25 November 2014
Urban Railroads & Grand Returns
This is a trip that tells stories of grand returns. A return to that first country I ever traveled to, a return of a dear old friend, a return to that state of being beautifully lost in a foreign land, and a return to feeling right at home, in the presence of like-minded strangers.
I should have seen the signs. For two months I had been feeling ridiculously sentimental and nostalgic about Hong Kong. I saw reminders of it everywhere. I read about it. I heard about it. I made friends with travelers from there. I even had the urge to suddenly write about it. And then one day, cleaning my room, I found an old wallet. The one I used on my trip there, and inside found 60 Hong Kong dollars. I was ecstatic. A few days after, I received a message from my old friend in Canada. She’s visiting Manila in two weeks and wanted to take a quick side trip to Hong Kong. She needed someone to go with her.
The next thing I know, I was landing in Lantau Island with a big, stupid grin on my face. And my favorite song was playing overhead.
The streets were just as bustling as I remember them to be. The good, comforting kind. The locals, as unfazed as they always have been, despite the tourists roaming everywhere. My favorite hot noodles and curry fish balls were as tasty as the first time. The buildings were as bright as ever, and the people were, too. And I was thankful for having to return to all of that.
I will not try to sugarcoat what is so simple—I love Hong Kong. I will never tire of it. I would always want to return. I will never tire of its gushing city streets lined with tall shiny buildings. Of its bright neon signs. Of Cara Delevingne’s gigantic face on a gigantic billboard which was my marker for getting home. Of its culture, heritage and religion. Of its cheap street markets. Of its narrow halls and elevators. Heck, even of grumpy elderlies and little kids who notoriously keep cutting in queues.
I will never tire of fluffy hostel cats following you around 'til inside your room. Of 24-hour groceries right across your building. Of midnight walks on the streets with new friends from your hostel to shop for beer. Of early morning chatters in the pantry about countries we come from, and late night discussions in the hallway about how maps are printed differently around the world—because suddenly it's 3AM and they were closing down the common room, so you all had nowhere to go.
And I will never tire of conversations with locals you can barely understand but strive to anyway, because they’ve been so kind and helpful. And because you live for this—conversations in broken, heavily accented English.
And in Macau, the dizzying boat rides to and fro. And the rain that wouldn't seem to stop. How can I forget standing on the pretty cobbled sidewalk of drizzling Macau, my old friend and I trying to figure out our way in of the rain ponchos we bought. And giggling like old times when we were in grade school at the fact that we looked like two giant marshmallows in it.
And then there’s posing at The Ruins, still in our ponchos, with our hands in peace signs for humor’s sake. “This is the most Asian thing ever!” I say. But we just laugh at ourselves. Because despite the rain, my old friend has always been pure sunshine. And at that time, I was, too.
This is always the case, whenever I’m on the road.
I had just arrived in Hong Kong, and as I step out of the subway station in Causeway, a local approaches after he sees me pull out a map from my backpack. "Do you need help?" he asks. I smile and utter my kindest "yes" as I was reminded of all the stirring reasons why the road is life. My life.