Before I can start my new life in Perth, Australia, I absolutely must make a stop somewhere...
I'm about to embark to a place, that ever since 2006, has induced the emotion that, when mentioned, would conjure up feelings within me of a black hole fear, one that is mixed with mild hatred and dark feelings of annoyance which, for being one of the most safest cities in the world, seems a bit illogical and borderline dumb.
That fateful visit that caused me so much pain over the years, started out as a simple weekend stopover from a month's return trip away to New Zealand.
Landing and descending into a cheap hotel by my trip bookers over in North Point, which is over to the east. I was placed somewhere that was massive contrast to the whole of New Zealand, with towering concrete highrises and glass soaked skyscrapers with millions of people squashed into a small space going about their daily business, I found it infectiously electrifying and terrifying and couldn't wait to explore, but it had to wait as I arrived at night.
Next morning, I hadn't really looked at a map nor do any research on the place, because I was only there for a few days and being a slackpackers, I prefer to let things wash over me as I meander through the streets, looking at everything in awe and wonderment as I try to avoid other tourists and travellers.
Unusually for a slackpacker, I did take one precautionary measure which as I found this place, slightly intimidating at first sight, I decided to put some money in my sock, which I had never done before nor ever thought about doing and off I went.
I can't remember the exact route I took, but I do remember it being an overcast light grey cloud day, and taking the waterfront path by the convention centre, that was specially built in 1997 for United Kingdom's handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese. I passed a Buddha asking for a donation, panicking, I grab a HK10 note and give it to him only to be met with a “really, this is all you have look?”, apologising I say that's all I can give you and he passes me this gold card with an inscription in Chinese that I don't understand. I felt slightly guilty as I realise I only gave him 5 pence, it washes over me and I walk ahead to the pier and grab a boat to Kowloon.
Again letting the stink and filth of the Kowloon streets glide underfoot as I was deciding whether I could really afford a brand new digital camera, freshly packed into the shop from the back of a lorry, I enter surroundings that is a bit more civilised as the chance of catching a sub-tropical disease from a 6 foot mosquito dramatically falls, as I stroll onto Nathan Road, looking at a sign that say Park Lane and spot some random steps leading to nowhere; intriguingly exciting!
Oh wow, a wonderful lush parkland, well actually; from memory it was a concrete expanse interrupted by low lying patchwork of green hedges, with people milling busily trying to relax and enjoy some fresh air.
As this was my real first travel experience alone and I had bravely fought New Zealand all by myself, like the adult I was then, I was now a fully-fledged citizen of the world and therefore everyone within it is now my friend.
Not getting far into the park before a smiling friendly man on a bench begins talking to me in broken English about Asia, buildings or something-or-rather, I'm not really sure to be honest; a fair few minutes passed of having this half way conversation and I decide it's time for me to leave and get on with some more exploring, I turn to the guy to say in a 'goodbye its been fun' kind of way, “goodbye its been fun”.
Then, a friendly girl then approaches me from behind and in English that wasn't broken and I finally understood tells me in a calm fashion to go with them while discreetly pushing a knife in my back and with no superpowers or skills of an action hero, I do.
The bench man, knife girl lead me onto a white double decker bus and we take a ride to some random district in Hong Kong, from where I can tell have a high concentration of jewellery stores. We approach one of these stores at random and the girl told me to lead the way to the counter, the man at this point waited outside in case, presumably, I decided to make a run for it.
The girl and I sat down by the counter and greeted by smiling and helpful shop assistant. The girl pretended to be my annoyingly affectionate wife and began picking out all these gold items, which I would then have to try on to approve the purchase with my card to give the impression they were “meant” to be for me.
We entered a few more stores, repeating the process buying; rings, necklaces, bracelets, tiaras and anything else for me, the whole ordeal latest a few hours as my card and self-confidence was taking a beating.
Night time loomed over a bright Hong Kong, when they decided they were happy with their all newly acquired booty and they kindly thanked me for the gold and seeing as my generosity knows no bounds and seeing as they asked for it, I also gave them my wallet.
First day in Hong Kong and I lose a day of exploring, around £4,000, my wallet and am now stuck in this random district without knowing a thing about anything. I was feeling that low deep disgusting feeling in the pit of your stomach that life is well and truly over, the end.
It then dawned on me, I had taken that precautionary measure earlier that day and hoped it would be enough for me to get a taxi home. Thankfully it was and I retreat to my hotel room and do nothing, think nothing, there's tears, angry, bemusement, and the feeling of just being an empty hell of despair. I wanted nothing more at that point than to leave and never come back.
The rest of the weekend was spent in a haze in s hopping mall, being surrounded by people and security, I have never found shopping so interesting in all my life.
It is now 2011. Since my visit to Hong Kong; my sister moved out there around 5 years ago and as a result of my first visit, I have missed many exciting adventures to the island and surrounding areas with my family who have been out there frequently, to see the sights and sounds; you know the type of trip, the ones that define the very connections between you closest people to you in the world and that brings a family together.
Circumstances have placed me in a position where through no real choice of my own, that I am going to Hong Kong and it is now the right time for me to face my handicap and revisit the black hole fear.
With support from my sister who made sure that airport connections were clearly explained to me and that everything was going to be just fine, I was able to sleep and rest for all the flight up until getting into her apartment.
Arriving into somewhere so strange, manic and unusual, I instantly felt safe. I'm in no way feeling apprehensive, on edge or fearing for my life, but the thing is, I don't think I have ever felt this so strongly about a city, than I have in Hong Kong. Which given my history, is slightly bizarre.
I won't go into great detail about my itinerary, but it involved great food, drinking, sightless peak top views, very successful horse racing, beaches, markets, family history historic important churches, hiking in the near-wilderness with evil looking disgusting spiders the size of London Eye that would love nothing more than to jump on my face and suck my brains out.
It was early morning on my first full day and I really want to do is get this fear faced, so it will no longer loom over me like an evil looking disgusting spiders the size of London Eye that would love nothing more than to jump on my face and suck my brains out.
Being Caucasian in an predominantly Asian city, people tend to look at you with a 'You're not from here' face on them which ordinarily, I don't care about in the slightest but seeing as today was the day, I was already feeling slightly on edge, my trip back over to Kowloon was more sense-heightened than usual, as it was extremely busy and my paranoid imagination running wild with all these looks.
It wasn't until I reached the exit steps to 'Kowloon Park' that it really hit me what I was about to do, everything fell silent and there no one here taking the same exit as me. I look up at sky from the bottom of the stairs and it is even the same light grey it was that fateful day and with every step up towards street level, my nerves and heartbeat heighten up that little bit more. I'm getting nervous now.
Walking along Nathan Road, all I want to do now is alleviate this sense of adrenaline and dread, to help I take the steps up into the park.
I am now in the belly of the beast, this is odd, for so many years of mind-consuming thought and fear given to this place, I am now here, I am now ready to have this lifted off my shoulders.
I cautiously walk around the Nathan Road side of the park, as that's where I was stolen, looking for that special area where it all took place, it's hard as everything looks so different now, in fact if I didn't have such awful memories of this place, I would think this is a really pretty public park.
Walking around, it's unusually empty and no one is here but I find the place, I think, I'm fairly annoyed at myself as for something so poignant to happen to my life, I wanted to be able to remember more, but I guess forgetting and blanking is apart of self-preservation.
I stare at this place, a low lying manicured bush area, that resembles a maze for midget and I look at the area, they've changed the benches, it's a lot bigger, greener and mature than I remember, it's unfamiliar but I'm certain.
Soaking up the eerie atmosphere, I wanted to feel that sudden explosion of memories that would flood back in as a final bang to destroy the fear once and for all, but it doesn't happen. I feel I have left it too long to face up and fight it to get that satisfaction of instant relief.
I leave the park somewhat disappointed by my experience, mainly at myself for not being brave enough sooner, but thankfully I don't leave fully discontented, as I do feel better and a weight has lifted off my shoulders.
As I walk away from the park back to the waterfront, uncontrollably, I'm holding back my happiness. I find myself mourning for my dark companion, but it has been apart of me for so long that I now miss it and its terrorising nature.
This mourning soon dissipates and, without sounding over the top, this satisfying sense that something has raised from everywhere around you, finally gone from my mind and shoulders, the troubles of my world have been thrown out into the ether. I'm so glad its gone, I feel great.