A Rose by Any Other Name

Valentine’s Day is something that I have… mixed feelings for. No, they don’t have anything to do with wishing I was seeing someone again, because two years ago, my then-boyfriend never cared for Valentine’s Day, so it’s fair to say I don’t have any nostalgia for that season. The thing I do miss is being able to stare and snack on all the (overpriced) chocolate paired with (hideously expensive) roses, but both can be obtained any other day of the week – or year. And I don’t even need to share!

This Valentine’s Day,  however, Hong Kong had a very special exhibition – the Light Rose Garden. The flower featured was the labour of my hard work in battling to the exhibition space, elbowing other people aside, and painstakingly tapping the “Focus” button on my smartphone to get the lighting to come out just right. Was it worth it? That is entirely up for debate.

First, a little backstory as to what happened – my mother adores flowers. Doesn’t matter what type it is, if it’s a flower, she’ll love it. It’s the reason why most of the time, the flat has at least two vases of flowers at any given time, which I have no complaints. My home on some days can be sterile, cold stone floor, painted white walls, and beige furniture, occasionally accented with wood. Flowers bring a splash of colour to what otherwise would be a very bland home and enlivens the place.

The Light Rose Garden was an exhibit from South Korea – an installation art of nearly 25,000 artificial roses, lit with LED lights. This was placed in Tamar Park, along Hong Kong’s well-known and famous (infamous for the environmental activists) waterfront, and only a stone’s throw from the AIA Carnival, which itself has its rides and rollercoasters lighted up.In theory it should make for a magnificent panorama – and perfect for any couple that wishes to enjoy a romantic night out with their loved one.

Yes, it would be perfect for a lovely date, to meander near the waterfront, down the parks. If not for the fact that Hong Kong is notoriously infamous for the high population density, plus the crush of tourists that still have their holidays around Chinese New Year.

Still, my mother and I decided it’d be a good idea to meet up with another of our family friends and head out together to have a gander at these flowers. We’d accounted for the crush of people. We’d accounted for the selfie-sticks, the couples cuddled up together. What we hadn’t truly realised, however, was how many people there would be here.

My friend, my friend’s parents, my mother, and I met at the nearby MTR station, and made our trek across the footbridge, noting how many people were streaming past  us. Still, the walkbridge was large enough so it was perfectly roomy. Until we reached the pathway leading up to the flowers.

For my part, I had to duck to avoid a swivelling selfie stick that nearly took my nose off, and another clonked my shoulder as a tourist tried to selfie with his (I presume) wife. My friend had to elbow a couple in the ribs to avoid being squished by them – the couple in this case had the girl snuggled protectively in the guy’s embrace, as the two made a four-legged waddle through the already suffocating crowd. The smell of sweat, feather down, old felt fabric permeated the air with what was certainly an unforgettable odour. My bag, clutched tightly to my side, and glaring at anyone who dared to so much brush up against my back, all while clinging onto my friend’s hand so she wouldn’t get lost.  We’d lost both our parents by this point, and were only driven by one determination: walk, find an empty space, take photographs and then depart as quickly as possible.

By the time we managed to fight our way to a relatively empty spot, employing a variety of street fighting techniques such as elbowing, stepping on toes, and just stopping short of battery and assault, I’d lost my drive to see the flowers, replaced by a burning want to escape and seek cooler, fresh air. When I had a clear view of the flowers, I couldn’t help but think: “I fought all this way to look at this?”

Were the flowers beautiful? Well, moderately. It was pretty, yes, and novel, glowing beautifully in the dark, but I wouldn’t go as far as to describe it as a sight never seen by man before, as a Chinese newspaper described it during the weekend. Being cramped in a crowd is also certainly not my idea of a romantic time, and there were so many people using camera flashes it was not only distracting, but might have blinded the poor passerby.

It was only as we were leaving did we realise the park was significantly less packed. We’d later discover that the police force and the security guards finally remembered their training and enforced crowd control. A bit too late, but at least I could breathe, and the air around me no longer was sweltering hot from the sheer concentration of heat.

Our spirits were recovered later on, when we settled down to a Korean BBQ place and had our fill of galbi ribs, beef, marinated pork, and chicken-ginseng soup. It was an unforgettable experience, yes, but sadly, not one I’d like to repeat unless the exhibition was stretched out far, far longer, and preferably with less people in the vicinity.


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