THE GREAT ADVENTURE
written by Andrew
This is the story about seven friends. I must admit, this was a commitment I was not ready to fully undertake for a multitude of reasons. For example, I am typing this passage you read here at the unearthly hour of 3.03 am Singapore time, the reason being that I’ve just returned from the trip you are going to read about, and am going for another one with my family in two hours, so it’s insanely hectic. Secondly, when I say ‘insanely hectic’, I do mean it because my schedule is totally packed right now; I go for my other trip and I come back, and then I spend the rest of my holidays in boot camp for my cadet inspector course. I’ll only be free for a couple of days before and after Christmas, and then it’s back to school. What a brilliant way to blow off your holidays.
Everything that happens has a cause producing the effect, and those were the causes. My greatest fear in starting on this project is that I might never finish, maybe because my schedule won’t allow it, or maybe because I’ll get lazy. Perhaps both. Either way, I’ve started. I might finish, or this will be an incomplete account, but I’ll sure try.
This is the story about seven friends, and their great adventure to the place known as Hong Kong.
Before I begin to venture any further into our story, it is perhaps most important that I introduce the people involved, and perhaps provide a bit more of a background, a context. Just like the cast of a show is essential to its success, so are the characters in a story. So here we have, in no particular order of importance:
Andrew: The Author
Kind of a loser because I’m not particularly good at anything at all. However, you aren’t going to be able to criticise me because I’m the one who wrote all this. Muahaha.
Aaron: The Redpantsuit Guy
Why he’s called that you’ll read later. Has a strong affinity with his middle finger, which is rather jarring when flashed, but always funny as well.
Songyuan: The all-round jackass-but-in-a-good way
The high flyer in everything from sports to academics. Also has a really sick mind so he’ll probably corrupt the morals of those he meets when he starts his term in Hwa Chong Junior College. Lucky bastard.
Nicholas: The Translator, and The Guy Who Scored The Most For The Team.
Speaks fluent Cantonese and was our translator for much of the trip. Also fluent in his ability to ‘jack’ himself a whole ton, earning him the title of the guy who scored most for the team.
Yi He: The ‘zao xia’ King.
Has the uncanny ability to go fantastically off-pitch when talking. When I say ‘fantastically’, I mean two octaves higher or more. Never on purpose, of course, still very amusing when it happens nonetheless, which is often enough.
Eugene: The Photo Emo Kid.
Bears the same expression of non-expression in every photo we took during our trip. Enjoys a game of pool, which he is rather good at, and possibly stoning as well.
Lian Kai: The Slow Eater
The name speaks for itself. When he says he’ll eat fast, he’s really slow. When he’s slow, he’s…well, he’d still be stirring his food after ten minutes.
Our trip was filled with many priceless moments of self-embarrassment which we laughed at and made jokes of, numerous times when everyone was wowed by the view and of course, fun. We didn’t engage a tour guide or take part in any tour itinerary, choosing to take the free and easy route and discovering the place on our own. A bit of a folly, perhaps, because we didn’t maximise our trip experiencing as much as we could. “Youth is wasted on the young”, they say. I say to hell with it, let youth be wasted on the young.
Chapter One: Goodbye
It seems rather odd, to talk about the ending of an adventure before the beginning has been explained and the journey fully fleshed out, but if it’s all the same with you, I’ll do it anyway, because the epiphany of mixed feelings when we went our separate ways was so great. We’d picked up our considerably heavier luggage from the belt, considerable heavier luggage because we’d bought lots of stuff, from the belt because we travelled by plane to and from Hong Kong and Singapore. So there you have it; if you have no idea at all what I’m talking about, you now at least know that seven people from Singapore went to Hong Kong and came back with loads of stuff bought over there. If, on the other hand, you do know exactly what I’m talking about because you’re one of the seven people then you’ll be berating me for bullshitting.
Anyway, some of our parents were waiting at the arrival hall, and we decided to take one last photo before we parted. That photo was taken by Lian Kai’s father. Eugene wore the same expressionless expression as he did in every single photo, LK was squatting next to me and I was grinning like an idiot. The rest standing had their arms around one another (I think). The photo was taken, and then that was it. A quick goodbye, and then we left. Aaron and Nicholas went together in Aaron’s Dad’s car, LK went with his parents, Eugene went with Yi He and Songyuan came with me. I remember the feeling vividly, possibly because it happened only a couple of hours ago, but I suspect it’ll remain with me for a while. It was a feeling of….sadness, that it had all ended, one of emptiness, that the friends that had become closer in the three nights in Hong Kong were going their separate ways, of wistfulness, that the fun we had was over. Not that we weren’t going to see each other anymore, but still the feeling emerged.
It was made all the more palpable and intense because for a while, I was left there in the arrival hall with nobody I knew, with my friends having left. You see, Songyuan had originally not wanted to take up my offer on sending him back home since he lives near me, so he’d walked off for a bit. I’d picked up my bags and walked over to the doors when I saw him again. I asked him if he wanted a lift again and this time he said okay. So I sent him home and came back myself. At this point in time I’ve just finished packing all the stuff for my other trip to China later on half an hour ago. I wonder what the rest are doing. Reminiscing? Sleeping? Maybe looking at photos we took, I don’t know, but it’s 4am right now and I have a bit more than an hour to go before I leave, and I’m tired, so I’ll continue with this afterward.
P.S. You’d have noticed by now that this isn’t really much of a proper ‘story’. It’s half blog-post style, half novel, and half account. If you were alert you’d have noticed that that adds up to one-and-a-half, but who’s complaining. There isn’t any conventional format I’m following, and I make references to what I do at whatever point in time. Weird, eccentric or creative, you decide. I’ll take a nap.
Chapter Two: The Beginning
In the beginning, there was nothing. In the end, there were seven happy (or fairly happy at least) friends who’d gone on a hell of a trip together and were reluctant to part. So what happened? Here’s how it began.
I don’t recall exactly what happened, because I seem to exhibit a let-others-settle-it-so-no-need-to-worry-about-it-myself attitude occasionally, and the time talk for the trip began was one of those occasions. I do remember one time, though, when we were all gathered together in the classroom, the seven of us along with a couple of others who eventually backed out discussing about the possibility of going on a trip after the big O’s (O level examinations, not the other big O). I remember being mildly interested at first. The prospect of going on a trip with just friends for the first time in my life? Pretty cool. I was fairly sure my parents would allow it. So when the others asked me if I wanted to go along for the trip, I said “Yes, should be okay” but didn’t bother asking my parents first. Tsk. Teenagers these days.
Anyway I remember a week or so after that again we were in the classroom, and this time we had maps of the place we’d decided to go; Hong Kong. Nicholas, Aaron and Zhi Yi, another friend who didn’t go in the end because he was going with his family later on were discussing about the places to go and the things we’d do. At the time Hong Kong to me was nothing more than a place on the map, and it remained so during the discussion, with me squinting at an enlarged section of Kowloon on a map with tons of advertisements for things such as suit tailoring. I’d never been to Hong Kong till the trip, and most of us hadn’t, either. We had to rely on the expertise of Aaron and Nicholas to guide us on good places to go, seeing that they’d been there before and that Nicholas spoke fluent Cantonese, the main language used over there. So yadda yadda, the talking went on, a bit of stuff was settled, the rest left for later. After all, we had a couple more months to go. Besides, the O levels were coming.
Fast forward to just after the O levels. Apparently everything still wasn’t settled though our scheduled trip wasn’t too far off, and there was the possibility that the plan might come to naught, so Aaron’s dad stepped in and settled everything for us. Fantastic dad, Aaron has. What could’ve ended up being a disaster didn’t turn into one. Thank God.
P.S. This chapter was completed partly at the viewing mall at Changi Airport where I’d managed to find a power outlet for my laptop, and partly at the lobby waiting to take the damn plane which got delayed 10 hours to China. I’m dysfunctional, I know. Seriously. As of now there are a lot of irate Chinese mainlanders arguing with the airport staff. I’m totally pissed off, too.
Chapter Three: Hello
Our trip was set for the 27th of November, a Sunday. Four days and three nights, and we were to be staying at the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui at Kowloon Hotel. The hotel didn’t turn out to be fantastic, but the fact that it was so accessible did the trick for us.
We met at the airport at 6am, the flight was later on. I came with Songyuan and Eugene in a taxi – they’d come over to my house for a while after we played pool. We checked in, got on the flight and before we knew it, we were in Hong Kong. Well okay it was before I knew it and not we, because I spent the time on the plane sleeping and ignoring the incessant poking I received from the others.
Over there, Nicholas got off to a sterling start by embarrassing himself (or ‘jacking’ himself in our lingo) phenomenally by insisting that we were screwed because our guy over there, well, wasn’t there. We’d made arrangements to travel to our hotel via a coach that would ferry us along with a couple of other groups of Singaporeans, and we were supposed to meet up with a guy from a travel agency over there. We found the designated area where we were supposed to wait at, and there wasn’t anyone there save for a lone person. Nicholas was convinced that the coach had gone without us, and was ready start moping when we finally persuaded him to talk to the lone guy over at the area. He didn’t want to at first, but when he did, we realised that that lone guy was the very one we were supposed to meet up with. I just can’t put down in words how amused we were, or how funny the situation was. It just was funny, you’ll have to take my word for it. If I sound a bit pissed, I’m not, really, everyone including Nick laughed off the matter. In fact, this incident was set to be the butt of a number of jokes we shared during our trip.
We found our coach and got on. Our journey had begun.
P.S. I’m typing this chapter on my laptop over at the Holiday Inn in Wuhan, China. Currently watching Arsenal vs Tottenham live on ESPN, something I happened upon while scrolling through the channels. It’s eight degrees Celsius outside, bloody cold, but it ain’t so bad if there isn’t wind blowing.
Chapter Four: “I originally wanted to wear red pants”
Our journey on the coach was pretty much uneventful, with friendly banter all round which I didn’t participate much in because I went to sleep again. The only reason(s) why I’m going to talk about the ride on the bus is two things: Pollution and Aaron. Hey, that rhymes. Sort of, in some stupid juvenile way.
The first thing everyone noticed when we arrived at the airport wasn’t after we’d got off the aerobridge and saw how new the airport was or anything like that. Rather, the thing everyone immediately noticed could be observed from the windows of our plane when we touched down – peering out the windows, we were rather aghast at the level of air pollution in Hong Kong; I’d read about it and all, but I never thought it would really be that bad. I could only see the vague shapes of planes that were less than a kilometre away. The extent of the pollution was further evinced when we first took our first breaths of the outside air. Quite simply, it stank. On the bus to the hotel, a good forty five minutes away, visibility was so bad that on the road we were travelling along, the buildings across the river were nothing but shadowy silhouettes. In fact, the river itself was almost fully obscured by a thick fog of pollution. But in all fairness, I must add that that was the day that pollution was the worst during our trip, and apart from the bad smell of the air and pollution, Hong Kong’s a pretty nice place to be on holiday.
Perhaps the most bizarre and hilarious incident of our trip also within the first few hours of touchdown, on our coach, in fact. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain this succinctly enough, but here goes. Remember the guy who was supposed to meet up with us? No? Look back and read again. Anyway there was this other guy, same agency I think who followed us unto the coach. As I mentioned earlier, we weren’t the only ones on the coach; there were other groups from Singapore as well, and we were all going to different hotels. So our bus would take us to our hotel, stopping along the way to drop off the others at their hotel. It seems that the guy from the agency was taking orders for ‘wife biscuits’, a type of pastry that the other groups had wanted him to buy for them, so once he’d taken their orders he came over to ask our group if we wanted any as well, the goods to be delivered to our hotel on the third night of our stay. We took our orders, and after that as it is normal for human beings made small talk.
Before I go on into the matter itself, maybe I should do a bit of an introduction to Aaron. Not a long one, in fact just one sentence should do it to understand why he made a joke out of himself. See, he thinks Chinese is crap. Now that we’re on the same page, I’ll go on.
It occurred when the bus was at our first stop, in the basement of some large hotel in the middle of nowhere. We were talking to the guy (by ‘we’ I don’t include ‘me’, it was mostly Nicholas talking in Cantonese) and the subject of us travelling by ourselves without adults came up. Looking at the seven of us, the guy joked and asked us why there weren’t any girls. I believe his exact words were“你们为什么没有带女的?” or “Why didn’t you all bring any girls?” to which Aaron bizarrely replied with “我其实要穿红的” or “I’d originally wanted to wear red”. We were all left floundering in confusion at what he’d said until we realised that he thought the guy was asking us we were all wearing blue jeans. Apparently, he either hadn’t heard clearly or hadn’t understood, and thought the guy was asking “你们为什么都穿蓝的?”, something we found insanely funny because it was so absurd. I must apologise if I’m unable to convey the humour, but then again, this is just an account, so I’m not too hard pressed.
P.S. I’m gaining back all the weight I lost in the past by the two trips alone: the Hong Kong one and the one I’m one I’m on. Buffets for two meals everyday in China isn’t going to help my feeble attempt at losing some avoirdupois.