Hongkong, happiness & freedom

by wynlim

When I was cold, hungry and lonely in Vancouver, it wasn’t Singaporean food that I missed, it was the cantonese-speaking old uncles and aunties in HK-style cafes which I had found deeply comforting. Eating an eggtart or pineapple bun (thanks Elaine! – everyone else needs to eat these at Lido Cafe in Richmond, Vancouver) made me very satisfied and they warmed my heart.

I am not sure what exactly it is – my love for Hongkong extended to having crushes on various cantonese-speaking girls back in my teenage years.

The first place I ever dreamed of going out of Singapore was Hongkong. It was supposed to be a reward-trip for me when I topped my class at age 7 but it never happened till I was 19 (long story). Perhaps that longing for it only sought to extend the whole magical feel of the place. 

I grew up listening to cantonese pop and watching tvb dramas. I used to be embarassed about admitting it because it made me sound so auntie but these days I appreciate that part of my life a lot more. Yup, am one of those who doesn’t listen to strange hip music on Spotify. 

My favorite thing to do when I used to visit Hongkong, well, apart from eating, was to stock up on out-of-print CDs and VCDs/DVDs. I would spend hours in HMV or little local-owned record stores. These days I have a digital library instead, so I don’t really visit record stores or bookshops much anymore. That in turn gave me time to take in whatever sights which come along.

I really love the city for being so city and yet so uncity, you know what I mean? Instead of tearing everything down and building skyscrapers everywhere, you catch glimpses of tradition everywhere (these are taken in my 2009 trip):


And I haven’t even started on the ridiculous amount of street food:


And then there’s things like these on the road:


Little dessert shops like this:


Then strange shops perched in the middle of nowhere:


And I can’t tell you how much I loved Tai-O:


The thing about Hongkong, you can’t just visit Central or Mongkok and call it done, there is so much to do here that I am actually glad that this time around I have the opportunity to be here for a month.

This time around instead of rushing everywhere, I am just slowly walking around, taking in ordinary but meaningful sights:


After the past year or so, I am really appreciating the silver linings in every cloud. I would probably stay in Singapore if short-term accomodation wasn’t so expensive. I had a blast for the last month I was there, but stay anywhere for too long and it turns into a comfort zone. 

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal. – Paulo Coelho

I feel tired lugging a heavy luggage everywhere – my luggage is only heavy because I wanted to see how it is to lug my external monitor around, I have no regrets because having an external monitor is awesome and perhaps I do need some arm exercise anyway. Despite the apparent fatigue of moving all the time, it makes me feel like I am living my life with an extra layer of consciousness and awareness. Because everything is so temporal, I feel happy eating a bowl of fishball noodles in Singapore knowing I am not going to have access to it everyday, it makes every cup of iced yuanyang in Hongkong seem more precious.

It occurred to me that this is the life I have always dreamed of. This life which I dreamed of, was only possible precisely because life did not work out the way I thought it would. With this, I learnt that there is a key difference between what I think I want and what I really want.

People have commented that my face looks brighter. I feel brighter and lighter because I realised happiness to me is freedom. The freedom to be anywhere, to do things I want to do, to be creating anytime. It does not matter what I own or if I’ve managed to reach milestones I have set for myself – as long as I don’t feel stuck – I feel blessed. Freedom is knowing that I can lose everything now and it will be okay. 

I know I will be okay because I have gone through shit to know that everything will work itself out. Even all those times I was in despair.

Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – JK Rowling

For me, reaching rock bottom was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Reaching rock bottom allowed me to see that I have nothing to lose, and knowing I have nothing to lose allowed me to understand the true meaning of freedo

If there is one thing I fear, it would be losing my health – and that makes me even more enthusiastic about wanting to experience more of the world. So each time I hesitate because I want to be comfortable, this is what I remind myself with. For it is not too long ago when I couldn’t even get out of bed, I remember how it feels to be better dead than alive; that memory takes away all my desire for comfort.

I am really happy to be here in Hongkong.