I had told myself that my next trip would be to Mainland…Japan. I have been itching to get back there, Shizuoka and now Nara have been put on my list. I was looking online, as is my habit these days and thought about doing something for the weekend. My Supervisor had asked me where I was off to next and Hong Kong and Singapore came to my mind but I only had two days. She suggested I take an extra day….so, what the heck? I’ve been wanting to go to Hong Kong for a little while now.
There is a fabulous little cheap airline, with a very catchy song, called Peach Airlines. When they have sales, and they have sales quite often, you can book a round trip ticket from Naha to Bangkok for $120. I will be buying those tickets tomorrow… Well, I didn’t cash in on one of those deals but I was able to get some tickets within 24 hours of flight and I packed my little green Patagonia backpack and I was good to go.
I did a little research on the trains and was pleasantly surprised that they go from the airport right downtown to where I was staying, a Microhotel across the street from a Bentley dealership. So for anyone traveling around Hong Kong, they have an Octopus Card that you buy for about $12 and you can ride the rails all over the city as well as use it in restaurants and 7 Eleven Stores. I always marvel at the trains, so clean and easy to figure out. Oh yes and this is Hong Kong, as in British-ruled until 1997, so English signage is everywhere…aaahhhhh.
I arrived at my room around as the sun was going down, washed up in my tiny little shower and headed out into the night. Hong Kong has it’s own feel..it is a big bustling city, I felt like a bird in a swirling chaotic flock as I moved through the streets outside of Time Square, so I veered into the alley ways and into the night…markets.
I love Asian night markets, the rush, the flow, the loud interactions, haggling, the energy. As many of you know, I am a bit of a minimalist, so these stalls filled with chachkies hold little appeal for me, but I do like to enter the stream of humanity from time to time and just look at what they’re selling and their salesmanship. Also, I needed a little bag to carry around my phone and wallet, so I approached making a purchase as something of a sport. I was looking at one bag, which I knew I was going to buy, and the guy gave me a price. I put it down and said, forget it, that’s outrageous. We dickered, I got it for about $12, which was probably twice what I should have paid, but it was fun. He started pulling out these sparkly little sequined things…I just looked at him and laughed. He said, ‘what?’ I said, ‘really?’ He conceded the point, I am not a sparkly, sequin kind of person.
A few observations about Hong Kong, back in ’96 when I was a reporter at the Daily Mail in Catskill, I was fascinated and frightened about the impending hand over of Hong Kong from Britain to China. I remember telling my friend and tunnel mate Raymond Pignone that I was very concerned about two things… and one of them was Hong Kong. So, I thought, if ever I have the chance to go, I will. I don’t want to make this a political column or to comment on the political and social tensions that exist, so I will leave it at feeling a sense of loss…
What I will talk about however is the open expression of affection and the sense of family. Living in a very conservative society for the past year and a half, I was a little taken aback to see people walking down the street, their arms looped companionably over a friend’s shoulder, people laughing and leaning into each other and (sigh) the hand-holding. Beautiful, amazing and oh so sweet.
Now here in Okinawa, the Chinese do not get a break. We as Americans living here should look be thankful to the Chinese because it seems that the Chinese are regarded as louder and ruder than us. Go figure. But I have to say, riding on the trains and seeing teenagers holding hands, the young men carrying their girlfriend’s purse and assorted shopping bags, observing the matched outfits (I always think of the his-and-her roll neck sweaters from the 70’s) and the deference for each other was a wonderful thing to behold. They are loud, they are gregarious, but they were also kind to each other and looked out for one another, I enjoyed these people very much.
I noticed something that kept happening while I was there, wherever there was a line, I would queue up behind two or three people…as we would get closer, eight or nine people would just show up…the two or three people were holding places for people. At first I was like What the Hell?… then I adjusted and just laughed and shook my head, because I would forget about it until it happened again in the next line! As I was coming back through Customs in Okinawa, four people jumped in front of me and I was just chill at that point. The Okinawan Customs person appeared to take great offense and waved them away, motioning me forward. I spoke the best Japanese I could and thanked him for doing a good job in Japanese, he just smiled in thanks and sent me on my way.
So what to do in Hong Kong? I wanted to see Bruce Lee’s mansion and the statue. That was pretty much my agenda…go to Bruce Lee’s and wander aimlessly around the city. Sometimes the simplest plans are the best. I took three train transfers but found my way to Kowloon and the neighborhood of Bruce Lee’s home.
I walked from the train station and spotted someone’s love confession on a fence by tracks. It was touching, I wondered, did Jean Cheung work up the nerve to tell Charlie how she felt or did she write it on the fence hoping he would pass by and notice? These are the little mysteries that take my mind hostage.
I got to the home of Bruce, the Crane’s Nest and saw two very large Ukrainian men hulking outside the gates. I shot a few photos of them, had a little political discussion and they continued wherever they were off to. His mansion has been in disrepair for sometime, it was most recently a love hotel but now it is unoccupied and frankly, a little sad. The street however was quiet and peaceful and one of the few places not teeming with people. I enjoyed the quiet and then headed back into the maelstrom.
I needed to find the statue of Bruce. Now, Google and Apple maps are sometimes quite amazing, some times they are not…this was one of those ‘not’ moments. I wandered around like Moses in the desert looking for the statue when I finally turned off the blessed thing and just followed my intuition…I used the force as it were and doubled back, coming upon it where I originally thought it would be.
It was a good experience, I shot some picturesque vistas across Victoria Bay and jumped back onto the trains to take a break at my hotel for an hour or so.
As I was wandering around downtown, I kept seeing all these women, mostly Muslim gathered in overpasses, near parks talking loudly, sharing food, combing out each other’s hair and I thought, is this some kind of protest? But there were no men or children…when I got back to my room I read an article about this…Maid’s day off. Many many domestic workers are from the Philippines and Indonesia. They have to work 6 days a week and are expected to be available 24 hours a day. Their only day off is Sunday and they have no money to go anywhere as they are sending it back home, they gather in public places and spend the day enjoying each other’s company. And no one cares, it is an extremely tolerant and laid back experience.
So, no little blog would be complete without a mention of the local specialty…dim sum. I tried dim sum in many places, for breakfast, lunch and dinner….great experience. I was in one restaurant where i was unceremoniously directed to a table with two young women in animated conversation. Nihongo…I asked if they were Japanese and they said they were and we had a lively if not halting conversation in Japanese and English. The food tasted better for the company!
Isogashii desu ne?
So I will leave everyone with a time lapse little movie of all the action. As one friend told me, I would enjoy it but once would probably be enough for me. He was right. It was great, but I think Japan is calling me….and Singapore…and Thailand…and…….
Have a great week until we meet again!