Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Recommendations required

It has been over 6 years and I don't really have anything to show for my time here in HK, other than an impending citizenship and marginal improvement on my Cantonese. It takes one weekend of under indulgence to trigger existential questioning.

I've decided, it's time to make another attempt at continued education. I contact my very first manager and my most recent manager and kindly ask for referrals.  Within 24 hours, I submit my application for a Masters in Science. Science is fun.

Currently reading: "Born Standing Up"

Saturday, 27 May 2017

That time I took a really long hard look at myself in the mirror

Friday afternoon, a new employee to the firm tests the waters with: "Hey, my wife is out of town. Anybody want to grab a happy hour drink?". He's a new joiner, making an effort to get to know the team. I pause. I have plans to wake up early and hit the gym before the first junk of the season. Just one drink. A group of six of us head down to a small oyster bar on Queen's Road East, the ambiance is nice, we put back half a dozen wines, and half a dozen oysters.

It's still early, and continue onto another bar. This time it's Old Fashions and Negronis. 10 pm, starting to feel a little woozy, I can still make it home and wake up early. The group disbands, I flag a taxi and as I'm about to hop in, I feel a tug on my arm. My co-worker jumps into the taxi "Come back to mine, I have some nice Japanese Whisky!". Uh, ok. 11 pm, we finish the whisky. "How about one more drink in LKF?". Midnight, I check in my work bag into the cloakroom of the bar. "Hold on, my wife is calling". I bump into another group of friends. The spiral begins. I end up at another bar. 2 am, incoherent. I really need to go home.

Flag a taxi and finally, one drink later, I'm home. Concierge sees I'm clearly inebriated I gift hima perfunctory greeting and take lift up to apartment. Apartment keys aren't in my pocket; I grit my teeth. Frantic thoughts. Who has my spare key? Both spare keys are with people are conveniently overseas this weekend. I go down to concierge and request a locksmith. At this hour, the going rate is at least 500 HKD. Pull out my wallet, I realise I don't have enough cash; I grit my teeth. I go down to the nearest ATM and pull out my wallet. I realise I have lost my bank card; I grit my teeth. What is happening?

Ok, I have a spare key at work. Where's my work building pass? Wait, where's my work bag? I instantly snap back to sobriety and retrace my steps back. I retrieve my work bag and return home. The next morning my concierge is accosting me in Cantonese, I can only imagine what he's saying. Time to make some changes. Adding "lock picking" to my list of skills to learn this year.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

It's finally happened

It is the sound of a glass shattering, followed by a raucous mirth. The commotion propagates up from street level and through my eleventh floor windows. I'm stirred and briefly open my eyes, it's still dark, I turn and close my eyes. The disturbance continues. Unintentionally, they have succeeded, I am awake. Like a nosey neighbour I pull aside the curtains and peer out of my window onto the street below. Friday night drinks are in full effect and the procession has moved onto the street. I look at the clock, it's 12:45 am. Yes, I'm at home on a Friday, but that's besides the point. The disturbance continues.

Irate, I decide to take action. What's the emergency number in Hong Kong? It's not 000, or the 911. I have no idea, I pull out my phone and spend the next 5 minutes searching for Hong Kong noise complaint hotlines. The screen bathes me in LCD glow, I cannot find anything. I decide to call the restaurant below and give them a piece of my mind. The dial tone starts ringing, there's no answer. It rings a 4th time, and a polite gentleman answers the phone. "Sorry, there seems to be a lot of noise coming from downstairs, not sure if it's you guys, but do you mind keep it down, else, I'll have to call the police". "Hi, sorry, thank you for not calling the police, we will try to keep it under wraps". Click.

I feel a sense of emancipation. The noise mutes almost instantly. I drift back into slumber, despite being so worked up. I wake up the next morning realising what I have done. I've become the person that calls in noise complaints.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Everything in real time: Thailand

There's a handful of individuals in the Hong Kong troupe (note, troupe, not troop, subtle but poignant difference) that follow the mantra "everything in real time". Essentially it's YOLO, spontaneity, and a lack of planning packaged into one phrase. The tenants of "Everything in real time" include: not making any plans, booking flights last minute and not telling people about your plans until you're standing in front of them somewhere where you're least expected.

This trip was real time - Flights and hotels booked on the Thursday, flight out on the Friday, arrive in Bangkok on the Friday evening. The door opens, she's standing there glistening in sweat with a lopsided bindi on her forehead, oh and she's holding a Phuang Malai. Weird, but not surprising.

This is a continuation of the story-arc with the purveyor Coachella tickets. Not the first meet up, the first meet up was a rather vanilla meal and a massage (oh, and Tagalongs). This was essentially the same thing. Meals and massages. Highlight includes: Food. Evening run around Lumpini Park. Questionable transferable tattoos. Getting my Cinnabon and Krispy Kreme fill. Fun.

"Ooga Chakka Ooga Ooga" - Hooked On This Feeling, Blue Swede

Friday, 28 April 2017


Gummi bears. Supreme couch-lock. Everything is heavy. Arms. Eyelids. Darkness.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Unlikely Bucket list item: Coachella

In December, Phoebe suggests to Brian "We should go to Coachella". Brian says "Yes, let's do it". Brian relays the following to Derek "Hey, we're going to Coachella, you should come". Derek replies "Let me think about it". In January, Phoebe tells Derek "Hey, we're going to Coachella, and we have space in the apartment, you should come". Derek responds "Oh yeah, Brian mentioned this. Let me think about it". In February, it's 3 am in the morning and Robert adds Derek to a WhatsApp group chat called "Coachello 2027 first week". The name of the event is wrong, so is the year. Derek is intrigued and immediately books flights to Los Angeles.

Coachella, the music festival associated with faux Bohemian, dessert palms trees and the Ferris wheel has not been on my radar of things to do. However, the performance line up, the minimal time off work and the group of people traveling was enough to convince me that this would be the best way to spend my Easter. The only problem was, I didn't have Coachella tickets, which was the least of my concerns, these things usually work themselves out.

I had exhausted all options on the secondary market (Gumtree, Craigslist, etc) and was resigned to the last resort of Viagogo; with an expected premium of 2x the retail price. That was until, I found a third use for dating apps, e-Commerce. A dormant match roused into a non-sequitur, non-contiguous thread that folded between broccoli sprouts and apple cider vinegar and eventually availability of Coachella tickets. We exchanged details and through friends the transaction was finalised. All the while, I wondered if this was an elaborate ploy to scam unsuspecting victims out of their hard earned cash in exchange for the promise of hard-to-acquire goods and services. My fears were allayed when the wristbands beeped with confirmation as I passed through the gates of Coachella 2017. Aside from actually finding a life partner, and/or getting laid this was the next best use for swiping right.

So how was it? Well, mixed feelings. The performances were excellent, Kendrick, Gaga, The Fugees, Drake, Empire of the Sun all amazing. The downside was the crowds and inter-stage navigation. It was an absolute nightmare getting in, out and around the venue especially when there's another 90,000 people trying to do the same. From vehicle drop off to the main stage, it took around 40 minutes, including a long walk, multiple security checks and an ID check. The glaring smear on the event was the 3 hour UBER line on the first night. We ended up rushing the car park as the new "UBER ID" system had failed and reduced us to a Hunger Games situation where there was no longer any rules.

I think what really made me sour was the fact that I lost my phone on the first evening. Which kind of put me in a bad mood, particularly because I was planning to meet up with friends who were also at the festival from Sydney and Hong Kong. Anyway, I'm over it!

It was not all doom and gloom - It was so good being at a legitimate music festival. For me, most of the fun happened outside, with the road trip from LAX to Palm Springs. Eating our way through the classics: Inn-and-Out, McDonalds, Burger King, IHOP. Foraging for groceries at Stater Bros, trying to find medical marijuana and spending hours trying to cultivate the perfect Coachella outfit. Would I go again? Maybe, if the right line-up presented itself.

Currently reading: "The Magic of Thinking Big"

Monday, 3 April 2017

Taiwan: Spring Scream #3

I return from Spring Scream, for the third time. It is with a heavy heart that I declare this to be my last and final trip to Kenting for the event. Over the years you have provided me with euphoric, youth and exuberance that has genuinely made being a raging alcoholic worth every moment of existence. However, it's time to hand the baton over to the younger generation, those with more resolve and sturdier serotonin warehouse (see:

So what brings me back? A buck's party for one of the Hong Kong Originals. Taiwan had to be done. Spring Scream had to be done. And we did it. As with most Spring Screams, the weather was cold, the beach festival had us rugged up in long sleeves and cowering for shelter as we nonchalantly sipped on our Bear Beer. The crowds were thinner this year, perhaps a combination of the inclement weather (it was cold and raining the entire weekend) and the fact that there was a huge music festival the following week.

Majority of the crew landed in Taipei the night before and braved the train ride from Taipei to Kaohsiung. I was one of the fortunate that arrived fresh on Saturday morning and checked into Smokey Joe's, our usual abode for the weekend. That freshness would be long gone by Monday. The weekend, was everything we expected and signed up for.

Except for the debilitating come down that following week. We returned to Hong Kong Monday morning, feeling fresh. 7 km run, followed by a dinner with a friend followed by death. I imagine this is what happens if you were to come off heroin, or to be faced with some life threatening malady. The inability to stomach food, compounded with fevers and headache was agony. Most frustratingly was the physiological rejection of sleep. Five out of the ten participants on the trip had developed these symptoms. I was one of the five.

Collectively, we took sick leave and willed on the sleep only to drift in and out of REM. We concocted a cocktail of herbal teas, tart cherry extracts and melatonin supplements but the sleep never came. Some of us, so concerned had taken the liberty to see their local physician only to be told that all their vitals "Looked OK" and that they "just needed rest". Four days later, I'm sleeping again. What a trip.

Currently reading: "Tools of Titans"