Jun 14, 2012|
HK Magazine: Why backpack in your own city?
Kiki Wong: I needed to make a 15- to 20-minute-long documentary for a course... I skipped classes in the first week of April [for my trip].
HK: But you grew up here. How did you lose the familiarity and “re-experience” Hong Kong?
KW: Many people challenged me. “How are you going to travel Hong Kong like an outsider when you know [the] sights and every MTR?” they said. De-familiarizing was to let chance decide my itinerary. Even though I was born and bred in Hong Kong, I can’t possibly know all the different buses by heart! So I would hop on the first bus that arrived.
HK: Where did you sleep and shower?
KW: I spent five nights on the streets. Some nights I slept in the Occupy Central camp under the HSBC building. Once at a pier. It felt most comfortable to sleep inside a 24/7 McDonald’s! I didn’t just rest my head on the tables, but spent the night in my sleeping bag on the sofa. I was so surprised no one shooed us [me and my cameraman] away. In terms of hygiene, Hong Kong’s sports centers have the prettiest bathrooms, complete with hair dryers!
HK: What is hitchhiking in Hong Kong like?
KW: Honestly, the idea of hitchhiking terrified me. But I got my first ride in half an hour and five rides in a day! I expected the drivers to be surprised, but most of them didn’t even ask why. This experience really shattered my original perception of Hong Kong as indifferent and busy.
HK: Have you fallen more in love with Hong Kong?
KW: Some part of the experience confirmed the stereotypes of Hong Kong as bureaucratic and impersonal. A security guard came over within minutes after I laid down on a bench in the park. Apparently it was my lying down that was the problem; it’s alright if I sit up and sleep through the night. But I’ve also met helpful and amazing people who shared their life stories. A former police officer, for instance, spent hours sharing his experience of being undercover in a brothel.
HK: What was the hardest part of your backpacking experience?
KW: The walking, no doubt. Hong Kong doesn’t feel small the minute you start traveling on your feet. I walked all the way from Sha Tin to Tsim Sha Tsui and it exhausted me! All aspiring backpackers: remember to pick a good pair of sports shoes!
HK: What did you get out of the experience?
KW: Those six days made me appreciate the art of not doing anything and not planning anything. It felt wrong not to know what I was doing next or to spend two hours sitting next to the sea. Weirdly, though, you don’t get that feeling when you’re abroad. A Taiwanese girl I met at the Occupy Central camp said Hong Kong has no place to empty your brain.
HK: So what’s your verdict—is it a good idea to backpack in Hong Kong?
KW: It is extremely hard to walk. Did you know that you cannot walk into the harbor tunnels? Only cars are allowed. For backpackers without money, it is impossible to walk from Kowloon side to Hong Kong side. When I walked from Shau Kei Wan to Shek O, the double-decker bus was driving so close to me! I guess it’s partly because Hong Kong is too convenient. People don’t even think twice before taking the subway or bus. The second barrier is finding a place to sleep at night. You’re not allowed to sleep in parks, and now I guess it won’t be allowed in McDonald’s either. But people are surprisingly nice and accepting.