The Southorn Playground, how two worlds merge
On a sunny afternoon I decided to search for a spot to enjoy the good weather in Hong Kong. After the cold in Russia, Mongolia and partly China and my troublesome month I decided trying to stay in one place for a longer time. A place more westernized and with good weather. Hong Kong met all the requirements.
The Southern Playground is in the Wan Chai district, the area where I spent most of my days in Hong Kong. It’s an open space in between the skyscrapers that are omnipresent in Hong Kong. Everything seems to be high, small and tiny in this city: the streets, the buildings, even the trams and buses are perfectly fitting in the small streets, since they are all double-deckers. Some apartment blocks are like needles, looking as they can be blown away by a strong wind. But even in one of the most busy places in the city, you can find this kind of places: parks or playgrounds / sports fields where the rays of sunlight see a chance of actually hitting the ground, since most of the streets here are covered by the shade of the skyscrapers. I sat down on one of the benches’ to watch the people. I realized this place perfectly describes Hong Kong for me. East meets West. Two worlds collding, but blending perfectly. At one side I see a group of young students playing basketball. Half of them Chinese looking, the others Western. At the other side, Western expats are enjoying their coffees or lunch, watching one of the games going on like me, or reading a newspaper. In between the sport fields some old Chinese women are doing Tai Chi, performing their slow movements undisturbedly, contrasting with the fast sport players. On the bench next to me, an old man with a sun-tanned face is enjoying the sun as well. Since there is public wifi on this place, funded by the local government, I am able to listening to my favorite mixes on Soundcloud, while watching all the people. This city is so organised! Everywhere (public) wifi, the public transport is really good and all the signs are translated in English. At least, as long as you are in the centre of Hong Kong. The further you get to the border of China, the less western and the more Chinese the city is.
I’ve been staying in both parts of Hong Kong, which made me discover the two worlds of the city even better. I had a chance to get a feeling of how it is to be an expat in the city centre: working hard, but enjoying life to the fullest outside working hours, because you have the money to afford eating and drinking in all the nice bars and restaurants around. Or betting money at the horse races on Wednesday night in Happy Valley. And if you win, you can spend it again on (expensive) pints. In the weekends there are enough options to enjoy the sun on the several beaches or islands around Hong Kong Island: from the central ferry pier you can just pick a pier number and see whatever island the boat will drop you. If you have a little more time off from work, Hong Kong is a perfect international hub to leave for a city trip. Bangkok, Shanghai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Singapore… it’s all just a short flight away.
In New Territories I saw the more local life, where food is cheaper and everyone is eating outside in the streets, until late in the night. In the old villages whole extended families are living together or next to each other. Walking around in the narrow streets that connect the houses I could hear and sometimes see the people in their living rooms. Although I overheard some big argument between two people (I guess living close with your family gets tough sometimes) I could also feel that this places were filled with a lot more love and meaningful lives than the expat world in the city. Working in a foreign ‘country’ far away from home is not always easy and although it is fun to party all the time, I think it sometimes gets to a point where all this drinking and partying is just a matter of distracting yourself. After all the trouble I had in Mainland China I must say I wanted to be distracted (maybe a little too much) as well, so I made good use of the fact that I could finally find some western (or at least English speaking) people and parties.
After my bad luck in China it seemed that Hong Kong was going to make up for it. Mostly through Couchsurfing, I met some amazing people, who helped me in all kinds of ways. I stayed in the city for one month. How and why? Well, because of the new friends I made, I managed to stay with some of them, so I didn’t have to pay for a hostel during this month. Hong Kong is expensive, but without rent it was doable… And why so long? Of course I could easily see most highlights in a couple of days, but that was exactly what I didn’t want to do. I was tired of moving all the time and ticking of boxes of ‘must-sees’. I wanted to wake up when my body told me to and then think of what the hell I was going to do. If this was just chilling in a coffee shop all day, that was fine. Or enjoying the sun at the Southern Playground, watching the two worlds of Hong Kong come together.
Thank you Hong Kong & especially thank you my Hong Kong friends <3
Check all the photos I made in the slideshow below.