Tag: hong kong

Yogi’s Circuit Breaker Reviews

During the Circuit Breaker lockdown period in Singapore that lasted from April 7 to June 1, I spent the time reading several books and watching shows on my to-do list. I’ve compiled the full list of the reviews I wrote on this page.

  1. A Curious History of Sex

Check out my review of this book about a curious history of sex and some of the things we have done to ourselves and to each other “in the pursuit (and denial) of the almighty orgasm”. 

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2. Oral Histories of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong

Check out my review of this book about the vivid memories of closeted gay life drawn from extensive oral histories with elderly men, a rare piece of work combining ageing and sexuality issues. 

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3. State of Emergency

Check out my review of this historical novel that won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018. 

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4. Circus of Books

Check out my review of this quirky Netflix documentary whose maker, Rachel Mason, chronicles how her conservative Jewish family ran LA’s biggest gay porn bookshop, Circus of Books. 

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5. Truck De India!

Check out my review of this travelogue by Rajat Ubhaykar as he hitchhikes across India on its venerable (and beautifully decorated) trucks & discovers how they keep this vast & diverse land supplied. 

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6. It Never Rains on National Day

Check out my review of this series of short stories by Jeremy Tiang which exude identity crisis and a sense of being adrift, and questions if Singapore is truly inclusive. 

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7. Mossad Exodus

Check out my review of this gripping tale of how Israeli spies set up a fake diving resort in Sudan as a cover to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s. 

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8. Fauda

Check out my review of this hit Netflix show which depicts the operations of an Israeli undercover unit which battles Palestinian militancy.

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Yogi’s Verdict: Oral Histories of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong

This is a landmark publication that provides an original contribution to queer research in two ways. Unlike most literature that looks at the experiences and issues facing youths, this book gathers that of older gay men who spent most of their lives in the closet. Secondly, it adds a non-Western perspective to a field dominated by the Stonewall narrative and other liberation movements in the West.

The author, Travis Kong, presents the stories of thirteen men who have been living in Hong Kong for at least 30 years of their lives. Before we read their stories, we are first introduced to the concept of the tongzhi (a queer appropriation of a term originally meaning “comrade”). It has been widely adopted by LGBT communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China from the late 1980s onwards.

Through the use of oral history interview techniques, we get to hear the unfiltered voices of these men, many who had heterosexual marriages while having relationships or flings with other men. In some cases, they had raised children and were seniors themselves before deciding to act upon their same sex desires. Vivid recollections of Hong Kong’s heady days of industrialisation in the 1960s, cruising spots, courting methods and sex combine to provide readers with a treasure trove of primary sources. Two heartwarming love letters are also included, showing what considerations and feelings were prioritised when seeking relationships.

These memories also highlight two key research areas that oral history methods excel at uncovering: (1) a narrative of the men’s pasts growing up, exploring their sexuality, forming relationships with other men, managing family expectations, careers and heterosexual marriages; (2) how they negotiate ageing and sexuality, isolation and ageism from both the straight and tongzhi spheres, and relations with family members and partners.

This book is a good starting point to greatly expand research into ageing and sexuality, with more openly LGBT people easing into their senior years. At the same time, it is a homage to the pioneers who grappled with these issues during a time when silence was best. As its subtitle states, these stories were “unspoken but unforgotten”.

Yogi’s Verdict: ★★★★✩

Hong Kong 2019

I travelled to Hong Kong from 29 to 31st August 2019 to attend the Global City Roundtable at the Education University of Hong Kong. It was my first time visiting Hong Kong and I initially looked forward to exploring this vibrant Chinese territory.

The conference I was attending.

Alas, as the date drew closer, I became increasingly concerned about the violent confrontations between protesters and the police in the city, metro and outlying towns. Colleagues and friends jokingly told me to livestream the demonstrations should I be stranded due to an airport blockade. While I laughed off such banter, I was definitely worried about any adverse developments.

I landed in HK after a relatively smooth 4 hour flight. The Cathay Pacific jet was less than half full, perhaps a striking visualisation of the slump in visitors. The immigration officer was surly but I quickly got through and found myself in the arrival hall. I had intended to take the MTR to the town of Sha Tin (where my hotel was) but the transport desk suggested that I take a direct bus E42 instead. It cost just HK$14 compared to HK$350 for taxis.

Empty rows on the Cathay Pacific flight to HK
View of HK Island from the E42 double decker bus

The ride was relatively smooth and offered great views of the city as well as the mountains of the New Territories. After inching past a horrific traffic accident that had jammed up the main road, I got off at Sha Tin MTR station and walked through the New Town Plaza to check into my hotel.

After a quick meal, I decided to explore the surrounding area. Sha Tin is one of Hong Kong’s new towns built in the 1970s and consists of tower blocks squeezed between the mountains and the river. It resembles the HDB towns of the same era, except with much higher density.

Tower Blocks of Sha Tin line the riverfront
The town of Sha Tin

In the evening, I decided to follow the advice of one of my twitter friends and take a ride on the famed Star Ferry which connected Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. The MTR system is really straightforward to figure out and I made my way easily to East Tsim Sha Tsui and the pier. Tickets were really cheap at just HK$2.70 for a one-way ride. The views of Victoria Harbour were fantastic and I enjoyed the snazzy light show.

Shiny lights of Victoria Harbour
Taking the Star Ferry to Central
“Lennon Walls” with anti-government posters lined the entrance to East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station
A closer look at some posters

The next day was conference day. So my boss and I made our way to EdUHK’s campus in Tai Po. The buildings are nestled on the mountain side (sorry Kent Ridge, but the views here are nicer). We were the first panellists to present our research. I was quite nervous but I think I did alright in answering the three questions that my boss passed on to me.

Clouds rolling down the mountains
Campus buildings with great views for sure
The conference was held in the university’s council chamber

Our academic hosts treated us to a sumptuous lunch at the campus Cantonese restaurant. I took the opportunity to ask my hosts about the current crisis in Hong Kong and shared Singaporeans’ general views on the situation. What struck me most is the extremely high level of politicisation and civic consciousness among staff and students, in contrast with generally apathetic Singaporean students.

Sumptuous Cantonese fare for lunch

I had the evening free and planned to pay a visit to the Peak, but my boss’ HK friend said it wasn’t a good idea and instead invited me along to dinner with my boss. We had a wonderful eight-course meal and a really engaging conversation about Hong Kong affairs. I daresay I learned so much during dinner that night and I thanked them for their tremendous hospitality.

Dinner was so good!

News was reporting that protesters were planning to blockade the airport that Sunday (Sep 1) and there were also fears of violence on Saturday. Therefore, after some considerable nagging from my parents, I switched my return flight from Sat night to Sat morning. It cost $100 but the peace of mind was worth it.

Final night in HK

The next morning, my boss and I checked out at 6am and took a cab directly to the airport. The journey took just 20 mins on the empty highway and we soon arrived at the terminal. Airport authorities had implemented strict checks for those entering the terminals but the queue was short and we got through quickly.

After a quick breakfast, my boss left to catch her flight while I waited two hours more for mine. HK airport is huge and I decided to walk up and down the terminal looking at planes parked at the gates.

The flight home was one of the smoothest I’ve taken. The plane was again barely half full, and I got the row to myself. Discovered the comedy series “Kim’s Convenience” and watched 5 episodes (it’s a riot!).

Final look at HK

I was honestly disappointed that I couldn’t explore the city safely given the high level of political unrest wracking Hong Kong. But I hope to return to this fascinating city sometime in the future to experience its many wonders.