Street Talk: Urban Explorer and Rooftopper Airin T.
Urban explorer and rooftopper Airin T. takes on Hong Kong skyscrapers and explores old buildings. She tells Natasha Fernandes about getting away from the crowds, run-ins with the police and reveals her fear of heights.
HK Magazine: So how’d you get into urban exploring?
Airin T: I started urbex-ing four to five years ago while I was in Japan. At first, I was only going into abandoned buildings but then my friend showed me there was a lot more to it. I really love the experience of it because you get to see a lot of old stuff that you wouldn’t normally in daily life, and get a feel for how people lived in the old times. Reading a book is not as interesting compared with when you actually see and experience it.
HK: What about rooftopping?
AT: Not long after I started urban exploring, a friend of a friend introduced me to rooftopping. At first I was really scared because I was acrophobic—even though it wasn’t too high, my hands were sweating and it was hard for me to concentrate. But, at the same time, it was calming. Hong Kong is too busy and crowded— almost everywhere it’s too noisy. On the roof it’s so chill, when you look at the street it’s like you’re playing Sim City.
HK: Any favorite discoveries in Hong Kong?
AT: Three years ago I went to an abandoned resort on an island near Sai Kung. The architecture was so southeast Asian: the building was yellow with lots of strange decorations everywhere and giant animal sculptures, like giraffes and elephants.
HK: Isn’t rooftopping dangerous?
AT: It’s actually not as dangerous as you’d think. Some people are really scared of being on rooftops, but I think it’s as dangerous as walking on the street. I’ve been doing this for years and have never been hurt, but of course you have to be careful because some of the abandoned buildings are not stable. Always take someone with you, because if there are any accidents no one will know as the cellular signal is really weak.
HK: What’s the tallest building you’ve ever rooftopped?
AT: The highest building I’ve scaled was the Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen while it was still under construction. It was around 110 floors high. I actually am truly acrophobic, and for me it’s both a physical and mental challenge.
HK: Do people ever think you’re going to jump off?
AT: One time I went rooftopping while I was wearing red. The Chinese always have the impression that female spirits or a woman who wants to kill herself wears red. So when the police saw me, they thought I had an issue with a boy and I wanted to commit suicide. They spoke to me for a while to make sure I was emotionally stable. That time it wasn’t just the police. Firemen and even the PTU [Police Tactical Unit] came.
HK: Where are you planning to explore in the future?
AT: I want to explore the world. It’s my dream since I was a kid. I want to uncover the truth of the Bermuda triangle. Also, To Fa Yuen [The Peach Blossom Spring], which is an unearthly utopia in China. These places might seem too imaginary and mysterious, but that’s exactly why I want to go.
Visit Airin T’s blog to learn more about urban exploring at timeless-time.blogspot.hk. She’s also publishing a book of haunted stories this month called “Phantom of the Lost.”