150918 – 210918
Super. Typhoon. Mangkhut.
You have no idea how MAD EXCITED I was for this. Warning: long post.
At first I didn’t even realise that there was this typhoon coming, or that it was going to hit Hong Kong directly, or that it was predicted to be the “MOST POWERFUL STORM SINCE RECORDS BEGAN” in Hong Kong. And then one fine day I chanced upon a CNN article on Twitter (this one, to be precise) and my life for the short-term future was transformed forever.
There was a hop to my step everywhere I went; I smiled at everyone I walked past. It had been a long time since I was this elated and upbeat about life – 2 years and 4 months to be precise. I WAS GOING TO EXPERIENCE A REAL-LIFE TYPHOON!!!
Maybe the term “typhoon” doesn’t make you realise the extremity of what was about to go down, but basically at the time the news reports were stating that it was equivalent to a Cat 5 hurricane and EXPECTED TO STRENGTHEN as it approached HK. Like I was HYPED bruh I’m not even kidding. I had absolutely zero concerns about the potential threats to my safety or well-being whatsoever; having lived in sunny and safe Singapore all my life, I was stoked to finally experience my first extreme weather event of my life.
Mangkhut was the talk of the town in the days leading up to the storm. A few days before D-Day, I saw a storm warning signal sign put up for the first time here, and it got my juices pumping even more. The warning was even upgraded to T3 at one point because of some strong gusts passing through Hong Kong prior to Mangkhut’s actual landfall.
The Hong Kong Observatory, the official weather forecast agency of the HK government, issued a “Very Hot Weather Warning” on Friday – and rightfully so. In the 1-2 days directly before 16 Sep – the predicted day of landfall – the weather got intensely hot and humid. Like CRAZY hot, it was unbearable. And I’m from Singapore so believe me when I say it was bad. I’m not sure about the science behind it but I thought to myself it’s like how the beach dries up as water is drawn back before a tsunami. (that’s probably not it but it sounds like a valid analogy eh xD)
T Minus 1
The night before the typhoon, I was too excited to sleep. I had been looking forward to this all week! I couldn’t wait for it. So instead I went out to find the typhoon. No like literally I left my hostel to go and experience some strong but not too dangerous typhoon gusts. I analysed the wind patterns of the incoming typhoon on satellite imagery available on the net and picked out strategic spots on the map where I figured the winds would be strongest.
And so I embarked on this midnight trail to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.
I know I said this already but I really have to emphasize: this was really the highest I’d felt in a long time. It was a really stupid, child-like excitement, but it made me feel really happy.
However, shortly after the night adventure began, I realised my first mistake. The winds were actually already really strong. Stronger than I’d expected. I should not have worn a cap. While crossing an overhead bridge, my cap flew off my head and nearly drifted down to the large cross-junction below. In a stroke of unbelievable luck, it instead flew straight into the railing of the bridge and got plastered against the grills.
Anyway after this minor heart-pumping moment, I continued my trail down to the… let’s call it typhoon hotspot. I was headed to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, which I had identified as the closest typhoon hotspot to where I stayed. It was about a 20min walk from my hostel – longer if you walk slower than me, I walk pretty fast. It looked like a park on the map, so I figured there should be plenty of unobstructed, open space there for me to catch some solid, T8-strength winds to fly the kite that was my heart.
BUT WADDAYA KNOW, THE PARK WAS CLOSED. The park had a gate at the entrance, and it was locked shut. What on earth. I was more confounded than anything. Like based on my understanding of a “park” in Singapore, like how could a park be closed dude LOL. And then I went back to check my Google Maps app and realised there were actually opening times stated for the place. 🤦♀️
Don’t get me wrong, the winds had been pretty strong on my way there, which did feel quite shiok (loose translation: good/dope), but you have to understand, I needed to get to The Hotspot in order for my heart to feel satisfied. Even though I was barely half a kilometre away from the desired spot, I just knew based on my analysis that the gusts over there would be significantly better than where I was at.
Bummer. Life sucks. Plus it’d started raining. Like rain rain, not just drizzle.
So how? Was Guru gonna give up and call it a night? Was I about to head back home with this feeling of disappointment, with my heart clearly still yearning for more?
I immediately went back to re-evaluate the situation and figure out where the next best typhoon hotspot could be. After some intense data analysis, nonlinear optimization and simulation modelling, I managed to pinpoint the best possible location. It was a solid 1-hour walk away from where I was. Sigh. It was all or nothing. And nothing wasn’t an option.
So I trudged through wet concrete, dirty underpasses and confusing road intersections in the rain for about an hour. Note that I actually walked directly past my apartment en route to Plan B typhoon hotspot so I really could’ve just went back, but I didn’t. I wish I somehow had that much perseverance and determination when it came to my academics haha.
Fast-forward 50min and I finally reach the location – Tai Wan Shan Park – and this time there were no gates, to my immense relief.
I walked further down to the exact spot I’d identified on the map, and… I’ll let the video(s) do the talking.
What can I say. I was ecstatic. I was probably literally grinning from ear to ear. The gusts were immense boi. It’s hard to tell from the videos. I couldn’t even walk in a straight line or walk against the wind at some points. This was the content I’d signed up for. It felt fantastic. Never stop working towards your goals. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Follow your hearts, and your dreams will follow.
On the way back to my hostel (at around 4am??), I decided to take a longer route and walk along the waterfront promenade, and to my pleasant surprise there were actually many other people hanging out outside along the promenade at this unearthly hour. Fellow thrillseekers perhaps?? But yeah it was nice to have some company, and seeing other people smile excitedly as the gusts shoved them around as they were walking.
I eventually reached back Nathan Rd, the main road along Kowloon, and saw the infamous masking-taped-out window panels and glass doors all along the street. Quite funny lol.
I was happy, my heart was immensely satisfied/content, and my soul was at peace.
See you on the flipside, Mangkhut.
I was gently caressed awake by the soft pitter-patter of my room window being absolutely battered the f*** out by rain. It was the first and probably only time in my life that I woke up with a smile. It was happening. Mangkhut was here!!! 💦💦💦
I spent the rest of the morning sitting in the living room, eating breakfast and staring in awe and pure admiration at the behemoth just outside my window. It was a sight to behold.
Also, water had started leaking into the apartment through the openings at the exhaust fans, so my housemates and I tried to damage-control the situation as best we could. We didn’t notice at first and the whole floor near the kitchen sink got flooded, but afterwards we managed to dry and mop it up and spread around tons of rags/towels to absorb the dripping water.
I left the apartment around noon to accompany my flatmate downstairs to buy some food from the convenience store inside the MTR station (I know right, imagine being this unprepared in the face of the “biggest typhoon in Hong Kong’s history” lmao can’t be me). The MTR service had obviously been suspended, but the stations were still open for people to take shelter inside/buy stuff from the convenience stores. Here are some clips from our short adventure downstairs.
In the evening I decided to brave what was left of the storm and go out for a #jalanjalan. Man, the streets were a disaster. Garbage and debris spewn everywhere. It was wet, cold and dirty. Ambulances and police cars sped past in different directions every now and then. But the worst was definitely over; there were many more people out and about on the streets, but all the shops and buildings were largely still shut close, and probably were gonna be till tomorrow at the very least.
I walked back to the bridge where my cap had flown off my head to see how strong the gusts were at the moment. This time, I nearly flew off the bridge LOL. Ok not fly off but I nearly fell over from the force of the wind, and had to hold on to a pillar along with another dude that was walking in front of me; we both looked at each other and laughed. Memorable moment. Also made me wonder how much stronger the gusts must have been in the day 👀
Thank you, Super Typhoon Mangkhut, for bringing all this excitement, amazement, joy and overall positive vibes to my life during my exchange here in Hong Kong. I will never forget you. Till next time.
The rest of the week basically paled in comparison to the Typhoon Weekend. There’s no one-upping a super typhoon, that’s just facts. So in my eyes there really was nothing that stood out for the rest of the week. However, there were a couple of highlights that took place in the week ahead, so I’ll briefly cover that before ending this blog post I’m sorry I’m tired of typing too.
On Thursday, we had a welcome dinner reception in school for the exchange students, organised by the College of Science and Engineering. The faculty members introduced themselves and a few CityU students shared their experiences with us. The food was good. It was a good opportunity to acquaint with other fellow exchange students and also get to know a handful of the local students. Naturally I did not really expect these bonds to last whatsoever but still, it was nice to meet some new faces and make friendly conversation with new people.
Over the course of the week, everywhere I went it was just a trail of wreckage in the typhoon’s aftermath. It was clear that it was going to take weeks, maybe even MONTHS to clean up the city. The city authorities did a pretty efficient job of clearing up the roads that had been obstructed by fallen trees, debris and whatnot, but in most places they were just pushed to the middle of the carriageway or out onto the pavements next to the road, so pedestrian flow was pretty badly hampered for the time being. All we can do is hope for the best 🤷♀️
Well that wraps up this week’s edition of HKGuru. If you’re still here, you get nothing but a heartfelt THANK you for reading my writing; I appreciate your time, especially because I know I don’t deserve it lol. If you liked what you read, bE sUrE tO GiVe tHiS a ThUmBs uP aNd lEaVe a CoMmEnT dOwN BeLow, aND HiT tHat SuBsCRiBe bUtToN. More good stuff next week. Cheers.
Signing out. Peace. Guru.