It’s been a while since I last wrote. Not that I haven’t been busy.
On my way home from Japan, I made a short stop by Hong Kong, to visit a friend I’d met in Japan (Sally).
There’s two things that struck me about Hong Kong:
(a) How many high-risers there are. Yes I am aware that this is the stereotype of Hong Kong. However, when I think of high-risers in that sense, I think of shiny glass buildings, state-of-the-art and very expensive. Those are NOT the high-risers I’m talking about. Hong Kong is full of those old, decrepit, government-funded mass-produced high-risers that have no other function that to house people. And these things are BIG. I remember seeing some and being overwhelmed by the amount of windows, which is a good indication of the sheer amount of people that must live in those buildings. And it’s these buildings that are everywhere.you.look.
(b) How green it is! I didn’t have much luck with the weather, but in contrast with the ugly high-risers described above, there is so much green there that, again, most people forget because they think of a built-up cityscape. When I arrived I was hit by how humid it was (I had momentarily forgotten how much closer to the equator it is than Japan), and as a result it is lush. And there’s so many parts of it that still are full of these ‘forested’ areas where you can go hiking! I guess that surprises and delights me, coming from the sticks just outside of brussels with cows and farmland right next to me. There’s over 50 different hikes that you can do, all of varying lengths! I attempted one, but the fog was so low (which i noticed when i’d got lost only about 15 minutes in, whoops!). I did meet a man called Ivan Chu who has done about every hike a dozen times over, and if he wasn’t working would’ve loved to take me around. If you’re ever in Hong Kong and feel a thirst for some nature – look up my man ivan, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other than that I did some of the touristy stuff, but I must say, staying with a local person showed me a TOTALLY different side of it – we went to a cha chaa tsen (tea shop) where people were very surprised to see me once, and for dim sum breakfast one morning we went to this place above a ‘wet’ market (where i was able to taste some chicken feet… surprisingly fatty but nice), and the wet market had some interesting things like pig’s tongue, or horse’s stomach skin and they eat stone fish! which made me a little sad, being a diver.
And also that it really becomes a lot more difficult to travel outside the touristy areas if you don’t speak any form of chinese – we took ‘minibuses’ where you just shout at the driver to stop, and very few people spoke English, i felt!
But if you like the crowded areas, and cheap fake stuff (like my ‘jimmy choo’ bag – go to Mong Kok), and bar areas teeming with all the expats (though the atmosphere was surprisingly good! – go to Lang Kwai Fong) go to the center of Hong Kong.
We also took a day trip to Macau, where it was even hotter. There’s not MUCH to do there, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to stay there for longer than a day, unless you like the slots of course! Casinos are HUGE. The touristy areas are nice, with very obvious Portugese influences which are beautiful, and they have a new panda area much further south than all of the other areas, so it takes a little more time to get there. They seem to have some cool shows, like cirque du soleil and occasional big parties, though I’d recommend researching them in advance. If you like an adrenaline rush, the tallest bungy jump in the world is there – it’s about 230m high and owned by the company in new zealand who also has the next highest jump – 133m. Also, if you take advantage of the free casino shuttles, transport is practically free.
Leaving Hong Kong, I came back home, and was at first preoccupied by a friend from Japan coming to visit (Lee). However, the minute he left, and even when showing him around a little, I felt very uncomfortable here. I felt like people were staring, and like my history here was very oppressive. I felt like I had changed whilst in Japan but my old places and who I used to be weren’t allowing me to show how i’d changed.
I felt very unhappy. I went to London, where I felt a little better, but again it was strange going back to a place that I used to know so well but now feels like it’s not mine anymore. Definitely a form of reverse culture shock. I’m a little better now, but I’m still not who I was before I left Japan. It’s strange, how two years in a different culture can change you so much. And when the people you want to rely on to help you get comfortable again also have moved on (understandably), though not forgotten, it’s hard to know where you belong.