Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm So Glad I Went!

Well this entry may end up as total gibberish. I’m back in the US, but stuck at JFK in New York. My flight to Boston has been delayed several times due to bad weather in the Midwest. But they’re assuring me that the flight is now on its way and should arrive here by 6:15pm. But yes, after a 16 hour flight from Hong Kong it’s a little difficult to sit here patiently. But what can you do? I guess part of my equanimity is knowing that if I hadn’t gone to Hong Kong I wouldn’t be sitting here, and I’m SO glad I went!

On Sunday I hugged Jane goodbye and moved into our hotel on Robinson Road in Mid-levels on Hong Kong Island. The Bishop Lei International Hotel turned out to be a great choice for us. The rooms are small but clean and well-outfitted with plenty of closet space. We had a suite and a corner room with great views of the harbor. And the price was very reasonable, especially considering the location.

Lee arrived from the US Sunday evening. After giving him a chance to clean up we headed to India Restaurant in TST. I was curious to see if it really was as good as we remembered it to be. Well no question, it definitely was. We haven’t found Indian food anywhere in Boston that can even remotely compare.

We ordered all our old favorites – chicken tikka, black dahl, barbequed potatoes (potatoes with cashews and raisins in a barbeque tomato sauce), shrimp curry and of course naan and roti. I ate way too much but oh it was good.

Monday morning it was time to go running on Bowen Road. I wasn’t used to trying to get there from Robinson Road and ended up going part of the way up the mountain before I finally ended up in the right place. There is just this piece of road where about 10 different roads meet and some of them start heading up the Peak and the rest meander around either to the east or west of the mountain. When we first moved here I called it the spaghetti roads and it still looks like a bunch of noodles. If you are on foot it’s even more confusing because the sidewalks go their own directions which don’t necessarily relate to what the roads are doing.

Once I finally got on Bowen though, it was great. It was like nothing had changed, even the weather. It wasn’t that hot, but it was hotter than what I had been running in in New England so it felt pretty sticky to me. Even on a Monday morning it was crowded with people, dogs and the occasional car too. It’s unlike any other place in the world I have ever run. Beneath my feet the buildings of Hong Kong rise to the sky and beyond them the harbor glistens in the morning sun. Above me the mountain, otherwise known as The Peak, towers covered in jungle plants and concrete. The concrete is there to keep the mountain from sliding down into the harbor which it has a tendency to do every once in a while.

Back at the hotel I got ready to meet Jane, Chris and Susan at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. Thanks Susan! This was a favorite AWA local tours destination so it was fun to return there for lunch with old friends. After lunch we checked out the Yacht Club’s shop where I bought Lee a polo shirt and myself some gloves for pulling up sheets when sailing.

Then it was time for a foot massage. O how I’ve missed having my feet pummeled expertly in this city! I don’t know why this activity hasn’t taken off in the US, but it probably has something to do with the salary disparities.

Once my feet were properly attended to I bid goodbye to the ladies and decided to do a little shopping in Causeway Bay. The little boutiques along Fashion Walk have almost all changed hands in the year and a half since I’ve been gone, including many of my favorite stores. I still wandered in and out, more to see what sorts of things were selling in Asia this fall. I can tell I’ve been gone awhile because many of the clothes look frilly and silly to me. It’s funny how my tastes change depending on where in the world I live!

Our dinner choice tonight was Chinese. We went to Hunan Garden in Exchange Square and invited the group of 3M people that were traveling with Lee to join us. It’s more fun to go to a Chinese restaurant with lots of people so you can try different things. Our dinner was great, except for one small exception. We ordered an eggplant with chili peppers, only when the dish came I thought the peppers were green beans! The first one I ate wasn’t spicy at all, but the second one just about took my head off. I was fairly incapacitated for several minutes. I like spicy food but that was ridiculous. I have to pay more attention to what I’m eating!

I chose Tuesday, my last day in Hong Kong, to climb The Peak. We used to do this all the time when we lived here. It was always strange to me that my fitness for running didn’t seem to convert very well to fitness for hiking up mountains. I wondered just how difficult this hike would be. Well, I guess marathon training DOES convert to hiking mountains. I didn’t have much trouble with the Peak at all, and although I wasn’t going very fast I could keep up a steady pace, only pausing occasionally to take a picture or two.

Our last meal in Hong Kong was at Nga Trang, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I concluded that the Vietnamese restaurant that we found in Lowell was indeed good, but Nga Trang was better. Their pomelo salad and their pho are just amazing.

Well I’m tired and my flight has still not arrived. And once it gets here I think there’s probably some question about whether it will be able to take off again. If I can get home tonight I will do it, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had to get a hotel.

Right then there was an announcement that my flight had been cancelled. I went up to the desk to see what my options were. It turned out that I could wait for another American flight, but the first one was the next day at 11:30am. My other option was to take a taxi to LaGuardia and get on a Delta flight. I decided to try to get home that night if at all possible. I didn’t have any clean clothes left anyway!

The taxi drive from JFK to LaGuardia was a hoot. The driver was from Haiti, and talkative. He told me that he had bought a house in Harlem and that the neighborhood was integrated (“there be white people on my street now and they just regular, we talk and say hi and all”) and very nice. He made me want to visit Harlem the next time I’m in New York.

He dropped me off at the Delta terminal, but it turned out that the flight I wanted was at ANOTHER terminal called the Marine Air Terminal. Fortunately a shuttle was just leaving for this terminal and I squeezed into the last available space. The shuttle dropped us off at a little old-fashioned-looking airport building. I joked as we walked through this terminal that I felt like I had just gone back in time around 30 years. As it turned out there was ANOTHER flight that was leaving in around 20 minutes and there was room for me on this flight! Yay! This was the first good news I’d had since arriving in the US.

This flight turned out to be a large commuter airplane with lots of empty seats. I had a whole row to myself. What joy to be able to put up my aching swollen feet! It was fast too, once we finished taxiing around the entire airport. I was finally back in Boston by around 9pm.

It’s nice to be back, in my own house with my sweet little dog. The leaves have indeed mostly fallen off the trees so I’m glad I took all those pictures before I left. I don’t think it’s going to be too long before winter is here. 

It’s hard to explain how happy this trip made me. I love where we live now and I’m very content with my life, but I no longer feel like I had to put Hong Kong away somewhere, far inside my heart. Now I feel like I’ll go back there, again and again, and each time there it will be, the same beautiful, crazy, amazing city. It’s waiting there for me whenever I’m ready to return.

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