Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Mongkok (旺角) - literally ‘busy corner’. A crowd puller, a ‘Blade Runner’ set, dystopian with a retro-fitted future, old tenements and neon. Foreboding, with a slight air of menace, as Triad-types hang about. It’s too early in the day for them to exert their influence. Darkness is their cover.
You half expect Deckard to sprint out of an alleyway, chasing down a replicant through the surging crowd. Standing on Sai Yeung Choi Street, the buildings press-in, forming a concrete canyon. In the distance is a faint twitter, bird-like. Heading south, the chirping intensifies as Mongkok Road approaches. Then all gets revealed. Thousands of ladies gathered on the Mongkok Road footbridge, engaged in acute relaxation. It’s Sunday, and the maids are at play.
Crammed into every corner, every stairwell and doorway, its a scene of joy, almost carnival. Defying the surly looks of passersby, these ladies are getting on with enjoying themselves. They chat, barter, sell and buy food. They impose self-regulated apartheid of sorts. This footbridge is for Indonesian ladies.
The Filipina ladies locate themselves elsewhere. On Hong Kong Island, the Indonesians claim Victoria Park on a Sunday; the Filipino ladies have Central, Tamar Park and space under the HSBC Tower.
The Indonesian ladies appear intent on escaping their cultural norms. While a good number are wearing the veil and headdress, others are smoking and drinking. What is striking, is no men.
Each group has its pitch. A plastic sheet marks the ground. Shoes lined up on the edge. Windbreaks are covering railings, while food is laid out in plastic containers. It's all neat and tidy. Litter gathered ready for disposal. And the authorities are nowhere. No cleaners, cops or hawker squad. For today its maid territory. Their little bit of Indonesia suspended above Mongkok Road on a footbridge.
It’s a sight to behold. A carefree day-off with friends, ignoring the passing scene with its encroaching urban environment.
Moving on, you enter a different vibe and realm. South of Mongkok Road, Sai Yeung Choi Street gets annexed by an eclectic mix. Wannabe musicians, old-rockers, street performers and the odd nutter. The God-botherers are here, plus a few kids are trying their luck as jugglers.
Drum kits, speakers and amplifiers. All powered by car batteries. Each group keeps a respectful distance from the next, as the passing punters go about their business. It’s all unselfconscious. The singing wouldn’t win any prizes, yet the setting adds to its attraction.
The faces of the singers tell a story. Many nights in the clubs, when they could afford it; a bit too much of the ‘white-powder’ or booze. A botched plastic nose-job, pinched-tight skin. Old ladies with taut figures that turn to reveal age-etched on their faces. A dapper chap in his sharp suit, all elegance.
Then as Dundas Street approaches, it's over as Sai Yeung Choi Street is no more. Ending the journey south. The traffic noise is back, as some half-drunk singer belts out another tune.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.