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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Hong Kong and Macau by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in Hong Kong and Macau
by Robin Esrock / Published April 9 2008
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Robin jumps off a building because he's brave, and by building he means TV Tower and by brave he means insane.
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Hong KongI've said it before and I'll keep saying it until people start believing me.  I am not a gung-ho skateboarding thrill seeking adrenaline cranked out junkie lunatic. I just tend to find myself going to amazing places and doing amazing things, like Macau, and the world's highest bungee jump from a building.  Oh, you would jump too , if you had a TV crew there to capture it for posterity, or maybe, to capture your last remaining moments alive.    Maybe not.  

Anyway, I didn't know there was a bungee jump at Macau Tower until we got there, and figuring it would make a great story, I spent the night before psyching myself up to believe that I could, in fact, take the leap without browning my shorts for high definition TV.   The night before, I went out to Central where I was offered a flaming lamborghini by two flight attendants, only, someone had actually offered it to them first, and slipped a little something in for good measure, which subsequently was passed on to me, and I therefore passed out, and were it not for a lovely girl who's name or face I cannot remember, I would not have gotten back to the hotel at all, and would have missed the opportunity to travel all the way to Macau Tower and find out that weather had canceled play that day.    After all the hyping and psyching, that did indeed suck balls, or more accurately, Halls, since I was sucking a throat lozenge when we were informed of the bad news (which is why I have a lump in my cheek).    Julia was thrilled, but I knew that all the fear and apprehension and anxiety would only be delayed for a few more days,  and all I wanted to do was jump off the damn thing already.   It's the waiting that kills you, and boy, I would have to wait.

My friend Greg was working on a Hollywood movie starring Dakota Fanning and being shot in Hong Kong, and he picked up on this fixed gear madness.   The alley cat race was a stroke of luck really,  because it was a perfect story for me.  If he had given me a fixed gear bike (with no brakes) I surely would be a dark splash of maroon on a Hong Kong street today.  It was Halloween night, and the streets were packed with people in costume.   Halloween in Hong Kong?  Believe it, the vamps (and trams) were out for blood.   We raced around with the poor crew following in taxi, weaving and darting through traffic.  You only see two checkpoints in the show, some of the others were not considered family entertainment.   Truth is, biking in heavy traffic at night with no helmet or sense of local custom is far more dangerous than bungee jumping with a professional company who have strictly enforced every safety regulation you can think of.  

A segment that didn't make the final cut was my meeting a travel editor for the first time.  The South China Morning Post has published dozens of my stories, and just before he skipped over to the Books desk, Stephen McCarty was the travel editor.  Over excellent curry at Chungking Mansions and along the bustling streets, I asked him about the other side of travel writing, the business side, and why editors today are looking for riskier stories than ever.   Steve was a great sport with some killer zingers, unfortunately, with a 24 minute show, so much of the good stuff just doesn't go through to the final edit.   Still, it was great for me to finally put a friendly face to one of the names I constantly bomb with pitches.   

LisboaAs for Macau, the new Grand Lisboa is a building straight out of Buck Rogers, especially when it lights up at night.   And Beyonce was performing that weekend at the Venetian, now the world's largest casino and the planet's second biggest building, and all 3000 magnificent rooms were booked up.   I'm not sure how I felt seeing Vegas kitsch splurged onto a former Portuguese colony. Heritage used to mean more than gambling and glitz, but who am I to judge?   It's definitely a place worth visiting, if only to see signs in Portuguese and Mandarin, a flamed grilled peri-peri bok choi of culture.   Julia and I were awkwardly serenaded on a gondola in the fake canals of the Venetian, to the soft stares of tourists who figured we must be on honeymoon or something.   Our singing troubadour was so camp we could have pitched a tent. 

5.4.3.2.1.   I was only going to do this bungee once so thank God the camera duct taped to my hand (1002 uses) worked to get that shot of me scarring my throat with scream.  Julia was not so lucky. Her camcorder malfunctioned on her Skyjump. Some days the camera is just not your friend.    As much as I wanted to just walk to the edge and jump without looking down, there were shots to be got, and then the wind picked up, and all in I was standing on the platform for close to a half hour, absolutely and entirely petrified.   You can't fake fear.   Know that I was never in doubt the bungee wouldn't work. I was in doubt that my mind would have crossed some barrier of sanity,  and that by the time I stopped bouncing I would be a sobbing wreck .  And the camera would be there, as always, waiting to capture that moment.    The things we do for our jobs.    In the end, it was terrifying and fun and life affirming and sure I would do it again, if you put a gun to my head.    See you at the next platform then.


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