03 August 2014

Recollections: Hong Kong & Otherworldly Beginnings

It has been two years since I was in Hong Kong, but in this post, allow me to reminisce. Just recently, cleaning up my files, I unearthed this photo album of what was a very special trip. And well, I guess you all know what happens when you look at old photos. Nostalgia kicks in.

Oddly enough, as Hong Kong fades into an old memory in pictures, its worth grows only clearer. Despite the fog that enveloped everything when I was there, despite the wide-eyed trance I was in, I see it all better now.

Hong Kong is such a vibrant city. A depiction of what then was my equally vibrant young heart. Alighting the bus, the first time my feet landed on the sidewalk of Nathan Road, I felt the city pulsating under me. There was a certain energy in the streets that I loved at once. People would walk in all directions, marching in a unified pace on their way home from work. This kind of bustle was soothing for me, a lover of big cities.

I would always say that the streets of Hong Kong have a distinctive sound. A sound I can still hear so clearly when I try to remember that place. That shuffling of people, the ticking sound of stoplights counting down the seconds until pedestrians would have to wait before getting to cross the street again. Slowly, it would tick at first, and then hurriedly at the last ten seconds. The streets are lined with merchants and their businesses, and people would stop by to glance at trivial items, only to rush when the ticking sound grows maddening. Hurry, these stoplights would call out. Cross now. And the people always obeyed. They were always rushing. You’ll hear that ticking sound in almost every corner. A constant reminder to go on, for this life waits for no one.

I always find myself running for those last seconds.

It was February when my friends and I were in Hong Kong. Their coldest month. This limited our explorations a lot, for instead of a nice view to look at in some places, would be nothing but thick white fog. This was definitely the case when we were in Ngong Ping Village in Lantau. We arrived, slowly scanning the place, wondering if the village was open. Were there even people there? It was hard to tell. The place was covered in fog. It was rather cold too, and so we warmed ourselves up with some hot and spicy dried squid we bought from a petite red booth there on the cobbled sidewalk.

Lined along the path were statues of Chinese generals standing steadfastly with grim looks on their faces. I’d joke that it seems we have stepped into another dimension, and it really could have been if it weren’t for the quaint little reminders this charming place was sending our way. Monks passing by on their bikes, a huge friendly smile plastered on their faces. Thick coated dogs lying sheepishly in the middle of the pathway, or two blonde little French girls running happily around.

Looking at all those photos, it began to hit me what that trip had truly meant all along. Of course back then, there was no chance of me knowing. But I see it now. Clearly.

I always described my visit to Ngong Ping as like stepping into a dream. All that haze covering up everything from twenty feet away certainly made it feel like one. But I remember now that the fog, in truth, was everywhere in Hong Kong at the time. It was there shrouding the peak of tall buildings when I would look up from the city sidewalk. It was there clinging on to windows when I would gaze out of the second floor of double decker buses. And it was there when I laughed too loudly, or breathed too deeply, coming out from between my lips in faint clouds of white.

I see now. That dreamy dimension I felt I was in in Ngong Ping was actually how I felt towards all of Hong Kong. It was all a big dream. To travel was once just all a big dream. And there I was, stepping right into it.

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