Friday, 21 September 2012

My Love Affair with Hong Kong

Have you ever been somewhere that you didn't have a very high expectation of enjoyability beforehand, but for reasons you can't quite fathom you love it so much you can't properly articulate? When you try to string some nonsensical words together people look at you funny and quietly ponder the possibilities for your behaviour, such as falling on your head as a child or exposure to the Ebola virus.

 I want to tell you about how awesome Hong Kong is, but that's the problem I have right now. If I could I'd jump up and down like an overly excited chimpanzee and fling my own poop, but humans don't have the luxury of this being acceptable behaviour and quite frankly I'm concerned that it will reflect badly on Hong Kong. (And my upbringing - you're welcome Mom!) So I'll try to use only words, and no profanity which is a challenge all on it's own!

Every person I've talked to who's been to Hong Kong went there by chance, a side quest to their main destination. Everyone loved Hong Kong and reckon it's one of their favourite places, but not one could say exactly why. And that's the magic of Hong Kong, there's something about the energy that is infectious! A friend proclaimed it to be "like New York, but with Zen". (Plus, it's a really fun word to say. Hong Kong!)

Not being a "big-city-girl" I didn't think Hong Kong would charm me in the least, but in hindsight I was screwed hooked the moment my foot hit the damp side walk of Nathan Road.

We stayed in Kowloon, and even though I know it's technically part of China, I didn't expect it to be so overwhelmingly...Chinese! Kowloon is more authentic compared to Hong Kong Island which is "sort of Chinese" wrapped in Western culture and business driven energy. For a place that has only gained it's independence from Britain in 1997, I was stunned at how few speak English fluently, or at all. It's like they just forget.

Nathan Road is one of the major roads in Kowloon, the neon-lit aorta if you will. It runs from the heart of Kowloon right down to the harbour, and it's alive with people and all kinds of stores, mainly of the clothing or electrical variety. The occasional Chinese medicine shop can also be found, recognised by it's distinctive smell and trays of dead sea creatures outside on the side walk. But other than the aforementioned, it doesn't assault the senses like any of the other Asian cities I've been to, and your feet don't stick to the side walk. In fact, it's remarkably clean! Almost irritatingly so, like that one A-type friend who's house is always spotless and tidy despite the fact that she has two toddlers; whereas I don't have any but it looks like there lives about twelve. And the whole of Hong Kong is really green for a huge city, with big trees lining the roads and shady gardens everywhere.

One such quiet oasis we found is Kowloon Park, where children swim in the crystal swimming pools and groups of people practice Tai Chi. There's also runner trails and an aviary, and I caught myself thinking; "I could live here, and be happy!". Which is a first for me since it's really difficult to find a place that could measure up to home.

A really horrible picture of me. You're welcome.

After recharging in Kowloon Park for about an hour I took to the streets again, my darling hubby in tow. It amazes me how patiently he can follow the multiple direction I take off in at once. Even if he's dead tired and rain drenched, and my sense of direction sucks, and my focus on something lasts only about five seconds before I run off to the next thing that draws my attention. (Ooeee, something shiny!) And not only does he put up with it and keeps a mental note of where the heck we are; he actually enjoys seeing me this childishly happy!

Not even the rain, or our tiredness, or my crazy random behaviour could deter us from soaking up the Hong Kong vibe and we finally made it all the way to where Nathan Road ends in Salisbury Road. Here we found a magic glowing dome (otherwise known as the Hong Kong Space Museum), and the magnificent Peninsula Hotel that was built in the 1920's. We took a stroll through the lobby, feeling utterly scruffy, and my jaw dropped at the architecture and old world charm. There's even a live quartet playing music from the gallery. It felt like walking into a different era!

The Peninsula Hotel - Hong Kong

After sufficiently gawking at this charming piece of history, I looked back from where we came in Nathan Road that is altogether exhilarating and peaceful and maddening, and I realized for the first time; "Holy macaroon, I'm in Hong Kong!"

Then this sweet man of mine, probably realizing that my brain finally fried, took me by the hand and led me around the glowing bowl that was distracting me, to a little walkway that finally came out here...

View of Hong Kong Island and harbour from Kowloon.

And it took my breath away! Resistance is futile, the heart wants what the heart wants, and I knew I'm madly in love with Hong Kong!

Then I remembered another time I went somewhere without expecting much and came home being swept off my feet...

My favourite person in my favourite place.

Resistance truly is futile.

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