Things Did

Went to Hong Kong’s first International Antiquarian Bookfair at Pacific Place in Admiralty. I thought it was just a walk-in sort of bookfair with bookstalls all over a wide open space – forgetting, of course, that in Pacific Place, a mall so posh that it doesn’t deign to have a McDonalds, an event held in the Conference Centre would be something akin to a conference. Which it certainly felt like. The Conference Centre was all wall-to-wall carpeting and low ceilings, a place where multinational business deals would be conceived and such. The entrance fee was $50, which floored me a bit, and in return got a ticket, a thick brochure and a thick catalogue on antiquarian bookshops all over the world. It was quite a posh event attended by me in casual, with international booksellers milling around talking in English, French, Japanese, and Chinese about leather binding and manuscripts, and the cheapest thing being sold priced at $1500, and quite a bit priced around a million dollars. Words that came to mind: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and me feeling rather underdressed. Until I saw a small primary school kid with his mother and a few university students and felt better. Saw a lot of first editions of both Western and Eastern literature, like Milton and James Joyce and John Locke and Hobbes and Confucius et al, the first maps of such and such continent drawn up during the seventeenth century, the first woodcuts of so-and-so epic, two original pages from Marco Polo from the fourteenth century, and an original Shakespeare Second Folio as thick as anything. The best part was I could actually touch these things (not the Second Folio, though, that was inside a glass case, but most of them I could).

The whole thing was quite impressive. Well, the idea that these were the originals anyway. It’s funny how the texts themselves looked exactly like something I could pick up from a university library – yellow pages, blotted print, knobbed spines. Except maybe the Gothic prints, like The Book of Hours and stuff, but I think Gutenberg’s invention just made the mysticism of antique books a heck lot less intriguing. In fact, some of them reminded me of the bargain books I used to buy from the second-hand bookfairs in Sydney for just a few Aussie dollars. (No offense to the antiquariats, of course. Just a mental note to self to take care of my crumbling hundred-year-old Globe’s Complete Works of Shakespeare that I had triumphantly picked up from that tiny shop maintained by two old European ladies on Anzac Parade for Just. One. Aussie. Dollar. That’s around forty Philippine pesos or seven HK dollars. Man, the things you can get if you know where to find them. Another two hundred years, maybe. Could be an heirloom for my non-existent great-grands. Wonder how much that would fetch.)

As my partner in crime Nell is away in Japan on study tour, I did our weekly go-somewhere-never-been on my own. Tonight’s agenda had been Kowloon Ferry Pier, where you could take a ferry to North Point. So as per the directions in the Internet, I took the MTR to Ngau Tau Kok, one of the seedy parts of Hong Kong, and felt quite tired just from running around Kwun Tung Road finding a proper place to have dinner. From there I took the 11B bus to the Kowloon Ferry Pier, which was even seedier and perhaps not the best place to go to at night. Hung around the tiny waterfront facing the MegaBox mall on the other side of the water before going into the Waterfront Plaza and buying some baby octopi kebabs. And while looking around the bus terminal, discovered it is actually still part of Kowloon City and quite close to the Kowloon Walled City – which is like a hop and a skip and jump to my place – which meant all that MTRing to Nga Tau Kok was pointless because I had gone all the way up north to go back down again, just on the other side. So took the 82M Minibus from Ma Tau Kok Road to Lok Fu and walked home from there. Massively ridiculous how close it actually was. Hong Kong maps are so much misleadingly larger than the actual places.

A happy point is that the merged MTR-KCR routes are going to be official tomorrow. Cheaper MTR trips! And best of all, the KMB bus company is lowering fares as well. Yay for free market competition, although KMB insists that they had been planning the fare cut for some time already and not because of the merge.

Reading Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing.

Oh yeah, met up and had dinner with Ron and Yvonne last night, as Ron came home to HK from Sydney for the holidays. Felt great to be talking to them again – felt a lot more relaxed and pragmatic and more like myself before I had started work.


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