If the economy in Hong Kong wasn’t so vibrant, the hippest restaurants in town wouldn’t have been fully booked on a Friday night, and I wouldn’t have ended up heading to a not-so-hip restaurant in Soho on a Friday night. If I hadn’t lost my hair tie earlier this week, I wouldn’t have chosen to go up to Soho via the ladder streets to pick up some hair ties on the way. If I hadn’t gone up ladder street and had to catch my breath at the top of the stairs, I wouldn’t have looked up and noticed the floating lantern of lights in the distance, at the usually closed gates of the long  deserted Victoria Prison. If I hadn’t been a curious party crasher, I wouldn’t have come across this most amazing display of balloon lights by Jiro Hirano.

Isn’t this one of the most amazingly romantic scene one can possibly randomly come across? It was right out of a cheesy romantic comedy! I imagine that these balloons would look beautiful surrounding a dance floor at my wedding……………….

If I hadn’t been so dazzled by this display of lights, I wouldn’t have wanted to check out every part of it and I wouldn’t have noticed the people upstairs in the building. If I hadn’t gone up the rather sketchy looking set of stairs, I would’ve missed this most intriguing display of paper structures built by first year HKU architect students inspired by body parts.

And that would’ve been a shame, because even though I didn’t quite get the body part reference, I did thoroughly enjoyed interpreting it on my own. I haven’t used my imagination in a while, and this was definitely good exercise! The first one that caught my eye was the top left one. I thought it looked like a Greek helmet with the feathers caught in the wind, flowing towards the left. But alas, the artist of the piece  told me that it was actually the arm of a music composer, and it was embodying his hand movement as he conducts music. I can kind of see that…. but I still see helmet more. As for the rest, I couldn’t quite  figure out what body part/movement it is supposed to embody, but going clockwise the following things popped into mind: wind chimes, star and a chair (or headphones!). Ah.. the joys of abstract art.

The next one that I loved, was the People’s Paint display next door. I thought it was an incredibly smart piece of interactive art (after the Bean in Chicago that is- that will always be my favourite piece of interactive art!). Viewers enter a room filled with canvas walls/objects, where an outline of a design has been drawn with pencil and the color codes for each space numbered. The viewer is then provided with paint in the correlating numbered colors (they also thoughtfully provided us HK-ers with aprons), and like a kid’s coloring book is invited to fill in the blanks on the canvases. The idea is that everyone gets to contribute a little to this piece.Being the sensible soul that I am, I chose to paint with white, cause I figured that it will do less damage to my clothes than say… orange.

You know what the seriously clever thing is? Inside the room is a TV screen with a digital camera, programmed to constantly take pictures of the room and monitor the progress of the piece. If you stare at the screen long enough, you will find yourself in it. And who doesn’t like to see themselves on screen (if only to make sure that they weren’t caught on camera doing something unseemly!)? This room can engage you for hours if you let it!

Going further into the prison, I found the Design Mart. It is like a regular bazaar (like the one in Soho last weekend), but the thing that stood out to me most were the little booths everyone had made of cardboard. Very clever and environmentally friendly! I also discovered this Hong Kong based designer selling bookmarks in the shape of her dress designs there, called Chailie Ho. She specializes in cocktail dresses, but also has a line sold in Central somewhere called Law Season (I think!), which specializes in OL wear. I’m definitely interested in checking that out! And I’ll check out her cocktail dresses too if I can ever motivate myself over to Kowloon Tong.

Did I mention that this was a prison ? I’ve lived in Hong Kong for most of my life, and I’ve never been in here before until last night. In fact, I don’t recall the last time I’ve been inside a prison (unless the catacombs in Paris counts)! It is an experience within itself.

The conditions inside make Prison Break’s cell (season 1 anyway) look like a hotel. Especially in the dark, it is quite creepy! I cannot begin imagine what it is like to live/work here when it was actually a prison.  Though I must say, combined with art, it is actually quite a novel and exciting experience. Stimulating enough to motivate me to stay up till almost 4am on a Friday night to write this up (and I haven’t done this in a LONG time)!

On my way out, I also stopped by the recycle fashion room, where you’re supposed to hang things you don’t want onto the wire dress. At the end of this exhibition, you are invited to come back and pick up something someone else has left behind that you DO want.  Another interactive piece of art. The idea is a good one, but I’m not sure about the participation rate. I’m unlikely to wear anything I don’t want on my person to begin with……….. let alone leave it there. Across from the dress, is a wall of shopping bags, which I think  would make an excellent wallpaper for my iPhone!

I am so glad I made this mini detour, as otherwise I would not have discovered DETOUR (the annual flagship programme of Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, aimed at showcasing Hong Kong as a regional creative hub and featuring inspiring designs from Hong Kong’s young and emerging creative talent) at Victoria Prison, which happen to have opened TONIGHT! How coincidental can this night get? Opened from now until December 12, you simply MUST go check it out. It is a breath of fresh air to Hong Kong (better than the HK Art Fair!). I can’t wait for the next DETOUR event. I may even go again to this one, just to check out the prison in day time! Did I mention that it is free?

Ironically , the new hip restaurant I’d originally wanted to try (Tango) magically had an excellent table by the window for us once we were done with DETOUR, and we were able to enjoy a very satisfying and incredibly good valued Argentinian steak for dinner.

One warning though if you’re planning to go to Tango: when you get medium rare here, they really make it rare. Check out the inside of the rib eye we got. It is almost uncooked!

I’m an anal planner, but even I must admit that sometimes unplanned spontaneity often works out better then perfectly planned days! Can one plan spontaneity?