some interesting stories to tell, so I think I’ll be making my way back there in the near future. Sorry, I forgot to snap some photos for this post. I am so behind in blogging. I swear I will try to be more diligent.
I’ve been in Hong Kong for almost three weeks now so it’s probably a good time to jot down how I’ve found things so far. Rewinding back to day one, my flight was rather uneventful, which is probably a good thing. I flew from Toronto to Hong Kong with a two-hour layover in San Francisco. By the time I got here and moved in, it was almost 10pm and I was pooped. I live in a residence which I am convinced they used to incarcerate people in. Like maybe students who have performed some horrendous deed in order to be subjected to such atrocious living conditions.
(Note: This post is very graphics-intensive. Also please ignore the dates on the photos in this post. I didn’t bother setting up the camera properly.)
Ok that might be a slight exaggeration. I came in with low expectations and it met my low expectations. The facilities are all old and gross. Compared to UWP, it is, in politically correct terms, a shithole. In fact, living here has made me appreciate UWP so much more. I have cut my shower time down to 10 minutes because that’s when the hot water runs out. I have also accepted the fact that I will be greeted with a stream of freezing cold water for washing my face/hands because there is no hot water in the sink taps.
As some of you are aware of, I will be participating in an exchange program next term at the University of Hong Kong. I’ve been asked many times why I wanted to go on exchange, and why I picked Hong Kong. Choosing HK was more for practicality than anything. I wanted to be in an exciting global city with a significantly different culture than here in Toronto, yet I needed to be able to get by without having to learn a new language. (Getting away from the notorious Canadian winter was a bonus.) As for ‘why exchange?’, that is a little harder to answer.
I gave people some pretty random explanations, like how I was bored last term, because I wanted cultural exposure, experience a new school, or “cuz it sounds fun”. Those are not untrue, but probably not the real reasons.
Around springtime, I might have been going through some kind of mid-mid-life crisis with mixed thoughts about what I’ve done and achieved so far in my twenty-ish years. I found the answer to be ‘not freaking much’ and labeled my life as rather unremarkable. Also it seems that this entire year has been a test of my breaking point, with its many joys and disappointments, successes and failures, which shook me up a little.
I’ve always been content with a ‘make do with what life hands you’ kind of adage. Then I realized I wasn’t satisfied. There was so much out there that I needed to experience, so it felt suffocating to stay in the same town, with the same people, living the same life. I felt like those around me were sprinting past, making their own routes through the landscapes, while I was just plodding along the beaten path. Being younger than most of my friends only added to my innate fear of being left behind, which I suppose finally got the better of me. I couldn’t sit around passively hoping for anything to pop up – I’d have to reach out to opportunities myself.
Excusing the sheer cheesiness, I guess the bottom line for why I wanted to go on exchange is some soul-searching. I want to discover, meet new people, do random things, make mistakes, learn from them, become a more worldly person. It’s partially a challenge to myself, to be thrown into a brand new fast-paced environment without any crutches, and keep my head above water. Five months is not nearly long enough, but I’m hoping for the dizziness of the experience to set me straight. I can barely take the monotony anymore, and I want a complete 180, but still be able to find my way back. Although this is my home and I’m surrounded by family and friends here, it somehow still feels empty, so I just need to leave for a little while.
And wouldn’t you agree that it’s the picture books you read as a child that leave the most lasting impressions?