Hiking to Peaks, Boats to the Beach, Chasing Waterfalls and an Introduction to Gambling

Welcome to a brand new edition of What Interesting Events Can Harry Pick Out From the Increasingly Murky Haze That is His Memory?

As the belts of academia and high-octane sport tighten around me, my days and weeks seem shorter, and my time grows ever more precious. Not to say that I don’t enjoy these things, because I very much do, but as I become a more seasoned Hong Konger it becomes more and more difficult to keep track of and record what I’m up to in any linear fashion. Great for me because I’m busy doing lots of fun and interesting stuff, but bad for my dedicated readership because they can begin to expect a less frequent and more disjointed account of my adventures. For a peak into the day-to-day life of an international playboy, the reader may prefer to follow my exclusive, x-rated Snapchat.

Google ‘things to do in Hong Kong’ and you are sure to find Victoria Peak on the list. As the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island it boasts some spectacular panorama. Those impressive shots you’ve seen of the harbour snaking through the jungle of skyscrapers were almost certainly taken at Victoria Peak. A man of lesser caliber will have taken the MTR to central, queued for a disgustingly long time and taken a leisurely cable-car journey to the peak – with plenty of time to absorb the vibrant activity of the SAR and reflect on what a pathetic wet-wipe he is. As Mackenzie from Blazin’ Squad  said: ‘When a man wants to get to the top of the mountain he doesn’t wait in line’, and neither the 35 decree heat, crippling humidity, soul-destroying hangover or lack of appropriate equipment was going to stop me and the newly established Blue Girl Hiking Clubfrom tackling the perilous journey. With the calm endurance of the surrounding streams and incense trees for inspiration, we reached the viewing platform in time for a tea of squashed pain au chocolat and warm tins of lager. Certainly worth every step.

A spontaneous trip to Sai Wan in the New Territories has become a strong contender for the best Monday anyone has ever had. A spot of advice from a chance encounter with an ex-pat on the bus lead to us commandeering a speed boat and being driven, balls to the wall, through the South China Sea, dodging islands as we went before being dropped on the secluded and idyllic beach of Sai Wan. It did not feel like Hong Kong at all, more like Thailand or Bali. If you’ve seen The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, you can imagine me standing in the shallows. After a leisurely wallow and a few beers at the beach bar, we followed a stream that lead to us scrambling up gorges and scaling rock faces before arriving at some beautiful waterfall-fed lagoons. A man of lesser caliber would have paddled about the freshwater, gazing up at the cliffs and imagining what it must be like to have a gram of self-respect. As Maggot from Goldie Lookin Chain said: ‘Like the hermit crab trading in its shell, we cannot grow without first being uncomfortable’, with this in mind I climbed to the best vantage point and, like a cross between Tom Daly and Ezio Auditore, hurled myself into the depths with a flagrant disregard for my fellow swimmers’ well-being. We accidentally decided to take the scenic route back, which involved another perilous, vertical hike to the summit of a vast mountain range, and back down again. The aches in our legs soothed by the endless views of the New Territories.

Hong Kong has an unfair reputation as a superficial, overcrowded, concrete jungle when in fact only about 30% is built on. A less than 30 minute bus journey in any direction and you can be in the sort of untouched natural beauty that London, Paris or New York can only dream of. I thought I’d be spending my life wading through crowds of people whilst coughing up smog and being mugged. In reality I lie on beaches with some cows, surrounded by mountains.

Leaving Albion, I had never placed a bet in my life. I have a fairly long list of methods to squander my money, but gambling never made it on there. A particular past-time I never understood was horse racing. My perception of it (as an outsider) was rabbles of suited men and frilly-hatted women pretending to be aristocrats for the day whilst travelling in coaches and standing in cattle pens, whilst actual aristocrats laugh at them from their private boxes. I stand by this wholeheartedly but have realised that this particular class-obsessed theme of racing is very particular to Britain. Naturally, due to British and Commonwealth influence, horse racing is an institution in Hong Kong. Every Wednesday evening the Happy Valley Racecourse, a 55,000 capacity bonanza of sin, takes more money than the entire Grand National – and not a top hat in sight! This is certainly a vice I can get/have got behind: late night, $10 entry, $20 minimum bet, no dress-code, plenty of beer stands, live music and insane surroundings. Basically all the fun and excitement of drinking and gambling with your mates without any of the class pretentiousness. I have also seen through the looking glass and now, almost, understand how someone could find themselves getting carried away or addicted. The process of reading through stats and figures, deciding on the donkey for you, filling out the betting slip, waiting in anticipation for the start of the race and the exciting climax of the finish definitely tickles the ‘I would quite like to do that again…right now’ part of the brain. Hopefully this will be shouted down by the enlarged ‘I am bored now, can we do something else?’ part of my brain.

All this adventure and I’ve also been to all of my classes at least once! I’m hoping to get this up to twice by the end of the month.

Joi gin.
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  23. Hi Harry
    Where as some people take a toy for all their photos i appreciate your lager can pictures across your travels! Have you named the can? Is it the same one?!
    Love the title of this blog and again your writing and stories are brilliant! I am utterly envious of the beaches and clear water, not so much of the random cow on the beach.
    I had no idea there was so much green space in Hong Kong and you have really opened my eyes to the beauty that is surrounding the city.
    Your experience of the horse racing and insight into the difference of the experience compared to the divides we see here is fascinating. I wonder if the class divide still exists but isn’t apparent to the untrained eye? I always chuckle when the exchange students visiting Southampton explain very carefully to me that everyone who wears tracksuit bottoms and hoodies MUST be a student in Southampton becuase that is ‘how students dress’ and the small details that only a trained British eye can see will know the difference from a youth studying at the University and another from an incredibly different walk of life!
    On the gambling note – my professional response is please don’t get addicted to gambling on your Year Abroad!!!
    Keep the posts coming they are truly excellent!
    Best wishes
    Vanessa

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