Thursday, 16 January 2014

Hong Kong- Day Five

I had been asking to see a little of the countryside, such as it exists in Hong Kong, so Loretta kindly took me to Stanley to visit the pier and do some touristy things.

Naturally this involved visiting another temple.

No outing in Hong Kong would be complete without visiting a fortune teller.

In the evening I went for dinner with Loretta's parents, truly the sweetest people, at a Vietnamese restaurant before meeting two other school friends, Helen and Karen, in the evening for drinks and shisha in Soho.

A perfect ending to my time in Hong Kong. This city very much feels like a home away from home. I would love to come back here to work one day.

Monday, 30 December 2013

For a New Year

Two years ago I watched a PETA video on animal testing and it transformed my life. Since that moment I changed my diet, changed the products I used, changed the way I thought. I applied for an internship in Manila for PETA Asia-Pacific, became vegan, and dived into a world of colour.

Becoming involved with animal rights was like cresting a wave. It enabled me to realise how much, regardless of how free I imagined myself to be, I was swimming along blindfolded in a cloud of equally blindfolded minnows. It seemed quite remarkable that I could trawl through the education system, obtain a degree from a top university and know nothing. The education system was never about cresting waves.

I'm no brilliant mind. I can't look around me and instantly understand the political, cultural, genetic influences that shape my thoughts. What I can do is examine the small things that I know and deconstruct my image of them, unravel their normalcy and packaging, investigate their origins. Once I understand the minutiae I can begin to tackle the whole.

So my journey begins in the supermarket yet again. I know where meat comes from, I know where dairy comes from. I know where leather comes from. What about palm oil? Soy? Corn?


A life whose driving force is destruction cannot be a good life and a life lived without thought or care is always destructive.

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Tom and Daisy are a microcosm of Western civilisation. I was born and bred in the careless, thoughtless West but, no matter how difficult it may be, I prefer a life of care.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Half Nelson

This is perhaps my favourite scene of any movie.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Chipotle Scarecrow

This is ethical no man's land.

Chiptle's video is extremely well made, emotive and brings public attention to a world of terror that most people engage with every day when they eat and drink animal products. With nearly seven and a half million views in two months this video has brought to public attention the ironies of factory farming and the plight of animals raised for food.

However, this video is also made by a giant multinational corporation that serves up identical servings of ground up cow, pig and chicken in outlets across the globe and has just boosted their brand exposure by seven and a half million views in two months thereby effectively leading to more farm animals being brought to slaughter.

It's akin to a pistol manufacturer releasing a video about a peaceful world free from machine guns. Hypocrisy abounds but it's better than nothing. Isn't it?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Hong Kong- Day Three

Loretta picked me up from my hotel and we headed to a mall to for Japanese tea before visiting her favourite temple to consult a fortune teller. This temple was truly magical. There was a giant mound of rock inside, the significance of which I am not entirely sure, but combined with the incense, tapestries and candles, it was an inspiring place.

The fortune teller was the best I'd been to and offered me career advise for half an hour which greatly helped me with my career decisions, even if I did precisely the opposite of what he suggested.

After being placed upon our spiritual paths we went to a different centre and wasted a good while acting like teenagers in the photo booth. My legs however clearly did not fit an Asian ideal of beauty so some rather unusual corrections were made..

For dinner we met with Kelly, another old school friend who it was wonderful to meet again after so long. Loretta headed home to get an early night's rest before working the next day and Kelly and I went for a walk along the river bank which boasted some spectacular views.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hong Kong- Days One and Two

The day that I finished my internship I needed to leave the country and come back again in order to get a tourist visa and begin my travels around the Philippines. Fortunately one of my oldest and best friends from school lives in Hong Kong and this was a perfect opportunity to visit her again so I booked a flight to Hong Kong for five days. Unfortunately a few days before I was due to leave I picked up an awful stomach flu and by the time I boarded the plane I was unable even to keep water down. Consequently my first two days were largely uneventful and lacking in pictures.

Upon arrival, I was picked up from the train station by Loretta's mum (one of the loveliest women I have ever had the good fortune to meet) who took me straight away to her family doctor. Both times I have been in Hong Kong I have been ill at some point and Loretta's doctor really is a miracle worker. He prescribed me separate pills for nausea, vomiting, digestion and within minutes I felt better and was able to drink water and even eat food.

Afterwards Loretta's mum brought me to a restaurant that I adore and then to the hotel which in a wonderful display of generosity she had arranged for me. Feeling incredibly relieved to have eaten and drunk without consequences I passed out and woke a few hours later when Loretta came after work to pick me up and take me to dinner and, as always happens, to see a fortune teller near the night market.

Much of my Hong Kong trip is basically just a sequence of me visiting various temples and fortune tellers, asking them what my next step should be. Much to the surprise and amusement of most of my Asian friends I'm very superstitious in a very Chinese way. I'm not quite sure how I achieved this growing up in England but while I emerged from a Christian school atheist and with an informed opinion that religion is a fabricated hot mess, I've also maintained a consistent and unfounded fear of ghosts and a penchant for Chinese fortune tellers.

My second day I made an attempt to explore the nearby area but felt deathly ill after ten minutes so headed back to the hotel and slept and read until the afternoon. I then made my way to Central to meet Loretta and go for dinner at the Peak. Fortunately I had visited the Peak before on my last trip to Hong Kong as we emerged at the top to discover the view entirely shrouded with fog.

Unable to see each other more than an arms length away this, rather than ruining the evening, made it giggly and fun and we linked arms and squinted through the fog to find a restaurant. The meal was lovely although we changed tables after an obscenely loud group of Americans sat near us. It was really great to be able to catch up with an old friend I hadn't seen for two years and also to listen to her career advise for me which was very sound. After we came back down from the Peak we then went to an incredible bar in Soho where I had one of the most delicious cocktails I've ever had. Soho in Hong Kong is an incredible place. Imagine Soho in London, then condense it in size, make the streets narrower and more romantic, winding their way down a hill and exchange all the people for achingly sophisticated ex-pats. The bar we went to had a very unassuming front with no name but inside was full to the brim with relaxed, elegant business people lounging in leather chairs and sipping gin cocktails. A wonderful way to complete the evening.

El Nido- Day 4

On our final day we pushed Stanley that little bit too far and half way to the beach he gave up the ghost.

Claire and I left Milena to look after him and headed back down to the town to find another scooter that could cope with our weight. We found one and we named him The Fonze. He was coooool.

We picked up Milena and resumed our journey to a secluded beach we had heard of.

After picking our way through a small forest of palm trees we found it and were dumb founded by how quiet and peaceful such an incredible stretch of beach was.

The wonderful thing about El Nido is that there is no train or flight directly to it. That means that anybody that wishes to come here must first endure an eight hour coach journey over a stretch of land that is only now having concrete roads built on it. It is this heavy-going journey we have to thank for El Nido's wild yet pristine charm. Unlike Boracay, a short flight away from Manila and subsequently a major tourist destination, El Nido is not laden with tacky beach bars and souvenir shops. There are very few over-weight Western tourists demanding sports channels. Those that travel to El Nido are almost exclusively backpackers and Philipinos. People that truly have an interest in travelling and exploring. I found throughout my travels in the Philippines that inaccessibility was the marker of how much I liked a place and I really began to loathe a lot of the Western tourists that I came across in places like Puerto Princesa and Boracay. Sadly this means that many of the places I adore now will lose their character in the next few years as the roads are completed and they are opened up to the world. I would really love to go back soon and experience them again before they are tainted by the fast food and pollution of capitalism.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Don't Talk

Forget Orange Wednesdays film parodies, this should be played in every cinema.

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