Hong Kong will always have a special place in my heart, because every time I visit this chaotic city, it has been for significant milestone events in my life, and usually with people that I love and cherish.
Every time I come back, I find that I have changed once again as a person, and the life that I was leading when I last visited, always seems so distant and faint as the future ignites before me.
How did it start?
In 1994, when we were 17, we came to HK as the ACJC Dragonboat team to participate in the annual dragonboat races. We not only won the student category, we qualified for the national finals and came in 2nd after the HK Police team (or was it the firemen team?).
We were young, strong, and largely immature about everything we believed we were wise about. I only knew the concept of winning gloriously, but not knowing humility in victory. We would win the race like heroes, but come back and be humiliated by our uncaring teacher-supervisors in front of the school assembly for our youthful mischief and rebelliousness.
But we’ve since forgotten all the unhappiness, because what a time it was, with friends like Derek Cher (God bless his soul), Weizheng, Pok, Ronald, Ben Lim, Naveen, Zhenyao, Jerry, Andrew Lim and Teong and so many others who remain great friends till today.
In 1997 or 1998, a few of the Dragons like Pok, Ronald, Derek and me came up to HK to gallivant after completing our NS stint. I had just become a Christian and was struggling to understand my faith and what I had to do, and I remember having long and serious conversations with Pok and Ronald on theology and humanity, young as we were. Derek, on the other hand, was obsessed with finding a particular shirt from G2000 or Benetton, and we must have visited every outlet in town. We also had long debates on whether to visit Lantau Island, and we never did.
In 2000, I was starting out in photojournalism, bursting with incredible passion for photography. In fit of madness, I told myself that I would stop using the crappy Nikons that SPH made me use, and that I would outfit myself with the best Canon lenses I needed to be successful in my photojournalism career. I did a quick trip to HK, met up with photo.net friends like Bill Akata and Lee Hoyin, and they accompanied me to buy Canon L lenses at Man Shing in Mong Kok.
At that time, Canon L lenses were 20-25% cheaper in HK and the savings paid for the trip. I still own those lenses, but the burning passion was lost somewhere along the way. I since learned not to make a particular passion my whole job, but to leverage on it instead.
In 2004, my boss Ooi Boon nominated me for the Local Journalist award in the Society of Publishers of Asia annual ceremony, and to all our surprise, I actually clinched it for the regional photojournalism work I had done in Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. SOPA is based in HK and so I came up to collect my prize in a nice ballroom ceremony along with other SPH journalists.
I was halfway through my SPH scholarship stint and this win was a huge encouragement to continue investing in a media career, but deep in my heart, I knew I didn’t really want to be a journalist in the long term. I struggled with this until 2007 when I finally left SPH and found greater happiness in Microsoft.
What was really great about this particular trip was that I listened to Faye Wong day and night, and fell in love with her music, albeit a decade too late (she was semi-retired by then).
I can’t place the exact date, but it was also around this period that I brought Goy to HK to go on a big foodie tour, and we had this ridiculously expensive crab that was so not worth the money (or wait for the dish to arrive). There were other agendas on our mind as well
And after a hiatus of about 5 years, I’m back in Hong Kong again with my Microsoft team for our annual kickoff. Here, I learned of the new role I have at work – I’m going to focus on driving the PC peripherals business in Singapore, a great development opportunity after having done marcoms and PR in the region for the past 3 years.
What made the trip really fun was some of the spare time spent walking around Mongkok with my room mate David Tse, who shares my love for toys, gadgets and our focus on our families. And of course, all the great friends I’ve made within our SEA and Korea team are here too.
I can tell you it’s hard to find so many capable, experienced and good-natured people in the same room, and for that I give thanks.
I may not stay in Hong Kong, but as I look back on the past 16 years, HK has uniquely marked how I’ve changed in my outlook on life and work, on eternity and God. Like how a parent would mark the height of his child on a wall, HK has marked how my life has shifted like tectonic plates.
But some things never change – the wanton mee is always so fresh, and I always make a pilgrimage to Victoria’s Peak and relive those days of 1994 when we were so young and free of worldly worries.
We were AC Dragons and we would win the biggest race of our lives, only to learn later that it was far easier than everything else that was to come.
Below: Other pictures I took with my trusty Oly Pen during a morning solitary walk on 14 July 2010. As a photojournalist, I used to enjoy long solitary walks with my camera bag. Now older, wiser, and in better mastery of my craft, I steadfastly follow the Zen of photography and take pictures only when the scene calls for it.