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Originally posted on Salsaweb NY in 2000

Salsaweb New York does the 
Hong Kong Mambo

by Manny Siverio

Winsome Lee and I take a moment to admire 
the Famous HK Skyline.

Winsome & I dancing @ The Placita Restaurant


This past December 9-16, 1999 I fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting Hong Kong and the beautiful thing was that it wall all due to Salsa Dancing. Yes, people in Hong Kong love to dance Salsa too. The Hong Kong scene, though still young, has been growing over the last few years. I was offered a chance to travel there by New York Mambo "Chinita" Winsome Lee, who had relocated to Hong Kong for a couple of months to teach NY style of mambo dancing.

My trip to Hong Kong was a really long, but a comfortable one. I was lucky enough to have my own row during the flight. Thank god I decided to bring my own entertainment (books, magazines, writing pad, laptop, CD player). I would have gone batty with nothing to do, since I had seen all 3 of the in-flight movies they were showing on board. Several magazines and one book later we had arrived to Japan for a brief stop-over. It gave me enough time to check out the local airport. I hear that Japan is an awesome Salsa town. Too bad that I didn’t have the time to check it out personally, but there is always a next time. 8-). My only word of advice for those traveling Salseros visiting Japan......don’t eat the rubber-like tasting hot dogs.....they suck big time!!! The coffee and sandwiches were okay, but that hot dog (the little I eat of it) haunted me for a couple of hours. Nuff said.

It was great to see Winsome when I FINALLY arrived in Hong Kong. I hadn’t seen her since last summer. She was one of my teammates during our Mam-fu performance at the 1999 Congreso Mundial de la Salsa in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through her contacts Winsome had managed to get me travel arrangements to HK so that I could help her promote her classes and workshops. I wasn’t the first NY partner to visit her homeland in the short amount she had been living there. Mambo Instructors Jimmy Anton and Carlos Konig were part of the New York "invasion" that preceded me. We had a lot of catching up to do. So after a quick bite at the airport, we took this really cool ultra-modern train that transported us from the airport (which is HUGE ) to the heart of the city of Hong Kong. It was midnight, so we decided to take a quick cab ride to Winsome’s home. The rest of the night was spent talking and practicing till wee-hours in the morning.

I got up early the next morning (before Winsome, I’m proud to say), forcing myself to be on HK local time. Winsome’s Mom (a mega cool person), had some breakfast waiting for us. She even made me some hot tea with milk which I found myself craving for during the rest of the trip (It was awesome and this is coming from a die-hard coffee lover....me). From Winsome’s home (which was up in the hills close by to the city ) I got to see what the Hong Kong looks like during the day. Everything is really close and condense. The best way for me to describe it would be to say that Hong Kong has the skyscrapers of New York with the hills of San Francisco. The buildings there look like giant chop-sticks rammed into the ground shooting up toward the sky and out of the valley.


Unfortunately there was little time for me to sightsee that first day. I spent the day rehearing, cabbing from one spot to the next, helping Winsome teach a couple of Workshops and finally performing at The International Salsa Dance Party. It was my first glimpse of the local salsa scene. Our performance went over well and so did Winsome’s workshop which was a relief for me since I wanted her to look good. The local Salseros I met there seemed very friendly. HK is mainly an on "1" town, that is until Winsome showed up. In the few short months, she has created a small core group of dancers that break on "2". But instead of creating a timing war (the 1 vs the 2), Winsome had projected an environment of mutual respect & cooperation with the other instructors. This I think has tremendously benefitted the melting pot of dancers that make up their local dance pool. Its great to see Europeans, Americans, Black, Indonesians, Asians and Hispanics all gathered in one place because of their love of Salsa Dancing. Several of the local dancers I met were students of Winsome; others were local instructors (like Joseph Ennin, Wilma Donnelly, Cliff Hall, Frank & his partner Chris Wong).

I did manage to mingle a little bit with the locals on my first day. Winsome took me into the Hong Kong Metro (subway) system for a ride. And what a beautiful system it is too. From what I understand its only 20 some odd years old at this time. The trains seemed quick and quiet (unlike NY). The people were in a rush and would collide into you, then keep walking (just like NY). It was great. I felt like I was back home. 8-). Then I noticed that everyone was carrying cell phones. I mean everyone had one. 4 out of 5 people seem be talking on them. I’m surprised that people didn’t have them grafted onto their ears. I even heard phones go off while traveling in the subway cars and we were several stories underground. Which led me to believe that either they had a better phone system then ours or they were all going to die of brain cancer from the frequency used there.

The rest of my trip evenly mixed sightseeing with salsa dancing. Winsome was the perfect host, by now having perfected her tour guide skills due to the previous visits of Carlos and Jimmy. We covered the city by cab, train, trolley, mini-bus, ferry, car and on foot. My sightseeing experiences included a visit to Repulse Bay, which was the home of many Buddha statues. We were joined by Winsome’s Mom who also took me to eat at a couple of nice HK restaurants like the one located inside the Soccer Club. Then there was my shopping adventure in Hong Kong’s Time Square building which is sort of a shopping mall. It was here that I finally found my first real cup of coffee...thank God!!!. The Times Square area also provided me with an opportunity to do some Christmas shopping. We also journeyed on a 100 year old trolley car that carried us to THE PEAK (a tourist attraction that overlooks all of Hong Kong). The city was filled with many familiar storefront sights like McDonald’s, 711 and TGIY that would make any American feel at home. It was nothing like I expected. I had this Hollywood movie image of the city, with rickshaw drivers running up and down the street, clotheslines hung up between buildings and people living on Junks (a type of boat) by the river. For those of you that are Bruce Lee fans, just think of the opening scene of "ENTER THE DRAGON" and you’ll get the picture. Speaking of Bruce Lee, those who know me, also know that he was a childhood idol of mine. It was because of him that I got involved in the martial arts, which led me to become a martial artist, an instructor, author of several martial arts training videos, books, magazine articles and finally into my present career as a Stunt Coordinator/Stuntman. No trip to Hong Kong would have been complete for me without doing something related to Bruce Lee. This prompted Winsome to take me to visit La Salle (a school where both Bruce & Brandon Lee went to) and The Bruce Lee Café (that’s right a theme restaurant name after the man himself).

Hong Kong proved to be a very modern city. There was construction going on everywhere. Wherever I went I could scaffolding running up alongside many buildings. I hear that the skyline has changed drastically over the last ten years. I think the Chinese motto should be "OUT with the old and IN with the new". I managed to really appreciate the Hong Kong skyline to its fullest when Winsome took me to eat at the Regent Hotel. It was on that side of the river where people could see all the buildings light up when it got dark outside. Lets just say that it’s the Hong Kong version of New York’s Time Square. Huge neon signs for companies like Sony, Toshiba and Ford would like up on top of buildings. Very commercial, but breath taking all the same time.

Can you believe with all this sightseeing that I still had time for dancing. Well I did. There was a different place to salsa dance for each day of the week. I hit some local hot spots like La Placita Restaurant, The Havana Club and The Tea Room. The Placita Restaurant was the site for the 1st Hong Kong Salsa Competition. Winsome, along with Salsaweb Hong Kong Correspondent Ricci Yasin were among the judges present at the event. It was really nice to see the locals dance up a storm. I loved to see them perform. You could really tell that they put their hearts into it. I was really happy for Winsome since the first place winners (Lina & Jean Pierre) had been coached by her, and the second place winners (Olivier & Diane) were students of her. On another night I visited a club called the Tea Room. It was there that local salsa instructors Wilma Donnelly & Cliff Hall invited me to teach some partner work. Students at the Tea Room were very eager to pick up new material. So I gave them a couple of turn patterns for them to happily digest. Wilma also interviewed me for a magazine she and Cliff Hall edit called Sonando Magazine. Sonando is a free bi-monthly periodical that covers the Hong Kong Salsa dance scene. Copies of Sonando can be found at all the local salsa clubs. It’s a great resource guide for those salseros living or visiting there. Those interested in finding out more about Sonando Magazine can surf on over to: www.clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/hongkongsalsa or email sonandosalsanews@hotmail.com.

Exhibit A:
The Havana 
Drink Mixer

Finally, there was The Havana Club which will always conjure pleasant memories for me. It’s a Salsa club that Winsome and I, along with a couple of other local Salseros hit the night before I headed back to the States. For all intents and purposes it was not a schedule salsa night, but our little crew made it into one. The best part for me was this ongoing game I had with Winsome, where she would try to snatch one of the Havana’s drink mixer from my hand. She tried everything in her power to take it from me. The funny part, was that it had to be the very one I was holding. A duplicate wouldn’t do. So I teased her the rest of the night by switching them and letting her believe she had succeeded taking it from me. She never did. I still have it. As part of the tease I e-mailed her a scan copy of it, with a promise to give it to her upon her return to NY. Now that she’s back, I guess I’m going to have to live up to my end of the promise. 8-)

Well, my time in Hong Kong finally ended. I got up at 4:35am, was served my last cup of hot tea with milk from Winsome and jumped on a cab that took me to the train station. There I checked my luggage, said my goodbyes to Winsome and thanked her for the wonderful time I had during my visit. I had a blast. This is one trip I’ll never forget. As Bob Hope would say, (Winsome) ......."thanks for the memories." I also want to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to all those Hong Kong Salseros who befriended me and did their best to make me feel at home. The world has proven to be such a small place. I’m sure our paths will cross again and I look forward to seeing you all on the dance floor. 8-)

Even this far away I've got some "Addie-tude"
on my Mind!

Click here if you are interested in getting more in on Winsome Lee.

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