In the first few days of my severe jet lag, I would wake up at dawn to climb the mountains to quiz the monks on philosophy before the temperature became sizzling. I became quite familiar with my favourite character here. She’s quite an inventor herself, check out her tin-foil wrapped straw hat. That’s what I call logical thinking, and no, she doesn’t believe in aliens.

When it rains in the mornings, it’s very impressive under the mountains. The thunder and lightning display is Vages-worthy. The breeze is indescribably moist and ‘zingy’ afterwards, with wet ionised air.

From the top of the mountains, one can see the sprawl of industrial sites spreading towards the city.

From the top of the mountain, there’s a Buddhist temple in the waist of the mountain. I quizzed and questions about the advice I’m given. The monks told me to follow the current and flow like water this year.


The spring water trickles down the mountain. In the morning, when there is a fuller flow, people carry bottles to capture its ‘purity’. Reminds me of my past project Wellman Waters from the RCA.

Families would make an outing of the spring water gathering, equipped with the latest child-distraction and motivation techniques. The promise of spring water was not appealing enough for children to wake up early and climb.

Going down the steep slope is much easier than climbing up, as long as one is careful about the headrush.

Towards the base, one has an opportunity of getting lost, meandering into the lotus ponds. The reward for doing so, is glimpsing at a piece of architectural sensibility as this. Graceful and egoless. Starchitecture, eat your heart out.

I leave quickly as a bus full of uniformed volunteers arrive. Ready to jump to the next festival or Expo, the teams shout chants in sync like cheerleaders and plot another wave of disruption for the monkestry.

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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