Hong Kong Rooftops: Fotan

Wah Luen is the cheapest building in Fotan, an out-of-the-way industrial district near Shatin. Since the early 2000s, it has become the epicentre of an artists’ colony populated largely by graduates of the nearby Chinese University. About 100 artists live and work in the area, most of them in high-ceilinged studios in the Wah Luen […]

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Exploding with Greenery

Chaotic, polluted, the cradle of Cantonese culture — these were some of the ways I had heard Guangzhou described before I visited last month. Reality was a bit different. It wasn’t chaotic at all; in fact, it was rather calm and orderly for a Chinese city. It was also less Cantonese than I expected. Cantonese […]

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Waiting to Cross the Street

Shinjuku, Tokyo Robson Street, Vancouver East Village, New York

Killing Prince Edward Road’s Creative Buzz

Twenty years ago, when film producer Amy Chin was looking for a new office, she came across a 1,500-square-foot flat in an old shophouse in the Mong Kok Flower Market. She fell in love as soon as she saw the 12-foot ceilings, balcony and huge, enclosed verandah. “This place is very good for creative people […]

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Renovating Hong Kong’s Flower Market

There are many easy things in life, but selling flowers, apparently, isn’t one of them. For more than 30 years, Cheung Yuk-hing and his family have run a flower stall in a laneway near Mong Kok’s Flower Market Road, selling peonies, orange trees and other plants they grow in a New Territories orchard. The hours […]

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The Maddening City

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByOwuU-hh8s[/youtube] Last night I attended Time Out magazine’s showcase of Hong Kong indie bands and my ears are still ringing. There weren’t many surprises — A Roller Control was excellent as usual, as was Chochukmo — with one exception: Choi Sai Ho, a one-man audio-visual electronic act whose frenetic music and jittery on-stage personality embody […]

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Morning Coffee: Toronto’s Café Aesthetic

I Deal Coffee The Communal Mule I was looking forward to spending three days in Toronto last year: good food, fun times with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, aimless autumnal wandering. Instead I was waylaid by a terrible cold I developed on the train from Montreal. I spent much of my time […]

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Hong Kong Rooftops: Condemned

Forty years might not even be close to a lifetime for most people, but in Hong Kong, it’s enough to witness the birth and death of a neighbourhood. In the mid-1960s, when Cheung Cheuk-kuen and his wife, Cheung Tsui-lin, moved into a flat on the top floor of a building in Kwun Tong, it was […]

Dear Hong Kong: A Letter from Montreal

The following essay appears in the April 2010 issue of Muse, a Hong Kong arts and culture magazine. The same issue also contains my feature-length profile on Hong Kong’s “tree professor,” Jim Chi-yung. The magazine can be found at major bookstores throughout the city. In my neighbourhood, I know exactly what language to speak. At […]

A New Square

When I returned to Montreal last fall, I spent much of my time riding around the city on Bixi bikes, which was the closest I’ve ever felt to complete freedom in a very long time: a bike, a city and nothing holding me back from just riding around aimlessly. It gave me a chance to […]

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Hong Kong Rooftops: Shek Kip Mei

Eddie Lui looks out from atop the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, leaning on a cane, contemplating the scene before him. He waves his hand out towards the old housing estates of Shek Kip Mei, their pale yellow paint dulled by the grey skies and damp air. “This is a space where you can really […]

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Cargo Port by Day, Playground by Night

By day, the Western District Public Cargo Working Area is a sun-bleached strip of forklifts, barges and rusty containers. By night, it’s another world. People from across Hong Kong’s Western District sneak into the cargo area to ride their bikes, fish, barbecue, sit by the water and chat with friends. Security guards watch the activity […]

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Red White and Blue

Bangkok Guangzhou Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Rooftops: Russell Street

The tong lau on Russell Street, across from Times Square, is not in the best shape. Walking upstairs from the street, I pass a bookstore and a hair salon; after the third floor, the shops give way to apartments and the stairwell becomes filled with rubbish, its tiles stained by years of grime. By the […]

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