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The insider’s cultural guide to Hong Kong: ‘Neon, frenetic, always hungry’

THE GUARDIAN: From dim sum to protest art, pop-up cinemas to the free comedy found on the Mass Transit Railway, playwright Jingan Young shows us the city’s hectic streets

Expect ear-splitting clatter, neighbourhood gossip and unashamed slurping at famed institution Lin Heung Kui. This traditional and affordable Dim Sum joint is popular with everyone, from families to the post-Saturday night hungover and in-dire-need-of-sustenance crowd.

Revel in the chaos. Enjoy being jostled about and chastised by Dim Sum Cart ladies and ravenous diners. Over-indulge in Taro Cake, Cheung Fan and Char Siu Baoto before heading back into the hustle and bustle of Central Hong Kong.

Everyone’s tuning into …

Hong Kongers are a fickle bunch when it comes to pop culture. We consume it like we consume our bowls of congee for breakfast. We watch everything from cheesy local TV soap operas to reruns of Masterchef and Breaking Bad. Internet radio station Ragazine provides a nice balance between breaking news, cultural insights and the odd uncensored political debate (that is, if you can speak Cantonese).

Best current venue

Club, bar, pop-up cinema (host to the occasional ping-pong tournament) multipurpose underground venue, XXX Gallery has become a mainstay in Hong Kong’s arts community.

Founded by San Francisco native Cassady Enso Winston (or as he’s more well known in these parts, “DJ Enso”), XXX Gallery used to be slap bang in the middle of the central district until inflated rental prices and greedy landlords forced them to relocate. The gallery has since been reincarnated further afield in the hipster-filled area of Sai Ying Pun. Enso, who is a pioneer of local musicians, DJs and artists will provide this subterranean space for experimental work and exhibitions for free. I recommend their regular XXX Movie Club nights and 1950s Phil Spector pop tunes themed ‘Wall Of Sound’.

Noughts and Exes used to be the cool indie band nobody had heard of until they did a flashmob in Times Square. They’re still cool, but expect lines around the block for tickets to gigs and their Clockenflap music festival show rarely disappoints.

Best local artist

Co-founder of Hong Kong pro-Democracy student movement “Scholarism”Joshue Wong, also known as the myopic teenager who defended Hong Kong’s civil rights, was only 15 when he began his political career. At 18, he became the face of the Umbrella protest movement that took to our streets in protest for universal suffrage last year.

His commitment to the cause inspired both young and old to take a stand against the rampant cronyism, corruption and threat to freedom of speech.

The look on the street

Celebrated fashion blogger Cindy Ko (the face of many brands) is bonafide Hong Kong street style; slick, polished, with edge.

cindy ko
 Hong Kong born fashion blogger Cindy Ko posts to her site Cindiddy Photograph: Cindy Ko

What’s the big talking point?

The pro-democracy protests that swept our city last year continue to be the number one topic of heated public debate.

More recently Hong Kong’s chief executive and China’s puppet, CY ‘Wolf’ Leung’s 23-year-old daughter Chai-Yan Leung posted on Facebook that her mother had physically attacked her. Authorities were duly summoned to their home. CY immediately denied the incident had occurred and has since released a statement stating his daughter is suffering from mental health problems.

LSE-educated Chai-Yan is often ridiculed for posting photographs of her extravagant designer bag purchases, most notably when she posted a photograph of a necklace she proclaimed had been bought by the “Hong Kong” taxpayer during the protests last year. However, this turn of events has even Joshua Wong sending Chai-Yan his sympathies.

What Hong Kong does better than anyone …

Bureaucracy. Our city is run on the necessity of making everything over-complicated. Triplicates are in our DNA.

Best cultural Instagram account

Kyle Yu’s geometric street photography displays Hong Kong’s concrete metroplis in stunning detail

Comedy gold

Pretty much anything that happens on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway).

From mainland Chinese tourists blaring abuse at unassuming commuters, to punters trimming their fingernails, our MTR is littered with the bodies of jokes gone terribly, terribly wrong. Recently a woman’s handbag allegedly exploded during rush hour on the Tsuen Wan Line. Go on, google ‘MTR Hong Kong comedy’. I dare you.

Greatest cultural moment

The Hong Kong Handover on 1 July 1997. It may not technically be a cultural moment, but it sure was one heck of a performance. Holding all the pomp and circumstance that only a UK v China ceremonial ritualistic sacrificial takedown could entail. Watch Lord Patten shedding a tear and Prince Charles’ passive aggressive facial expression and latent diary entry duly baptising Hong Kong. The Great Chinese Takeaway is worth another watch.

 

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