Archive | July, 2013

Hong Kong’s best clubs are … where exactly?

31 Jul

hidden agendaIt’s funny how a change of scene can so utterly alter one’s behaviour. About 18 months ago I was to be found most Friday and Saturday nights in the arse end of Dalston, throwing shapes, gurning at strangers and losing my phone. My nights out in Hong Kong are somewhat different, but this new low-key existence is not the result of some new found maturity. Oh no. It could more appropriately be called “adjusting to circumstances”.

Firstly there is no shape throwing. God forbid you actually enjoy yourself at one of the many overpriced late bars in Hong Kong optimistically branded “clubs”, get up from your pre-booked banquette where your friends are sipping Krug and dance. No, no. What you need to do is sit back down, put on that permanent frown and carry on posing.

Secondly, there really is no arse-end of anywhere here. Every district is easily reachable by quick, cheap MTR or taxi, and most of it is gentrified to fuck. Well, that’s not necessarily Hong Kong’s fault given the chronic lack of space and the greed of a handful of property moguls. But when there is a cool local, bar, club or venue, the authorities – probably at the behest of said moguls or the pro-Beijing DAB party, aka the fun police – do their very best to shut it down and harass the owners. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Club 71 in Soho and Tai Lung Fung in Wan Chai have both had to stop smokers going outside after a certain hour – police will circle outside in the late evening hoping to catch an infraction. I almost feel like robbing a bank just so they have something better to do.

One glorious exception to this general lack of grungey, local dives is Hidden Agenda, a 2nd floor factory space near the old airport in an industrial estate in Kwun Tong. It reminds me of my teenaged years dancing to Radiohead in a darkened club beside the River Tyne and is, quite frankly, what Hong Kong needs more of. Except it can’t get a liquor license (which is not too bad, although the BYO beers tend to get a bit warm after an hour), and it can’t open much past 10.

It’s an industrial estate, for fuck’s sake, how many sleeping families are going to be disturbed by a well-insulated live music venue that wants to stay open at the weekends until 1 or 2? I’d rather see a world class DJ perform there than in the horror of Drop, Volar or Hyde. In fact, I’d rather sit outside 7-11 with my iPod on then go back into Volar. That entire Kwun Tong estate could be transformed into a kind of artsy/cultural area with clubs, art galleries, little bars and cafes. Last I heard they were trying to get datacentre companies to move in. It’s a moot point anyway – the whole lot will probably be demolished in a few years to make way for another fucking shopping mall.

In the meantime my nights these days are more likely to be filled with drunken meals, bar crawls and the odd secret beach party than reaching for the lasers. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is no way to live out one’s 30s.

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Bikinis out for the lads – it’s summertime in China!

19 Jul

chinaflagIt’s summertime folks, which can mean only one thing in the People’s Republic of China: the indiscriminate objectification of women. Whoop!

Kicking off this season’s top picks of state-run misogynism is government-run news agency Xinhua with a glorious photo feature from this week entitled Top 10 sexy nudist bathing spots around the world. Quick, someone call the Pulitzer judges…

A snap of “Brighton Nudist Beach” (does this place actually exist??) from what looks like the 80s is among the 10 with the completely superfluous caption: “This beach is officially recognised and belongs to the clothing optional beach”. Err, ok chaps.

Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times, meanwhile, ran an unfathomably long exposé on China’s beauty pageant industry, revealing how corruption and apathy are tragically threatening its very existence.

Yup, keep at it GT, it’s not like there’s any real news to report. And it’s not as if Chinese media reports anything like real news.

With this kind of media coverage deemed completely acceptable it’s perhaps not surprising that much of the Middle Kingdom has rather, um, traditional views when it comes to the fairer sex.

All eyes in recent weeks have been on the case of Li Tianyi, the infamous son of a high-ranking PLA general who is accused of gang raping a woman with four other men after a hard night on the booze.

Whether he gets a fair trial remains to be seen, although the case has gone so high profile now that to be acquitted would make the Party look rather silly, especially given president Xi’s campaign to crack down on official corruption.

One unlikely gent who indirectly jumped to Li’s aid was Tsinghua University law professor Yi Yanyou, who opined on Sina Weibo: “Raping a chaste woman is more harmful than raping a bar girl, a dancing girl, a sanpeinu or a prostitute.”

Ah-huh…

In a later interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yi, who hails from one of China’s most prestigious universities, dug himself into an even deeper ditch with this little gem:

“I’m not saying that Li Tianyi didn’t commit rape, nor that prostitutes could be raped. The same curse words have different impacts on different people. Chaste women and prostitutes have different views on chasteness, so [rape has] a different impact on them.”

It’s not just women who are getting a rough time in China at the moment either. So are male prisoners’ bottoms, according to a new poster put up by the authorities in Inner Mongolia.

It depicts a picture of a sunflower next to a chrysanthemum, with the caption: “Manzhouli court warns township residents to abide by laws, or…”

mongolian prison poster

Now, the authorities are claiming the aim of the poster was to show how prison “takes away one’s best years of his life, like a fading flower”, except the flowers don’t look much different from each other.

They do, however, differ in one telling regard, namely the chrysanthemum has a wider central circular area, especially in comparison to the sunflower, leading naughty netizens to speculate the real, more anal-related reason for the before-and-after prison metaphor.

It hasn’t helped that in Chinese web slang “chrysanthemum”  is apparently often used to mean “anus”.

So there we go. 21st century China? You’re welcome to it…

Hong fun in the summer Kong-shine!

12 Jul

lionsAs someone who has a love-hate relationship with sport, love it when we win, inconsolable when we don’t, last weekend could have gone down as one of the worst since Newcastle “blew” the Premier League lead in ’96. As it happened, it was one of the best. A scintillating 10 minute period from the Lions which routed the Oz-tralians was followed by even greater heroics as Andy Murray reclaimed his British credentials from the claws of Alex Salmond and gave a nation even more to cheer about.

Watching it all soaked in cider and sweat from my Hong Kong home has made the whole thing seem slightly unreal, although at least we’re spared blanket coverage and Sue friggin’ Barker here. In fact, witnessing the demolition of the Wallabies was all the sweeter from the grand colonial setting of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Central. Sipping Tsingtao with my fellow gin-soaked members – whose faces were about the shade of a Lion’s jersey – was particularly satisfying come the final whistle. I can say in all honesty that the “whingeing” moniker is ironically enough 100% more appropriate when applied to our Antipodean cousins – as a nation possibly the world’s worst sporting losers.

So that’s the start of summer then. All here are hugely looking forward to morphing into an unwrung sponge after just a few steps out of the door. As indeed are we to spotting the hordes of teenaged Hong Kong girls – and indeed middle aged women with teenaged girls’ bodies – dressed in hot pants so short  it really does make Wan Chai a confusing place after a couple of sherbets.

There’s honestly not much to do here until September. In a week or so China’s government will pretty much shut down for the summer and Party cadres and their families across the Middle Kingdom will pack up their Louis Vuitton luggage and primary colour clothes and head to Europe or the US on luxury holidays most Chinese can only dream of. They will behave appallingly but spend an obscene amount of (probably) illegally acquired money, thus making them at once both indispensable to the tourist industry of these foreign lands and utterly hated throughout the world.

In the meantime, I for one intend fully to spend my summer afternoons at the beach, my weekends gorging on dim sum and the rest of the time jumping off boats into sea the temperature of warm milk. Oh yeah, and my evenings agonising over the Ashes, having one too many and being bundled onto some concrete by some twat. Probably Australian.