Friday, 1 May 2009
MD'S TOUR DIARY, SINGAPORE/ AUSTRALIA/ HONG KONG
Flying home far too early from Scotland on Sunday 19th April, I had just one night at home with Parveen and Zaina before setting off on my marathon trip, so we made the most of it by heading out for an Indian meal. I took every opportunity to fuss over Z in between a packing session that called for military precision in making sure I had all my key items packed - everything from assorted leads and cables to earplugs and aspirins.
I was more than surprised to get an upgrade on the BA/ Qantas codeshare to Singapore. Nothing to get too excited about - it was only Economy Plus. But the extra legroom made for a slightly more comfortable 13 hours. After hotel check-in I headed into the sticky and humid Singapore night, first of all to the cool and upmarket Supperclub. The Belvedere IX vodka brand were hosting a private party there, in league with local promoter John Bosco Lopez. Vodka is my regular tipple, but this stuff, at near 50 per cent proof, is far too lethal for me. Spinning as I arrived was DJ Ko Flow, the region's most prominent hip hop turntablist, and for good reason. His skills are tight.
From there, it was on to Le Noir, an open-air bar spot on bustling Clarke Quay, for a reunion with DJ Titus, who I span with at Attica on my last visit in '07. Back at the hotel, I was bemused to find my legs hanging a clear six inches off the end of the bed. At 5'10” I'm far from a giant, but found myself towering over most Singaporians, who the bed was clearly made for.
No upgrade on the Singapore to Sydney leg, sadly, but the seven hours zipped by after the previous day’s slog. Having a body clock that was shot to pieces years ago and grabbing pockets of sleep at all times of the day has one clear advantage; jet-lag rarely affects me. This set me up well for Thursday, and a social link with my good buddy DJ D. It was gloriously sunny as we headed to a tea and cake shop on Bondi Beach. While chatting, our conversation was overheard by one of the waiters, who revealed himself to be a turntablist going by the straightforward name of Mr. DJ. It seems our breed are lurking everywhere. Later that day I set off on my first domestic flight, to Hobart, Tasmania, the furthest point South I’ve ever been, (and unless I ever go to the Falklands or New Zealand’s South island, it’s likely to stay that way.)
Hobart put me in mind of Wellington, New Zealand. In short, it felt remote and quiet with not much to do. The rest of Tasmania is reportedly very beautiful, but I had a mere 24 hours in the capital. Whatever drama was lacking on Thursday night was made up for the following morning when the fire alarm in our hotel went off at 7am, and all guests were briskly evacuated into the cold, many looking bewildered in their dressing gowns. It turned out to be a false alarm but I could have done without the rude awakening. Friday’s flight was the hour’s crossing to Melbourne, busy and bustling as I arrived into the city, in massive contrast to Hobart’s genteelness. Shortly after midnight it was time to head down to Syn Bar, one of the Friday night hotspots for party-style hip hop and R&B. Although not rammed, the place was still bumping nicely with a happy, mixed crowd. Promoter Chris had me down a couple of shots of Wet Pussy – vodka, schnaps and peach juice. Not bad as it goes.
Each day at a different airport involved the same ritual – a search for a seat near to a power point, in order to keep the laptop battery and phone fully charged up. I sampled all three of Australia’s budget airlines; Tiger Airways from Hobart had been the closest to the Ryanair experience. Virginblue back to Sydney was more enjoyable. My Saturday night gig was at The Pumphouse, which helpfully formed part of the Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour, the best of the various hotels on my trip. The Pumphouse’s upper level houses the DJ booth, from which you look down on the assembled throng below. Aussie clubs tend to feature several DJs on the bill, with the result that each only gets to play an hour. It’s a good strategy in that each jock piles all their best tricks into their short playing time, resulting in consistent excitement for the clubbers, but I play so many all-night sets that my 1-2am slot was a real shock to the system. Great fun, and over all too quick.
Gigs done, on Sunday, I embarked on my eighth flight in nine days, this one to Brisbane, from where I was picked up for the drive to Nerang, Queensland, to stay with some family friends who’d emigrated to Aus from England in the 1970s and never looked back. Barry built the house they now live in himself, and his back garden puts ours to shame. It’s proper ‘I’m A Celebrity’ country, teeming with birds and insects that chirped through the night outside my window. Nice to get a couple of days to chill.
The last leg of the trip involved a 24-hour stopover in Hong Kong, somewhere I’d never visited before. I flew from Brisbane with Qantas on Tuesday 28th, on a nine-hour slog. On arrival at HK’s vast international airport, I noticed virtually all the staff and quite a few passengers wearing medical-style face masks. It seems a certain paranoia had set in following the worrying announcement of the swine flu epidemic in the news that week.
I was very impressed with Hong Kong. I found it to be clean, buzzing, friendly, well-signed, and a pleasant temperature at around 26 degrees with a good breeze. What surprised me was the locals’ tendency to dawdle along at a snail’s pace, not what I expected from such a crowded metropolis. HK’s mainland neighbour Kowloon, where I was staying, was slightly more hectic, but full of great atmosphere. After freshening up at my hotel, I took the MRT train across the harbour to Hong Kong Central, and the plush niterie Dragon-I, all low-level ambient lighting and ornamental chandeliers. It wasn’t rammed, but then Tuesday’s never the most banging night of the week in any city. Like Dragon, virtually every bar in thriving Wyndham Street was equipped with a DJ booth containing a pair of Pioneer CDJ1000s.
After a long day of sightseeing, at 11pm on Wednesday I took my final flight, the cruel 13-hour BA drudge back to Heathrow. By this point I was missing my girls like crazy, and it was great to have Parveen and Zaina meet me off the coach from Heathrow ready to take me home. It was even better to have a cup of tea, a bowl of cereal, and finally sink into bed for a slumber. There was no opportunity to get too comfortable though; it was straight back on the DJ grind later that night at Izi in Witney for the start of the Bank Holiday weekend.