place: hong kong, people’s republic of china

Bec Allen in Hong Kong

Bec Allen in Hong Kong

reason for travelling

I was in Hong Kong November 2011-February 2012 completing an Asialink Arts Management Residency.

compact pleasures as east meets west

Three months. Seven million people. 7,417 legit skyscrapers. All on an island half the size of Canberra.

It’s the ‘Asian Century’ and I was on a mission to see, hear, taste and wrestle with all that lies on the doorstep to the great People’s Republic. Wintertime is festival season in Hong Kong. The weather is bearable and the constant smog finally clears to reveal the chaotic, frustrating, completely intoxicating mix of east meets west. For the culture vulture there is Detour, an annual design festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival (www.hk.artsfestival.org/) and nearby Macau Fringe. For more traditional festivities it’s Chinese New Year—fireworks, banquets, lucky money. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.

At first Hong Kong can be a lonely place: 20-somethings taking a gamble on the stock market, heaving ex-pat bars and distant locals. But with a smattering of Cantonese and a good (very good) map, this city can feel like home, just better.

for culture…

The LCSD (Leisure Culture Services Department) controls almost all of the cultural centres and events in Hong Kong. I chose to avoid these.

Bamboo Theatre in Hong Kong High Risers

Hong Kong High Risers

Hong Kong High Risers

The West Kowloon Cultural District offers Cantonese Opera in a proscenium arch theatre entirely constructed from bamboo. The first program of The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will be become an Asian cultural juggernaut under the direction of Aussie Michael Lynch.

At the Hong Kong Fringe Club you can see everything from Cantonese stand-up to contemporary dance via slow food workshops in this collection of spaces in an old cold storage building in Central District. Tip: the rooftop bar/cafe serves a vegetarian buffet lunch daily. One of the only cafés with a genuine view of the sky!

Asia Art Archive offers a treasure-trove of publications documenting the vast landscape of contemporary art in Asia. You can easily spend a few hours trawling the shelves here. They host monthly artist talks where I managed to hear Yang Fudong talking about his epic No Snow on the Broken Bridge, 2006. (See RT103). They also produce the Backroom Conversations Program at the annual ART HK Art Fair (May 17-20, 2012).

Street art, Hong Kong

Street art, Hong Kong

Street art, Hong Kong

Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival is HK’s first big outdoor music festival. See international acts alongside indie Asian songsters and K-Pop (Korean pop). Includes a film program presented by the British Council and will take place December 2012, Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.

Artist Studio Visits are abundant. Check out the Fo Tan Estate (http://www.fotanian.com/), a collection of studios hidden amongst a maze of industrial buildings. The collective hosts regular open access weekends when over 200 studios are on view. Closer to town is Cattle Depot: home to Frog King and Queen, HK Pavilion Venice Biennale 2011) and Videotage among others.

Sound Pocket is a small organisation specialising in sonic practices and study. Housed in a loft space inside a nondescript factory building on the edge of Victoria Harbour, it’s a gem of serenity and aural contemplation. With regular artist talks and listening parties it’s like sitting in someone’s loungeroom.

Bowrington Rd Market, Hong Kong

Bowrington Rd Market, Hong Kong

Bowrington Rd Market, Hong Kong

for refreshment…

Cooked Food Centre, top floor of the Bowrington Road Market, Wan Chai, open 6am to 2am. This is a temple to fast food Cantonese style; the duck curry stall offering is delicious.

Fancy a queue? Then line up at the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant for delectable parcels of goodness in the form of steamed dumplings (Tim Ho Wan, 8 Kwong Wa St, Mongkok). Look for the green sign next to the firearms shop.

Other end of the scale is the 30th floor Aqua Spirit Bar. Sit back and watch the nightly laser show across the harbour whilst sipping their signature cocktails (1 Peking Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui).

for sleeping…

Short term studio rental is the best value for money in a town that measures in square feet not metres…be prepared for ‘compact.’

other highlights…

Surprisingly Hong Kong Island has some amazing hiking tracks. The best by far is the Dragon’s Back across the top of the ridge, leading you to Shek O Beach for the best Thai feast in town.

There are also hundreds of islands off the coast of Hong Kong. My pick is Po Toi, a 30 minute boat ride from Stanley Market. With stunning views and cliffs it’s barely inhabited save for a restaurant serving the absolute best seafood.

For a truly surreal experience get your James Bond on by taking a turbo ferry to Macau. High rollers, poker, dancing girls and a faux Venice. Playing indefinitely is Franco Dragone’s House of Dancing Water—must be seen to be believed.

Finally, grab a bowl of noodles, sit back and watch the hustle of Hong Kong Island pass you by from the top deck of an old wooden tram. They trundle from one end of the island to another, at one point going right through a street market!


Asialink www.asialink.unimelb.edu.au/

Detour Festival www.detour.hk

Hong Kong Arts Festival www.hk.artsfestival.org/

Macau Fringe www.macaufringe.gov.mo/

Bamboo Theatre/West Kowloon www.wkcda.hk/

Hong Kong Fringe Club www.hkfringe.com.hk/

Asia Art Archive www.aaa.org.hk/

Clockenflap www.clockenflap.com/

Fo Tan Estate www.fotanian.com/

Videotage http://videotage.org.hk/

Frog King www.frogkingkwok.com/home.html

Sound Pocket www.soundpocket.org.hk/

Aqua Spirit Bar www.aqua.com.hk/

City Loft Serviced Studio http://cityloft.com.hk/

For more on Hong Kong in RealTime see Melinda Rackham’s survey of HK media arts in RT107


Bec Allen is the Producer with Kate Champion’s company Force Majeure, Sydney.She is a graduate of NIDA and has been working in producing, stage and company management for the past 10 years for companies including Belvoir, Sydney Theatre Company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, Performing Lines, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and most recently as Creative Producer for Darwin Festival (2009/10).

For more on Force Majeure see realtimedance

24 April 2012