HONG KONG ENCOUNTERS
Lindsay Varty is an award-winning writer, public speaker, author and a member of the Hong Kong women’s rugby team. Lindsay currently gives talks to schools and societies about Hong Kong’s unique culture and identity and the need to protect it. She also runs walking tours around the city which focus on the characters and industries in her book Sunset Survivors. Her work has been featured on TEDx, CNN, The Guardian, CCTV, SCMP and more.
For more information on Sunset Survivors, please visit the website or social media:
1) Daniel Hewson (DH): What are some of the unique stories emanating from Hong Kong that have fueled your imagination?
- Lindsay Varty (LV): I didn’t really even need imagination for my book Sunset Survivors! Because it’s all real! I think a lot of the time, people are interested in things only once they have disappeared; it’s sadly often only after a grandparent passes away, or a business closes down, that we suddenly think of a thousand questions we should have asked them or wish we could have spent more time with them or supported the business. But my hope is to draw people’s attention to the Hong Kong ‘history which still exists here today, that we can see for ourselves and ask all the questions we want to. We can part of that history and understand our culture and identity more. So for me, the inspiration was the snippets of ‘old Hong Kong’ that still exist in the modern city we know today.
2) DH: In terms of dining experiences, which places do you recommend in Hong Kong and why? In terms of cuisine?
-LV: If you want an authentically Hong Kong dining experience, I recommend going to eat at a local dai pai dong (a local outdoor eatery often built into an alleyway). You can order an array of delicious HK dishes such as tomato macaroni broth or HK style French toast. The food, the setting and the service sum up Hong Kong well!
3) DH: Where are some of the unusual places and points of interest that you have explored in Hong Kong? The parts of Hong Kong that you would not expect to read about in a Lonely Planet travel guide?
-LV: I like to take visitors to the lesser explored areas of Hong Kong- away from the shiny tourist centres and shopping malls — and more so to the grittier side of Hong Kong such as Sham Shui Po or Yau Ma Tei. These places are a real depiction of HK life; they have old and new, modern and traditional, all squeezed into one tiny area. You can find shiny hotels next to 100 year old buildings with old men making copper urns, and traditional pawn shops next to modern restaurants. These are the places where my parents took me as a child to see what Hong Kong was really like, and I still think these areas have a lot of character.
4) DH: If you had to imagine Hong Kong in 2048 how would you picture it? What will stay the same and what may change?
- LV: Hong Kong is a place obsessed with development. So I reckon all the flying cars and robots you can imagine will be here. Whilst it will be a hotspot for modern technology, I think that obsession will inevitably lead to the demise of many of Hong Kong’s oldest traditional industries.
5) DH: If you had only 5 days in Hong Kong what would you do for those 5 days?
-LV: Visit old shops, go on walking tours, take the star ferry, visit the outlying islands and eat a lot of dim sum.
6) DH: What are some of the most tender encounters through story telling that you’ve had in Hong Kong?
- LV: In the writing of my book, Sunset Survivors, I got to interview 30 different craftsmen and women running some of the oldest and most traditional industries in the city; everything from shoe shining to face threading, fortune telling and more. What touched me the most was that none of them were sad that their own businesses were failing, but they were sad that their skill or practice would be lost forever as none of the younger generation wished to learn it.
7) DH: I was born in Cape Town and up until now have lived year for most of my life (other places have included Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Frankfurt & South Korea). Cape Town has been a vital ocean passage between the Americas, Europe and Asia. Portuguese voyaged through the Cape in search of spices and new trade in India. Sugar was traded from the Philippines to the USA via Cape Town. Like Hong Kong, Cape Town is a site with a multitude of layers and experiences. Similarly, both harbor cities have been heavily influenced by the British. What for you are the crossovers and interplays?
-LV: Hong Kong is a city with influences from all over the world. We pride ourselves in having many restaurants with just about every cuisine in the world on offer. There is a lot of British influence here: many streets are named after former British governors, we drive on the left, and we have an obsession with afternoon tea! But there is also a love for Japanese food, for Portuguese egg tarts, Korean fashion, and so much more. It’s a very multi-cultural city, and I love that about my home as I’m a multi-cultural person!
8) DH: Are there any further details about Hong Kong that you’d like to share?
-LV: It’s an amazing city with so much to do. Many people just think of the city and the sky scrapers, but in fact we have beautiful lush mountains and white sandy beaches and the people are lovely. Come visit!