Hong Kong in a Nutshell

Hello friends,

Long time no see. I spent the last week in Hong Kong, which was very different from I expected. Hong Kong is a very international city- from what I could tell it’s basically a mix of every other Asian country in terms of people, food, architecture and other traits.

I found the architecture really interesting– I expected it to be either extremely modern (as a worldwide hub of technology/goods production and finance) or more traditionally Chinese than the average city. Mostly, it is generic buildings, but you find certain areas that really have a lot of spice, like this brightly lit area of the neighborhood Tsim Sha Tsui:

 

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I was a little bit disappointed with the number of people who spoke English/ the amount of signs that were in English– That is, everything and everyone. Since English was so prevalent, I found myself at times assuming that someone spoke English and breaking it out right away— which is one of my pet peeves about Western tourists.

The food was pretty delicious, but again, very different from the “Chinese” food common in the US. I think that Western restaurant owners are afraid to include many of the more savory items such as pungent black beans, pigeon, frog porridge, pig intestine, and other fancy treats.

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Pig intestine. Side note: When I ordered this, it had already been put away (read: thrown away) for the night, so the lady at the stall went and dug it out of the ground, and then sloshed it around in some water before giving it to me. Talk about taking it to the next level!

The food was all pretty good, but might definitely scare away most western customers. Other dishes may sound terrible in poor translation (e.g. skin crupy suching pig, saliva chicken) but are amusing to try. The one food that I absolutely couldn’t get enough of was tea eggs– they are eggs boiled in tea and other spices, and as simple as they sound, they are the most amazing thing since sliced bread.

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Tea egg– may look odd but tastes like heaven.

 

My first experience using chopsticks on real Asian food did not go well. I ordered this huge bowl of noodle soup:

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and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to get the stuff from the bowl into my mouth. The ladies who worked in the restaurant laughed at me for a long time before they tried (unsuccessfully) to correct my chopstick holding in Cantonese. I guess all of my shirts will end up having little soup splatters on them…

The nightlife scene is interesting. There is such an eclectic mix of people, but Europeans and Arabs seemed to dominate the scene. There is such a shortage of women around here that pretty much every night there is a neighborhood or two that has “ladies night” so that women will decide to go out for free drinks. Everyone in town flocks to these areas. When I happened to go out, it was ladies night in Wan Chai and it was a complete sausage fest!! (with the rare really drunk girl hitting on every guy in the bar).

There’s a really strange group mentality that occurs here sometimes, where everyone just follows the herd. For instance, when trying to exit the subway everyone will line up for the same machine while the one right beside it will remain free. Or if you are headed straight for someone, and you move to the side, they will copy you and move to the same side, thereby nullifying your move. It’s interesting how people can come to assume that everyone else is doing the best thing, without analyzing a situation for themselves. Many people I’ve spoke to about this call it idiotic, but I prefer to view it as a form of trust in the judgment of other members of your social group. After all,it could be a shortcut in a lot of instances to follow the lead of the crowd.

One really nice thing about visiting the city is that although it’s a very modern city, you don’t have to travel far to find a more rural feel. I took a rickety bus to Ngong Ping (barely made it up the hill) and the atmosphere changed completely. Up in the misty mountains, the city of Ngong Ping is home to a giant Buddha statue and a host of other Buddhist monuments and temples.

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You can also go hiking in the mountains– the landscape is breathtaking with its extreme slopes and mist. This pathway to the “Wisdom Path” really stuck me as one of the most peaceful places on Earth.

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Manners

Since I’ve been here, I’ve felt more mindful of my behavior than I’ve ever been before. I feel really uneasy about sticking out at all, and nervous that I might bump into someone, or knock something over, or cause some other kind of scene.

 

This morning I was at a buffet-style restaurant, and there were a lot of people trying to get food at the same time… but everyone was moving SO slowly, trying not to accidentally get in each other’s way. Literally, the pace was about one step every two seconds, with everyone packed in there like sardines but trying not to accidentally touch. I felt trapped in slow motion, and in my head I was just thinking “Oh goddd please don’t knock anything over…”

 

In conclusion, I can definitely see how the extreme desire for social harmony and politeness can be contagious in certain cultures, as I’m already beginning to buy into it!

BONUS ROUND!

Well, thanks to another botched American Airlines flight, I’m stuck overnight in lovely Narita, Japan. It’s too dark/late to go anywhere, but I did get to see these sweet little Japanese signs:

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These random signs are awesome and you can’t even stand it.

 

And I rode in a hi-tech elevator:

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Oh yeah.

I didn’t really get to go out and explore yet so unfortunately, not much to report. Other than that there’s fish here in places I never knew fish was brave enough to go. I’m talking to you, fish-flavored ice cream.

Well, I’m about ready to

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this place, so any time that could be arranged, I would be grateful…

Awwww here we go!

Well, tomorrow everything changes– I’ll be halfway across the world in a country whose language I barely speak, with very little money, no job, and no permanent place to stay. I’m beginning to wonder if all the people who have looked at me like I’m crazy when I tell them about my after-college plans were right.

No really, I’m terrified.

However, if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that my fear usually means I’m on the right track towards personal growth, and I’m betting I’m about to discover something truly spectacular and novel.

I can say that there has been one big relief so far about leaving everything behind, and that was, literally, leaving everything behind. It’s liberating to have exactly what I need– some clothes, toiletries, and money– and nothing else. We amass so much useless junk in our lifetimes, and it just becomes more stuff to worry about. (By the way, watch George Carlin’s skit on “stuff”. Hilarious and true.)

Anyhow, I will update once I arrive in Hong Kong! Peace!