Since breaking out with a run of inventive singles in 2013 – including Skinny Dipping and Haircut – Sydney singer/musician/producer Rainbow Chan has continued to challenge herself with new creative forms. That includes visual arts as well as an evolving discography that sounds polished and personal at the same time. (Case in point: her swaggering 2016 electro-pop anthem Work.)

Born in Hong Kong, Chan moved to Australia with her family in the ’90s, at the age of six. Her work regularly touches on Chinese pop culture and her own straddling of multiple cultures. Her upcoming second album (due in June) is no exception. “These songs are a bit more of a reflection of my identity, and the ways I belong to various cultures and spaces and places,” she says. “Physically and emotionally, this album was written while travelling between Sydney and Hong Kong, and feeling different connections or not connecting.” There’s even a track inspired by a folk song sung in her mother’s dialect of Weitou.

Chan tries to get back to Hong Kong at least once a year, mainly to see family, but in recent years she’s been able to fund trips there with her music and art. That makes her an ideal candidate to share inspiring creative sites around the city, from cosy book-laden walls to the island’s most famous mountain peak.

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Hong Kong Community Radio
Australia may be famous for the passionate support network of its community radio, but Hong Kong is no slouch in that department. Enter HKCR, a tech-savvy independent station and inclusive community space. “They’re a very grassroots collective, promoting a lot of emerging electronic producers and DJs from Hong Kong,” says Chan. “But they support beatmakers globally, so whenever people travel through there, they’re the go-to people. They also host DJ sets in their studios and stream them online.” Chan has done a set on HKCR herself, and takes further inspiration from the adventurous international programming: “It’s really exciting to be able to move music onto digital platforms.”

Unit 367, 12F Foo Tak Building, 365–367 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai

Mido Cafe
Dating back to 1950, Mido Cafe is a preserved emblem of Hong Kong’s past. “Some local friends introduced me to the place,” says Chan, who describes it as a sort of tea diner. “The interior still looks like it’s from the ’60s or ’70s. It’s got typical Hong Kong-style booths, and the tiling is super retro. It encapsulates this very nostalgic mid-century architecture.” As much as the space itself appeals to Chan, she actually heads there for the cheap breakfast, which puts a Chinese spin on Western cuisine. That means Spam sandwiches, French toast with golden syrup and tea with condensed milk. “It’s a staple,” she says.

63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei

The Peak
Chan admits that it’s “super touristy”, but the highest point on Hong Kong Island is so popular for good reason. “It’s just such an amazing view when you get up to the top and look back down on the metropolis,” says Chan. “It’s so hilly, and all the buildings are so vertical.” The Peak is also the ideal spot to absorb the sweeping scope and high density of daily life on the island. “It makes me feel extremely small,” she says, “and that inspires a lot of creativity, thinking about that tension between an individual and society. It’s so pronounced from that bird’s eye view.”

Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Reader
Known for its social activism, which extends to well-curated talks and lectures, Hong Kong Reader is a beloved book store that’s almost hidden away. “You have to go up this really old elevator, or heaps of stairs, to get there,” says Chan, who treasures the selection of theory, local history, politics and philosophy books. “I always find these sites of resistance really interesting in Hong Kong, because it’s quite a commercial and materialistic society. So whenever I see these more left-wing, independent spaces, it’s exciting.” She also praises the balance of English- and Chinese-language books, and the resident cat that wanders around while customers browse.

7F, 68 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok

Asia Art Archive
Another excellent pick for bibliophiles is Asia Art Archive, a non-profit resource with an impressive collection of reference material and art and music archives from Asian artists. Founded in 2000, AAA also has a lovely hilly view from the 11th floor, and its location in the middle of the city (near Hollywood Road’s historic antiques district) is sweetened by the cross-section of cafes and shops along the path leading up to it. “I go there to write and to read,” says Chan. “It’s immaculately laid out, with lots of computers. It’s like a basin of knowledge.”

11/F Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan

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