|First glimpses of Hong Kong.|
Caroline and I have coffee in our beach garage in Venice Before I jump in a cab for the airport. I have a 1035 Am flight from LAX to San Francisco before my 14 hour flight to Hong Kong, arriving at 645 the next day. Rob broached the idea of going the year before when we were wandering about Estonia. He’s been to China several times. Take the public transport Rob advises. We’ll meet at my hotel, the Dorsett Mongkok, Hong Kong, 88 Tai Kok Tsui Rd. All I know is the stories I have read, the movies about Hong Kong.
But never seen it.
Eighteen hours of reading and writing later, I arrived in Hong Kong, disoriented, no sleep. I bought a ticket for the metro and made my way to my hotel, the Dorsett Mongkok. The train worked beautifully. The trip through the night in a new city is always thrilling, watching a new space unfold in front of my eyes. It was the longest trip I have ever taken. The man selling my ticket told me to transfer at Kowloon, where I connected with hotel shuttle taking me to my hotel, where I see my old travel buddy Rob, who I usually meet on this these trips, standing in the street, drinking a beer looking at the city machinery of the night, bodies, people selling things, going in and out of hotels, streets, pubs and dark corners. He has the eye of an anthropologist, watching at the city work. We’ve met in Prague, Estonia, Oxford, Sewanee, Tennessee, Texas, on countless stops over the last three decades.
Get inside and get yourself set up. I’ll be outside, he tells me.
When I come back, he is looking no worse for wear, standing, drinking another beer. He offered me one.
Its legal to drink outside, he says.
So I open my beer and we wander out.
The doorman told me about a good street to walk to.
Rob has been here since noon, enjoying the city, one of many times over the years.
So we wandered out, drinking at a local pub, dubbed Big Wave Bay, making friends at a wine bar called Oakey Dokey Wine on Pok Man Street.
Matthew, the amicable part owner, laughs about his resemblance to the leader from North Korea. We ask about his business and growing up in Hong Kong, where everyone is a little worried about the mainland encroaching into their home. Coming out of 150 years of British Colonialism, they’ve enjoyed both free speech and economic development, he explains. Not one or the other, as happened in the Soviet Union and Communist China. Person after person I speak with says the same thing. We’d rather have the British model. Every year freedoms disappear under Chinese rule. Every year, there are less. People get rounded up in mainland China, explains one woman at the bar. She whispered when some men dropped by. Those are cops, she says. Men can be arrested for being with single women in China. The people coming from China are pushing up prices now, they explain. The concerns are many. A one bedroom apartment here can cost millions. Like all cities, the affluent are moving in, pushing the poor out.
But for a first night, craft beers flow.
We could not get these here last time I was here, explains Rob.
Sitting outside on the street, we talk for hours, making friends with customers pouring in and out, wandering, exploring, not getting to bed till 730 as the city is reawakening.
See you in the lobby at my hotel at eleven ok Ben, insisted Rob as he jumped in his car to go to bed.
|Scenes from a first night in Hong Kong.|