I first visited Hong Kong in 2014 then lived there for one year from June 2016 to 2017. It’s one of my favourite cities for a number of reasons and a place I would love to spend more time in.
Most of these photos were taken with a Canon 6D camera before I gave it away to five kids pointing a gun at me in Rio de Janerio. Since 2018 I’ve been shooting film.
From 2016 to 2017 I taught English to children in Riviera Gardens Tseun Wan. In one of my classes there were three boys and a girl, all of them 4 or 5 years old. I was teaching them how to spell and sound four letter words. They’d been struggling with ending sounds, so I listed them on the whiteboard: ng, rd, ts, et cetera. I wrote the A E I O U in bright colours at the top and handed them our magnetic foam alphabet so they could create their own words.
I went round the class having them choose a vowel for me to write next to the ending sound, then they’d pick a first letter from the magnetic foam set and stick it next to the vowel. We worked our way down the list, with them saying the ending sound aloud, then the vowel and ending sound then the complete word they had created.
I almost changed things up as we got to the last ending sound, but decided to let it run, there were many letters still to choose from, and the chance of what could happen was slim. The foam set was passed to Tina. ‘U’ she said. Her choice was a game changer with regards to odds, but I’d come this far, and was determined the worst would not happen. But it did.
Her little fingers plucked ‘C’ from the board as she read the letter aloud and got up to stick it on the board. ‘You can’t have that one, Tina,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry.’ I couldn’t suppress a laugh. The boys looked at me strangely, smiling. I could see their minds turning over as they figured out this forbidden word. ‘CUNT’ they began to shout. Tina joined in, all of them laughing. ‘CUNT! CUNT!’
Winner Mansion Coffee Grinds – A Confession
I lived in a shoebox sized subdivided apartment in Winner Mansion right above Mong Kok station. There were 5 apartments in what used to be one. Mine was one of two that overlooked Nathan Road. The other belonged to a lovely lady called Angel.
The kitchen consisted of a sink and a plug-in hotplate. I bought a skillet and a rice cooker and easily got by on one pan meals, I perfected my hand-showering technique of rinse, lather, rinse. The bathroom was about a 1.5 mtr long by 0.75 mtr wide.
I became a man of routine, putting everything in its place and doing everything that needed to be done. I didn’t have the space to be untidy. One of the things I did everyday was, stupidly in hindsight, pour the coffee grinds from my cafetière down the sink hole.
One Sunday, many months after I had started this process, I noticed some water pooling in my shower. A sediment of coffee grinds had gathered around the chrome drain. I did what any son of a plumber would do. I went to the nearest hardware store and bought what was marketed as ‘the world’s strongest plunger’. It consisted of the plunger head, but had a hand operated piston pump instead of a solid shaft.
I could hear Angel having what sounded like a pleasant conversation on the phone next door (she was talking in Cantonese, so I couldn’t understand a word) as I set to work. I worked that plunger so hard the cylinder was heating up as I drove the piston up and down. Sweat was dripping from my head into the sludge of coffee and water at my feet. I was at it for over an hour, sucking the liquid up from the drain and forcing it back down. Whatever was blocking the drains was definitely going somewhere, I just had no idea where. Then I heard Angel scream.
Whenever I heard it, I wrapped the plunger in a plastic bag, hid it at the far corner under my bed, and left the flat as quietly as I could. I’d walked as far as Jordan before I got the call.
‘Steven, It’s Angel, are you having problems with your drainage?’
‘Not that I know of, Angel, but I’ve been out all morning.’
‘It’s terrible,’ she said. I could tell she was almost in tears. ‘The sewage is up to my door, it’s almost spilling into my room.’
When I returned the landlady, Angel and my other neighbour Alan were all gathered around a plumber trying to fix the issue. Everything was resolved in the next day or two. The main drain line hadn’t been at suitable downward angle. All my plunging had been doing was forcing the contents from my line and the main line into Angel’s bathroom. Nobody mentioned my coffee grinds as the cause for the blockage. Needless to say I now discard of my coffee grinds in the bin.
What’s would my perfect day in Hong Kong look like?
- Breakfast at The Flying Pan
- Visit to Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei
- See a film at The Broadway Cinemateque
- Have a lunch of vegetarian honey roast pork and rice at one of the Buddhist vegetarian restaurants
- Go for a walk in one of the parks then stroll around the galleries and antique shops between Sheung Wan and The Mid-levels
- Watch the sunset from the Kowloon Public Pier
- Eat a slice of Pizza at the Mong Kok branch of Paisano’s
- Watch the races at Happy Valley (it would have to be a Wednesday. I always put money on horse 9 to win the 9pm race).
- Go see live music at The Wanch or Salon Number 10
- Put some songs on at the jukebox in Le Jardin in LKF
Recommended reading for Hong Kong
- The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré
- The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason
- The Painted Veil by Sommerset Maugham
- Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth