School is tiring sometimes, right? Not really, but for me, it’s a good enough excuse to get out after that long and arduous first week of my last year at University. I designed my schedule so that I have Monday’s free to go on adventures. It means that my Thursday is pretty rough, but at least I have a three day weekend. I want to see Hong-Kong more before I start heading out internationally around Asia. I’ve been downtown around Mong Kok and the central part of Hong-Kong island. For those who haven’t seen too much of Hong-Kong, I’ve only seen the touristy bits so far. Even though I’ve seen it, I go back to Mong Kok to walk around a bit. There’s something about all of the shops that really makes my wallet heat up with anticipation in my pocket.
Today I hop off the bus and walk around lower Mong Kok.
My only real goal of the day is to buy some new headphones because my Apple headphones of three years violently tore in half. May they rest in peace, as they’ve been replaced by shitty knock-off Chinese clones of themselves. But hey, they were cheap.
Now that I’ve done the only thing I had to do, I get out and wander around Kowloon, the area of town at the tip of the Mainland Peninsula.
There are plenty of markets and shops to wander around, as well as the pretty impressive Kowloon park to stroll through. Complete with an aviary and Chinese garden, it’s a good way to escape the city.
Ya, alright, this part of the day wasn’t so exciting to write about. So let me get to the fun part of the day:
I forget how I found it, but the internet told me that an Indie underground music festival was going on. It really looked underground, with only a Facebook page and around 100 people going. I figured “sure, I’ll go if I’m not too busy”
All I had was free-time.
The sun has gone down, and I’ve missed half of the festival, so I figure I can get a ticket for half off. I hop on a bus going North to the Jao Tsung-I Academy, the festival venue.
In the rain, I walk around looking at my Google maps. A Buddhist monk walks by in long grey robes, holding an umbrella in one hand and his free hand hidden in his sleeve. We awkwardly end up going the same direction, so I walk a comfortable distance behind him through the rain. Pitter patters of rain fall on our umbrellas and his flip-flops clop through the wet street. ‘Tranquility’ is the only word I can use to describe how the scene, the kind of weather one could probably reach Nirvana in. As I approach the Academy, a different kind of Nirvana gets dragged into my ears. In the distance, I hear the unrelenting sound of a heavy kick drum and some incoherent screaming. The monk has now disappeared and been replaced by a tattooed metalhead. I’m in the right place.
Smiling faces, long hair, black clothes, and tasty beers invite me as I walk through the threshold. I approach the woman at the ticket booth sitting outside, and try to convince her to give me a half-price ticket. I come up empty handed, but my ticket includes three drinks so I guess it’ll be enough. Since I’m supporting local underground music, I have no problem paying full price.
The plan is to only stay until midnight, maybe 1 am if it’s really good. Not knowing anyone, I walk into the hall to a pretty small crowd of around thirty people. But this small crowd felt huge, as people danced around in a circle mosh pit to the Nepali/Hong-Kong Trash Metal band, Bidroha.
Yes, they were every bit as badass as Nepali Trash Metal sounds. Hong-Kong High Schoolers were having the best time, thrashing around in the tiny mosh pit. One thing I love about metalheads is how relentlessly they fling themselves into each other. It’s so violent, but as soon as someone falls down everything stops and the mosh-pitters make sure the fallen warrior is picked back up.
The next band is Self-Ox Randomness, some experimental techno/dark ambient stuff that is a bit harder for me to follow but pretty unique.
I pop out for a minute to grab a beer and check out the merchandise. There are a lot of expats here, maybe about half of the crowd. Jade, a locally born teacher of half-British and half-Rhodesian decent who’s lived literally everywhere on Earth picks up a conversation with me over the cool t-shirts. Neither of us can find Punk-buddies to go to concerts with, so we team up for the rest of the night and make a future music pact.
It’s amazing how completely at home I feel here. At my study abroad University, it’s been a bit more difficult to fit in. People are nice, but of course, it takes time to really connect with anyone. But there’s such a strange sense of family with metalheads and punks. I felt the same way walking around Kraków (check out my earlier post here) before an Iron Maiden concert when all the Metal Heads were out enjoying the city. Back in Denmark, I work at a punk bar and constantly surround myself with crazy, beautiful people who thrash out all of their aggression in a mosh pit before hanging out with you for a beer. Because of that, I feel like I can talk to anyone at an underground concert wherever it may be. I feel just at home in my bar at Denmark, or this festival in Hong-Kong, or a punk coffeeshop in Denver. At the end of the day, we all just want to hear good music.
And good music we received.
The next band 不平之鳴 The Squawk was spitting out some Cantonese Hardcore Punk (the good stuff). I never expected Cantonese to be such a great Punk language, but it turned out perfectly gritty and grungy.
At this point in the night, I started feeling artsy so I went black and white.
The bartender forgot to stamp my 3-beers-only card (a couple times) so I ended up getting a few more beers than I was allotted. I started getting really talkative, and took pictures and mingled with everyone in my new underground HK community.
I’m not at all an angry person, but there’s something so amazingly cathartic about thrashing on a beer-soaked dance floor, surrounded by screaming and loud drums with floor thumping bass. Honestly, all I want to do after a big concert is pet kittens.
Next up was a pretty weird band mixing some punk, ska, reggae, and funk into an eclectic mix. But it was pretty fun to watch.
Perhaps the best band of the night was an ambient noise band called Blackmass//Siren. This gig was their first time playing live, and they owned that stage. Candles were lit, lights were turned off, and in the near pitch black a man in a plague-mask came out and began playing the cello. Then a long-haired guitarist started chiming in, while a DJ mixed it all together and made it into a masterpiece of ambient experimentation. It was one of the most interesting new bands I’ve experienced.
Midnight has come, and I’m still enjoying myself. I’ve made friends with the organizer of the event, who brings around some free beers for us as we sit outside chatting. According to Jade and some Australian English teachers, this is one of the best underground shows they’ve seen in Hong-Kong. That’s high praise, but I can’t believe that a city of 7.6 million wouldn’t have more underground venues. Further exploration necessary…
I’m starting to get sleepy at this point, so I stay for one more band. Some good old fashion Rock n’ Roll played by Mocking Bullet was a perfectly relaxed way to end the night.
Jade and her colleague and I head out, we all want McDonald’s but we all have to go separate ways. I only get McDonald’s when it’s past 1 in the morning and I’ve had a few too many. So I’ll have 1 McChicken, please, extra sauce.
My ride home is an hour-ish bus ride, which is a long time but I’m happy it even exists. If I were in Taipei, I would have to ride a rental bike home at this hour (read about my time in Taipei here). That’s one of my favorite things about Hong-Kong so far, that just about every part of the country is reachable in under 2ish hours at nearly everytime of day. I make it home eventually, and pass out for a lovely night’s sleep.
Last night wore me out a bit, but my alarm gets me up at 8:30 so I can get out in time. I haven’t done pottery in three years, but I’ve constantly been telling myself I’d start taking classes. Now, I laid down my credit card and signed up for four classes in the month of September. I couldn’t bring my guitar from Denmark, so I’m viewing ceramics as my creative expression until I get back home. The studio is down near Aberdeen, on the Southern side of Hong-Kong island, so I’ve got quite a trek ahead of me.
I feel so nostalgic as soon as I get off the bus. For some reason, it reminds me so much of neighborhoods in Sydney when I lived there as a kid. Beyond the fact that there are a ton of Aussie expats, the graffiti-covered buildings and humid summer heat make me feel like I’m out for slushies with friends on a hot Sunday.
Pottery class goes by too quickly. The sensation of moulding something in clay is so soothing, something I had missed in these years. I make two cups, from pinching and coiling. They’re pretty rustic but I like them so deal with it.
After class, I walk around a bit and find a packed hipster pho restaurant to eat at. It’s delicious and pretty filling. I head out next to Hong-Kong central area, the other side of the island I’m on. I don’t have anything in particular to see, but I stop at some other locations of Mee&Gee second hand for some cheap shirts. They always place them in cool market areas, so I spend a few hours just wandering.
I even pass a protest, which is a favorite Hong-Kong past time.
As an exchange student, I can’t really say I have a problem with housing (I live in a dorm) or finding a job (I’m not allowed to). But from what I’ve researched, the Hong-Kong housing market is nearly impossible to understand. Wages are low, and housing is nearly Manhattan (if not more) price for even less space. It’s absolutely a problem worth stopping traffic for.
I also take my first tram ride, which is my new favorite way to view Hong-Kong. It’s old and rickety, but the double-decker trams have rolled down windows to keep the cabin cool and allow tram-goers to people watch. One view I get is of locals making a weekend shanty town out of cardboard.
I guess when the apartment gets too tight and stuffy, locals get out and make their own apartment for the day. People have little picnics, play games, dance, whatever. It looks like fun but it increases the population on the street to a nearly uninhabitable amount of people.
I walk around a while more, going to a night market before last nights adventures catch up to me and I feel a good night sleep is all I desire.
Today I’m not in the best of moods. I’m not sure why, but I just sleep in and lounge around for a bit. It’s not the best way to spend a free day, so I get off my butt and head out East to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery.
It’s a steady hike up a forested hill, and I drip through my shirt in the ridiculous humidity, but the views from the top are worth all the drenching.
On the way up, 10,000 golden Buddhas greet me on my sweaty ascent.
The monastery itself isn’t overwhelming, but being able to see so many golden Buddhas in one place is pretty special.
This is also my first walk through Hong-Kong’s nature, which proves to be much more spectacular than I could have imagined. I hope for many more hikes in the future.
The last thing I need for my room is a plant. Just something in my room to keep the air nice, and give me a little living thing to keep around. In Denmark, I go to IKEA for my plant needs. Not only is IKEA my favorite place on the entire planet, it also has pretty good plants for a good price. Since the universe always provides, there’s happens to be an IKEA right next to the monastery. That’s Hong-Kong for you.
I walk around and nearly begin to sob as I wander through the modern and tastefully decorated aisles. I don’t have a deal with IKEA, but if they ever asked me to sell my soul and do advertisements for a Billy bookshelf and a lifetime supply of meatballs, I’d do it in a meatball-filled heartbeat. Anyways, I almost sobbed because I felt so at home and happy. I complain about Denmark a lot, but I do adore that country and its people to bits. Walking through the halls of IKEA make me feel at home, back in my room in Aalborg where it’s cold and rainy outside but oh so cozy and hyggelig on the inside. I haven’t been in Denmark in more than two months, and I had no expectation over how much I would miss it. I sit with a good cup of coffee and a kladdkaka (Chocolate Cake) for a legitimately happy moment of Scandinavian bliss. I’ve decided whenever school gets to be too much or I’m ever feeling unhappy, IKEA is the first place I’ll go. It’s only a bus ride away.
I didn’t even end up buying a plant…