02 September 2009
Our plane lands and rolls slowly into the gate. The doors open and instantly the heavy, moist Asian air sweeps into the cabin. After nearly a year in Shanghai, this is a familiar feeling. Coming directly from Britain, however (the land of lines, order and rules) makes me think this “arrival” may be a bit more difficult. Fortunately our gateway is Hong Kong, where east meets west in a brilliant show of Prada, street-crossing signs that are obeyed, hawkers and neon. There is really no other place like it.
My travel buddy is a weary flier and so adequately knocked herself out pre-departure. She slept nearly 10 of the 12 hours and is still running on empty. My eyes are scanning every inch of the city on the hour-long bus ride into Kowloon. Hers are shut. I don’t wake her. Jet lag is no laughing matter.
Check-in is a breeze and our microscopic room as charming as I remember it from the last time I was in Hong Kong - spotless, slightly larger than me and equipped with the world’s most impressive shower. We quick-change, shower and hit the city. There is no better way to “meet” Hong Kong then via the lights and laser show that happens on Victoria Harbour every night at 8pm. It’s equal parts amazing and China-kitsch, complete with hordes of Asia tourists “oohing” and “ahhing” at every turn of events.
A 25 cents, 5-minute ferry ride across the Harbour (one of my favorite experiences of all time) drops us in the center of the hectic business district which seems to be moving in slow motion on a Saturday night. We follow the signs to the mid-level escalators, which carry passengers nearly a mile from the base of Hong Kong Island up the steep hills in 20 minutes. People exit at different points as if they were on a “people highway.”
“Are you hungry,” I ask Stacey. “I don’t know,” she replies. “Yeah, me neither.” Our internal clocks have been set to “mediocre” as we can’t decide if we’re hungry, tired, happy, sad, confused, etc. We decide it’s best to eat and our hunt for food ends in western-style salads. My Asian instincts aren’t quite honed just yet.
A long stroll through the western nightlife district (called oh so originally SOHO) leads us back to the ferry, across the harbour, down Tsim Sha Tsui and into Mirador Mansion, which houses our Cosmic Guesthouse. “Are you tired,” I ask Stacey. “I don’t know,” she replies. “Yeah, me neither. But it’s great to be unsure of that in Hong Kong instead of London,” I say excitedly. “So true,” she cheers. “So. True.”