A few weekends ago a couple of the foreign teachers and I took a trip across the border for the Gay Pride Parade. We arrived at the checkpoint extremely early, determined to beat the queues decked out in sequined skirts and bowler hats. Excited and chatting eagerly we rode the metro into central Hong Kong, salivating as we thought about the breakfast possibilities this side of the border – noodles, pak choi and watery rice porridge were strictly forbidden.
We arrived and went straight to a coffee house for some nourishment. Whilst we sat drinking what we swore was the best cup of coffee we had ever tasted, we got chatted up by a lone east-coast American. He was easily about 60 years old, here on business and opened with the line “So you girls must be models right?” We made polite chat and casually shook him off as we headed out for a spot of retail therapy. We posed for photos in Abercrombie and Fitch, all giggling as we swooned over pictures of ourselves with our new Asian boyfriend and then headed to Forever 21 for a spending spree – life in China can be hard so retail therapy happens a lot and is too easily justified in our group.
We met up with my friend from university, Charlie, and went across the water for lunch at Pizza Express to gear up for pride.
We got the boat back across to the island and went in search of the parade, expecting to be able to easily locate it by following loud music and crowds of staggering, extravagantly dressed folk as one would do in Brighton. However, this experience was starkly different. Everyone walked in an orderly procession. People occasionally chanted slogans but there was no music, there were no floats and there was a noticeable lack of glitter and sparkle. As opposed to a party this was very much a sober demonstration and it was eerily quiet too. It was like we had joined a protest that was marching through the streets of Hong Kong rather than a celebration of diversity as it usually is in the UK. There were people watching us go past from the pavement and others standing on bridges. There were camera crews and a police escort all along the way until the march reached its destination – an enclosed park behind the main shopping streets of central Hong Kong. There were stalls handing out information on sexual health and a stage where people sang mellow songs on acoustic guitars.
Although it wasn’t a party it was still a great experience. It made it clear just how far we have progressed in the UK with regard to Gay Rights, how difficult that journey must have been and how much I appreciate belonging to such an open society. Change is happening here of course but it is, as is the case everywhere, gradual.
Afterwards we went on a search of epic proportions for an off-licence to enjoy a bottle of vino on the rooftop terrace of a mall. This turned into a wild goose chase halted by the sheer impossibility of crossing roads in Hong Kong. You must always look up in this city in order to find an overpass because at street level there is always a 6 lane road with a 6 foot barrier in the middle separating you from that 7-Eleven across the road. In the end we found a fancy wine seller in one of the innumerable malls. The place was dimly lit, with Boho’s sniffing large glasses of wine and eating olives. With as much class as we could muster we asked for ‘the cheapest bottle they had’ and then proceeded to scrape together our coins and notes at the till. This did not deter the assistant from doing her job properly however and she spent a good five minutes extravagantly wrapping up our bottle even though she probably knew her hard work would be ripped open and the bottle passed between four mouths before we had even crossed the threshold of the shop.
I finished off the night with a midnight showing of Skyfall – and for fear of falling asleep this was preceded by a press-up challenge against Charlie and plenty of iced coffee. The cinema, located in Pacific Place, was incredibly comfortable with large plush chairs that are rivaled only by the ‘couple’s’ cinema in Paris where you can remove the armrests between seats. The film itself was pretty exciting too.
The next day, Charlie and I set off for a day across the border so I could show him the sights and history (read: malls and more malls) of Shenzhen. We were brutally separated at the border due to the lack of a visa for Charlie. Lingering in No Man’s Land, we said our goodbyes and I watched him as he was escorted back to whence he came by an armed guard.