We Heart Hong Kong

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Why can’t really good holidays drag on and on and on?

I have a question.

Why do all good things have to come to an end? And here is another question: Why is fun so fast on its feet? And another: How many yelps of joy can five days in Hong Kong elicit from one exhausted, stressed, over-worked family?

Doesn’t take an ancient philosopher or a doctorate in esoteric studies to come up with the answers to these questions, but it won’t stop me asking them during the stop-gaps between protracted sighs. Oh Hong Kong, I miss you already.

We love living in Beijing, but by the middle of last week, on the tail end of the Olympics and nine weeks of school holidays, we were scratching rabidly at our cage, gagging to get out of the capital. We were actually packing passports long before our leave date, and you couldn’t see us for dust when the hour came to actually leave for Beijing feiji chang (airport). Waking at 05.30 to make the flight didn’t even phase us.

This was our kids’ third trip to Hong Kong. Sure, it’s an easy place to get to – it’s a stopover, it’s convenient, it’s a world-class city, English is spoken, there’s lots for children to enjoy – but it’s more than that for us. It’s just that indefinable Something; that love-connection you find in certain places around the world that keep you coming back for more.

We love the light in Hong Kong – a bracingly clear and bright light, padded with those poufy, grey-skirted clouds, clinging to little shreds of rain.

We love the sea breeze that traces the sweat beads on your skin, making trails of cool.

We love the way twilight slips over the sky like a silk nightie with a peach-coloured hem.

We love the way the city’s lights pop and sparkle in the harbour between Kowloon and HK island when the dark finally descends for the evening.

We love the stinky, noodle-y, patchouli, rotting green veggie, meaty smells that stick close to the streets.

The dripping air-conditioners making wet patches on the pavement.

The bamboo scaffolding.

The tall, skinny, lurching trams rocking along Yee Wo Street.

The eternally packed outdoor basketball courts in Victoria Park, the crammed swimming pools in Kowloon Park, the August sales, the sports shops, the treacherous steps through picturesque Hong Kong park to the kids playground.

We love the nests of Filippino housemaids who gather in public areas on Sunday afternoons to sit on rugs and natter like a gaggle of geese.

We love the family-run wonton and noodle restaurants where a combination of Mandarin, English and sign-language somehow equates Cantonese, and where the slippery wonton dumplings are the food-equivalent of pure silk.

We love Krispy Kreme and The Body Shop and the organic cookies at Marks and Spencer.

We love the slickness of the MTR, the lurching of the Star ferry, the careening double decker bus rides to Stanley and the cranking, gravity-defying tram ride to Victoria Peak.

We even love the muggy heat, which is a stretch for our lizard-like family.

Yes, we heart Hong Kong, and after five days of swimming, walking, slurping noodles, riding ferries, shopping and more swimming, we’ve returned to BJ somewhat refreshed and ready to take on the new school year. That’s right – the new school year has begun, the loooong summer vacation is finally over, and life returns to “normal” again.

Whatever “normal” is when you’re living in Beijing.

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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