You need to strike while the iron is hot | Hong Kong day 94
Day 2,395 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
15 minutes of fame
Hong Kong is amazing. I’m still stuck. The world is in limbo. April is over. May has begun. No news from the front. Time flies – I don’t.
Hong Kong is a powerhouse of a place here on earth. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the Hong Kong Tourism Board and it reminded me of a project I worked on many years ago in Denmark. Ross DK hired me to handle logistics during a geothermal drilling operation in a small place called Kvols. Kvols isn’t far from Viborg which is a historical city in Denmark with about 40,000 beating hearts and some breathtaking nature. Kvols only has about 85 beating hearts. One day while at work a curious local villager showed up to ask a few questions about geothermal energy. We got talking and after a while he offered to give me a tour of Kvols if I could free up the time. I asked the drilling supervisor for permission to duck out for a few hours and off we went. The villager drove me about in the countryside and told me about the various farms, stone churches, the quality of the soil on one side of a hill and the historical consequence of better soil somewhere else. We went up on a hill and he told me that it used to be the location for the village gallows back when it was common practice to execute thieves and murderers by hanging. Executions during peacetime ended 150 years ago in Denmark. The villager stopped his car several times to tell me about a creek, an old market place and a number of things I would gladly have passed unwittingly by on my own. That evening I sat by myself and pondered about how much history is to be found nearly everywhere we look. Back then I was living in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen which was founded in 1167. The city was never the same to me. Every courtyard, every backstreet, everywhere I looked would have a story. Now let’s get back to Hong Kong.
Kowloon, Hong Kong.
The stories which can be told about Hong Kong are endless! And as a visitor with a guidebook you may discover some amazing sites. However you will surely walk right past some hidden gems on your way to them. I don’t see myself as much of a tourist but I am an opportunist. And I do love a good story. This is the 14th Friday Blog from Hong Kong. I have written about its history, about culture, about virus, about COVID-19, about logistics, about hiking, about people I’ve met, about how I feel, about bureaucracy and about anything in between. Let’s talk about Sham Shui Po. It is is an area of Kowloon, Hong Kong, situated in the northwestern part of the Kowloon Peninsula. And what a place it is! When Vivian from Hong Kong Tourism Board reached out an offered a guided tour I was quick to accept. Vivian was very kind and quickly arranged for me to meet with Paul from Walk In Hong Kong. As a founder of the successful tour company I was lucky to be guided by Paul. He had a polite, kind a professional attitude and came well prepared. We met at the MTR (metro station) and before we surfaced into the vibrant city he offered me a bottle of water. People have been living in Sham Shui Po for a few thousand years but it’s the last century which is the most fascinating to me. Sham Shai Po literally means “Deep Water Pier” and used to have the bay much closer before all the reclamation of land began. But that is the story for much of Hong Kong. As a matter of fact I have traced the former location of the famous HMS Queen Elizabeth II shipwreck to be beneath Kwai Tsing Container Terminal 9. Hong Kong has reclaimed a lot of land of the years. Sham Shui Po was known to be a poor part of Hong Kong and in some ways it still is today. However nothing comparing to what it used to be.
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
It was in Sham Shui Po the very first government housing was constructed after a massive fire in 1953 which left 60,000 people homeless in its wake. Today nearly half of Hong Kong’s population resides in some form of public housing. In comparison the amount is about 80% in Singapore. Paul is a great guide and he would stop up in seemingly uninteresting places to share the most interesting stories. He knew the area really well and introduced me to people left and right. As such I met a man whose family had been serving tofu for four generations, there was the shop owner trading in leather and then of course the unforgettable Ms. Chau who is the only female snake catcher in all of Hong Kong. She also runs a restaurant where she serves some delicious snake soup however mostly with imported snake meat. After tasting the soup I was brought to the back of the restaurant where a lot of wooden boxes were lining the wall each with a snake inside. “Do you want to play with one?” Ms Chau opened a box and a King Cobra stuck its head out! “Ups…not that one. I’ll find a better one for you”. Then she opened another box, pulled out a 1 meter (3ft) python and handed it to me. The first time I ate snake was actually in Madagascar back in 2016. The first time I held a snake was in Denmark many years ago. The Python was lazy but strong. It slowly moved about. Hong Kong has a lot of snakes and there are particularly many reporting’s in Sai Kung where I stay. Sai Kung is very popular for hiking. Paul and I thanked Ms. Chau and moved on. I hope to have a video ready for you within a few days which shows our afternoon in Sham Shui Po.
Paul holds somebodies lunch. Ms. Chau (the legend) is having fun :)
For a long while I have been wanting to visit Chungking Mansions which is a quite famous building in Hong Kong. So as Paul’s tour came to an end he suggested we could hop on the MTR and make our way there. Chungking Mansions is hell to some and heaven to others. It is a weird mix of human interactions and a cheap place for backpackers. It is estimated that around fifty different nationalities do business in the building, that 15-20% of all cellphones sold in sub-Saharan Africa have at one point gone through the Mansion, that around 5,000 people live in the building and that twice as many do business from there. It is effectually nicknamed the “United Nations of Hong Kong” and some people draw similarities to the long gone Walled City of Kowloon. In all honesty…I was slightly disappointed when I walked in to the building. It wasn’t at all the crazy energetic place I had thought. It felt like a place I had already seen hundreds of times before. However I did like it. There’s a lot of good multiethnic food, plenty of money changers, no shortage of electronics and a strong sense of ethnicity. On a final note I’d definitely recommend booking a guided tour in Hong Kong. It is just one of those cities where I guide truly enhances the experience.
Paul and I at the legendary Chungking Mansions.
Ramadan Karim! People getting ready for iftar (first meal after the fast) inside Chungking Mansions.
This week has been has been hectic. I’ve been too busy to feel sad which I guess is good. Kate Springer’s exceptionally good article in CNN had me doing interview back to back for a few days. Then there was all the sudden interest from teachers, random people and travelers alike. There’s even a small talk show in the USA which reached out. It is called the Tamron Hall Show. It is produced and distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television which I find appealing :) I had a look at a few of their YouTube clips and it looked good to me. So I was happy to supply them with some video footage from Hong Kong and have a zoom call Katie who’s the shows Associate Producer. An American talk show and Hong Kong Tourism Board were far from the only interesting things this week. Italy’s prestigious newspaper La Stampa decided to write an article about the Saga. They didn’t reach out to me though and based it entirely on the CNN story. They were not alone in doing so. I know of at least ten articles about the Saga which have appeared in the past week in which no interviews were given. And sometimes the content shows. Apparently I’m now volunteering with Hong Kong Red Cross? ;) The quality is usually a lot better when I speak with a reporter and I did have a good chat with Business Insider, B.T. (Denmark), HuffPost UK, Matador Network and a lot of others. Then somebody reached out to tell me that I was on Italian TV? A channel had taken the liberty to rip some content from the Saga’s YouTube channel without asking. Oh well…”all PR is good PR” as they say. All the interviewers I spoke with were both kind and in some cases really funny. Among them was a really nice afternoon interview in Sai Kung village with Irene from the local Wen Wei Po newspaper. I cannot read a word of it but she was very kind and the graphics are great :)
There has been a lot of socializing too. I’ve been by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) a few times and finally had a chance to sit down and have dinner with Tim Huxley. It was Tim who opened up the opportunity for my guest membership in the first place but ironically we haven’t seen much of each other. He’s a great guy with some interesting stories from an interesting life. He has a passion for racing classical cars and for journalism. Tim furthermore excels in networking as you would expect of anyone who has spent their entire working life in the shipping industry. Mandarin Shipping (where Tim is a Director) own and operate several ships and Tim seemed to believe that I would be out of Hong Kong before May is over. However where to? To Singapore? Is that any better than Hong Kong as the land currently lies. Who can say – it was certainly a pleasure to spend some time with Tim who also knows the history of FCC really well. And the FCC is no doubt a magical place.
Upstairs at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.
Well, as always…it’s hard to mention everyone. It has been a week which has been very kind to the Saga. Social media has jumped with more than 5,000 new accounts. Instagram has especially been busy and I had the chance to do a number of IG Live interviews with both friends and new faces. I was invited for dinner in SoHo by a man named Peter Williams. I knocked on the door and was let in to be greeted by him and his family. Peter is a banker but you wouldn’t know it from speaking to him because it’s the least of all the topics he brings up. He is a very passionate networker, has written several books, he is invested in TEDx talks and these days finds himself occupied with the idea of where passion comes from…or was it originality? Or maybe something else? He talks a lot :) The Saga actually already has its own muse in Parth Nilawar who like Peter is full of inspiration and great ideas. Parth is one of the Saga’s four project members and recently launched Wonder Lives which is worth your time if you are expecting or have friends that have a newborn. Peter is a really good guy and he has a very nice family. It is an open home and they have had several interesting personalities come and live with them. Peter is also an Investment Angel and in response to all his energy and all the things he is involved with I had to ask him: “do you ever sleep?” Peter replied: “I’ve been asked that before”. Later that evening he drove me back to Sai Kung (which is kind of faraway) in his Tesla. I just somehow knew he would have a Tesla. That was my first ride in a Tesla! Fascinating car! They used to be tax free in Hong Kong which explains why it’s possible to see so many of them on the streets. Another explanation is that there are a lot of wealthy people in Hong Kong. Peter is such a fast pace interesting guy. He has already sent me around ten links to things he thinks might interest me. I on the other hand do sleep. I envy his energy! ;)
How I feel about the Saga...
Yeah…it has been a week. The workload has been well over fifty hours but in reality I could have said no to a lot of stuff. The interviews serve to drive more attention towards the Saga and through that more attention towards the Saga’s values, the Red Cross and the project partners. I didn’t have to do all those interviews – I could have turned them down or just done a few of them. However the interest comes and goes and the news cycle ends in a flash. Fantastic today and forgotten tomorrow. I also met up with Doug Wolfson which is a heck of a name. He and a bunch of his friends read the CNN article and wanted to buy me a beer. Good people. It worked out well because their bar wasn’t far from where I was meeting Ole and Thomas for dinner. Two Danes whom I first met when I spoke at the Danish Seamans Church on February 3rd. Does anyone still remember that? It was organized by the Danish Chamber of Commerce (DCC). Time flies – I don’t. Who would believe this story? We reached Hong Kong on a containership in late January thinking that it was going to be a four day stopover between ships. Here we are 94 days later. People keep pushing me for a book. We could make a book out of the Hong Kong stay alone! My mind is full. Let’s just get those last nine countries so I can go home.
FIVE FAST ONES:
- We recently completed a 30 day pushup challenge on Facebook. 22 pushups every day for 30 different reasons…and then some.
- I had the chance to revisit Malvern College HK again and once more collaborate with content for the students. Always a pleasure. Thanks Bene!
- I’ve been training hard to get fit enough to complete the mountainous Lantau Trail (70km/43.5mi) in a day. But for mental health as well.
- I have as a challenge tried to work my way through EVERY Salomon video uploaded to Salomon TV. It takes FOREVER as I do 30 min here and there. The content is GREAT though!
- I’m getting a new uniform done in Hong Kong. It will be similar to the current one which is 2.5 years old now.
Best family ever!! :)
And then there is the kindest family on earth: the Savagars! James (UK), Cassie (CN) and their two boys Edward (11y) and Harry (9y). They left me in their home for a few days as they went on a staycation in the city. Hong Kong’s borders are closed. There have been no new COVID-19 cases in six days. There is uncertainty about when anything might open up again. There is uncertainty in general. As a nonresident in Hong Kong you would not be able to return as long as the borders are closed. Anyone who enters is quarantined for 14 days. Apart from masks, closed schools and a few signs here and there it seems like life continues and that people are just people. Some are suffering for others life continue. For me personally it SUCKS being stuck. But if it had to be anywhere then I’m happy it happened in Hong Kong. This place is not on lockdown, people are kind, the food is good, it’s hard to run out of stuff to do, I have friends here. Given it couldn’t be different I’m fortunate it went this way. And today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! May you have many more :)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - trying as hard as I can.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga