asia

Hong Kong

A dystopian sci-fi city straight out of my teenage dreams.

“Come, come” waved our airport taxi driver, a sleepy looking short man with a fleeing hairline and oversized t-shirt that had seen better days. He looked at our collection of luggage and pointed to the boot of his red Toyota Crown Comfort. Having put the first of four bags into the shallow boot, it was clear that any more than a backpack would overload the car and render the lid useless. “More, more”. We passed him our remaining luggage and stood in disbelief as he stacked all four bags on top of each other, pulled out a green bungee cord from the back pocket of his baggy jeans, and proceeded in hooking the cord to the lid and car bumper. The car resembled one of those burgers that has all the best bits hanging outside the bun. He turned around, gave us a thumbs up and put on his best toothless grin and said "good, yes!”. He’d done this before.

With the title of 'city with most skyscrapers in the world' - 317 to be exact, a massive 60 more than the sprawling NYC, it's hard not to feel completely in awe the moment your ride drives into view of Hong Kong island. Having just completed my 5th flight in 10 days, and still processing the chaos of Manila and Boracay, I really didn't know what to expect from Hong Kong, but having some close friends from the outskirts of the city, I had been assured that I was probably going to have the time of my life. They weren't wrong.

By day the city is a non-stop highway of human traffic. I truly felt like an observer, almost a ghost during the day, pausing to take in my surroundings while the locals gracefully moved around my 6ft 4 stature, playing games on their phones and chatting amongst themselves. There is so much to see from the modern, glitzy streets of Times Square, the cultural sensory overload of the Kowloon markets, to the Po Lin Monastery and towering Tian Tan Buddha found on Ngong Ping Plateau, on Lantau Island.

By night, Hong Kong takes on a new character, one straight out of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. A dystopian, sci-fi city bathing its people in neon lights with building high projections towering above their heads. Surrounding us were pockets of lively, small rock bars that open onto the street, with drunken western businessmen taking the dance floor hostage, playing air guitar with their ties knotted around their foreheads. I spent most of my evenings in Wan Chai, stopping and staring in awe at the sheer spectacle as we crossed the high walkways that overlooked busy roads and led us into the amazing MTR underground rail system. The thought that repeated through my head over my 4 days in Hong Kong were “...how do I find a way to live here?”.

 
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Singapore

Ancient architechture. Futurisitc nature.

Singapore was the first stop of our two week epic. Looking out the taxi window, heading towards our hotel I had the instant feeling that someone had picked up LA and dropped it into a rainforest...then hired Deliveroo guys on motorbikes to casually zoom past my window and unknowingly tease me with real food after my 11hr stint from Heathrow.

Staying at the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel on the glossy Orchard Road, and having the best time visiting the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, the viewing deck of the Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer and interactive art exhibitions of Future World, it was important for me to see the ancient parts of the city too. We jumped onto the immaculate MRT (mass rapid transit) and headed for Chinatown.

We made it, only to realise we had no idea where we were. We quickly hailed a taxi and asked our driver to take us to Singapore’s oldest and best temples.

Upon stepping out of the taxi, adjusting my backpack and camera strap, I turned around to be greeted by the incredible Thian Hock Keng - (Palace of Heavenly Happiness). Built in 1821, the temple of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, stood stoically in complete contrast to a clean cut, black saloon parked directly outside. Inside the temple were a of number statues dedicated to various deities, including Mazu and her guardians - two demons who were subdued and converted into her loyal generals. The wandering carer of the temple offered me the opportunity to pray to to the large green statue of the ‘General of Thousand Mile Vision’. Given that I was wearing a pair of prescription Ray Bans, the moment seemed as appropriate as it did epic.

The people of Singapore were some of the nicest and well spoken people i’ve met while travelling. There was one time...we were stood on an empty street looking at Google maps, when I felt a hard slap on the back of my leg. “Why do you have that?” said a short, confused looking lady, squinting, pointing at the bold outlined star tattooed onto my right calf muscle. “Because it’s cool...don't you think it's cool??” I joked back. Nope, not interested... “Who's that?!” She jabbed, pointing at my brother, Pete (who had joined my Dad and Elma in fleeing the scene to watch me squirm from a distance). “What’s his job? What does your Dad do? Your Mother, what about her?? How old are you? Where have you come from??” Shocked by her sudden intensity, I laughed and asked her the same back. “F**k you!” she responded, waved her hand in the air and kicked a rock into the street. She never did tell me if she liked my tattoo.

Singapore was the perfect start to our trip - chilled, good weather, amazing views… “How do you like Singapore?” my Dad asked. “Yeh awesome!” I replied. “Ok good, because Manila is gonna be an eye opener for you!”. That was probably the No1 understatement of the year.

 
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