Monday, January 15, 2007

Hong Kong Went One Way, I Went the Other

I am sitting in an 11th floor corner room at the sumptuous Wynn hotel and casino in Macau.

I am in a state of shock and my sinuses are burning from the bad air (think: LA, 1978).

I'm on my way home to Bali, but had to take care of a little business in the former colonies. I find Hong Kong a little humbler and friendlier, but because no one's turned in my dropped pouch of wristwatches to the First Ferry lost and found, it seems to me worse for wear.

I had a great visit to the Cattle Depot Artists Commune in Kowloon City. I saw Kwok Mang-Ho's studio, and we spent quite a while chatting about our art and careers. Too bad Cho Hyun-Jae wasn't there; she is Kwok's wife and a sensitive creator of often powerful artworks.

I went to Annysa Ng's show at the Fringe. She has turned out some amazing assemblage sculptures that manage to show power, femininity, and protest. More on that, later.

But so much about the people. The environment is as forgotten and as sad as Tai Wan Shan Park, that enormous boulder sitting in the harbour on Kowloon Bay. A smooth rock as big as a circus tent, graced by a swath of shrubbery and a little pagoda, the park appears as a frightened chunk of Mother Earth chased to the sea by encrouching high rise apartment blocks.

Hong Kong has finally instituted trash bins for recyclables, but the region is not doing enough about this haze. At dawn, my husband and I walked up Guia Hill for some exercise, and the rising sun could be viewed only briefly as a salmon shimmer on the delta waters. The cloud cover (or smog) is so thick, it's hard to believe there's a sky up there. Macau and Hong Kong are two canaries to China's coal mine. Will someone please take notice?

It is a delight to be able to be measured for a bespoke wet suit, choose from ten brands of bottled green tea, get passport photos in the tube station, bargain down the price of a fox stole that's already reduced to a tax-free sixty US, and buy a Laura Ashley skirt for ten... all in a three block area. Hong Kong is like that. In Macau I can find a dozen vintages of porto, five dollar Dao and one dollar flagfall in the taxis. But no one holds the elevator door and even the Wynn doormen don't offer to help me out of my taxi, laden as I might be with shopping bags and a foot stuck under the front seat.

I am less strong, less energetic, and the walking wears me out. These special administrative regions are charging ahead like athletes on steroids, and I just want to go snorkeling two thousand miles south of here. From where I sit, on land that was brought from a dynamited hill to a shallow bay, I can't tell, looking north or east, that I am on a tiny peninsula. I can't tell that this city is anything more than two months old... cranes and the highrises behind them obscure the five-hundred year old lighthouse, the Parsee graveyard on the vine-laden hill, the Sun Yat Sen house. This once sleepy little enclave with funny cars and winding alleyways has become one of those never-rest cities that attracts Dickensian droves of people, filled with hope, charged with just a little fear. I may be visiting a boom town, but I have accelerated on past to the dubious maturity of philosophical ramblings, nostalgia, and wide-eyed exhaustion.

1 comment:

Don said...

Wow. Where did you say your travel books are sold? I was in Macao once. Spent an hour in the terminal. Even that little bit I will blog about, some day, given an hour to slow down and remember. But you've seen and done so much more.