Taking off from LAX at midnight on the 12th and flying for 15 hours at 32000 feet in the dark, our jumbo jet flew north over Alaska and the Bering Strait, crossed the International Date Line and turned south to pass over Tokyo and, eventually, landed in Hong Kong on December 14th just as the sun was rising.
I’ll always choose a window seat – both for views and to have something to lean against to sleep – and this was no exception. I lucked out, getting two young Asian students to share my row. They were quiet yet pleasant, and small, which is a help in close quarters, and we all did our best to sleep in spite of seats that didn’t recline enough to make that easy. Since my airline ticket had been free I had opted to purchase a slightly larger seat with extra leg room – not that I need it, being barely 5′ tall – but in the hopes that my seat would recline more than the basic economy ones. While this didn’t happen, we did get to board earlier and deplane sooner than the masses in the main cabin, and were served food and drink a bit faster.
I’d called American Airlines a few weeks ago to request “spicy vegetarian” meals and was happily surpised to find it tasty. Drinks were poured generously, light blankets and pillows supplied, and I did sleep for at least some of the time, leaving my seat only twice in all that time.
Customs and immigration was easy: no visa required. I’d researched the airport and ways to get into the city, so I stashed my bag in “Left Luggage” for about $1. per hour (and worth every penny) and took the A21 bus to the Mong Kok section of town. This bustling and picturesque part of Hong Kong smelled like a Chinese restaurant and was full of great looking food in markets, windows, stands and restaurants of every size and description. I was hungry and soon found what I was looking for: a tiny place selling congee – a broken rice soup cooked in a rich broth and served with your choice of fish, pork, mahogony colored roast goose, “offal” or a combination of the above. I chose the burnished roast goose and it was delicious – a huge bowl of boiling hot soup served with chopsticks and a porcelain soup spoon, a bowl of white rice, scallions and soy sauce, eaten at a rickety table in a small room with plastic chairs and happy Asian diners. Cost – $2.10.
Most of the day spent exploring the narrow streets and alleyways of Mong Kok – soaking in the color, noise and character of the neighborhood. A lane selling massive buckets of fresh flowers led into another alley crammed with tanks and plastic bags of goldfish, buckets of tiny turtles, cages of exotic bunnies, kittens and puppies to buy and take home as pets. The next lane sported glistening fruits and vegetables; a covered market displayed seafood and sausages, fresh eggs and pork cooked in multiple ways while yet another was devoted to a stunning variety of pastries and snacks I didn’t know the names of. I tried a small egg custard pie. Yummy. One day is not enough time here in my opinion. I’ll stay longer on the back end of my trip.
In the mood to see another side of Hong Kong I hopped on one of the hundreds of bright-colored double decker buses, climbed to the top to take in the sights of this beautiful city surrounded by water, and got off at Olympian City – an enormous complex of malls three stories high and sprawling over what seemed like miles, housing an enormous selection of high-end clothing stores, restaurants, theaters, gourmet grocery stores, tea houses, candy and snack shops and so much more. I almost committed suicide by escalater because I didn’t realize that these conveyences, like the vehicles on the roadways, go forward in the left lane, not the right. Trying to ride up on the right side I was caught in an avalance of bodies coming down and just managed to spin around and go with the flow before being trampled. Another reminder to keep my eyes open!l
The denizens of Hong Kong are a stylish lot and I marveled to see these elegant malls jammed with good looking people dining and shopping like crazy, dressed in the coolest of ways. I had shoe envy at least a dozen times. I’m not talking heels though there were plenty of those – just the hippest tennys and comfortable footware and sports clothes I’d ever seen – all so stylin’. In my old travel weary clothes I was reminded of my mom who, on one rare occasion when she found herself way underdressed for an occasion said, “I looked like a tramp!”
Hong Kong looks to me like it’s doing very well indeed.