When I stepped out into the streets of Hong Kong I expected to see Oriental dudes doing flying kicks and those big, ceremonial dragons dancing down every laneway, but there was none of that. It turns out that’s just a cliche and the Chinese don’t really… oh wait, that’s exactly what I saw as I left my tiny hotel room.
After escaping the madness, I made my way to the train station and caught the subway up to the northern end of Kowloon. The train system really is fantastic – turn up to the station and within two minutes you’re on your way to your destination. I can’t imagine what international tourists think when they jump on a Sydney train and have to deal with constant delays, rare services and blokes crapping themselves in the aisle.
Hey, come on, I had food poisoning!
A few minutes later I was walking through the gates of Kowloon Walled City Park, which stands on the site of the former Kowloon Walled City, which was the world’s most densely populated place until it was torn down in 1994. How densely populated was it? Thirty-three thousand people in a space the size of four football fields – or 200 times as populated as the rest of Hong Kong, which is simply mind-bending. They wouldn’t have been able to fart without giving their nextdoor neighbour written notice.
The city served as a major location in the greatest video game ever, Shenmue II, so walking through the remnants of it was a lot of fun, but it’s as far removed from what it used to be as possible. The walled city was a melting pot of crime, prostitution and poverty, a lawless place full of rotting buildings and extreme violence. The park, on the other hand, is incredibly calm, with water features, carefully-prepared gardens and temples taking the place of the home-made towers and drug ghettos that had been there. All up, it was pretty bloody cool.
From there I strutted over to Kowloon’s shopping district, which is famous for its video game stores. The Golden Shopping Centre was dirty and busy, with aisles between stores as thin as a Labor Party policy. I tried to bargain my way to a cheap PlayStation Vita, wasn’t able to find one that was remarkably cheaper than the price back in Oz, and soon cracked the shits with all the people and noise and Indians trying to sell me drugs. I hate shopping at a place like Erina Fair, so this was a nightmare for me. So I escaped south to… Wan Chai, which was even busier.
Wan Chai, which is across the water on Hong Kong Island, was even more packed, and the beating sun made it a pretty unpleasant place. Still, it was a featured area in Shenmue II, so I walked around asking about the four wude and generally making a nuisance of myself for my own amusement. That’ll be a lot funnier if you’re a video game nerd. I also discovered that there’s a bakery selling hotdogs every few metres. Yep, there are delicious dogs everywhere, so I barely went five minutes at a time without having a sausage in my hand – but enough about my sex life!
Next stop was Man Mo Temple, up the road in Schen wang. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill temple, but featured prominently in Shenmue II, so it was a must-see for me. And it was great! Unlike the other areas I’d been to, Man Mo was very similar to how it was shown in the games. I really felt like I was wandering through a video game. And then I got thrown out.
Why did I get thrown out? Well, I was happy and a bit drunk, so I started dancing around inside the ancient temple. And the more I danced, the more I became lost in the moment, throwing my arms and legs this way and that, singing and thrusting my pelvis in a way I’d seen Elvis do. Wild dancing is probably frowned upon in Buddhist temples, but I think what really pissed them off was when I kicked over some big alter thing full of flowers and incense sticks. A bloke immediately grabbed me by the arm, and I turned around, ready to fight him. The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t know if he was Master Man, the master of literature, or Master Mo, the master of martial arts and kicking heads. I could take the book nerd any day, but if he was the kung fu dude I was in for a world of hurt, so I ran out of there like a girl.
It was getting late, so I contemplated going home, but decided instead to catch a tram to the top of Victoria Peak and check out the city. I love looking out at wonderful views, but there was nothing wonderful about this, ‘cos it was absolutely packed up there. Like, hundreds of people crammed onto a platform, jabbering away and pushing and shoving for position. It was about as relaxing as getting sucked off by a cannibal.
Alright, the view was incredible, especially as the sun set. The skyscrapers stretch out forever, and as the sky darkened and the lights came on, it was like looking out over the future. But I soon tired of it and raced out of there looking for some peace and quiet. Luckily, with such good public transport I was back in my room half an hour later, with a bag full of assorted beers to keep me company. I just couldn’t face another night of fighting through the crowds and telling curry munchers to fuck off, so I watched some Californication and wrestling, listened to some music, wrote, and passed out in my cell. Yeah, I really, really need a day at the beach.
This was originally written on May 6, 2012, the day that Princess Diana died. Do you remember where you were? I was in Hong Kong, trying on hats. A stranger on the street, Dudley Wong, broke down in my arms. We’re now best friends.