Hong Kong, After

In Central, my hotel’s elevator opens up directly to the room. It’s got one room per floor, not because it’s a particularly swanky hotel —although it kind of is swanky, if you think about it— but because the building is so narrow that space-wise, this is the only way it could ever work as a hotel.

The Hong Kong vibe is, to quote the popular Asian phrase, same same but different. Post-Covid and post-protests, plenty of storefronts are boarded-up, and crowds are noticeably thinner. It’s early March and the city has just opened up to tourists sans restrictions, but the word has yet to spread. Just as in Shanghai, a patina of trauma and shellshock tints the city, subtle but constant. 

Still, I find myself later on with my back pressed against the slatted wood backrest of the slanted tram that takes me to the Peak. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been here five or six times in the past. To me, it’s a pilgrimage one must make, like visiting an elderly Aunt to make polite conversation; also the tram ride has always been an object of fascination to me. At the top I stick my hand over the building’s edge to feel the rush of air that stops immediately when I yank it back. It rains, for a little bit, prompting dogs and their owners to initially bolt towards different directions before heading, almost telepathically, towards an awning to huddle under, together.

Here, days are planned around one’s stomach. Or rather, how much food one’s stomach can hold. Hours are marked by meals and food: the promise of a macaroni soup breakfast, a bubble tea pit stop, a roast duck dinner. For lunch I walk in circles before finding the dim sum restaurant I’d taken note of (the original one I’d set my sights on didn’t survive the pandemic.) I’m hustled to a narrow booth by a waiter in a yellowed uniform once starchy white; the staff look tired and irate and no-nonsense, business as usual. It’s full of families, three generations of them, very much at home in this Sunday go-to of theirs. Handed an incomprehensible Cantonese menu, I tick several items off the list in the spirit of adventure and reap a surprisingly cohesive meal both by chance and of my own doing: mushrooms, siu mai, glutinous rolls, a meat dish that’s more bone than flesh. The bill arrives and it floors me; I’m surprised to be surprised. One thing that hasn’t changed in Hong Kong.

I ferry across the water to Kowloon, which is still blessedly noisy and chaotic, but the vinyl shop I came all the way for is closed. The night market street, a stretch of stalls shadowed by crumbling apartment blocks, is starting up for the evening, but I hightail it out of there before the sun goes down, yearning for a hot shower, rest, and an antacid before the eating starts all over again. 

Currently listening to:
Dope Lemon
Rose Pink Cadillac

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