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‘Hong Kong is boisterous, colorful, neon and noisy.’

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Feature by Giulia Mendes

The desire to know what lies beyond the next border is the driving force for photographer and filmmaker Patrik Wallner. With camera and skateboard in hand, Patrik has traveled to more than 100 countries in pursuit of stories untold and societies often overlooked.

At the age of 18, Patrik was already traveling through Europe, filming the professional global adidas skateboarding team. The German-born talent of Hungarian descent has lived in New York, Barcelona, London, Bangkok, Shenzhen, is now based in Hong Kong, and has a growing roster of clients from Red Bull, The Wall Street Journal, Vans, The North Face, as well as being published in Thrasher, Vice and HYPEBEAST. Traveling via land wherever possible, Patrik seeks to uncover unexpected skating locations in the streets of Yemen, Myanmar, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and use skateboarding as a gateway into a culture. We chat with Patrik about traveling border to border, falling in love with Hong Kong and his top spots around the boisterous metropolis for noodle soup, secondhand camera gear and hiking.


On where you’re from

I was born in southern Germany in a small town called Tübingen, and when I was 10, my family moved to New York. Shortly after, I was introduced to skateboarding, which has since taken me to all these places. It all started with my uncle buying a skateboard next to a gas station on a trip to Croatia when I was 14. It was a good outlet for me right around the time when it got really emotional and scary for Americans in New York with the terrorist attacks of September 11. I never thought skating would take me this far, but I became obsessed. I didn’t necessarily want to be professional, but like every kid, you want to become better at it.

On becoming a photographer

I was practicing skating with my friends in New York, and my photography just evolved over the years as I started documenting. I realized I enjoyed these enthusiastic skateboarding characters in my life, these misfits — skateboarders around the early 2000s weren't the most popular people. I started taking portraits and documenting the tricks. This accelerated in my late teenage years when I got a more professional camera. When I was 18, so four years into skateboarding, I was already traveling around Europe with professional skateboarders from adidas. It happened quite fast, I was living my dream.

On moving to Barcelona

I wanted to be in a city where skateboarding is accelerating. Around the early 2000s, Barcelona was the mecca of skateboarding. Even to this day, you can name five cities on this planet, and Barcelona will always pop up as one of the major skateboarding cities. So I moved to Barcelona in my early 20s. From there, it propelled me into the crazy travel of my 20s, which took me all over the planet, mainly focusing on Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Patrik Wallner has traveled to more than 100 countries between Europe and Asia, via land wherever possible. ‘The Eurasia Project’ started with a train ride from Moscow to Hong Kong, seeking unexpected skating locations in the streets of Afghanistan (pictured top), Iran, Iraq, Yemen (pictured middle), Bangladesh (pictured bottom, all photos by Patrik Wallner), and more.

On traveling from border to border

I grew up reading [The Adventures of] Tintin, the comic book, and he's a reporter. I was always curious to see different sides of countries that I'd never heard about. My mom used to be a geography teacher, so I always loved to see landscapes, mountains, and borderlines — borderlines always fascinated me. I was curious about how one country ends here, and another country starts there, just by a line. I always had a desire to know what's across the next border, what culture is thriving and what languages are spoken. Whenever I go to one nation, let's say, Kyrgyzstan, I'd want to know what's in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — what is different in all these small nations, or even countries that are not fully formed, de facto countries like Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

On creativity across borders

The Eurasia Project started with a train ride from Moscow to Hong Kong. I put together a crew of nine skateboarders from Russia, England and Germany, and we went on an eight-week trip. That was the first full-length documentary I filmed. We all bonded — we were in our early 20s and very motivated. We stopped in cities where no foreign skaters had been before. In the beginning, the point was to make a circle around Europe and Asia. The next trip we did was called The Mandalay Express (2011). We went from Vietnam to Myanmar by local transportation. We decided we weren’t flying anymore — no airplanes, just trains or buses or any land transportation, so we could find skateboarding spots.

‘I was curious about how one country ends here, and another country starts there, just by a line. I always had a desire to know what's across the next border.’

On skating across continents

Skateboarders are obsessed with finding new spots, it's almost territorial. Some borderlines we couldn't cross, but over five years, we almost circled Europe and Asia. The Eurasia Project was me trying to go to every country recognized and unrecognized in Europe and Asia, to get one image that shows something about borderlines, skateboarding and portraiture. There are so many nations in the middle of Central Asia and the Middle East that people don't know much about. Yemen has beautiful architecture that's left behind, and men wearing daggers represents honor. The world is still so complex.

On travel sparking new ideas

Most of my creativity happens in a eureka moment. We've taken so many long, random train rides and I’ve had so much time to think, that I’ve come up with a lot of good ideas. You look out the window and you’re struck with an idea. A lot of ideas are just around the corner, but you have to go to places you haven't been. It's almost like scratching a map in your head. If I don't know what's in the next country, I need to go there to find out. Once you're there, you meet people and see a culture you haven't seen before. That's how you get ideas, and that's how I fuel my creativity.

From Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Patrik created a skateboarding video called ‘Meet the Stans’, where he filmed countries whose names ended with "stan" in Central Asia, such as Pakistan (pictured top). Continuing his journey through unusual destinations in North Korea (pictured bottom) — where independent travel is not allowed — Patrik managed to photograph fellow skateboarders beneath the Arch of Reunification outside of Pyongyang (pictured middle, all photos by Patrik Wallner).

On how Hong Kong influences your work

It does by its uniqueness. Hong Kong was a colonial territory of the United Kingdom, and it is fused with Chinese culture. If you look at Taiwan and Macau, they’re more Chinese, but Hong Kong has its own dialect, its language is Cantonese, and it has its own food. You can have Russian borscht or macaroni — and that's Cantonese. This city is a mix, it’s a melting pot of different ethnicities as well. There's a big Indian and South Asian culture and community here, which has also shaped the city. Architecturally it's unique — it's a vertical city with not much room for houses other than high-rises. It never really goes to sleep, people are used to working all the time. I don't get tired of Hong Kong — I’m in love with it. I sometimes struggle leaving because I feel I'm missing out on its change.

‘You have to get away from the surface that everyone else shoots. Luckily, I had a few years of Covid to dig deeper, and there are some really unique corners.’

On finding visual inspiration around the city

If you go a bit further north into Fanling, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, and Yuen Long, these neighborhoods are a bit less discovered and you'll see some really cool stuff. If you have a camera around your neck, shooting photos in Hong Kong is quite easy, and you can get away with portraits. It's not like India or Kenya where they always ask for permission. Hong Kong is quite the opposite. I've only had people shout at me a couple of times, and they weren’t even Cantonese people. Photography is quite easy, but you have to get away from the surface that everyone else shoots. People go to Choi Hung to shoot the colorful rainbow buildings — the housing estate that has different layers of color. People get sucked into shooting the same photos they see on social media. Luckily, I had a few years of Covid to dig deeper, and there are some really unique corners.

On hiking Hong Kong

Back in the day, I'd take them to the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and have some drinks there. Go up to The Peak [Victoria Peak], because you have a nice view of the city getting dark. It's beautiful. Everyone loves it. Nowadays, I like going hiking and taking different trails — Hong Kong has one of the most extensive trails any city has, like the MacLehose Trail, the Wilson Trail, which branch out in so many different ways, with beautiful peaks. Right now, I'm obsessed with the peaks. I'm trying to climb all the peaks, which is in the hundreds. If someone is coming for a visit, I'd take them up to a random peak in Sai Kung — an area with beautiful beaches, and it's a national UNESCO reserve park with rock formations that are stunning. You have really unique animals there, like Burmese pythons, porcupines, boars, and pangolins — the little animal that turns into a ball.


With his analog camera around his neck, Patrik explores Hong Kong, drawing inspiration from its unique architecture and its people shooting photos in less-discovered neighborhoods such as north Fanling, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, and Yuen Long. He's constantly on the lookout for new trails to hike, a steamy bowl of noodle soup, and secondhand camera gear. Patrik has it all covered in his Hong Kong Travel Playbook (all photos by Patrik Wallner).

On escaping to the beach

I'd take a friend out into nature to Tai Long Wan, one of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong, close to Ham Tin, which is really good for surfing. It takes about two hours to get there from Central — you have to take the MTR [Mass Transit Railway] to a bus, to a minibus, to a boat. But once you're there, it's like you are in the Maldives — it's beautiful, and you have a nice peak right behind it called Sharp Peak. I’d also go camping. There's also the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. That's a nice little ten-minute hike to get up there, and you can see monkeys right next to the temple.


On the best markets

For shopping, there's a traditional antique market called Cat Street (Upper Lascar Row) in Sheung Wan, where you can buy old Chinese pottery or secondhand stuff. And in Sham Shui Po, there's a secondhand market with electronics — I even find some decent cameras there.


‘People go to ‘dai pai dongs’, which are very old normal Cantonese outdoor restaurants.’

On your favorite noodle soup

I love soups, so I'd recommend Min Jun Cart Noodles — I must say those are my favorite soups. It's a very Macau Hong Kong-style soup where you can add in different little things. You pick the size of your noodles, and you can have fish skin in it or different types of meats or a lot of vegetables. It's in Causeway Bay, which is a very popular district here.


On your top dai pai dongs

People go to dai pai dongs, which are very old normal Cantonese outdoor restaurants where you can have wonton soup and different rice dishes. Dai pai dongs are a little rare these days, but there is a good one in the Mid-Levels around Peel Street called Sing Kee. I also like the one located a street over from Shek Kip Mei Station called Kin Kee, mainly for soups, and there's also one where they make really good curry and pork and rice, called Tak Yu.


Falling in love with boisterous Hong Kong came naturally to Patrik. The melting pot of different ethnicities made him feel at home upon arrival. Now, the photographer and filmmaker struggles to leave the city for fear of missing out on the constant change it experiences (all photos by Patrik Wallner).

On your pick of cha chaan tengs

While the dai pai dongs are outdoors, the cha chaan tengs are Hong Kong tea houses that do breakfast dishes. My favorite one is Mid Levels Cafe for their dumplings. And Date Cafe in Happy Valley for their Cantonese borscht. Not the healthiest, but it's very delicious. I'd also recommend Sri Lankan food. My wife and I had Sri Lankan food that a guy cooks in his kitchen, and he delivers it to you on the subway. I was filming some skateboarding when I met him in the MTR station downstairs. It's food wrapped in a newspaper in a banana leaf, and it's just delicious. There are so many restaurants, but there are also unique ways of people cooking food for you and delivering. There's a variety here because it's a melting pot, so there's a lot of really good food.

‘Hong Kong is like a financial district built on money, but it inhabits pure nature. It has it all.’

On a window or an aisle seat

I go for the aisle if I have diarrhea, and I go for the window if I'm listening to Bonobo, some of my favorite music to listen to when I'm flying. So it depends on the mood, it depends on the stomach. It's a couple of factors.

On a song that represents Hong Kong to you

Back in my first encounter with Hong Kong in 2007, I was listening to Bonobo’s album called Animal Magic a lot. I still listen to it, so that album speaks Hong Kong to me, I guess for nostalgic reasons.

On Hong Kong in one word


Hong Kong is boisterous, meaning energetic, loud. It has this energy because it's constantly lit up. It’s always very colorful, neon and noisy. There's no city like it. Hong Kong is like a financial district built on money, but it inhabits pure nature. Cape Town is one that I've been to that is similar, San Francisco too, but Hong Kong has it all.


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‘Hong Kong is boisterous, colorful, neon and noisy.’