Monday, May 20, 2013

Unexpected hostility against the pedestrians - Hong Kong

A fisherman at Hong Kong harbor and the hazy skyline in the background
It's Sunday night and Lan Kwai Fong is not very lively. To be honest I'm not very fond of the place. In the weekends it gets crowded with assholes all dressed up, driving their fathers' expensive cars and, stamped on their bulldog faces, an arrogant expression that seems to say: "I have all this because I deserve it. Because I am what I am and you are a heap of shit!" And the bouncers - poor bastards who get paid nothing and treated badly, maybe with their work permit hanging from that lousy job - who back them up, always watching whether your shoes are shining, your shirt is freshly ironed and starched, if you smell like misery or have a misfit look, a wanker one or, even worse, both of them. On workdays they can't afford to be too picky though; they invite you to go in, and if you're wearing flip flops and undershirt they will still try to humiliate you, but in a more pathetic way: "Hey, that's not good..." they'll say as they spitefully pinch your shirt with two fingertips " time you dress better, OK?" Yeah, sure, next time I'll spray a couple of drops of Eau de Manure on the redneck shirt I'll be wearing. Get out of my asshole, minion and pitiful loser.
We buy a beer at 7eleven (in these area even 7elevens only sell the most expensive brands), we take a look at all the half empty bars without even spending 50 cents, have another beer at 7eleven, a coffee at McDonald's, where we also have a chat with two nice Chinese girls, and then we decide to take a walk up to Wan Chai, just to have a look at the last-drunk-stage wretches trying to pick up the few hookers who still haven't got their customer of the night. And then go home. Hold on, slow down with the superlatives: just those dingy Nathan Rd. mansions, call them home...
We ask the girls for directions to Wan chai. They say we'd better take a taxi but we're not in a hurry; actually we're not that interested in that place at all: it's just an excuse to take a walk and kill some time. We check J's phone GPS: it's less than 2 km, very short...let's go!
The girls were right, of course. There is a straight road leading there but the urban architecture here is terrible, totally hostile to the pedestrian race. At every crossroads there are fences blocking your way, zebra crossings are rare and you need to walk many meters away from your itinerary to reach them. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can find a pedestrian bridge, but it's always very long and winding. In order to avoid these obstacles we need to leave the sidewalk and walk on the edge of the road, something that, after so many years in South East Asia, where the sidewalks are often very busy or taken over by street vendors, I got used to.
We're a bit demotivated when we arrive at Wan Chai, we buy one last beer (obviously at 7eleven: this is a lower class area, they do have the cheap brands here), we listen to two Indians having a boring conversation - which inevitably ends with a blurred plan to enter a business partnership and become ver-r-ry r-r-r-ich! - we look at the drunkards and the hookers who pigeon-walk around each other, and then go back to our rooms. 
Honestly I've always been fond of Hong Kong: as a Chinese place with Western standards it's way more vital and authentic than Singapore, and it seems to be livelier than Taiwan, for the little I've seen of the latter. 
I was not expecting this lack of respect for pedestrians around here. I can understand the safety driven restrictions, but they should offer some valid alternatives, not just force those who are walking to follow a bowel-shaped route in order to let the vehicles speed along a straight line. This all looks very China Mainland-like, and that's something the average Hongkongese would never want to hear. 
Fortunately this issue seems only to apply to the central island: Kowloon is much more pedestrian-friendly. 
And then, as we all know, every place, even the best one, has its flaws. Maybe, who knows, Hong Kong doesn't have many more. 

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