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Monday, 5 August 2013


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We were supposed to go to Taipei.

It was Peter's birthday weekend, Tyler is in town for an internship and hadn't yet been to Taiwan, Greg deserved a little celebratory trip after closing a major deal, I was event-ed out of my skull... We were all eager for a bit of a break from our Hyperactive lives - we all needed it.

But Hong Kong has a funny way of clawing itself into any effort to try and leave it behind. As the date of our weekend getaway loomed ever closer, people's commitment to the trip also became more and more nebulous. Taipei suddenly seemed like such a massive commitment, we threw our hands up in collective exasperation until Greg said, "Let's just do Macau."

Emma immediately took control of travel arrangements (by default), trawling through a mind boggling array of bundled experiences in search of the best deal. She found a package that included return ferry, show tickets to House of Dancing Water, dessert at some newly opened sweets shop, and casino credits. Ems quickly figured out it would take a lifetime to get everyone's sign-off and simply booked for people who could commit right there and then.

I volunteered to sort out rooms at the Westin, remembering that it was tucked away from everything else. I didn't have Emma's take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach, though, and so was exchanging emails with Ada Chan, The Westin Macau's Director of Communications, up until the night before we were due to leave Hong Kong. It was hectic. I breathed a sigh of resignation after I clicked "Send" on the final email, keeping my fingers crossed we wouldn't have problems with checking in the next day.

I set three alarm clocks to ensure I'd be at the ferry terminal by 9am. I arrived on the dot.

I found Emma veritably draped across the entire length of the couch at Starbucks, holding space for the coterie of men who had deigned to keep her waiting. She rightly assumed we'd all be desperate for a caffeine fix. Peter was last to arrive, giving Greg, Allen and Ty just a second to bag their bagels to go before we made a mad dash towards Immigrations.

"You're soaked, babe," Emma frowned as she touched my sweater.

"Rain," I explained unnecessarily. "Didn't have an umbrella while I was waiting for a cab to get here; left my brolly at a shoot last night."

"Do you want to borrow a shirt?" Peter offered.

"Nah," I declined. "I planned my outfit carefully; changing my top would ruin the entire effect! Thanks anyway."

"You silly bugger," Emma scolded, "you don't wanna get sick. Get out of that sweater right now!"

Meekly, I did as I was told. I rejoined the gang just as passengers were being herded into the ferry. It was lurching on its berth from side to side.

"It's less bumpy in front," Greg promised. The ferry vibrated with the shrieks and shouts of hundreds of mainland Chinese tourists. We muscled our way towards our assigned seats on the second and third rows. Emma promptly popped a motion sickness tablet. I clapped my Zik by Phillippe Starck headphones on. Greg started reading. Peter had a bite of Allen's bagel. And we were off.

"Please keep the blinds down," an attendant admonished Peter, "it's not safe."

"How is it not safe?" Peter persisted. "I don't see how it makes a difference, whether or not the blinds are up."

"Actually," the attendant sidled closer, conspiratorially, "it's the mainland Chinese... they get all excited when the blinds are up. They leave their seats so they can take pics from the windows. They block the aisles. That's what makes it unsafe."

Peter then turned his attention elsewhere, asking me about my Sergio Mendes remixes.

The boat lurched even harder once we we were firmly in open waters, sending many passengers rushing towards vomit bags. It was better than a roller coaster ride. I took Magalenha's hand and disappeared into an electric sambadrome.

"Everything was silent all of a sudden," Emma recounted once we were in a cab towards Coloane. "All I could hear was the rustle of plastic. I opened my eyes to peek at what could possibly be making that noise while everyone struggled just to hold on to their seats. It was a woman... She was collecting vomit bags, cleaning up after everyone's mess."

"Protein spills," I smiled. "That's what we called it in Disney," I explained, "so parents needn't feel bad about their kids throwing up all over the place. We'd say 'Please mind the protein spill.'"

"What a job," Peter shook his head. "I can't imagine doing what that woman does for a living."

"More so, that someone has to do it," Emma pointed out.

We were quiet the rest of the way towards the Westin. It took a woman who cleans up after other people's vomit to put our weekend getaway into perspective. No matter how exhausted, exasperated or aggravated we get - no matter how hectic or rough life gets - it can't possibly be worse than what the ferry's cleaning lady has to endure on a daily basis.

Our cab finally rolled onto the Westin's driveway a few minutes later, giving us a sweeping view of Hac Sa Beach. Bellhops rushed to assist and greet us a sunshiny "Welcome to The Westin Macau!" - in decidedly Filipino accents, of course.



That's right - that's where we are.

We have arrived.


Hong Kong is a clingy, crazy, jealous, infectious, dangerous and ultimately irresistible lover. Kinda like the singer's persona in this song. I swear I saw some of my companions surreptitiously check their email even while we were surrounded, distracted, entertained and humored by the best Macau has to offer.

I love that Alanis Morissette understands the role of performance in a singer-songwriter's bag of tricks. This rendition is a dramatic departure from the recorded version, which is pumped with more angst than an entire commune of starving artists can ever muster.

For the Grammy's, she humanizes the song's angry bitch by underscoring loss, denial, pain, suffering, and - up to the very end - her somewhat tragic plea for things to return to how they were before. 

You can't let go of Hong Kong.

And Hong Kong is never letting go of you.

You oughta know.

// And I'm here to remind you 
Of the mess you left when you went away 
It's not fair to deny me 
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me 
You, you, you oughta know! //

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