Hong Kong: Day 91. The End.

When I started travelling 3 months ago my journey into the unknown was met with a feeling of stupidity and cowardice. I made a lot of hard decisions in order to make this happen, my words aren’t strong or succinct enough to make sense of that place. I felt like I was on self destruct and the people around were watching me struggle, it may not be accurate but it felt true. Travelling was my chance to take responsibility and put myself back together. I had to go, somewhere beneath my sugar coated words I understood I needed to go alone.

I am not afraid nor am I embarrassed about writing the things I feel, think or do in a blog, it’s been more cathartic than I could have imagined. I can at times find myself anxious about who reads this, maybe a future boss, maybe a future friend, maybe more, but I’m not a closed person, peoples judgements are a reflection only of themselves. I’ve found a lot of love in my life letting people get close.

And here lay the realisation…

I’d forgotten myself, the parts of me I loved the most seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into a fog that has steadily thickened. The me that was open, loud, silly, funny, the me that loved unconditionally, that put others before himself wasn’t in my reach anymore. Over the years my arms have become strong as they’ve formed a wall around my chest. Totally unavailable I’d sit in a room full of my closest friends and hope the floor would open its mouth and swallow me whole. I’d be with my boyfriend and feel like my hands were locked together behind my back, what’s heart breaking is I’d locked them.

I needed to find what was stopping me.

I wanted social Chris back and god damn I wasn’t letting him wander further out of reach. As the world around me got harder it never got the better of me, I knew this trip would shape me, blind hope had become my religion, my blog became my bible.

In my head I feared I was letting go of my career, in my heart I feared I was letting go of my future husband, but these are risks I had to take, I couldn’t love in that head space. I anxiously let my hands open and watched my need for control fall like sand between my fingers.

What happened is clear at this point, it’s only through taking space from my norms have my demons stood a chance of showing themselves. I’d collected the painful moments that have happened in my life and held them close. Year after year I’d allowed them to weigh me down, year after year they became heavier and heavier.

Until the tipping point hit…

3 years ago a guy reappeared in my life who I wasn’t ready for. To everyone else he was just another man, 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes and a mouth. To my friends and those who knew my story he was poison, someone to never invite back in my life.

I’ve never lived by anyone else’s ideals, I follow my own beliefs, if I’m wrong then at least I’ve lived true to myself.

This guy made a decision a few weeks after Brenda died (my adopted mum), he left quickly and in silence. From losing one of the only people I’ve ever felt loved me, I’d suddenly lost the only person making effort to protect my heart. But that protection was gone by morning. It was this simple disappearing act that changed the last decade of my life, it was this simple act that forced me to question “is this all my fault?”.

At a friends birthday in a dank dark soho nightclub he reappeared after 5 years seemingly dead. Before I’d blinked at him twice I could have fallen to the floor. Everything around me fell silent, my friends, my boyfriend, there was nothing but that moment as he stood in my personal space.

Although my feelings have tried to muddle themselves in the past, I wasn’t in love, there was something powerful there, but it wasn’t love. We talked and repeatedly hugged as I watched him come back to life.

“Is he going to talk to me about what he did?” I thought to myself…

“Chris” he nervously started with his hand resting on my back, “about what happened I..”.

I quickly interrupt, I quickly understood I wasn’t strong enough to go back to that time, not there, not in that shit hole.

“Don’t worry about it OK, we are on the same page” I reply as I force the most painful smile of my life. “It’s OK”.

“Don’t you think it’s strange we should see each other the day before I leave for Asia?” He questions softly, turning his head to one side. “I think it’s strange”.

I let him leave shortly after. As soon as his back turned I ran out of that club faster than my legs could carry me, ending up back in Clapham in total heartbreak. I was tired from the walk, drenched from the rain and entirely disconnected from myself.

The pain I’d forgotten from 8 years ago was back. Brenda had returned from the grave and passed away right in front of my eyes that night. Things didn’t get better from that point, in previous years I’d force my way through the pain, laugh it off or talk it through, but nothing I could do from that moment onward lessened the weight of what I was carrying. I watched myself become more and more lost, everything I thought was strong was weak, everything I took pride in brought shame. I didn’t know who I was anymore, neither did my boyfriend and neither did my friends.

What had happened became steadily more obvious over the following 3 years…

I had not dealt with a single hurtful thing that happened in my life. I’d put my childhood, my skin condition, my abusive mother, my distant father, the death of Brenda, my feelings of loneliness in my pockets and unknowingly carried them around.

That realisation was too much… way too much.

I hadn’t just carried these emotions I used them as a way to protect myself from getting close to things I wanted most. The more I realised how hurt I’d been from love, the more I protected myself against it.

When this guy appeared I was unwillingly faced with all of those realities, this time I didn’t have the naivety or innocence that white washed my problems back in my early 20’s. This time I was in my late 20’s and maturity left me exposed. I either faced these problems one by one, or I gave up. It sends shivers down my spine to remember the times I almost gave up. No one noticed, barely anyone asked.

But I’ve never given up on anything or anyone, least of all myself.

I’m in week 15 of my travels (although I don’t think the blog is…) and you can’t imagine the differences I feel inside. I look the same (albeit weather beaten), I sound the same, I walk the same, but there’s a fearless freedom whirling inside me I’ve never known. The Chris I’ve been fighting for was there the whole time, it wasn’t a solo effort in finding him, my friends have helped, every new person I’ve met travelling has taught me something invaluable.

My most influential moment happened earlier this week as two powerful personalities spoke to me in total contrast to one another. With an angel by my side and the devil in my hand I was learning a lesson I’d never had the chance before.

The first person was Cyndi, she sat right beside me during this sunny afternoon. The second was that guy, after this blog I will never be mentioning him again. He sat in my hand sending messages from somewhere down the road.

Before I left Hong Kong I knew what I wanted and that was to say bye to him. For me, I wanted to see him one more time, a chance for us to talk about what actually happened. Closure. When we met on day 2 of Hong Kong I’d managed to share what felt important, I shared how special he was for what he did in the days following Brenda’s death but I wanted to meet one more time, I wanted the chance to try and understand what happened and why he did what he did. In my opinion it was his place to try and mend the parts of me he helped break. Before this could happen I needed to be transparent.

I did that…

And I got absolutely nothing in return.

Sat with Cyndi in Starbucks I’m trying not to interrupt her work flow. She’s knee deep in presentations and the last thing she wants is me moaning about my personal life.

At the table I’m on my phone taking my time to choose the right words to help him understand what this situation might mean to me. I’m not pushing, I’m not angry, I’m not emotional, but I am honest.

Sat silently Cyndi can sense something is wrong. The time I was taking to write messages was a clear reflection of how much it meant. My hopes weren’t high for an emotional response.

Curious, Cyndi asks me what’s wrong, pushing her work to the side and taking the time to listen to me. I wasn’t sure about being open, we hadn’t known one another long, I was worried about her response… Biting my tongue I try to explain the situation in the most mature unbiased way I could. I find the best way to do this is to only lay out the facts and keep the emotion out of it. When I talk about this subject I feel intensely stupid, as if the rest of the world would ‘get over it’ and somehow I haven’t.

I was looking for him to say it wasn’t all my fault. That’s all. I wasn’t looking for him to take the blame, just to unburden a person who has sunk slowly under a situation which was out of his control. A part of me thought he could do it, I thought he would be able to take some responsibility, the situation only involved us two, if he didn’t that meant it was all my fault right? That’s the place I’ve occupied for a long time. This is my entire point.

Handing him the power was a mistake.

One after another I’m faced with freezing cold messages that have no emotion and no humanity in them at all. What’s worse is his final message to me said:

“I see no benefit to me in meeting you”

In the midst of these empty responses, surrounded by strangers I was lucky to have Cyndi, a friend who I’d met only twice before. In that moment she made it her responsibly to guard me, because when people hurt, you help. Don’t you?

I suddenly had enough.

The contrast in how they both responded to me spoke volumes. When this guy was sending heartless messages, Cyndi was using her emotion to understand. When he told me he didn’t care for the situation, Cyndi sat and listened to my every word. As he tried to shoo me away, Cyndi shuffled her seat forwards. She had no connection to my pain, he had more understanding than anyone else in my life, yet she took responsibility as my friend to help. He made a choice to relinquish himself of any responsibility at all.

Well I wasn’t taking responsibility for it anymore.

I’ve spent my life firmly believing I’m solely responsible for the bad things that have happened to me. The big, the small, the forgotten and the present. I’ve walked my days believing I deserved it when my mums fist hit my face, that her dismissal of me was only reflection of me personally. I’ve grown up believing my severe eczema was a punishment for a mystery crime I’d committed as a boy. When Brenda passed I felt responsible for not being there to save her life, when that guy walked out he told me I was responsible because of the stress I’d caused him.

But it’s not true. Non of it is. Those bad behaviours are led by cowards, people who aren’t capable of reflecting on themselves.

The way people have treated me is not a reflection of me, it’s a reflection of them. It’s my responsibility to take ownership of my life and my actions, but it’s not my responsibility to take ownership of your bad behaviour. I was doing that, every thing that happened in my life I thought reflected something I’d done wrong. Cyndi became a positive reflection of myself, she stepped forward and helped without me needing to ask. I’m the guy who puts other people first, I remember that, I’m the guy that is honest and loving, he’s still here.

By allowing responsibility to lie with those it belongs my arms have started to uncross my chest for the first time in, well maybe my whole life.

I take no responsibility for your actions.

You live with them, they’re all yours.

Before I landed in Hong Kong I sent a prayer to Brenda and asked her to help me find an end to this situation.

I guess she heard me x

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Hong Kong: Day 90. Mr and Mrs Cat Cafe.

OK I’m gonna come out and say it. I spent my day at a cat cafe!!

Yes, in a city where I can do almost anything I want, anything at all, I decide to go and chill with a bunch of animals who quite frankly didn’t give a shit if I lived or died. Man I love cats. I could have explored the Cantonese backstreets (the ones that look like you’ll lose a limb if you step into the shadow), took myself on another beautiful trek across a new Hong Kong terrain, went to visit the beaches and islands, caught a train to the New Territories! But no, oh no no, this time I was siren called by the meows of 9 Chinese moggies.

A day well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Turns out the more people you speak to the more friends you make… who knew?! Clearly I wasn’t informed because I’ve spent the most part of 1 week talking to myself. That’s my biggest tip for travelling, don’t be a loser mute.

In my last post I mentioned the two guys who said “fuck the historically powerful typhoon” and went out drinking instead? Yeah well they survived, in fact I totally forgot to mention they slept through the entire thing. Honestly the windows were about to fire through like a loaded machine gun and they didn’t move an inch…

Their names are Noa and Eytan, a girl and guy from Isreal who loved Hong Kong so much they’d visited 6 times this year alone. Along with being fairly robust when it comes to apocalyptic weather they’re also really good people and our conversations were so intelligent, well, there’s was, mine aired on the side of confusion when it came to any in depth blurb regarding the Middle East. Noa was waiting to start university back in Tel Aviv, she wanted to study economic something or other and Mandarin. What I didn’t know was all citizens of Isreal must serve in the army for a minimum of 3 years once school is finished, so I wasn’t speaking to just anyone, I was speaking to the general, commander, astronaught, brain surgeon, Sergeant Noa. (I bow before you. I am not worthy).

We’d already been over to Kennedy Town for an awesome Aussie burger (I can’t take anymore Asian food it’s killing me), it’s there I flexed my design muscles as the pair demanded to see my portfolio. I’m always surprised at how impressed people find my job, over the years I’ve grown to take it for granted, walking into the studio I know my role so well it’s not thought about, but then I talk about my career and people are genuinely fascinated. Maybe I should be more appreciative of what I have? Hmph. The conversation was aimed at how important it is to do something you love and how to find that element which will make up near 70% of your life’s happiness. I didn’t have a great deal of perspective for an answer, I’d always been creative but I think it’s somewhere between what you enjoy and what you’re good at. There’s a business lurking either side of your skills and your passion.

Somewhere…

Anyway I want to talk about cats!!

So I’m going to say something brave in this moment. Here goes… oh god I don’t know if I’m brave enough.

OK.

I like cats more than dogs! (Runs for safety in the shadows of those backstreets).

As I grew up my eczema was so severe a house dust mite would cause an allergic reaction, one bite and I’d scratch the life out of myself. Animals were really a no go, or at least my dermatologist said they were a no go. One day my mum had clearly given up entertaining us and thought an animal was a good idea, maybe she thought it would lessen the stress of the house who knows.

I remember it was winter, I must have been no taller than a knee when I was brought into the house by my dad and taken into the lounge. Opening the door I remember my little sister asleep on the couch and my other sister rolling around behind the blue material chairs. I feel like he tried to make it a surprise, it’s hard to recall I must have been 5 years old, but I remember not understanding what all the excitement was about as I looked around the room. What the hell was my dad trying to show me? I can’t see chocolate anywhere!

“Up there” he whispered, pointing up to the ceiling “you see them?”.

I suddenly hear my mum shout as she runs with her friends toward the curtains, “GET THEM DOWN”.

“Get them down?”

WAIT!!

There were kittens!!

5 of them to be exact, each one clawing the life out my mum’s brand new matching blue furnishings. One by one they were brought down by my dad and put into my lap, each one refused to move as it sunk it’s claws into the curtains in total protest of being my future pet.

For a moment I thought we were getting all of the little fluffers, I was so excited I slapped one of kittens on its head quite hard, I didn’t mean to, pets were a whole new level of exciting for me.

We ended up keeping just one. He was deep black from nose to tail, not a single white speck shon through his midnight fur. Mum had chosen his name, he was to be called Sooty, a character taken from an old puppet show called Sooty and Sweep.

As far as I was concerned he was mine and mine alone.

Sooty became my best friend, I’m not entirely sure it was through choice though. I’d sleep calmly when he was at the foot of my bed, I’d feel stronger when he would hiss at my mum for shouting at me, he’d make me laugh when I’d wrap the tea towel around his head like a turban, he’d make me feel special when he purred at my side.

He’s the only animal I’ve never been allergic too. Isn’t that weird?

Dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, really anything with fur would send me into a scratching frenzy, but not Sooty. He was my tiny tailed brother for 18 years, because of him every time I see a cat I have an uncontrollable urge to hug it.

And that doesn’t always go well here in Asia…

Walking through Causeway Bay in 2018 Hong Kong, Noa and I are obviously lost as we try to find our way to the Mr and Mrs Cat Cafe somewhere off the high street. I think this was the very first time I’d resolved a “we’re lost” situation, so with feline excitement in my heart and the pride of a lion running through my veins we find ourselves on the first floor of a very dodgy looking building.

Walking around this large maze made me feel like we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The walls were damp, crumbling in places, covered in what looked like the contents of a 15 year old boys bedroom. The beige floor tiles were buried deep under magazines, old receipts and general filth that seemed to have been there since 1980…

“CLOSED”.

“Do you think it’s really closed Chris?”

Me being very British I take things as they are, the sign said closed so I said “yeah I think it is, come on let’s go find a cat on the street”. My downhearted existence began floating back to the stairs knowing there were no cats on the streets.

Noa, in her polite and incredibly direct Israel like manner wasn’t interested whether the door said closed or danger, she wanted to be in the cat cafe immediately!

“Hello” she calls out, thrusting the door open like we were raiding a drug den. “Hello can we come in?”.

Walking toward us is a petite Japanese woman with red lipstick, a pretty round face and brown bob, from her head to her feet she looked dressed in next seasons white doiley couture.

“Come in come in” she says waving her hands toward her in extreme happiness. “Welcome welcome!”.

We were in. Let the cat fun commence!

My excitement was real, I’d been waiting to go to this fusion of pets and beverages since I got bored of the genetic tourist spots a few days ago and searched “weird things to do in Hong Kong”. Cat cafe, along with Rabbit Cafe and a whole plethora of other unmentionables were available all over this city.

The Cantonese butchery course left a lot to the imagination…

As we walked in there wasn’t anything special happening, a few round tables scattered about the place overlooking the busy city streets, every now and then a whimsical cat basket, a kitsch cat bowl unsuspectingly in your way. Two Japanese waitresses dressed like dolls circled the cafe like a jewellery box ballerina, but where were the cats?!

Looking under the table I see no cats. Over in the baskets were no cats, up the curtains there were no bloody cats!!

“Excuse me, hey, where are the cats?” I ask Japan’s answer to midget Darcey Bussle, “I can’t see any?”

“Oh, hehe”, she giggles, holding her hand against her mouth like a mime “hold on I find them”.

Find them? Are they lost?

2 seconds later she comes dancing out of another room like a caffeine hyped jester being chased by a parade of hypnotised jolly felines. The parade lasted a good 5 second before we were surrounded, it was as if Disneyland had missed a trick, feathers flying through the air, mouse toys ran passed our feet in time to the high pitched japanese theme turns that played only in my head. It was a happy happy happy world. There was Mr Tiggles (the big grey fluffy one who reminded me of a lion), Mr ShuShu (he was ginger and spent most of the time staring out the window), Mr Squash Face (he looked perpetually confused) and another 6 I can’t remember the names of.

Great!

Taking off my bag I fall to the floor like an old drunk, crawling around making baby noises to anything with four legs. After the typhoon I needed to be loved, cats weren’t a stable choice but in the name of Sooty I believed they were the answer.

Ok there’s one! Sitting over on a pile of cushions looking cheery in his own space sat an unnamed cat who definitely wanted a big Chris squeeze. Making clicking sounds with my mouth I hurry over to him, “oh you’re so cute” I whisper as I’m almost at arms reach “oh hey little kitty cat” It’s as if I’d been possessed by a Japanese toddler “you want a big squeeze don’t you”.

Reaching over, full of love I almost touch his head. “!!REOW!!” he screams, with his ears folded down like envelopes and his eyes squinting in fury. “Ahhh” I scream pulling away, my inner child emotionally scarred for life, “why won’t you love me?”.

For those who are close to me you’ll know I don’t give up on love easy, I’m a bit annoying with it actually. My treatment of cats is no different. When Sooty and I were in our teens I’d pick him up against his will and wrap him up in my duvet. He hated it and would spend all my enthusiasm trying to bite me, but with a little Chris persistence he would tire and let me love him.

I was sure this cute little angry cat just needed some of that gentle persuasion. I actually speak in cat.

“Oh you’re so miserable, why you having such a bad day mr moody face” I gargle at this very angry animal. This cat isn’t appreciating my efforts whatsoever, at one point his ears had completely folded into his head, his tail whipping me away.

It didn’t take me long to give up, even with enthusiasm on overdrive I can’t find a safe way to play with this cat without ending up at A&E. With Noa over at the table mid purr with happy Mr Tiggles I’m feeling rejected. I can see this big ball of fluff sucking up all the joy Noa has to give.

What’s wrong with me!!

I’m supposed to be the cat whisperer! (Cry).

Sitting cross legged, arms folded like a told off toddler I see another older cat walk toward me. This is my chance. Waiting patiently I begin to make my signature kissing noises, smiling hard as he’s almost beside me. Wait, wait.

Ok go!

“Oh hey little kitty cat how are you”

I’m going hard with this one. I can’t have my love rejected two times in one day.. can I?

Just as I’ve gone in for the back stroke he’s leapt in the air screaming and taken a swipe at my eyes. My eyes! This cat didn’t even think to spare my vision!

“Here, right here is my jugular why don’t you just aim for that”. Stupid cat.

With a huge smile the doll lady comes over and offers me tea. It wasn’t ‘on the house’, she didn’t care her pets collectively want me dead, she wanted me to part with my precious Hong Kong dollars (which are now few and far between now by the way).

In my sadness I order Jasmine Tea with Apple. Sweet sweet comforting sugar.

What I like most about cats is how judgemental they are. They don’t care about you, they hate the ground you walk on, they would have you drowned in their cat bowl if they could develop the biceps.

Dogs are different, very different. They’re attentive, protective and over flowing with love. If you took away a dogs food mid meal it would only love you into getting it a four course meal at a restaurant of it’s choosing.

A cat would end your life.

We stayed at the Cat Cafe for the best part of 2 hours. I’d managed to merge into cat society without sustaining any injuries. Mr Tiggles became my friend, even when Noa gave him a facelift. Mr ShuShu blatantly ignored me in lieu of watching taxis pass by and the rest of them found me so irritating they left.

Maybe I’m the needy one, maybe I’m the dog in this situation…

In other news I’ve planned my next move. My time in Hong Kong has been exasperated by the typhoon, now it’s passed and the weather is better I need greener pastures. In honesty Hong Kong has been an emotional stress in many ways, it doesn’t change how much I love it but some things should be left in the past.

Tomorrow I fly to Myanmar in search of my families history. All will be revealed shortly.

Now please excuse me, I need to tend to my rejected soul.

Day 88/89. Typhoon.

Sitting upright in my bed as the clock turns 11pm I open my phone to view the Hong Kong Observatory’s latest weather report. We were expecting typhoon Mangkhut to hit us at any moment, a powerful T10 set to be the biggest to ever touch Hong Kong was only a few hours away. The hostel was silent, the shops had been cleared, the streets were empty, the locals were hastily taping up their windows as the starred sky turned from deep black to a bright white sheet of cloud. On my left stood a line of windows overlooking Wan Chai, on my right nested 2 days supply of food and water scavenged from the left overs at a Kowloon supermarket.

It was coming.

We were unsure of what damage lay ahead, “You’re safe here, do not go outside then the storm hits” were the words endlessly repeated, “buy two days worth of food because no shops will be open, just in case anything happens”. We were calm, nobody seemed particularly on edge but we understood the young immature traveller in us all was to be put away for the next 48hours.

Standing at the window I watch the trees begin their first dance as the rest of Hennessey Road sat motionless, a surreal contrast to the endless thunderstorm of clapping feet which tramples this area 24 hours a day. Not a siren could be heard, not a voice echoed between Wan Chai’s ocean of high rise apartments, like Christmas Eve waiting to turn into Christmas Day.

I didn’t believe a storm of this size was coming, my naivety and pessimism believed the only thing on the horizon was a typical English storm, overhyped and fairly powerless. Hong Kong regularly has typhoons, this was nothing new. Two guys from my dorm had chose to go drinking in Central instead of waiting indoors, after being involved in a T9 hurricane the year before they saw no reason to stay. I took their optimism and made it into something safe.

I was wrong and so were they.

Climbing into bed I check the Observatory again, it hadn’t changed course, due to skirt the edge of Hong Kong in the morning I had time get some sleep so closing the curtains I rest for 6 hours.

BOOM.

I sit upright in my bed. It was as if a monster had banged at my childhood bedroom window. I sit heavy like a ten tonne rock staring at the line of windows that sit not 2 metres away from my bed. It was time, it had arrived.

BOOM.

“Ah no” screamed a girl in the opposite room, every hair on my neck stood as solid as a needle, a cold sensation ran down the back of my neck like winter was on its way. I stared intensely at the moving glass panes, I watched their every movement as if all my senses had increased ten fold, everything was in focus, everything was heard, I was fully tuned in and couldn’t move.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

What do I do? Staring through the mucky glass I can see the rain lash down as if the sky had fallen on its side. I’m poised like a cat meeting a dog for the first time, my eyes fixated on the potential these windows could come through at any moment.

Please let the Union Jack tape hold.

After ten minutes the banging had lessened, leaving silence to stage the screaming winds which circled this solid city, the clashes of smashing glass hitting the concrete roads below echoed 16 stories high through our bedroom. Sirens were already screeching below as the emergency services began to respond to the fury of the hurricane. In no time at all chaos had taken control of Hong Kong.

My childlike instinct was to run to the window with doughy eyes and watch the onslaught happening around me. For as long as I can remember, even now, when snowfall hits the UK I sit at my window and watch it fall. When I was younger I’d pray for a freak storm, I’d pray for so much snow we couldn’t open the door. I wanted the drama, I’ve never been interested in rain I want torrential downpours and flooding. Never bothered by the sun I prayed for apocalyptic heatwaves.

My childhood wants had arrived with drama now at my doorstep. I didn’t feel safe and the little boy inside me had no where to hide. Grabbing an excuse to get off of the 16th floor I take a pack of dried noodles and head to the 2nd floor via the lift.

12… 11… 10… BANG.

9… 8… 7… BANG!!

The lift stops.

The lift stops dead…

Suspended in the empty space of 269 Hennessey Road I hear the wind force it’s way through the building. “OK stay calm Chris it’s fine. Wait a minute and see if anything happens”. It sounded like the storm was close, I couldn’t understand what was happening, what I did understand is I needed to escape this contraption and fast.

BANG. “Fuck off will you” I shout out trying to intimidate the universe. As my skin begins to turn hot and my face flush I’m looking at the buttons on the control panel… where’s the alarm?!

BANG!!!

“Mangkhut I swear, I may not be able to say your name but I’m gonna kick the shit out of you in a minute, let me cook my noodles will you!”. There was a moment of nervous comedy at the beginning, making myself laugh helped, but then terror arrived and it surfed my blood from head to toe.

Anything was possible from here on, I was powerless.

As the seconds passed like torturous weeks and the crashes grew louder I came close to accepting god. I’d thrown an internal monologue against Mother Nature in the hope she heard and was afraid… the words of which I shall never speak.

What was happening up there? How was the wind whistling through the gaps in the steel anyway?

“Get me out of here now!” I shout and stamp my foot.

All of sudden, as if I’m an unknowing warlock the lift returns to life, moving me down through the stress which sat in the air like polluted water.

5… 4… 3… ding.

Be calm heart be calm.

Stepping into the common area people from all over the world are with each other like butterflies around the last petal. The room was nervous and cold, it would have been silent if the hum of desperate families checking on their loved ones stayed still.

My phone did nothing…

People stood in amazement, eyes glued to the widows like guests at a movie premiere, scene by scene the street begged the question “are we going to get through this?”, watching the trees stretched to their limits as whole branches were launched into the chaos made me curious.

Were we going to be OK?

Before the storm reached Hong Kong it ripped apart The Philippines northern islands. Mangkhut had already taken 24 lives on its accent north. A country with no money have little chance of building infrastructure strong enough to prepare for this. How do you protect a fisherman whose only home is a plastic bag held up with 4 branches?

Our concrete castles at fort Hong Kong were keeping us alive, but not everyone was as lucky.

Over the following hours footage taken by friends slammed their way onto my iPhone unannounced, one after the other after the other told me a story of what was happening beyond the titanic wall of skyscrapers on the otherwise of the road. Sent in reflection of their excitement I didn’t understand how to react? Was it exciting? Did I need to see buildings being pulled from their roots, cars being tossed around or families trembling in a corner of their shattered homes? I didn’t know, the ‘what if’s’ began to play behind my eyes, considering worse case scenarios as I slid back into my bed.

The stale blue curtains of our bedroom had been closed, a small old Cantonese lady who cleans the beds calmly walked around the hostel making sure each one was closed ‘just incase’. I found peace in her, a woman with a great deal of life behind her had me settled. The storm grew closer and closer, the cracking sounds of the windows were now in high definition. We’d been sitting out this storm for the last 5 hours, nothing had happened yet…

Heading back downstairs The Lion King was playing on the overhead projector, it’s powerful innocent music covered the sound of the wind as the projector screen blocked the storms intimidation, the beers were out and so were the playing cards. A cold room not too long ago had thawed, you can’t keep a traveller down for long. With no room on the sofas I was happy to see people had emerged from their bedrooms, the swirling rain outside was put in the naughty corner, we had stopped paying attention. Handing me a beer a tall blonde guy introduces himself in a fine British accent. “Hello mate I’m Daniel how’s it going, you been up to much today?” he laughs (what a joker. You can always trust the British to make light of Armageddon).

Sniggering back I respond “yeah great thanks, I got woken up by a typhoon which is threatening to smash my face in, I got caught in that lift for what seemed like a week so ended up praying at the walls. Nice to meet you I’m Chris”. I couldn’t help but smile, I’d never been so nervous.

Walking by, an unknown girl laughs at me and says “you’re doing well son, that lift is a prick, it crushed me mid breakdance yesterday”. No sooner had she spoken she left in a laughing fit exploring a dance routine perfectly timed to “The Circle of Life”.

Daniel was from London, a tall guy somewhat rough around the edges as if he’d been born into money, that branded ripped chic look told a good story. The conversation went from politics to pop music, designer to doctor, east to west. For an hour we sat as a large group sharing stories and mocking our potential for imminent death.

“COME AT ME WIND, LET’S BE AVIN YA” shouts a Liverpudlian to the storm “MORE BEERS!”. I hate beer with a passion yet I was slurping them like sweets.

Somehow, in a short time we had become family, as if we were away from home at Christmas, presents were given as beer, stories were shared with passion, dinner served as dehydrated noodles and tubes of crisps. As far as we were concerned the storm didn’t stand a chance against us.

And then it happened.

Through the laughter and optimistic phone conversations the earth moved.

CRASH…

Panic ensued quickly as the building shook from beneath our feet. It was quick, like a truck had just crashed directly into us. The conversation fell dead, the only audible sound was the movie. “Ok everyone stay calm” shouts the little old lady, “stay calm it’s OK”.

Her tiny voice couldn’t soothe the terror fully placed in every one of us. Where do we go? Where do we go?! People couldn’t speak without trembling, their feet lost balance as fear shook their legs.

As the hurricane hit Wan Chai and the building stood every chance of falling the force of that moment was sent like a punch through everyone, a reminder for our souls that Mangkhut wasn’t finished. I remember a similar feeling as a kid, my mum violently slamming all the doors around the house as a reminder more was to come. I shook in the same way.

Mangkhut had left us at surrender.

As minutes passed the shock continued to ricochet inside me like a heavy pinball at force. The sky had turned a stark bright white, lighting up not only our space, but the whole of Wan Chai. In contrast to the damage it was surprisingly beautiful, no one was holding their phones, no one spoke, the group squinted out onto the street like it was a new day.

Silence.

Silence.

Was it over?

…..

BANG. BANG.

Everyone looks at one another in desperation. We didn’t have a clue what protocol was in this situation, the only information from the Observatory was to stay indoors at all costs and keep away from windows. Mangkhut was at his closest point, toying with the giants of Hong Kong like pawns on his chess board, another reminder we aren’t anywhere near as powerful as we believe.

In the midst of silent panic my phone begins to vibrate with emails flooding in from my family. Messages praying I had managed to get out of Hong Kong before it hit. Taking my phone out I reply softly to everyone, I make fun of the situation as if the news had over dramatised the situation. What I didn’t want was for anyone at home to worry, I was going to see this through, we were all going to be fine.

Well perhaps positive energy wins because we were. We were fine.

As the following hours dragged their heals, as I counted the minutes pass the deafening beat of Mangkhut’s earth shaking drum had softened. The demon has passed. From the south China Sea it had marched north into The Philippines, smashing up Macau and haunting Hong Kong with its force. Luckily for us Mangkhut was now enroute to mainland China. We were happy to be left with rubble and more importantly our lives.

Trees regained their soldier like positions, cabs were steady on their wheels and the locals had returned to the street. A sign Hong Kong won.

The roads were a mess, smashed glass layered the city like a hurricane of diamonds floated gently on by, bamboo scaffolding had dropped from the heavens, motorbikes were scattered like seeds along walkways, the walkways that could be seen under the water that is…

Mangkhut was my first hurricane. At times it seemed unreal, an entertaining story to be shared as part of my travels, at other times it was a sobering eduction in mortality, the closest to real danger I’ve ever been. It has been officially named the worst Typhoon to ever hit mainland Hong Kong. Wind speeds exceeded 200mph, over 100 human lives have been lost through Asia and the damage is estimated at over one billion dollars in HK alone.

I was lucky. Hong Kong was lucky. Seven million people still stand strong thanks to the solid resilience and preparation of its people. The hero of this story is the cities solid architecture, their army of concrete statues that stood strong and cradled its people shouldn’t be taken for granted. This place may be crowded, over priced and overwhelming but it’s that skyline that kept me safe, I’m sure of it.

I really love this city.

Macau: Day 87. Riches.

I have decided it’s time to leave Hong Kong and head somewhere a little less extortionate. At a guess and with genuine fear of my bank balance, I’d say I’ve spent near £1,500 in two weeks, triple the amount I’ve spent in any other country…

This ‘year of traveling’ lark may find itself waking up in London Gatwick if it’s not more careful. My spending habits are terrible, you’d think I was a multi millionaire the way my credit card dances around the malls of Central Hong Kong. I’m not. I’ll never be. (Cry cry cry).

It’s time to go. I’ve said to myself I will come back but first I need to figure out if I can feasibly work in this city, being here is incredible but HK is built on the understanding you work 23.75 hours a day, you fill your wardrobe with sky blue shirts, you constantly look tired because you’ve agreed to never rest and a good wallet means you don’t get arrested.

I only have the tired face at present so we need to move on before anyone official catches me lose on the streets, or worse, jay walking.

I can’t fly out however until the Typhoon hits. We have a T10 heading our way, if I understand properly and the Hong Kong Observatory website is correct it means we are all fucked. There you go description over. If this hurricane hits mainland it will apparently be the biggest storm to ever grace the skyline of Hong Kong with wind speeds of up to 200mph.

And I’m still here. Great!

Given I have 2 days left to live… Omg I just remembered I dreamt that I could fly without wings last night. I remember the feeling as I began to teach myself over Hong Kong. Wow, freedom.

OK Chris, as you were saying…

Yes given I only have 2 days to live I thought I’d explore somewhere new. Similarly to the hype of Dragon’s Back there was a place called Macau everyone talked about, apparently it’s a ‘lovely day out’ which I can’t say excited me but as a day is pretty much all I have left it sounded ideal.

“Passport please” the woman at Bullet Ferry terminal 3 says with a face looking like the back end of a tornado.

“Passport? What for?” I reply in traditional Chris confusion, “Is Macau not Hong Kong?”

Sometimes my level of stupidly out weighs my charm, she didn’t respond she just let her eyebrows meet in the middle as she left me in silence. Endless painful tumbleweed silence.

“Ooook” I take my passport out of my bag and board the ferry. Where the hell am I going? I thought Macau was another island of Hong Kong. I’m such an Idiot. I remember my ex boyfriend (I hate that phrase it sounds so uncaring) said to me there’s no way I’d be able to travel on my own because I don’t know how to plan. I think that was one of his reasons to not come with me, he thought he would be doing all the work. Turns out he was right and very wrong. I’m surviving… just.

Macau, for those of you as basic as I, is actually a totally different country nothing to do with Hong Kong whatsoever. Maybe if I used Google before I left the hostel, or read a Lonely Planet once in a while I’d know that.

Where’s Michael?!

I paid £18 to get there and booked the 19.45 ferry back to Hong Kong at another £30. I was probably scammed I usually am but hey I got to see something new. What I should have realised however is that the high price of those tickets are only a reflection of where I was going. Not only didn’t I know Macau was a different country I also didn’t know it’s the 2nd richest country in the world!! Where have I spent my life? Oh I know under an expensive London rock counting my pennies. $1,000,000 is spare change to these people.

Enter me in my Jurassic Park Tshirt and fake Nike Airs. “Oh hey guys hey!”

As you enter Macau via the Hong Kong ferry you don’t find yourself in what you’d expect, especially if you were wandering around with the minimal knowledge I had. Navigating my way through the outskirts of Macau with my unreliable friend Maps.me my eyes are struggling to find the streets supposedly paved with gold or the giant casinos which line its economy. In front of me stood a skyline not dis similar to the tired authentic look of Kowloon City, high rise concrete blocks crammed together as far as I could see. I enjoyed it as I sat by the lighthouse watching the world go by. It was here I learnt Macau was once occupied by Portugal, being the very last country in Asia held by Europe until December 1999 when China regained power, it made sense, the multi lingual street signs had me baffled the entire walk. I don’t mind being confused in Cantonese but not Portuguese too! Back off!

I was at Guia Fortress, a 17th century colonial Light House minding my own business when a girl (Woman? Lady? Miss?) approached me out of no where. “Are you lost” she asks, only the second person to say those words to me in the space of 12 hours, my face is forever vacant and this incoming storm had me sweltering so I’m not surprised she thought I needed a friend.

Her name was Michaela, a 28 year old South African visiting Asia before she heads home to start her Pilot license. I’d seen her earlier and noticed how pretty she was dressed in white dress against the dismal skyline but I never said hello. I began (with an invitation) walking with her around Macau, following her footsteps seemed a brilliant idea because she had been at Macau for 2 weeks and knew everything, I’d been here for 20 minutes and knew sod all.

She’s probably the most passionate person I’ve met in terms of appreciating her surroundings. She knew every village, every restaurant, every building, every casino, you could see her excitement shine through as she beamed over which parts of Macau she loved most.

Unlike me, Michaela was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in Macau, a Pilot paying just 3% tax and receiving a 40% discount on his flash high rise apartment. Her days sounded pretty easy, she’d managed to merge her way into a rich group of people who payed for everything, food, drinks, theatre productions, casinos.

Maybe they want to be my friends too?

After walking through the mish mash of colonial and Chinese architecture I’d began to realise that one day wasn’t enough time to enjoy Macau. The more Michaela spoke the more I was beginning to understand how vast this small country was and how much time it was going to take to enjoy it.

Following like a preschool child behind teacher I was introduced to some of Macau’s most beautiful sights. St Paul’s Ruins (a Portuguese church built in 1580), Coloane Island (the Portuguese egg tarts from Lord Stows Bakery were a dream and I got my first glimpse of Mainland China), Taipa Village (heaps of Portuguese architecture and culture bound together in an oriental style) we even attempted the Panda Park but they had all gone to sleep (guess I’ll have to wait for Japan for that one).

I wasn’t sure if it was the suffocating scale of Hong Kong that influenced my opinion but Macau felt generous, the size of the roads, the space on its streets, the buildings didn’t sit in one another’s shadow and no one needed to walk in mine. It reminded me of London when everyone is in bed, it reminded me I miss home a little. Macau is actually the most densely populated country in the world, maybe everyone was at work when I sauntered around on this Friday afternoon but I was completely at peace moving from place to place.

“I have to go now Chris, maybe you can show me around Hong Kong when I come over?”. Michaela was my tour guide from heaven, she appeared in an instant and left just as quickly, but thanks to her my Macau trip had been filled with sights and information I’d never have gathered alone.

As I got off the bus leaving her to continue with her life the sun was beginning to set over Macau. Suddenly I had the chance to see what I stayed here for. The casino’s!

It wasn’t until earlier in the day did I know there were any casinos here at all, but since I learned Macau earns six times the money of Las Vegas with their gambling scene I figured I’d hit the jackpot. I’d never done anything like this before!

Now let me set the scene, I didn’t have any money to gamble, I didn’t gamble, but when the sun set over Macau a crazily curious Chris stepped forward like a money hungry werewolf. With my Mickey Mouse cap on backwards and my T-shirt stained with egg custard I try my best to blend in with the Chinese elite. I think I did a good job, mind I almost got escorted out once, it was brief but fun.

Cotai district sits in the centre of Macau’s northern island and I hadn’t realised how poor or how small I was until I began trying to not draw attention to myself. There’s no doubt I looked like the token tourist, but I was David facing an army of money hungry Goliaths, the night sky felt like it could sit in the palm of my hand compared to the building ahead.

At first I was nervous, standing outside The Galaxy I was totally overwhelmed by how insignificant I felt. Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ferrari’s all lined the entrance as if god himself played in its halls. I was like a child, standing in awe I looked beyond my head to the palace of lights that entirely consumed my view.

Wow.

I took one step forward and two steps back. I’d never been anywhere like this before. The closest I’d come to gambling was the a slot machines down the local pub in east London. They smell like piss and usually have someone asleep on the pool table holding a half eaten kebab. I fit in there.

What if I need to prove how much I earn before I can enter?

The anxiety was back. I couldn’t go in the voices in my head were too loud, most people would be excited but not me. It was a world I knew nothing about. Nothing.

Ok come on Chris, you told yourself never say no in Asia. Go in there alone.

So I did. Mickey Mouse hat n all.

What quickly became clear is Casino Halls are boring, they’re ugly carpeted rings filled with tacky gold tables, unhappy looking dealers and flashing primary coloured LED lights. However, the world that surrounds them bursts with beauty, craft, power and opulence like I’d never seen. These buildings are many things, they are the richest of shopping malls, the finest of hotels, they are home to some of the most powerful people in the world and then there’s me, running around wide eyed with his iPhone 8 camera chasing the dollar signs bumping into people as I go. Each Casino seems to have a centre piece, a bit of something that captures your imagination and draws you in. Given I’ve worked on destination brands before I know this trick. Make it memorable. It didn’t stop me being stunned as I walked toward The Galaxy’s titanic diamond chandelier, it beamed it’s blue light at me like I was on the set of Avatar, it’s facets cut the light like an ice cold waterfall in winter. It was all stunning. The floor shone, the ceilings shone, the gold rim of the steps were polished to perfection, the huge bouquets of flowers were fresh, the staff bolt upright, alert and ready to serve.

No detail was left to the devil.

When I see new worlds I directly compare my own to see how things measure up. This one made me consider my bank balance, this one had me a little annoyed at how little I earn. Now for people who know me you know I’m generous and I’ve done well in my career so far. But you only know what you know.

Why is it I must work a 9 to 5 job five days a week? Genuine question to the universe. Why do I need to work 5 out of 7 days? It’s not that I want to spend my days in a casino hall, I don’t want a cold money fuelled lifeless life, I’m an emotional guy, but there are ways to earn much more using the same amount of energy.

What’s the secret?

What can I say, I want more money. I also want to start a charity so who knows which conflict will win. I have some questions to answer out here. Thanks Macau.

After absorbing the elegance of The Galaxy Casino I realised my ferry was about to leave, then I realised I was on the wrong island, then I realised there was no way in hell I was going to make it back.

I accepted my fate as forever stuck on Macau and in that acceptance I’d let myself run completely free. I was like a cow released into spring after a winter cooped up indoors. Have you seen a cow skipping? If not imagine it and then put my head on the cows face. In 5 hours of constant walking through the high lights of Cotai I had visited 5 casinos and the official MGM studio, I’ve never had such an extensive time with my jaw to the floor. Only once did a security guard grab my arm but he wasn’t ready for how British I am.

“OK sir no cameras in the casino halls you have to leave” this bald stocky man says abruptly as he puts his hand on my elbow at The Venetian Casino.

“Yeah OK you can let go of me, if you were paying attention I was recording the installation by the exit, you know, the direction we are walking in”. I must have put on my finest English accent like a Saville Row suit because he let go fairly quickly. More fool him, everyone else knows I’m poor. Snap snap snap.

It was at this point I realise I need to head back. It’s 1.30am and I’ve walked blindly into the middle of no where trying to find the bridge that connects both islands.

For the first time I felt unsafe. Then walking along the wafer thin path which runs alongside the motorway the heavens open to the point I thought the typhoon had arrived. Then my feet start bleeding, I walk another 2 hours and only then do I reach the ferry. Hurrah.

I’m so poor. Cry.

A new ticket at 3.30am cost me £50 single to Hong Kong. My poor wallet. Macau is an interesting place and it intrigued me more than Hong Kong. There’s a feeling of strength and stability that flows from its streets, the fusion of Portuguese and Chinese traditions blend beautifully, I almost want to design some packaging around the story 🙂

At times areas aren’t littered with $100 bills and you feel like you’re in typical Asia, but Cotai and Taipa village both sum up my time here. I’ve been intensely engaged for 14 hours, my crash course in finance.

Speaking of finance my money is looooooow, I won’t last the month at this rate, the closest thing I have to riches right now are the pictures from today, everything else I own is close broken or it will be when this Typhoon hits. T10 here I come!

Hong Kong: Day 86. Once Upon A Typhoon…

🎵 It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all it’s a small small world 🎵

Tell me about it Disneyland…

Last night I met a girl called Hannah on the black leather sofas of CheckInn Hostel, it was a rare city moment, to meet a person who doesn’t have their earphones in or isn’t smashing away at their laptop trying to transfer funds from daddy’s account is quite unusual.

In fact I’m sure it’s an extinct practise.

Luckily for us westerners we still know how to start a conversation off the back of random trivial crap! (Don’t talk to me about football I just don’t understand). Sometimes off the back of these conversations you’ll land a free ticket to Disneyland Hong Kong!

“Hell yes I wanna see Mickey. I want to pull his ears and boop boop him on his little nose. Boop.”

So obviously Disneyland is new to me, I’ve been a deprived child to the point Blackpool pleasure beach was too much of an exotic destination for my family. The closest I’ve been to a large mouse are the mighty rats of Kuala Lumpur that run around my legs waiting for me to die (the joke’s on you rat, I just ate two Twix Bars). Luckily Disneyland was new to Hannah as well although I can’t vouch for the mouse comparison. She has pink hair so I figure she’s done more in her life than me. Most have.

With both Britain and Australia aligned we pack up our exciteables and skip down the road hand in hand through the flowers of Wan Chai high street. The sun was shining, cabs were beeping a merry tune, McDonald’s breakfast was on the cards, we were excited. For those who have been along Wan Chai you’ll know how much flowery bullshit was in that last statement. Hand in hand through the pollution I meant. Jeez, I’m trying to paint a fairytale here guys back off.

It doesn’t take a great deal of time to I realise I’ve left my wallet and bank card at the hostel just as we are about to get knee deep into sausage burgers and powdered eggs. After ten minutes skipping down the road we have to skip all the way back with me feeling like a right plonker. I’d just met Hannah and I’d already shown her how much of an incompetent human I was. This of course set the tone for the day, you know in your gut when things are going to go from bad to worse. Always trust your stomach, except when it’s asking for seconds at desert then maybe ignore it. Diabetes isn’t delicious for everyone.

After dragging poor Hannah back we get our McDonald’s breakfast, she’s standing at the till very excited because they have Aussie ‘hot cakes’ (or pancakes as the rest of the world calls them), she’d been drooling about them all morning and thinking she wouldn’t get any until her return to Melbourne she practically began parading around the till when she saw them on the menu.

“Sorry no hot cakes. All gone” the Mclady says as she waits for an instant reprise in her order. “All gone, no more, what number you want?”.

And so the endless problem began. I’ve seen Final Destination too many times I knew death was coming, it never stops until it wins. It never stops! First my wallet, now the Hot Cakes, the universe had it in for us.

Well little did we know.

With our spirits still sickeningly high and with a childlike joy in our hearts we take the MTR to Central Pier to catch the Star Ferry to Disneyland. We’d talked about me chasing Mickey inappropriately around the park, pushing small children out the queue for the rides, taking their lunch, stealing their costumes and dressing up in matching Asian outfits!

Oh we were ready and it was Hannah’s chance to take the ferry for the first time.

“There’s no ferry leaving for Disneyland today” the ticket inspector tells us in an sound easily mistaken for a very quiet cat.

“Why isn’t there a ferry today?” We smile as if somehow his response would change a damn thing.

“Because there is a typhoon coming”

“AHA. Ahahhahahahaha. AHA. WHAT?!”

We look at each other, stare at the sky, look at the inspector, he looks back at us, we look back at the sky… “I’m sorry there’s a what now? A typhoon? What exactly is a typhoon”. we reply intelligently.

“A hurricane is coming and it may hit Hong Kong so everything is stopping in preparation” he replies very quietly whilst looking very pleased with himself.

“Fuck our lives”.

Great so what do we do now?

Well I’ll tell you what we do, we get on that MTR with our fearless matching Asian brothers and sisters and we rock the shit out of Disneyland, who needs a rollercoaster when we can throw ourselves into a tunnel of wind. To be honest if Mickey is in there I’m game.

Someone get me Dumbo and a pair of goggles I’m going in.

Rocking up at Sunny Bay MTR the Disney carriage rolls in and I wet myself with excitement. I’d gone from a mildly mature adult to a complete infant in the time it took to notice there were Mickey shaped windows and little magical fairy sounds. Screw the typhoon there’s a Disney train!

All aboard… No me first! Out of my way small insignificant child I was born before you!

Looking out of the window the skies are blue, stepping off the train there wasn’t a single breeze to be felt. Nothing. I thought by the time we’d arrived Mary Poppins would be getting smashed between mountains and caught in trees. Nothing. Just a load of tiny cute little Snow White birds looking for some spare crumbs.

Where’s the drama?

Then we hear a high pitch American sound coming from the ticket office… “Hey guys. So Disneyland has no outdoor rides today because of the Typhoon, there are also no fireworks and no parade due to the incoming weather. Have a nice day bye bye now”…

Are these people having a laugh at our expense? (What expense Chris these tickets are free…) All we see is blue skies, all we feel is confused, are we missing something?

“But what Typhoon” I ask trying to recreate her accent. “I don’t understand”.

“So Tinkerbelle may not arrive today and neither may Moana because of the Typhoon. The only rides available are here, here and over here. Oh no wait that one is closed because of the Typhoon” she replies “OK guys you make sure you enjoy yourselves bye bye now take care then”.

It’s funny how all Disneyland staff smile no matter what news they are giving you. Your dog could have be hit by a speeding truck and they’d still be rosey cheeked, wide eyed wishing you a super swell day. I wonder how they are trained, I’m picturing tiny Chinese torture chambers where members are broken into submission using 1940’s asylum techniques. Im picturing Aladdin being whipped and beaten with a dusty old carpet, Arial having her head dunked into a bucket of ice water, Dumbo strapped up by his ears like a Chinese girl at a gymnast studio, he can only come down when he smiles through the pain, only then will he be ready to join the super swell Disney experience.

Banksy’s Dismaland comes to mind.

How annoying. All jokes aside and with a very real fear a new chapter of Final Destination was about to come true there was no reason to close anything, at all. Hong Kong are very similar to Singapore in terms of red tape and safety. Efficiency is key, if a crumb falls on the ground there’s a 200 year old woman wearing a big hat carrying a large broom ready to remove the evidence out of sheer fear someone will trip over it. Down on the MTR you are bombarded with desperate sounding messages about holding hand rails, keeping children close and helping the elderly to their destinations. I was actually removed off a step by a police officer because I was a safety risk so I’m not entirely shocked Disneyland was responding to this non existent storm like a world war was starting.

Turns out Hannah and I are as childish as each other so after buying a Mickey Mouse cap and Tshirt we began to run around the park doing whatever we could, in honesty there wasn’t a great deal to do other than chase characters around the theme park like a pair of perverts.

“Look Woody! Let’s get a picture…”

“No sorry Woody is closed”

“Tinkerbelle is apparently over there!”

“Tinkerbelle isn’t here because of the Typhoon”

“Let’s go see Minnie Mouse!!”

“Sorry she has too many visitors, no more today”

What are you her pimp? If Minnie wasn’t such a whore we may have stood a chance. Just get her a red light why don’t you. Who can we get attention from in this damned theme party, we’d be quicker standing in line waiting for Walt himself.

FINALLY! YES BUZZ!

You can always rely on Buzz Lightyear to bring out the working class out in you. Often Buzz Lightyear can be found in a dirty white vest down the local community centre on a Friday night, lager in hand, a total lad.

He scared me. I’m not going to lie most things in this theme park did. I don’t know if it’s a Disneyfied way of interacting but the characters don’t speak? They do hand gestures and random cute poses. It freaked me out, especially the one where they lift their hand to their mouth and pretend to laugh by bouncing their head up and a down. I wondered if they had taken it from Asian culture because the way Buzz was behaving there could have been an embarrassed 14year old girl in that costume…

Regardless, the whirlwind of disappointments didn’t stop the fun, we agreed a bottle of vodka would have helped the day along especially when it came to boarding an indoor ride designed especially for toddlers (zero shits given). It’s A Small World river ride will forever haunt my dreams, I had an easier time breathing after watching The Grudge surrounded by a Japanese audience. I imagine the children who are taken here are in therapy and waiting for the age they can disown their parents.

It didn’t matter it was a kids ride we were going to enjoy ourselves and find our fairytale ending no matter the cost, even if this imaginary Typhoon hit and killed millions we were sure to make it fun! But fun didn’t come, terror did. Boarding the boat with only two other people we sat and watched a horribly static theatre production of round fat headed puppets sing and shake to Disney’s most famous theme tune “It’s A Small World” as if they were possessed by Walt himself. I hated it, I laughed all the way through, Hannah looked like she was being forced to watch a motorway pileup, the Asians behind us were silent, my bet is they were frozen stiff unable to make a sound. We slowly passed through every continent on planet Earth, each puppet dressed up as if Disney wanted to antagonise the PC brigade of Britain.

After 10 minutes of blinding colours, cultural inappropriateness and that subversive theme tune on loop we get off the boat shell shocked. Hannah was white as a sheet staring into the nothingness of space and the two Asians were circling themselves humming ‘it’s a small world after all’ to one another.

We may never recover.

As a kid I never got into Disney, cartoons just didn’t do it for me unless it was Anime, even as a boy I knew happy endings were a load of bullshit, I knew Walt Disney’s game and he wasn’t fooling me for a second. Of course I’m not completely dead, The Lion King is the ruler of all movies and it’s is closely followed by Aladdin.

“Everything the light touches is our Kingdom” says Mufasa.

“But what’s that shadowy place over?”

“That’s Coventry, you should never go there”. He replies.

For those who loves Beauty and The Beast and Cinderella you can leave. Now.

I’m painting a fairly unhappy ending here but we were pretty damn jolly all things considered. (Looks at the blue sky again).

Our highlight of the whole day was without a doubt the parade at the end (yes the squeaky American woman lied, probably because of the Typhoon). It got to around 4.30 and we notice 100’s of people running down the road chasing a double decker bus. “Omg omg omg” I hear a girl squeal as she’s dropping her popcorn all over the road whilst trying to carry one phone but two selfie sticks.

“What’s going on?” I ask the sky hoping the answers blow in on a storm surge.

Oh wait it’s Mickey. IT’S MICKEY MOUSE.

Well sizzle my sausage he’s the only one I wanted to see, sorry Buzz. “Mickey I love you, Mickey Mickey Mickey why don’t you love me! Mickey here’s my mobile number call me you handsome devil”. Caught in the moment I fully believe everyone is chasing the well dressed mouse with an ear size big enough to rival my own… “Mickey over here, Mickey you’re ageing really well, Mickey where did you get your tuxe?”. The god damn mouse was ignoring me in place of posing with randoms. I thought I was doing a good job of fangirling with my Thai sisters.

I realise they aren’t screaming for Mickey at all, they want this unknown woman with a bunch of flowers, some imp in a suit. Pffft. I quietly fall back behind a large group of girls as if I was never there.

From behind the crowd I watched embarrassed as Mickey did something incredible and something I hadn’t actually considered, he became the creator himself, he became Walt Disney.

Watching him host his guests he took on a role which commanded the attention and respect of everyone in the park. The way he fixed his tuxedo jacket with his two hands, the way he put one foot forward, heal to the ground, toes pointing to the sky. This theme park was suddenly Mickey’s, it was his brain child, his promise, his dream. I found it incredibly surreal, I could have thanked him for bringing to life so many incredible stories, the joy he’s put into the world is unparalleled, to fill anyone with happiness for just a second is a precious gift. I guess it’s Mickey’s place as Walt’s first ever creation to make sure those feelings stay still alive today.

Very Impressive.

Before we know it we are being trampled by a whole flotilla of Disney characters as we line Main Street to watch the final act of the day. I absolutely loved it. I have no shame it was amazing. I felt more like a child dancing on the edge of that curb than I’ve probably ever felt. I was waving, smiling, dancing to the music. Hannah and I decided to go all out and join the back of the parade with the 4 year old toddlers, anywhere else in the world you’d get called a paedo but not at Disneyland.

We have waited the entire day for a Typhoon to arrive, many things in Hong Kong have stopped or slowed down in preparation for a storm I can’t even feel in the air, although it was overkill closing the rides the upside is I didn’t vomit on the teacups. Today has been awesome, I’m so happy Hannah asked me to come, a free Disneyland trip is exactly the distraction I needed.

Maybe I’ll play “It’s A Small World” over and over again into the common room, see if I can make any heads explode this evening. God I’m exhausted.

Hong Kong. Day 85. Dragonlike.

Today I walked the infamous Hong Kong hike of Dragon’s Back, I took myself out into the scorching heat of the midday sun and shimmied along the spine of a large lizard like hill, or hills as is more accurate. I can’t say I really wanted to do it, I’ve been in a odd mood these passed few days and haven’t really wanted to do anything, but given Hong Kong costs me around £30-£40 per day, I should probably get those sights in sharpish before I have to start singing for my noodle supper.

Most of the time I find I don’t need to use a Lonely Planet or even ask Google what to do at a place. Travellers will all sing from the same hymn sheet if they like something. This hike was one of those ‘top 10 things to do in Hong Kong’ songs chosen by the lord himself and my god I haven’t heard the end of it. Dragon’s Back is a 8.5km walk along the southeast coast of Hong Kong, according to people I’d spoken it’s a brilliant trek with amazing views and you are rewarded for your tourist efforts with beautiful beaches at the end. It was actually named as Best Urban Hike by Time Magazine Asia around 100 years ago or something, no I’m being moronic, within the last 20 years, so like a good curious little traveller I went to take a look.

This morning all I heard was bla bla bla as the entire hostel was awake for 7.30am. At the moment we have one British (me), one American (I don’t know his name but he’s about 7ft tall with lovely curly hair and could possibly be a model), an old guy from China who definitely needs his back shaving or at least plaiting and 3 Indians in their early 20’s. I get along with them all, well all except the Indians…

When someone starts pissing around with the AC in the middle of the night when I am trying to keep cool the likelihood is I’m going to internalise some anger before climbing down from my bed and stabbing a bitch. Well the Indians have learnt this the hard way.

It probably settles at around 25degrees here at night, Hong Kong is coming out of summer now, at times you can see some leaves falling from trees already which is making me a little homesick. I love the lead up to Winter. I love Winter!

Anyway, so at this hostel I am sleeping on the top bunk of a 3 story bed and I appear to be the only one who understands that heat rises! If I lift my arm it will hit the ceiling, if I lift my head it will smash off some weird sticky outy part of the ceiling, if I sit up I’ll end up with concussion from the small green shelf inappropriately installed a few inches from my pillow. I’m cooped up! Send help! But it’s being up here that makes me so warm so the AC is needed.

The Indians have absolutely no concept of what it is to be over heated, I mean I’m yet to visit India, but is it comparable to living on the sun? It must be. As far as I can work out I only have one purpose in this hostel room and thats to be the human thermostat. Similarly to the days when canaries were taken down the mines to signal carbon monoxide poisoning I do the same but with heat. When Chris is lifeless in the middle of the floor, in a pool of his own fluids begging for a glass of water its just warm enough for them to get out of their winter coats.

I can’t cope!

Every time I walk into the bedroom it’s like someone has set fire to my face, my eyebrows singe off before I’ve even opened the door, my clothes are in cinders, my hair frazzled to crisp. It’s fucking roasting. Oven like. Hotter than the centre of the earth!!

Oh look they’re shivering on the floor…

So there’s been a power struggle over the AC here and I’ve taken no prisoners. I haven’t gotten angry, I haven’t shouted at anyone or been a spoilt brat, I’ve been very good…

I’ve stashed away the AC remote inside my pillow case like a squirrel in autumn.

Yeah. Shameless.

Last night as I lay in bed wondering how many layers of skin I needed to remove before I could feel cool again I realise one of the guys has got up and turned the AC off! I say realise, I watched the cheeky git squeak up from his bed and shuffle over to the remote which is stuck on the side of the lockers.

So I sit up, smack my head on the ceiling and immediately climb down to turn it back on (oooo passive aggressive). It’s hard work climbing down from my bed, the main problem is I can’t do it in silence, every move I make it screams in desperate need of oiling so stealth is out of the question. The Indians hear me coming before I’ve even hit the floor. Sure enough as I get back into bed another one has turned it off.

I literally have no patience for this.

“Dude, I appreciate you’re cold, but something tells me you would be cold sat in the middle of the Sahara in a woolly jumper. This isn’t OK. Can you leave it alone?”.

“What’s a jumper?” He asks.

Fuck my life.

He’s now sat up in bed with his arms crossed sighing at me like I’m entirely unreasonable (which at times I am) and watches me with daggered eyes as I squeak my way back up to bed.

“No” he says, moments after I’ve nested myself, “no it’s to cold in here” and then returns back to the twatting AC to turn it off at which point his friend wakes up and asks me to stop turning it on because it’s unfair on them…

What?!!!

I’d been putting up with these guys for the last 4 days and my patience had ended there and then. Luckily for me the model guy woke up flicking his curly hair and offered words of encouragement.

Here goes fire breathing Chris…

“Guys I don’t know what your definition of unfair is in India but I’m hot, he’s hot, this Chinese guy looks close to death it’s so hot, I’m not arguing with you, the AC is staying on. If you’re cold, huddle together in the same bed, take off your clothes and spoon each other I hear that works in the Arctic, gather around a lighter, go and sit in the shower with the hot water on full, you’ll like it, I burned myself yesterday. In honesty I don’t care what you do this is not New Delhi”.

I say the model guy offered words of encouragement but thinking back he didn’t. He just moved his long locks from left to right and stared whilst I spoke.

Chris vs The World again!

They didn’t do anything more. They couldn’t, because I’d climbed down and taken the remote in the dark of night. I needed sleep for today’s hike and the next step was either violence (which I never condone) or telling the teacher. Given there was no teacher I took matters into my own hands and resorted to child like measures.

If they’ve found the remote tonight I’m standing it down my pants! Yeah let’s see is you go down there sneaky Indians.

Don’t sass me.

So today I’ve been sleepy walking around Dragon’s Back and once again I’ve gone completely off track and chatted about something different entirely. God damn my hyperactivity.

Dragon’s Back was hyped and then hyped some more, I think the reason this blog has taken a side road is because I wasn’t blown away by it. There’s no doubt of it’s beauty, it’s stunning, I had such a gorgeous clear day and could see for miles. But the hike was actually easy, I think it’s more of an energetic walk than anything strenuous and of course I ended up coming back early because I forgot to take water.

Boob.

What’s special about Hong Kong (or at least for me) is how close it is to nature. You can go from being in the middle of an insane city to lost in the peace of a hike in no time at all. I love to trek and I love busyness, but what I don’t love is being hot with no AC.

I’d love to write more but time is money and I need to get off of this bed. It’s 11.15am and I can’t justify this laziness to my future self. Off into the sun we go!

*puts remote in backpack*

Hong Kong. Yoga Hell. Cyndi Heaven.

When a girl you’ve never met messages you in a city you don’t know, to visit a place you’ve never been, to do an exercise class you’ve never tried, at a time you’d rather not, you say yes. Even if you are hungover.

“Yes”

Before I left London a colleague of mine said “If there’s one thing you should do in Asia it’s never say no, take every opportunity offered”. With a new way of thinking needed I agreed to this, what’s the worst that can happen?

Well I’ll tell you.

Bloody Yoga! That’s the worst that can happen! Oh my god, oh my actual god, what on Earth posses people to indulge in such a torturous, back snapping, shoulder popping, leg stretching act of barbarity? I didn’t know my body could bend the other way? I didn’t know there was another way! Who the hell invented this. I’d have been in less pain with a 50 stone opera singer on my shoulders walking up Mount Everest with my arms tied to my feet.

Here begins my day…

Jumping into a cab from Kowloon Harbour to Kowloon City I really have no idea what I am letting myself in for. I was late, slightly delicate from taking myself on a gay night out and wondering how I was going to survive my first ever Yoga session without seeing yesterday’s noodles.

“I need to go to Lion Rock Road” I say to the cab driver who is smiling at me in total confusion. “Lion Rock Road” I repeat, with him already speeding down the motorway before my door was close to being closed. He was an old Chinese man who continuously smiled from over his shoulder like he’d fallen in love with me.

“Here?”, I thrust my phone into his face, “this road here… please?”.

“Ahhh, what you talk about. It no Lion Rock Road it Lin Lok Low….” he replies in a very happy friendly bouncy Asian tone. Sitting nervously in the back of his cab I’m very confused, my only option was to agree, laugh, and repeat what he said as if I’m entirely stupid.

“Ohhh haha, Lin Lok Low” I say, slapping my knee in laugher as I look desperately out the window for another British person to join me. I find self humiliation is a great antidote to forced embarrassment. Sitting silently on the back seat I’m watching maps.me take us out of modern Hong Kong and to an area that looks a little scary and a little forgotten. Where the hell is this guy taking me? Lin Lok Low is not what it says on my map, I’m doomed. 20 minutes later we arrive and he laughs some more.

“No where in world called Lion Rock Road. Lin Lok Low. Bye” he lovingly shouts like I’d given him a gift whilst passive aggressively kicking me out the door. I realised I wasn’t where I needed to be, I wasn’t far, but someone was definitely testing my will power by dropping me at McDonalds in the pouring rain.

“Oh wait, wait I get it” I thought to myself as I walked toward the Yoga studio entirely confused by the journey “Lin Lok Low is just Lion Rock Road said fast” That’s the trick to communicating! When I say fast I mean like, as if you’re off your face on class A drugs, you also need a very distinct lisp and then you’re good to go (trust me I’ve tried it multiple times since and it works a treat).

I feel like I’ve discovered one of life’s cheats. Well done me. Applause please.

Yoga I’m ready for you!

This whole day was planned by Cyndi, a friend of a friend living here in Hong Kong (shout out Will Board for saving my sanity!). As we know I’ve been lonely under the mammoth buildings of Hong Kong, but luckily I have good friends who point me in the direction of their good friends. We meet, then we all make babies. No wait, no that’s not what happens at all. She’s around 5ft nothing, a super cool bundle of Asian loveliness all wrapped up in a friendly smart personality… oh she’s a treat! Every now and then you meet people who are naturally open and welcoming, Cyndi is one of those people…

Well at least I thought she was until I was at Yoga.

After meeting her for 20 seconds I find myself in a room full of around 16 people, all of whom look like they are playing Musical Statues to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Me, well I’m the token white guy who looks like he’s walked onto the wrong movie set.

Sheepishly entering the studio dressed head to toe in white, Cyndi shows me to my yoga mat and whispers some directions for me to follow. At the front of the room stood a tall pretty Asian lady, in her mid 30’s with the slimmest body I have ever seen. Behind her stood a glass wall which reflected everything I was thinking straight back at me.

The main one being… “Oh Fuck”

Sitting cross legged on my mat like a knotted Hindu at prayer I Iook at myself in desperation as the peaceful echoes of the Orient fill the room. I’m upset no one recorded the whole thing, in honesty I looked like a man child possessed. Crunch. Crack. Composing myself I watch carefully the movements of the instructor, she’s calm, the room is slow, everyone is in their position with grace and ease, everyone is following her instructions word for word.

Word for word.

Yeah, there was no hope for me, I’d been totally stitched up. Turns out I don’t speak Cantonese, in either of the 7 tones so the majority of my session was spent with one eye on the mirror and the other inappropriately on the instructors arse. I felt so awkward. At times the instructor would give me this look of sympathy and disappointment, usually when I’d have to do something simple but instead I’d stop breathing and inflate.

As a rule I’m maturely immature, I tend to find the fun in most things and this yoga session was no different. The combination of pain and silence didn’t work well for me, given I couldn’t yell out in pain without ruining everyone’s chi I had to settle for the other option, laughing, but very quietly and uncontrollably.

After we finished a pose called Triangle where you have to do some terrible terrible half bent stretched splits movement whilst putting your arms out like an aeroplane (turns out I have the muscle tone and balance of a new born) I was hoping I could return to that lovely sleepy Child’s Pose where I’m splat on the ground. But no. After 30 seconds in this position and wishing she would knock the chakras out of me, her body begins to distort. Click click click.

I’m watching her, arms stretched, legs detached, her head somewhere over in the store room and I can feel the exhaustion push me to tears, but I’m not sad, I just can’t believe what’s happening. So I look to Cyndi who is still loving life and I look to my left, this girl is also loving life, the guy in front of me is loving life and the old women over to my right are loving life.

I am not loving life.

I hate you life.

I begin giggling to myself. I’m silent, my whole body is shaking uncontrollably and there’s snot dripping out of my nose. My Tshirt, which is almost entirely buttons was fully undone so my tits were out, my shorts were so wet I couldn’t move and every muscle in my body begged for Tiger Balm. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t even grip the matt my palms were so sweaty.

So I’m laughing and I’m laughing as I see her spine slowly arch backwards and her hands push her off the ground from behind her shoulder. Normally I would be ok watching circus tricks, but I’ve never seen someone go from a perfectly formed human to a fully functioning Wagon Wheel. Oh god I’m laughing again.

It reminded me of a time at college when me and my friends were in life drawing. In these classes you have to be silent out of respect for the model (no one likes having their penis laughed at grow up!). Me and my friends must have been about 18 years old at the time, we were dedicated to the cause, hell we all ended up in creative careers, but I did have a similar moment where I ruined the atmosphere through having a breakdown in the middle of the room.

If I remember correctly it was mid summer and a lot of people had hay fever, with hay fever comes snotty noses and with snotty noses comes sniffing. Well this is what killed the vibe. Sitting silently I am drawing this mans willy, I’m being generous, I’m focussed and doing a pretty good job. Then I hear this sniff from behind my easel board. So I look at Katherine, she looks at me, I look around my easel board and shout “ssh!”. Katherine giggles. Then someone else sniffs, so I look at Katherine again, look around my easel and ssh at them too!

Well that was it. The room had gone from seriously silent and calm to being in complete distress. Everyone who wanted to sniff couldn’t because they were scared what I’d do. It didn’t take long for Katherine and I to break down in hysterics, I remember laughing so bloody hard I knocked over my painty cup of water across the tiled floor as I was told to leave the session. I think I had to sit outside the room for about ten minutes after that.

Yoga was no different, only this time I hid my hysterics well, but only because I didn’t know a single person and Cyndi was kind enough to organise it for me. I don’t know what these Asians do to disrespectful people. What if they introduce props? I could see them having me spin plates for 24 hours in apology.

I kept it together, just. The only other time I burst out laughing was when the group were put into Balancing Stick Pose, I don’t know what happened but everyone appeared to orgasm at exactly the same time. Something I’ve never been able to align so fair play to them.

The best way to imagine me (should you ever feel the need to do that) is referencing that game where you have to put the right wooden shape through the right hole. Only I was the triangle trying to get through the rectangle.

Cyndi was amazing, every time she saw me flailing around like a turtle on its back she spun me over and arranged my feet accordingly. If it wasn’t for her I’d still be upside down somewhere in central Kowloon. My body is now comparable to a very very old dry elastic band. Don’t stretch me. Don’t touch me. Don’t even talk to me.

I feel lucky to have spent today with Cyndi. Realising I was half dead she carried me like the baby Jesus to a local restaurant for dim sum and various others things I don’t know the name of! We talked for hours under the winter blast of Hong Kong’s unreasonable AC, she shared her story, I shared mine and it was the perfect afternoon away from the madness of its centre.

Look at her face! How can you not love my new Asian sister ❣

We’ve done a lot. Yoga. Local food. Bubble Milk. Kowloon City Park. Wine on her rooftop and then a meal with her family.

The meal with her family was beautiful, both in feeling and taste. Given Cyndi was too nice to send me back to my hostel she told her parents I was coming for dinner and it was exactly what I needed. Sitting at her dining room table her grandmother, mother, father, sister, sister in law and brother all talked to me in the best way they could. It reminded me of Bach’s family from Langkawi all those moons ago. I miss family, well I miss whatever that feeling is where you’re close to your parents. I know I can’t have it, not at least with my own, but moments like that where you get to enjoy another families love is special. Her grandmother couldn’t speak a word of English, but she didn’t need to, she put her hand over my shoulder and smiled at me. That was enough. I remember the feeling of her fingers as I put my hand over hers, it made me miss Nana Maud.

But actually on a side note we think Cyndi’s grandmother thinks I’m the new grandson in law , soon to be married to Cyndi. Can you imagine? That would be another twist in the Chris tale.

Actually I shouldn’t say ‘twist’. Oh my god my legs. Shoot me. The next Instagram couple I see taking kiss shots in yoga poses are getting reported.

Anyone got a pair of leg braces? 😭