Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Mah jong and mayhem

With work taking all my attention in the last month and a half I have been blind to the fact that I am living in one of the most exciting parts of Hong Kong. Events of the past few days, however, have made it impossible to remain unaware of the full extent of the seediness and violence that is my neighbourhood.

Across the road from my house there is a mah jong parlour (a traditional Chinese game) which has very recently come under new ownership. The parlour is the building on the right hand side of this photo (not taken by me). The sign above is actually advertising a shop on the left that sells mah jong paraphernalia.

Last Thursday night, as I arrived home I noticed that large bouquets of flowers had been placed all around the outside of the shop to celebrate its reopening. It is customary here for other shop owners etc to give these when a new shop opens.

At about four o'clock on the following morning the security alarm of the parlour started sounding and it didn't stop until I left for work just after eight. This noise was even more irritating than the non-stop 'I don't know how to love him' which has succeeded 'You light up my life' in the market stall under my room. As I left the house I noticed that the flowers had been scattered everywhere in a big mess.

That evening I asked Daisy about what had happened. She said that she had not seen the flowers or heard the alarm but she had noticed that one of the new doors had been kicked in. The parlour was then closed for a couple of days, immediately after its opening.

She explained to me that the vandalism was probably triad related. Triad gangs are very active in the area and they take protection money from shops and businesses, particularly ones selling illegal goods or doing business that is a little bit seedy.

Having found that out I then spent about twenty minutes asking Daisy about all the other illegal things going on around our street. It turned out that just a few days ago the old man with the shop where I got all my furniture had got very drunk and sat down at night outside my door yelling at passers by.

He yelled at people in one particular car who then got out with a machete. Poor Daisy then begged them not to do anything to him, telling the guys from the car that he was just a crazy old man.

Having learnt all about the local triad activity I then questioned Daisy about Nancy mama's establishment across the road. I'll leave a description of that for my next entry...