Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Hong Kong

Well it's been a while since I was last here, messing about on a Tokyo story that wasn't directed by Ozu (小津 安二郎), but I'm very happy to be back and also frankly checkout of The Conrad Bangkok, where I could have holed up for another week while running up a large tab of Pellegrino popping antics.

I've still got my India trip to do and that's going to happen but in the mean time I'm sort of back in love with Hong Kong because I'm reminded how much more breadth there is here. I've often pointed out that if one were to choose the Sinified capital of Asia it has to be Hong Kong both historically, business-wise and geographically. Tokyo is too hermetically sealed as a culture even though I love all things Nippon. Korea too is probably hipper than the former colony now as they just do their own thing with TV and K-Pop production (check that video out on top - three times and you're hooked on pop) which while inspired from elsewhere is definitely on another level. But yet the Koreans or the Japanese aren't known for their multilateral view on things. Xenophobia some might call it but all Asiaphiles will have noticed that this is one area where full marks aren't scored across the board, although I've always appreciated the Malaysian vibe on that point or maybe I've lucked out meeting the best quality people in Penang.

In any case, while no longer the most achingly hip. I still think Hong Kong deserves the moniker of 'Asia's capital'. It reaches all around for cultural influence and yet its past is undeniable, its present is still formidable and the future could well be more than just a Shanghai satellite. Of course Shanghai is the capital-of-currency in China and is arguably the Leviathan of Asia; definitely an exciting city to live and work in but yet for me it's the more sedate Beijing, the seat of power and home of the tanks that more fully represents the bits of China I like the most. Intellect, power, thoughtful, less greedy than its sister Shanghai and in lots of pockets more sophisticated from it's exposure to the international diplomatic ranks.

Anyway after an awesome flight with Emirates who over delivered on food (God dammit that Tuna lemon grass starter really kicks ass) and service (largely gay yet cheerful and authentic) I checked into Hong Kong immigration, once again during a time where people were sporting white face masks (the last time was during the SARS crisis, it's that deja vu thing all over again).

Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok is yet another awesome Asian airport (built on reclaimed land from the sea) and like Suvarnhabhumi, Incheon, Beijing, Changi and all the rest is yet another reason to appreciate this part of the world while Heathrow whinges on about terminal five (are we there yet?) and the US whinges on about terminal decline. It's the Asian century isn't it?

 One more point that contrasted nicely was when, complete with squeezing luggage, I met up with friends in the Jardine House (the one with the circular windows) in Grappa's Cellar located on the basement and was treated to a full-on live swing band and swing dancers and it occured to me that this semi amateur gang of people who were getting off on their own subculture that nods in respect both musically and in dance form to the 30's and reminded me heavily of Malcolm X's autobiography (completed by Alex Haley) with mad scenes of lindy hopping (and the nutmeg and the hookers and finally the Nation of Islam) and I remembered that despite really really liking my trips into the heart of the slums of Bangkok (where I find out how the country ticks) and the sizzling neon lightlife so close by that there's so much more culture happening in places like Hong Kong and which possibly explains the myopic and insatiable nosiness of the Siamese who largely don't even discuss the big two of health and education because a nation of car park whistle blowers and maids is exactly how the priviliged wish to keep it. Priviliged.

I've deliberately left out Singapore in this post because Singapore is unique for me from an Asian perspective and I don't want to spoil it with what should ideally be written within the Island State. And I will.

But lastly as I made my way up the hill after the ferry ride, with a heavy and loaded suitcase in the dripping humidity of the Island I'm staying on; stripped to the waste and ranting in the gloomy night about hiring a car for the final leg of my journey ("there are no cars on the Island Charles") I finally made it up the flights of stairs with the artifice and efficacy of anger to pull that bitch of a suitcase up the steps one by one and yet when I was finally shown to my room I looked up and saw the light and smiled because it doesn't matter where I am it's only a matter a time and then one by one I'll knock you out.