Thursday, 9 December 2010

Grimefest in Hong Kong - sleep no.1

I arrived on Nathan Road Monday morning it’s 9am and Chung King Mansions is a blackest tooth on the strip. It’s fairly quiet yet there is still a hoard of ethic men, both disapproving and objectifying in their lingering glances.

After a sleep I head out to dinner at a Tiffany’s place it’s late night before I return, yet before arriving at the relative safety (save a little insect-y) of my tiny room I must run the gauntlet The men like the insects have multiplied an overwhelming number of African, Indian, Eastern, Asian men who make up the occupants of this crumbling dirty block are out, its peak time and there is not another single (or otherwise) female in sight. I stroll up with my white legs on display looking every bit the obvious tourist complete with passport, camera, wad of cash - I’m surrounded by fifteen dodgy looking men. The queue for the lift lasts a lifetime; I feel eyes on me from all directions. The elderly lift arrives, we squash in and it buckles under the weight, the full lift light flashes scornfully, a man with a bowl of pilau rice grunts and departs the cubicle. The CCTV is broken, there is no video evidence to protect me, and the eyes of the fellow passengers are aimed below my face directly at my chest. 2nd floor, 4th floor, 6th floor - I get out, disorientated I head off in the wrong direction, wait for the doors to close, perform a quick u-turn and I’m in my guest house, well not my guest house, I booked under a different name, yet this was the one I was allocated, like the BA and Quantas code share there was no choice as to where I ended up.

I have woken to drilling; constant and yet varying in pressure, a multitude of vibrations (reportedly this was the quiet block). 4,000 people live in Chung King it is a total dump. Justifiably down there with the cheapest accommodation in Kowloon.

I head off with three objectives (all consumer based – we are in Hong Kong after all) – new camera, battery for my laptop and a mobile phone for China. My challenge serves as a reminder of my foreign status, nothing is simple nothing is quick. I wander with purpose to several stores, yet soon my energy wanes, a wild goose chase through a dense metropolis of neon and hawkers, “you want tailor miss?” “Copy Rolex lady?” “Hostel lady?” My tasks lead me into a hidden building, armed with the address of a laptop repair centre I find myself on the 11th floor of yet another dodgy eastern looking building. Ahead are two open doors with pink lights glowing, outside lingers a man confused and embarrassed by my presence, he is on the phone, I move closer to the doorway, inside a series of rooms, more pink lights, I think I’m in the wrong place. Excited by my find and disappointed with my lack of camera I leave with a smirk on my face (so that’s why that old man started talking in Chinese at me when I headed out of the lift). My buying trip isn’t going well, I try to barter with the mobile phone street sellers but they seem pretty moody. Disheartened by time running away I wander down a side street into my fourth camera store, on display an array of lens options - Hassleblad, Leica, Cannon fill the room. I feel reassured by the content and consult my authorised dealer list provided to me at Cannon showroom earlier, bingo! It’s the real deal! I exit 10 minutes later financially and emotionally lighter, yet with the weight of a G12 dangling round my neck. The ‘nice man at the camera store’ also tells me where I need to go next – a further 10 minutes later I am back on Nathan Road with the coveted laptop battery in my backpack. Seizing the wave of contentment I sack off the mobile phone purchase and head off to the star ferry with sight seeing on the agenda.

my first shot of the harbour, I already heart my precious picture taking device