I came to Hong Kong with expectations of finding my shoe size. School Geography lessons taught us that Chinese women were synonymous with ‘lotus feet’ and I am size 4. First revelation was that there are no ‘tiny feet’ sizes in Hong Kong markets, except for kids, and the custom of foot binding was long extinct. Second surprise was that Chinese cuisine was more than Manchurian Chicken, Chow Mien and Hot & Sour soup. I followed the distinctive Hong Kong smell, ‘perfumed fishy’ as a friend put it, through alleys, neighboring islands and restaurants discovering finger-licking Fish balls dipped in sauce, the hang-man bloated ducks, fried chicken claws, succulent dim sums and slurpy soup noodles. The list now scrolls down to Bok Choy, Choy Sum, Chao Daub Fu or smelly Tofu, crab cakes, moon cakes, Dragon fruit, Persimmons, Mangosteen and the nose-scrunching Durian.
Not everything is perfect: the unblinking faces in lift lobbies, the pushy crowds of the MTR, the often silent walk to JUSCO, WELLCOME, PARK & SHOP (stores)and back without uttering a syllable, the guttural rudeness of fruit sellers at wet market stalls, the pestering sales peddlers of ‘genuine fake’ watches and purses, too many people waiting for taxis around midnight on Nathan Road, the ‘No cheap’ snide comments of shop assistants of brand showrooms because you happen to be from the Sub-continent, the ‘I-stay-in-a-beachside villa’ snooty comment of expat permanent residents.
The list expands and subtracts as I move around Kowloon, Hong Kong, the neighboring islands, New Territories’ villages for shopping, hiking, literary and cultural activities; watching seniors twirl to ‘Sugar Sugar Honey Honey’ in neighborhood parks or visiting Temples-splendid in serenity; while watching fireworks illuminate the night sky on Chinese New Year or swaying to pulsating drum beats during Dragon Boat races; during mute shopping spree in Wet markets as I get coins plucked from my hand and a bag looped on my fingers; riding the tram, ‘the slow motion mechanical rickshaw ’ to the British relic ‘Western Market,’ a red beacon in the traditional ambiance of Sheung Wan.
In five plus years Hong Kong unfolds into quirky quilt, patch-worked with frisky ferry rides across the fast reducing water way, kaleidoscopic shopping malls and multiplying vertical constructions in ‘who is tallest’ mode and responsible for vertigo, streamlined air-conditioned walkways and numerous eating places metamorphosing with drop of chopstick, the ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ of locals and jostling Mainlanders, the land grabbing helpers sprawled in open spaces and parks, the tenacious seventy year old, bent back, pushing a cart stacked with cardboard boxes through crowded pavements, seniors swimming in the cold waters of Hung Hom Bay, the willowy model selling whitening cream on posters pasted all over the city, the high-decibel bus passengers in conversation or argument, the poky umbrellas rain or sunshine, the flora and fauna and the hikes.
*from a blog on Hong Kong
About the Author:Indra Chopra is a freelance writer and Blogger.
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