Week Notes 2024 06 21 Hong Kong

The view from the roof of my hotel.
25 June 2024

This week I had the privilege of travelling to Hong Kong to speak about OKRs at a private event for a global banking client.

I spent the first two days in a very posh hotel, rewriting, adjusting, and rehearsing my talk with help from the organisers to ensure it would land well with 100 busy top executives. There were a lot of cooks in that kitchen but I appreciated everyone sharing their input and expertise. The talk was much better for their contributions.

We stripped it down to about 30 minutes of essential content and a few activities focused on the importance of using OKRs to truly think big, the story of how Intel used OKRs to “crush” Motorola, a discussion of cascading vs free alignment, and a quick word on the importance of OKR check-ins.

I met the CEO who invited me to the post-event reception where I had the privilege of speaking with some really smart interesting folks including one who studied at MIT under Amar Bose. I only knew about his consumer audio company but Dr. Bose made amazing advances in the fields of acoustics and mathematics. I discovered this wonderful video of him speaking with his graduating class in 1995 which I really enjoyed.

The reception also had amazing food: sushi, raw scallops, fois gras, roast suckling pig, wagyu beef, more kinds of cheese than I can name, and a champagne “tasting bar”. I tried everything and later realised that I had food poisoning. On my first visit to Hong Kong, I admit I was a little scared to try all the food in all the little places down all the back alleys. The benefit of getting food poisoning at the posh hotel was that I emerged completely fearless about eating everything everywhere (although not all at once).

I stayed in Hong Kong for several days after the event for a couple of meetings and to explore the city. My first visit to Hong Kong was about 15 years ago on my first trip to Asia. It felt pretty overwhelming at the time. It’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth with 7.5 million inhabitants. The buildings are tall and plentiful and the streets are bustling with activity and bristling with escalators and “travelators” including the famous Mid-levels Escalator to save you walking uphill.

This time Hong Kong felt relaxed and easy. I was so impressed by the public transportation, busses, trams, underground, ferries, and taxis. It was so easy to get around, everything was bi-lingual, everyone was very friendly, and most folks spoke fine English. You’re never too far from food, air-conditioning, or clean washrooms – even in the dense “jungles” of Victoria Peak!

I know because I hiked up Victoria Peak and revelled in how fecund and wild it felt despite being 30min from downtown Hong Kong. At the top I enjoyed the conveniences of a modern shopping mall and watched the sun go down and the city light up below. I’d taken the tram on my previous visit to Hong Kong so I decided to walk down. Along the way, I met a nice family from Salt Lake City.

I was ravenous by the time I got to the bottom but it was already quite late and most restaurants had closed so I pulled up a seat at the outdoor food stall behind my hotel and had a terrific meal: grilled aubergine and green peppers stuffed with dace balls covered in oyster sauce. Yum.

The next day I visited the “Ten thousand Buddhas Monastery” at the north-eastern end of Kowloon. The path is flanked by whimsical, larger than life golden Buddha rupas. The main hall at the top was particularly impressive. It was a large cube-shaped room about 3 stories all with thousands of Buddha rupas in little lighted niches from floor to ceiling along each of the 3 walls. Long scrolls hung from the ceiling and incense filled the air. Out of respect for the memory of the deceased being honoured there, visitors were asked to refrain from taking photos. I also met a few resident monkeys.

Later, I walked through Kowloon, exploring a 13 story shopping mall and visiting various night markets and food markets. I ate at a tiny hole in the wall and met a nice guy from Japan. I saw groups of young people waiting to have their palms read. I saw people singing karaoke in the streets to great applause.

On the way home I took a quick circuit through the bottom two floors of the infamous melting pot of Chunking Mansions. I saw an interesting cross-section of people buying and selling and generally milling around as well as hundreds of people coming back “home” and queuing up for the lifts that would take them up to one of the 90 hostels in the upper floors. You can get a sense of the place via this video.

Another evening, I walked around the former police station area known as Tai Kwun which has been transformed into a vibrant arts and cultural centre replete with restaurants.

I saw two teenagers performing Cantonese Opera in an abandoned shop front in full costume.

On my last day, I explored as many contemporary art galleries as I could including the slightly more mainstream White Cube which had a beautiful exhibition of the work of Korean artist Lee Jin Woo. Later I visited several smaller independent galleries including Para Site and several on the South side of the island in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen such as Blind Spot, Current Plans, and Kiang Malingue, showing Liu Xiaohui’s series “Flowers of Hong Kong”.

Finally, I took the bus back from Aberdeen and jumped on the underground to the Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA). The HKMoA felt a little tame after all the contemporary stuff I’d seen that day but I was happy I got to make a brief visit.

I strolled along the waterfront got lost in yet another gigantic shopping mall filled with luxury brands, and finally took the ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui across the bay, under the full moon, and back to my hotel.

Getting to the airport the next day was a snap on the Airport Express and I had the privilege of using the Cathay Pacific Business Class lounge which was comfy, stylish, and filled with great food. I felt very lucky.

On the plane I watched three films I’ve been wanting to see for a long time:

I highly recommend all three. I might write about those later.

Meanwhile, here are some photos.

The view from Victoria Peak
From the south western side of Victoria Peak
I stayed to catch the evening views
After hiking all day up and then down Victoria Peak, the food here was absolutely amazing.
Ate here, too. Sat in the back with a business man.
Some of the ten thousand Buddhas
He looks pretty enlightened...
The tram shelters have a great 60's vibe
Liu Xiaohui
Lee Jin Woo at the White Cube
View from the ferry
I ate dinner here and met a nice Japanese guy named Hiro.
I met the builder of this boat in Victoria Park
Street scene with trams.
The Cantonese Opera performance I stumbled upon.
Loved the old Corola taxis.
Palm reading
Current plans
The view from Current Plans
Many of the galleries were in high-rise warehouses.
The relaxation space in the Cathay Pacific lounge

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