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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