Stepping off the plane in Hong Kong was a huge relief. As the subtropical heat washed over me, it swept away the tension that only weeks of sitting in unheated Beijing apartments and classrooms can bring. We had a cold few weeks before the government decided to switch the heating on (originally it was meant to be November 15th, but it was early this year – a political decision between a warm populous and keeping the lid on climate change a little longer). Three days in t-shirts and skirts was glorious.
After a night in a hotel room of the perfect temperature, I sat overlooking a plush green park flanked by the kind of skyscrapers I’ve never seen before (Hong Kong’s botanical gardens), as I wrote. Ah, the peace, quiet, and space. It was an extremely nice alternative to that classroom on the third floor I occupy every (other) Friday morning for four hours, and from classes of 24. What a start, Hong Kong.
Venturing out into Central for lunch, I spied the wonders Hong Kong clutched between those soaring, shiny buildings. I saw the long skinny trams, the little winding streets, the left-hand drivers… Roadsigns in English, recognisable shopfronts, one-way streets… That was it; Hong Kong reminded me of London.
So for the rest of the day I was in paradise. Stepping out of our lunchtime spot, I spied a Marks and Spencer. I’d heard one was soon to arrive in Beijing, but hadn’t seen an M&S for a year (and even that was in Shanghai). So I browsed, excitedly picking things up, squealing a little, and putting them back on the shelf. One Brit, two Americans and three Filipinos wandering around Marks & Sparks must be a funny sight, particularly when everyone but the Brit sees these stores regularly. After swaying between various types of biscuit for a while, I chose a sturdy favourite – a pack of Bourbons.
Later, I ordered a cup of tea at a pub – a pub, not a bar! – and sank into the bliss that is dipping a bourbon biscuit into a hot cup of perfectly brewed tea. I simultaneously introduced an American to the delights of finest British teatime cuisine (Bourbons are so high brow, innit).
That’s not the only thing I loved. I loved the multiculturalism of Hong Kong. I loved the rooftop bars. I loved the cuisine I tried. I loved the warm rain. I loved the temporary tattoos. I loved gay pride. I loved discussing the art of stories in the park. I loved the taxis. I loved the oysters. I loved seeing an old friend. I loved writing late at night. I loved jazz music. I loved drinking in the street. I loved the crowd. I loved the whiff of the sea. I loved the risk of jumping in. I loved the botanic gardens. I loved the distance between me and my problems. I loved being there with the man I love.
My only real qualm was the surprise expense of everything (coming from renminbi, the HK dollar was a shock), but it seems everyone living there finds ingenious ways around that. A meeting took place over bottled drinks in the park. Evenings centred around seven-eleven beers (and later, kebabs) outdoors. You don’t have to spend money to have fun, Hong Kong’s residents seemed to be saying. I loved the way Hong Kongers rolled. I loved my three days in Hong Kong.