Hong Kong is about high turn over. Establishments close overnight. Buildings are torn down and replaced by new buildings that hardly seem an improvement on the last. Drilling and jack hammering, our daily music.
My neighborhood is decidedly uncool. There are no enviously hip eateries, zero glittering night clubs, an absence of western-styled boutiques. The main fixture of the district is the office complex where I work called Taikoo Fong. Taikoo Fong represents a not very obvious piece of Hong Kong history, a series of ten interconnected “Houses” with British names like Oxford House and Somerset House and Cornwall House. This is the former site of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery that operated in Hong Kong from 1881 until 1970 and in 1925 was the largest single site refinery in the world. The ten Houses were raised between 1979 and 2003. These are now filled with corporate offices and other modernities like Pure Yoga and headquarters to the Hong Kong cable giant, PCCW. Just down the road is Taikoo MTR, the old site of Taikoo Dockyard. What used to be the shore is now a couple of km inland. Even the coast is movable in Hong Kong.
And the neighborhood is still changing. In Taikoo Fong there once was a Sports Bar which gave me the occasional lively escape from my 642 square feet.* It included all the familiar elements: blaring televisions, peanut shells on the floor, greasy American foods. Then one time I went on a business trip and when I returned my cozy Sports Bar was a pile of rubble. The café across the way was replaced by a different café, more expensive and organic. A Thai restaurant became Tapas. Subway moved down the street. A shop entirely devoted to gummy candies has come and gone. The office building next to mine is serviceable by any compare but is being torn down today to be replaced by something taller and new.
Such are the vagaries of my office complex and its environs. I have heard that some of the unlucky in Hong Kong include restaurant workers who might turn up for their next shift to learn the place has closed. No notice, no paychecks, no recourse.
I shouldn’t have been surprised then when a couple of weeks ago I passed an advert for Sift Cupcakes on the 2nd floor of Taikoo Fong. New places often signal their intention by hiding construction behind a billboard wall “coming soon” announcement.
It registered as a vague excitement, a new sugar source for that 3:00 P.M. low. I noted its general placement near Pret a Manger. I was bustling past, probably reading my phone, swept up in a stream of other hustling phone readers. I passed the sumptuous cupcake graphic many times in the next few days.
On that same floor too is a very handy bank, China Construction Bank, handy because it takes my ATM card with no fees. That Friday, I scurried up the escalator to get a few hundreds. But as I approached, expectant for the weekend, I realized for the first time that my bank had become a cupcake store. Considering the building’s past, maybe a return to sugar is the closest we can come to history.
*recalculating for the actual livable space, more like 500 square feet