By Former Hong Kong banker,
Editor's note: The author is a British banker who spent several years working in Hong Kong and is now receiving professional help for his addictions. He has requested not to be named. He no longer lives in the city.
(CNN) -- The first time I walked down the main drag in Wan Chai in Hong Kong, I couldn't believe what I saw; all the mama bars there and prostitutes openly in the street outside trying to get guys to go in.
Within the first week I'd already been offered cocaine, though I didn't take it at that stage. When I did, it was easy to get.
I know 100 guys between the ages of 20 and 50, and I'd say around 30 of them were regular cocaine users. Not all were working in banking, but most were, of the ones I knew. They were all Westerners.
I know guys in banking in London, Chicago and Sydney and they've all got the same pressures as Hong Kong. Yes, I know some cocaine users in those cities, but the ratio of the people I know to the ratio of people I know who are drug users is minimal -- it's almost non-existent. So it can only really be down to two things -- the availability of it and how many people do it; the general acceptance of it in Hong Kong.
When I read the news of the murders in Wan Chai, allegedly by a British banker, my first reaction was "I hope I don't know him, please don't be someone I know," because it easily could have been. I knew some guys who were seriously screwed up and now I realize just how much I had changed in Hong Kong, almost inhuman at times.
The guy that I used, you could give him a phone call or a text message from 4 p.m. onwards and within an hour -- I think his record was 10 minutes -- one of his drivers was sitting in a car outside the office. You'd just tell people you were popping down for a cigarette.
You'd dive over into his car, he would just drive around the corner, and by the time you got out 30 seconds later, you've got cocaine and you've given him the money. He had four or five delivery points that were his favorite delivery points and they were all within walking distance of the office. And if your guy was busy or not answering, then you knew that someone else had a guy and they could get some off him. Of the hundred nights that I wanted to get cocaine, I think I can only remember one night when I couldn't get any.
You could walk into almost any bar in Wan Chai and stand there and have a drink and you would soon pick up the signs of another cocaine user; they're going to the toilet every 20 minutes, their nose is running, they're talking rubbish, really quickly. They wouldn't say no if they had some on them. It felt like some unofficial club where you only knew members first names -- but you all looked out for each other on the drug front.
A gram would cost between $90 to $130 (HK$700 and HK$1,000). At the start I was doing it once a month, and after a few years I found myself doing it four times a week. I would do one gram for one night out. But then quite often I would find myself on a three or four-day bender.
You could do that because there are a couple of bars in Wan Chai that stay open until 9 a.m. And then when one of those kicks you out you can just walk across the road to another bar that's opening at 9 a.m. -- as long as you can make it across the road without being hit.
The bars that stayed open until 9 a.m. -- they weren't the mama bars with the girls standing outside, but inside there were always prostitutes asking you to buy a drink for them at an inflated price. And then generally it wouldn't take long for them to ask you if you wanted to go back to a hotel with them. You'd never have to ask them. I personally always said no because I was more interested in my beer and coke.
'No one was really that worried'
If you weren't going on a bender, and you were just out drinking until 3 a.m., you could go to work and function. I was one of them -- I was still functioning. But if I had a three-day bender then I had to make up excuses for being off sick, or whatever, or somebody would cover for you.
Generally, no one was really that worried. In my office there were three guys who would regularly go AWOL for three or four days, and of course the wives would worry and would be ringing everybody. People would be trying to get hold of them but you kind of knew, "they're alright, they're just in a bar somewhere, on cocaine, and they'll turn up in a few days looking ashamed and promising they won't do it again, for a week."
If you were out in Wan Chai you knew you weren't going to get into trouble with the law. You could go into the toilet, into the cubicle, and chop your cocaine up on the ledge behind the toilet. You could clearly see that was going on -- the people who were regularly going into the toilet every 20 minutes -- not covering up the noise they were making when they were doing it.
The women were obviously very, very easily accessible if you wanted it. I knew guys whose number one priority was the drinking, I knew guys whose number one priority was the drugs, and I knew guys whose number one priority was the women. Generally the guys in the last of those groups, you wouldn't see them around as much because they'd be off with a woman somewhere.
Hong Kong can break you as a person. That scene in Wan Chai with these girly bars everywhere, getting cocaine whenever you need it, being able to stay up and drink all night, you end up believing that that's the norm.
When you go to other cities, it's like "why haven't they got somewhere that stays open all night. It's a pain in the arse to try to get cocaine from somebody."
I wouldn't have got out of it in Hong Kong.
I would have been destroyed.
Leaving Hong Kong saved my life.