Friday, July 28, 2006

Be Aware of Unreal Things (Hong Kong 'retrospective') (repost)

Reposted from when I went to China this May.


This post is quick because I have to get kebab from the one Turkish place in Kowloon (I swear, these things follow me around the globe), then pick up my visa.

It could be the motto of this entire city: Be Aware of Unreal Things. It's a slogan under the ads for the Taipei Hotel on Nathan Road, a flophouse with rates from HKD100-300 ($12-36 US) a night and bundle packs with limited Chinese visas. But it filters down from that, out into the streets, where it's a chic young woman wearing a "SNITCH GET STITCH" shirt, a bent-up old man punching a SMS into his cellphone, the mag at the end of the cellophane-covered porno rack with the woman gazing serenely into the camera, her German shepherd beside her. It's a Turkish restaurant on a dead-ending street and the tiny walk-up travel agencies that process people over onto the mainland. This is Hong Kong SAR. This is the twilight zone between China and the rest of the world, no longer a colony of a dead empire, but not yet a real part of a socialist republic that is still trying to figure out how socialist and how republican it actually wants to be. This is an inaccurate snapshot and yet perfectly revealing.

If you have an eye for imagery, Hong Kong will not disappoint. The contrast and sheer number of textures in this city is amazing, from the banyans crawling down into and over the sidewalks in Kowloon Park to the rust metastizing on iron window frames of the buildings. All you have to do is look up to see the rotting, discolored concrete of old apartment buildings balanced against the gleam of glass from skyscrapers, down to see boxes made of everything imaginable spilling out over narrow alleys that seem to tighten so that even the cats that stalk them can't get past, straight ahead for signs layered on top, behind, around and all through each other, Spanish moss descending almost to head height from the trees where they're allowed to grow in this maze of concrete and asphalt. Be Aware of Unreal Things. So you trust people you might not otherwise trust, because everyone else seems to and ripping you of too bad would cave their business in. And you accept the rest, aware of the unreal and the real sitting right side by side, because this is just Hong Kong, and wherever you're coming from or going to, it's just a little bit different.

I've been taking pictures, but I can't take pictures of everything, as much as I'd like to. If you want to understand what I'm going on about, you really need to come see for yourself.

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