How authentic is Hong Kong's bamboo scaffolding pop-up bar?

Elaine Yu, CNNUpdated 29th April 2016
(CNN) — Dangling off tiny pieces of bamboo from heart-stopping heights, Hong Kong's daredevil scaffolders are a common sight on city streets.
In fact, more than 4.5-million pieces of bamboo are used in construction each year, adding a unique twist to the city's already famous skyline.
In an attempt to give those of us on the ground a look at what Hong Kong's high life is all about, Tiger Beer has erected a Labor Day weekend bamboo pop-up bar from April 28-May 2.
The bar is located outside Excelsior Plaza in Causeway Bay.
Residents and tourists can ascend its two Tiger-branded bamboo structures, which are 1.7 and 3.1 meters high. Each piece of bamboo bears a one-line pep talk to help climbers conquer those heights.
Since it typically takes two to three years of apprenticing until one can qualify for a license to experience the poles, participants at the Tiger Beer event use rock-climbing gear to clamber up the bamboo under the guidance of a professional climber.
After it's all over? They're rewarded with free Tiger beer, naturally.
Inspired by CNN's recent report on Hong Kong's incredible bamboo scaffolding scene, we invited a bamboo construction veteran to join us for a beer and tell us how the Tiger simulacrum compares to the real thing.

"Decorative and gimmicky"

Ping-tak Ho, 41, has woven scaffolding webs all over the city for 20 years.
He was born into the tradition, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, who built bamboo latticeworks and skyscrapers for over 50 years.
He cites the 118-story International Commerce Center, where he scaffolded the top floors while overlooking the Victoria Harbor, as one of the most stunning views he's ever seen.
The master scaffolder was game to climb the Tiger Beer structure -- till he saw it.
Calling the set-up "decorative and gimmicky," Ho said the rock-climbing harness used in the Tiger Beer event is secured in front, whereas those worn by real workers are found in the back.
This lets them free up their hands for work and easy maneuvering.
He also said he was wary of "performing" on the mock structure. Nor did he like the idea of coupling booze with bamboo -- a taboo in the industry that has caused accidents and deaths, he told CNN.

CNN: What's it like to be up there?

Ho: You feel like Spiderman -- and you're looking down at tiny little ants in the streets.
You're not scared because you know you won't fall.
Our safety gear includes an individual lifeline, a parachute harness and a buckle for fall protection.
Cities in Asia have reached soaring heights, all thanks to the ancient building technique of bamboo scaffolding. CNN's Ivan Watson reports.

What's your best memory?

Working at the Convention Center in Wan Chai.
There were 100 of us up there working at those curved and intricate ceilings by the harbor -- it was epic.
And of course the International Commerce Center, when you're at the highest point of the city.

What's special about bamboo?

Each and every bamboo rod is unique.
They're sourced from forest parks and grown in bamboo farms in Guangxi and Guangdong, China.
Their firmness, structural makeup and level of fiber can all differ by age and the fertilizers used to grow them.
And their biggest enemy is water. (And typhoons.)
For a humid place like Hong Kong, you must set up the scaffolding fast and remove it just as quickly.
If they're exposed to water for too long the stems can snap easily.

Which places are hardest to set scaffolding up in?

In the spaces between buildings.
Or under water, when the bottom of a bridge needs repairing, since bamboos are hollow and they float.
In that case, we'll have to drill holes in each segment of the stem and fill it with water so it can stand and be planted securely.
Neon lights and signs that basically hang over the street are also challenging.
In those cases, the overall design needs to be sound and sophisticated.

Is it art or science? What skills do you build with?

With pride.
You look around at the skyscrapers and you see your part in building this city.
You've helped create a beautiful city for everyone.