“We’re going to Hong Kong.”
Whenever “Hong Kong” is mentioned, the scenery that I would imagine is a rich city that never sleeps, all lit and back-to-back parties from night till dawn. I pictured Disneyland, elite residences, and a heaven for every shopaholic and vibrant city lights.
When I stepped out of my flight, guess what? I only got the vibrant city lights right.
My mother and I don’t stay at high-end resorts like The Four Seasons or Sheraton whenever we travel. We prefer to stay in cozy hotels that are a little bit remote, but not too far from the main road — a little closer to the locals. Hong Kongese people live in apartments and condominiums since it is an island. They only use half of the island, since the other half is preserved for natural habitats and the hilly topography (something that I read on the bus on the way from the airport to Man Ming Lane).
We got lost as soon as we hopped off the bus and dragged one luggage each across unfamiliar streets. The streets in Hong Kong are busy and it resembles Petaling Street and Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur back home, far from what I had imagined. I have also learned that the name of the streets in Chinese and English are different. Thankfully, my mother screenshotted the hotel’s address in Chinese, so all locals could show us the way even if they didn’t speak English. During the lost and found in search of our hotel, we came across so many parks and sitting areas that were well taken care of. There was always a sitting area in every lane. It was all very beautiful without a hint of rubbish — I think that it had something to do with feng shui — but it was very breathtaking to have splashes of dramatic green in the hustles and bustles of the city.
We used the train or as known as MTR, similar to MRTs at Singapore and Malaysia, and it was the place where I got to learn the most. The locals were so disciplined that they obeyed all rules, like who applied the rule at the escalator where you stay at the right if you don’t want to walk and walk at the left if you need to rush? They followed all the arrows and the lanes meant for them; you wouldn’t bump into anyone that suddenly went to the wrong lane unless they were tourists. Oops. They wore earphones the right way — it’s crazy. I have also seen many people coming into the train with a bouquet of flowers; I didn’t know if they bought it themselves or someone gave it to them, but it was beautifully arranged. I saw couples waiting for each other at the train stations and walked home together and grandmothers picking up their grandchildren from school and accompanying them during every transit. It looked like gratitude and affection are publicly displayed and became a norm. Speaking of grandmothers, the elderly here were very strong, as they walked boldly through long miles from street to street and brought a heavy load with them without a single help. It was most probably because of their healthy lifestyle, and I respect them so much for it.
I loved it on how arts and culture are appreciated in Hong Kong. They had a huge active cultural center where they showcase theatrical performances — and they showed the smaller ones in auditoriums. I didn’t get to catch any of them, but I got to take a picture of the Arts and Culture Center that is beside the Astronomy Center. I was also delighted with the way the Chinese people uplifted their Oriental culture — even back in Malaysia, and even when it was not the Lunar New Year. They support their artists’ work, go to their concerts, watch their home-ground movies first before foreign movies — they support one another. I hope that someday the artists in Malaysia get equal tribute.
The locals were very nice. One time, when we wanted to go to Macau and didn’t know which train should we hop into to go to Tsuen Wan, a lady cleaner saw us looking cluelessly at the railway board, attempting to figure out which colored rail we should ride, but the map that we were holding that didn’t even indicate the place. Stupid, I know, but the lady approached us and said, “Tsuen Wan?” This most likely because that was the only word that she could catch in our sighs and panic attacks. She showed us the way — again, with hand signs — but she smiled when we said, “Xie Xie ni,” thank you in Mandarin. Most people that we met to ask for directions and all handled us with care; even the housekeeping staff at our hotel greeted us every time we went past them in the morning, making sure our rooms are made up nicely, just like they were when we first checked in.
On the last day of the trip, I went to the sitting area at Shanghai Street and Man Ming Lane to breathe the air of Hong Kong for the last time before we leave for good. It was refreshing; it made me tear up at some point, but I missed my home country more — the place where I belong. I was born a tropical girl; I could never handle the 17-20 Celcius for three-months straight during winter for my whole life.
Overall, Hong Kong had been a pleasant stay and has been a classroom for me to learn better and improve myself. I can’t wait for another trip to another country — let’s see what I’ll find next!
Featured Image Courtesy of author’s own collection