Some things appear familiar – like being in a mashed up version of London – roads are named in English, the transport signage is superb and easy to navigate. I feel safe. Other things feel super-real. Everything seems layered, overlaid – bright, glossy designer shops, then a tiny independent rice merchant, a mosque, a row of banyan trees, a noodle stall – all on the same block. On the surface, it’s technicolour 24/7, larger than life, like being caught in a zoom lens. I’m disorientated by the buildings – the heights and the fact you have to go up to see across. It’s hot outdoors and yet freezing inside. I am constantly thirsty.
Politics lie just under the tablecloths. Everywhere. Inescapable. Who has, who gets, who can, who can’t. Who speaks to whom and who doesn’t. Who is seen and who isn’t. History is very recent here.
I feel privileged – to be here, to be able to meet with a wide range of people who represent such different parts of the city and its attitude to culture, to get a glimpse of the world from many different viewpoints.
I met a Chinese film maker who can’t go home – the subject matter for his last film was not considered suitable by the government and now his parents and his wife’s parents are being watched.
It’s too soon to process anything, to work out what I think about anything. I’m just here, sponge like, absorbing what I can and trying to stay upright.
Photo by Tim Wheeler and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.