Thursday, March 27, 2008

City of Lights

I have nothing but respect for Paris, the "classic" city of lights (and love), but think that Hong Kong can as easily wear the appellation - this city of towering office and apartment buildings glows at night with the soft hues of a million neon signs, a million lit windows and a million headlights. To appropriate a line from Milan Kundera, this agglomeration of soaring concrete and glass adds up in the end to an "accidental beauty"...

My 26 hours in this hybrid of London and Tokyo makes my heart warm and exercises an amazing draw on me - it seems that it is easier to take the man out of the North-East Asian mega-city than it is to take the mega-city out of the man! It warms my heart and brings a smile to my face just walking these crowded Asian streets with their aforementioned riot of light and color, shops and restaurants of every persuasion and - in sharp contrast to my experience in Seoul - people from every corner of the world speaking every language imaginable!

The Quintessential Tourist
I have done a lot here in 26 hours! Arriving yesterday afternoon, I soon met a young South African and the two of us hooked up to do a whirlwind tour of a few highlights.

First order was to get into the city and find a room, which was accomplished in short order with the help of a businessman from Botswana who introduced me to "Chun King Mansion," a 12-15 story tower crammed floor by floor with what can best be described as "micro-motels." Semantics aside, I soon deposited my luggage in a cozy 1.5 x 2 meter room that contained a bed and a full bathroom (including hot shower) - this was smaller than any room I have ever slept in in Tokyo!

And off we went, first heading to the world's largest seated bronze Buddha, where we rode a cable car up the mountain to gaze at a 25 meter or so statue that stunned us both to silence with its serene presence - despite its towering dimensions, the figure maintains a meditative aura that calms the spirit. Now I don't know my Guinness Book of Records, but can only assume that, as the name suggests, there are larger Buddhas in the world that are either: a) not seated; or b) not bronze. Oh well...

Speaking of The Guinness Book...

While we are on the subject of the Guinness Book, we next shuttled back into town to ride the world's longest escalator through the area of Hong Kong known as the "mid-levels." This brought us to the "Soho" district, aptly named after a foreign neighbourhood considering that there is NOTHING Chinese about this area, not even the people in it! This was seriously the most Caucasians I have seen in 9 months, all chattering and quaffing ales in a myriad of pubs and fancy eateries.

So no Dim Sum, but some sumptuous Mediterranean fare!

Solo Again
And with that my South African friend headed to the airport, and I headed down to Hong Kong harbour for a ferry ride that gave me a magnificent view of the city lights at night, reflected on the water of the bay, and got me back to my bustling neighbourhood and my cozy little cubicle.

Morning in the City
Morning came quickly, with my first Starbucks Latte in about 9 months to give me a kick (pathetic, isn't it?) as I headed to the that carries tourist masses to the crest of Hong Kong Peak for a magnificent view of the city center. Now I don't know if my line of sight was obstructed by a romantic mist in the air or a vicious cloud of smog, but one way or the other, it was a peak worthy of climbing...

And here I sit, back at the airport barely a day later, waiting to depart for North America with a hurricane of thoughts in my head. The tug of the city I am leaving makes me nostalgic for life in Asia and all too aware of how easily I could have it back, but the lessons of life and of this journey simultaneously telling me my path lies on a different trajectory.

I will see many of you soon....

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