June 01, 2014

Tempting Fate: Meeting the Hong Kong Fortune Teller

Ever wondered about what lies ahead or who you were in a past life? After all, we couldn’t all have been Alexander the Great or Jack the Ripper. In Hong Kong and most of Asia,
fortune-telling is serious business.

While sceptics think fortune telling is a gimmick or scam, its roots in Asian culture run deep. From
love life to business, otherwise sensible adults regularly seek advice on everything from choosing
baby names to the timing of corporate mergers.

Hong Kong’s Mystic Mile

In Hong Kong, my mate and I decide to get down and dirty with destiny, and Kowloon’s Temple
Street is the perfect place to start. Past the hawkers and pirated DVD sellers, there’s a line of sixth-
sense seers who will reveal your future in every method imaginable, from palm reading to tarot
cards to reading the bumps on your face – there’s even fortune-telling birds.

We seek out the oldest and wisest looking, sit down, and hand over our $HK50 bucks.

Our fortune teller is called ‘The Master’; he looks as old as Methuselah, has a wispy Fu Manchu-
type beard and doesn’t speak any English. Mysteriously, a willing interpreter appears to translate
for us.

“When were you born?” the translator asks. “1980,” my friend replies. “Ah, the Master can tell that
you are 34,” says the interpreter. I laugh out loud and tell him he should ask for his money back – of
course he is - we just told him that.

But then The Master lets drop a series of revelations that only my friend’s closest confidants would
know - including details about the end of his marriage and his career which were spot on. I watched
him turn white as the Master bared all, and with such accurate insights into his past, it was hard not
to believe what he predicted for his future.

Then it was my turn to go shopping in the spiritual supermarket, and I was keen to find what the
fortune-telling birds had to say. I had somehow imagined a large talking parrot that squawked the
secrets of my destiny.

Far from being parrots, the ‘spirit birds’ were tiny white finches locked in small cages. Mr Bird
Man spreads out a pile of cards with the skill of a Vegas dealer and releases the bird. In a few
seconds little 'chirpy' hops across the deck, plucks one - and that was my fortune. At least he didn’t
poop on one - that surely wouldn’t be good.

The reading was pretty vague and basically said all would be well, provided I drank less.
The next fortune teller started with my face. It felt mysterious and unscientific, yet oddly

“You must be careful with money,” said Mr Face Reader, sticking a pencil up my nose. “You have
wide nostrils, and this means that you will find it hard to hold on to money. You are a workaholic.
You must remember to rest. Take care, especially your heart.”

An interesting warning, indeed ... where were you on that one, little bird? Were you just going to
perform for crackers while I drink less and sneeze all my money away?

The reading was followed by a hard price negotiation. We leave with lighter pockets but in a great

Editors Note: The writer, Kris Madden, passed away suddenly in 2017 from a heart attack.

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