My friends have always told me that I could write a book about my life due to the copious amount of drama I always seem to attract, whether it be boys or friendship dramas, or finding myself surrounded by five gang members. As I did in Hong Kong.
The Triads are a gang that operate throughout central Hong Kong and it’s surrounding islands, and are responsible for crimes such as extortion, trafficking and prostitution. I, being the oblivious 19-year-old I am, had no idea what they were.
I worked as a bartender in a restaurant, and on Saturdays, I was responsible for running the place, and closing up at the end. Being a white person in an Asian country, with long curly hair and pale skin, I often attracted attention to myself, whether from curious tourists or creepy older men. This particular evening, I was going about serving drinks and taking customers orders when a group of young, good-looking Asian men walk in.
My boss was with me that night- as they sat down, they attempted to give their orders to her, and right at that second, I walked past. I saw the glimmer of opportunity in her eyes, and in a flat second she grabbed my arm and pulled me over. Gesturing to me, she says ‘Nathalie will look after you tonight’, followed by her repeating the world ‘Lang Ah’- meaning beautiful in Cantonese.
I smiled, blushing, as she walked away, leaving me with the men, all staring at me. She didn’t realise who they were; and neither did I. They ordered the first round of drinks, and off the mark, one calls me over and asks my name. “Nathalie” I tell him, and he repeats it, trying to get the pronunciation right. The next question follows; ‘do you have boyfriend?’. I hesitate, knowing I should lie, but not wanting to be dishonest. “No…” I say, and he smiles. Once the drinks were on the table, he pushes a 100$ note into my hand. This is the equivalent of about £10, and he continued to do this for every round of drinks I brought them.
Throughout the course of the evening, as their alcohol consumption increased and their reserved natures did the opposite, more questions came rolling in. “Where you live?” “Will you have drink with us?” “Can I have your number?”. I swerved each question, ducking the last with an ‘I’ll give it to you later’.
At 3 in the morning, they came inside and badgered me to have a drink with them. With honesty I told them I was still on shift, and out of nowhere, one leans over the bar says “Can I come home with you tonight?”. Taken aback, I dropped the smile all bartenders keep for customers, looked him dead in the eye and said “No. No, you can’t”. Disappointed, he walks away.
Another customer sitting at the bar observed everything. She asks for a notepad and pen, scribbles something quickly, and pushes the paper towards me. “TRIAD,” it says, and I look up in confusion. Once out of earshot, she looks at me and hisses “Triad“. “What?” I say, not comprehending. “Triad” she repeats again. I decided I would just have to leave this strange, panicked drinks order and put my confusion down to what I thought was poor cocktail knowledge, hoping she’d ask for something else.
The next day, I was explaining what had happened to my brother on Skype, when my
Filippino helper interrupts me and asks whether she can explain what Triad is. “They are gang in Hong Kong,” she says, “you need to be careful”. “If they like you, they will take you under their wing and protect you” she continues.
From then until the day I left, one member went in every Saturday without fail, to continue the routine. He sat, had a drink, pushed 100$ into my hand, asked for my number and when I shook my head, he left. To return again the following Saturday.
Just call me a gang member magnet.
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