For Wayne, Hong Kong is like that first kiss, or staring down that bully in grade 1. It’s filled with romance and larger than life dreams that have been upsized with each telling.
He didn’t tell you that it took 25 hours to get there from Huangshan, involving a taxi, two buses and two trains and a subway, and a frustrating border crossing, did he? Nor did he tell you about Chinese trains, right?
We railed it down most of the way in soft sleeper class. That’s Chinese speak for first class, tho officially this is a classless society. The mattresses are a little thicker, and there’s a door for the four bed/2 bunks in a tiny compartment. We’d done the hard sleeper earlier, which was downright proletarian compared to the softie as it’s three walls, 2 rows of triple bunks, and doorless, so prying eyes and wanderers get to peer into each other’s warren. The thing about trains is that they are such a microcosm of China. You’re not supposed to smoke, but people do in the aisles, especially the crew. Everybody brings instant noodles and seeds. They compartent jump, and there’s a different sense of space, and privacy is a very different concept. Wayne say’s it’s like growing up an only child in a mansion then getting adopted into a family of 13 in a two room, smoke infested basement. So on a train, lower berths are communal, whether it’s your compartment, class or not.
Anyway, Wayne loves riding the rails whereas, I can’t sleep on them and I arrive exhausted. So it took me days in Hong Kong to recover, and by then it was end game time. So yes Wayne will return to HK because he absolutely loves the mood, the vibe, the energy, the people watching, and he feels a sense of familiarity and home there. But it's not my first kiss, and I never had to face down that bully.
Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Hong Kong. We did some really cool things, like hiked around one of the many sub-tropical islands Lama, in order to treat ourselves to a fresh seafood lunch at the end. We enjoyed the $2 ferry ride from Kowloon (mainland) across the harbour to HK Island and the stellar view from Victoria Peak down onto the phalanx of skyscrapers . And ooo the markets, in HK there is a market for everything: birds, fish, flowers, jade, sporting goods, electronics, and action figures. But to really get HK, one must look beyond the giant Buddha, and the shopping meccas. Tho it is a city that seems to exists for no apparent purpose other than to shop and make money, it's the vibe, the energy as Wayne maintains. Even from atop Victoria Peak, one could literally hear a constant hum (not to mention the construction), as if the pulse of the city were collectively hitting cash registers and ATM buttons.
I must admit its not my fav Chinese city, though it is an oasis from all that’s challenging about China. And spending two of my favorite evenings in Asia thus far, with Annie and Max will always, always rank up there. They’re wonderful insiders to HK. They live (in a deluxe but dear apt) and work (in English) on the Island along with most westerners. I’d seen more white faces there on a Friday night strip of bars and restaurants, than I had in all of China put together.
Tough call, do Strawberry martinis at the Nepalese restaurant-Annapurna count? The shark fin dumpling soup at dim sum was sublime, the Taiwanese street noodles with baby oysters, real crab (we waved off the pig intestines) were yummy. But Wayne’s vote is the deep fried and breaded squid off the Temple St market. In the shadow of the brothels and massage parlours, this street eatery screams out jumble hand sanitzer. But the squid was cooked to perfection and melted in Wayne’s mouth.
Favorite bad translation:
“Garish” for your noodles
By the numbers: Hong Kong’s GDP is 14th in the world, Canada is 22, China 133
Next: cross border into Shenzhen, fly to Guilin where we overnite, then onto the karst limestone peaks and landscapes of Yangshuo