Gold Coast Morning. Catching a very early Monday plane back to Singapore, we stop at the beach across the street from Gold Coast Airport after our short (40 minutes) drive. To feel the sand under our feet, smell the sea breeze and feel it blowing any lingering sleep out of our systems and take in the wonderful sight one last time before boarding. The past week was such a wonderful collection of moments. This week will be too.
Touchdown in the Town with Pink Rooster Garlands in the Streets. Land in Changi in a full-on tropical downpour, take a taxi straight home, unpack, do laundry, curl up on the sofa with a superfood salad from PS and More than Love on repeat. It’s on repeat all week, actually, at work and at home. At 4pm, I’m ready for a late work shift, parallel to the office hours in London, where half of my team is based. From here follows a low-key week of digesting last weeks’ loveliness while doing morning yoga at home, going for open-air yoga by the Bay with a bunch of sweet local girls, getting back into rehab at the gym, heading to Orchard for a check-up at the hospital (it takes the surgeon 2 minutes to decide I’m right on track and that everything is looking good), cooking at home for a change, drinking more tea than coffee to recover from the, admitted, over-caffeination in Australia, receiving beautiful birthday blooms from my family (thoughtfully sent early so I can enjoy them before going to Bali on my birthday) and smiling at the pink rooster garlands hanging prettily in the streets as I walk to and from work.
Weekend in Hong Kong. Once again, I follow S where he is travelling. This week, he and his team have an off-site in his old hometown – he lived in Hong Kong for 8 years before moving to Singapore. I join for the weekend. It’s my second time in town, having gone with him for an event in January as well. Back then, I immediately loved it – the famed energy and soul in the colourful streets; being introduced to his many memory lanes; finding my bearings in a new exciting city. And it’s the same this time around.
New & Old, Bright Lights, Big City. Land at 8pm, flying through immigration to the station, taking a train straight to Hong Kong Station, from where I walk through a massive underground mall to get to Central Station, where a friend of one of my closest friends in London is waiting for me. She’s a journalist, who moved here with her boyfriend six months ago for an adventure. We immediately get along, as my friend knew we would. She is just one of those people – sweet, smart, a good listener, fun, kind… haha, I’m grateful. Earlier in the day, I was chatting to a friend in Copenhagen, who had invited me to her birthday party this Saturday. On one hand, I love how they all do that even though they know I can’t come, as it makes me feel remembered and cared about, but at the same time it always leaves me with a pang of … I don’t know… wonder… why am I not there, cultivating all of those relationships? I know why. I am here, cultivating the most central relationships, the one with myself and with S, and those people in Europe will always be there, just a phone call away, as this girl, this morning. It is funny though, how on one hand you can be a little girl, homesick, missing your family and friends, and finding it hard to let go, and then on the other hand can feel so at home everywhere and eager to have it all. Tonight, I’m reminded that there are like-minded people everywhere, if you’re just open to meeting them. This good example of one such takes me to Sevva, a rooftop bar with sweeping views of the skyline, harbour and Kowloon on the other side. A classic place to bring visitors. We have a glass of rosé and talk, talk, talk, only interrupted when S and his team come over to say hi – they also came to enjoy the view at Sevva! Haha, the world is so small and big. We talk about the contrasts between Singapore and Hong Kong, the cliched clean structure versus the energetic buzz; how Singapore is so futuristic, all of the tech, all of the trees, while Hong Kong is like a time machine to the ’80s; not that it isn’t progressive, it’s just organic in a different way. Moving on to another bar, and then we head home – Lanson Place in Causeway Bay, a beautiful boutique hotel that S used to look at from his flat across the street, thinking it would be nice to go here on a business trip once. In that sense, we are in the future now, haha. It’s the only monumental marble building among glass, steel and aircon-filled multi-coloured skyscraper walls in the street. Nice retreat ambiance – classy, comfortable decor, light feel with lots of mirrors, great view of the city from the room and, importantly, clean and fluffy bed linen.
New and Familiar. Wake up early, meditating and doing yoga in the room. Out for a quick stroll, S taking me through his old stomping ground to an old school tea place, where we have strong black tea in an orange-coloured booth. After a few minutes, he’s off to join his team for a day of hiking, bonding and eating dim sum, while I stay back and finish my tea. Meander around Causeway Bay for a bit, taking in the various impressions – from the luxury stores to the shabby dim sum stalls. Climb a rainbow-coloured staircase to have a view of the street life. Back to the hotel. Long hot shower in the delicious bathroom. Take a look at the hotel breakfast, which seems a bit bland, consider working from the serene-looking library next to the breakfast food, but my feet are itchy so I check out. Cab through town, watching buildings and people on the way – who looks happy and healthy, posture-wise, comfortable in their skin, and who looks strained, and why might that be; who is meandering leisurely and who is clearly on a mission (most, seemingly), so many different impressions and expressions – stopping in my old area, haha, around Cochrane Street. Check out the colourful street market on Gage Street, peep up at Barre2Barre, settle in for coffee and brekkie at Cupping Room, in a window seat, with a view of the buzz and wifi for work, nice calm yet energetic feel. People coming and going on the seats next to me. A couple on a first date. A business meeting. A couple of friends talking, so speedily yet in perfectly harmonious dialogue, about alcohol, alcohol, people watching, Sunday brunches, whiskey, whiskey on the rocks, smoky whiskey, red wine, smoking, people watching, alcohol in general, business development, drinking, Hong Kong, trail running, hiking, alcohol. I feel like I get to know them pretty well, their passions, actions, headspace, internal relationship. Those iconic red taxis driving past. Brief rain showers, batches of sunshine, cloudy, streaks of sun shower. People walking slowly or swiftly, staring at their phones or into thin air or at their surroundings. Alone, in couples, in groups. Locals and visitors. Joyful, neutral, gloomy auras. Average cityscape, humanity in general, with specific Hong Kong characteristics poking out here and there. At noon, I walk up the escalator through Soho, such a spectacular trip, past pastel-coloured buildings and all these alluring hole-in-the-wall wine bars, cafes and boutiques hidden in nooks of the various levels, and check into our Airbnb in Mosque Street. Was considering lunch at Grassroots Pantry, Hollywood Road, or grabbing dim sum somewhere, but instead I got a falafel wrap from hippie happy Mana across from the Cupping Room, which I eat in the broad wooden window bench of our 10th floor flat, where I also stay to work. Such a good spot! Vibrant view of hundreds of high-rises in hues of lilac, beige and baby blue, pink and yellow, a few swimming pools and basketball courts, clusters of trees, a pistachio-green mosque, glassy skyscrapers in the horizon. No conversations of moving objects to distract me. S returns from his field trip early in the evening, and takes me out on a meandering tour of Central and Sheung Wan, those steep-streeted vibrant areas, pointing out his favourite restaurants, bars and cafes, waiting patiently as I stop and marvel at everything from the bamboo scaffolding on buildings to kitsch details on street food stalls, showing me a beautiful green Art Deco building, originally the living quarters of police officers and now converted into a huge modern design and health food market. Dinner at Yardbird, where I went alone in January when he was at a business dinner. We sit at the bar counter and munch on their classic, Korean Friend cauliflower, as well as yummy duck meatballs, a smoky eggplant salad and tender yakitori chicken, while chatting about our days’ activities and insights. Take a tram to Wanchai, one of our favourite means of transportation, sitting upstairs with a cup of nitro cold brew coffee, taking in the buzz below and above us. Meet his team for drinks at an old pawn shop called The Pawn. His one colleague inspires me to do a 30 days challenge – inktober, where you draw one drawing each day throughout the month, with a theme or not, the important thing is to do it. I love drawing but so rarely take time to do it – this would be a good framework for seeing what consistent sketching could lead to. It is one of those activities that make me lose track of time and surroundings – the kind I wanna pursue, haha. Move on to a rooftop bar with gorgeous views of the skyline. From here, S and I continue on our own – to have an hour long foot massage in a dodgy looking place with very talented therapists.
Out and About with My Favourite Local Guide (in pretty much any city;)). Waking up to rain – staying in bed and snuggling with music, magazine articles read aloud, meditation. Up and ready to seize the day at 8:30am when it clears up. Walk down the escalator for coffee at Blend & Grind (which sounds like a dating app, as S points out later). Meandering around Sheung Wan, getting coffee at the Cupping Room, S leading me up and down small winding lanes, mews and garden paths, pointing out his favourite little tea shop, favourite this and favourite that, taking pictures of each other against colourful street art, stopping under canopies whenever there’s a brief shower now and then. Meeting a friend for dim sum at monumental Maxim’s Palace. Catching a bus to Stanley, one of S’s favourite weekend retreats, with sweeping panoramic views of the steep green mountains dipping into the South China Sea. Hanging out on the beach, having such a good time, and taking a touristy old wooden sailboat back to Central at the end of the afternoon – such a beautiful trip in the golden hour light. All of those – predominantly pastel-coloured – skyscrapers set against the lush hills! WOW! We’re drinking a glass of wine aboard and just overcome with how nice this is. Early spicy dinner at a Sichuan place in Amoy Street. Catching the tram back through the neon lights to the world’s longest escalator, leading us all the way up the mountain to our flat, where we chill out for a bit before meeting a group of S’s close friends for drinks at Coyote and dancing energetically at a kitsch club with a talented live band playing till 1am, feeling happier than ever. So far, my birthday month is going very well 🙂
Zen Sunday. Wake up to brief rain showers once again. Get ready to the tracks of Garrett Kato and check out around 9am. Walk down the escalators one last time for now, stopping for a coffee and chai latte at the Cupping Room in Cochrane Street. Ferry to Lantau, where we meet a couple of friends and their 17-months-old daughter for lunch at a beautiful remote very off-the-beaten-path beach bar, Mavericks, where cool small kids skateboard all over the floor and reggae tunes fill the air. Beautiful view of the smooth sand, clear water and green mountains framing the bay. Lovely chilled catch up, most of our attention directed at the little girl, who is running all over the place, dancing in tune with the music while curiously observing the 3-4 years older boys gliding around her on their boards. Her mum is super entrepreneurial – last time we were here, she had just launched a towel label, Lantau Ren, with each design featuring an iconic local means of transportation (taxi, ferry, cable car, bus) and was thinking about a way of manufacturing a device that could transform manure from the freely roaming bisons all over the island into fertiliser pellets, and today, she hands me a new cheeky statement tote bag and a beautiful gold bracelet with a paper plane charm on it, her creations as well, and shows us pictures of the prototype of her latest inventions, a life admin structuring app and a beach rucksack that compartmentalises wet, dry, hot and cold items as well as provides an escape for sand sticking to toys or shells after a day on the beach, the idea being that you don’t need four different bags and can keep your hands free to hold onto your kids. Getting the idea – and then having the energy and determination to find and collaborate with people able to do technical drawings, designers, web developers and suppliers… I admire her for having the drive and persistence to follow through with all of it. When the family needs to go home for the baby girl’s nap, the driver is ours for the rest of the afternoon. He takes us to the beautiful site of the monumental Tian Tan Buddha and the gorgeously ornamental Po Lin Monastery. Climbing the 286 steps to the 34 metres tall bronze statue resting on a lotus flower on top of a hill, sitting still on a bench at its base for a while, completely in awe, sensing the energy of the place, taking in the sweeping views of the temple, mountains and ocean below. Slowly walking back down, stopping ever so often to hug and just enjoy the panorama, meandering over to say hi to the 10,000 golden Buddhas inside the monastery, sharing an agar agar mango dessert at the vegetarian restaurant next to it, picking up falafel wraps for an airport dinner from the quaint little tourist village at the base of the hill. A few hours later, armed with the newest issue of Monocle and a bag of dried inca berries, we board the plane for Singapore.