Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Return to Hong Kong

I thought returning to Hong Kong would be more emotional for me than it is. It’s a funny feeling being back. I keep saying it’s almost like I never left, but that’s not exactly right. It feels very comfortable, though.

I was a little worried – would I remember how to ride the MTR? Would the crowded streets scare me like they did when we first moved here? Would I be able to find my way around? The answers are yes, no and emphatically yes!

I’m staying in Jane’s lovely apartment in Kowloon until tomorrow and then I’ll move over to a hotel in Mid-Levels, close to where we used to live. Its fun staying over here. Kowloon is more intensely Chinese and I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I am with Central, but I’ve been over here plenty of times. Just another new area of Hong Kong to figure out! I found a place to jog; I found the Starbucks…

Hong Kong hasn’t changed much. The streets are still filled with young girls wearing Asian fashions, old men and women wearing Chinese pants and jackets. Strange smells emerge as we pass noodle shops. We pass a pig’s head in the wet market, wriggling fish, vegetables whose names I forget. The sky is blue, but the distant hills are lost in a smoky haze. The air is soft and humid, cool until you walk around for awhile and then it starts to feel warm and sticky. Traffic zips by; horns blare for no reason; buses careen around corners, barely missing the pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk.

I’m almost over my jet lag already, which is good, since I only have 5 days here before I go home. Yesterday we walked around Central. We took the escalator up to SoHo and had a late breakfast, before popping into some of my favorite stores. I didn’t buy much, although it was fun to look; just a purse, which makes me laugh. How fitting to return to Hong Kong and buy a purse!

In the evening we braved the Friday night crowds on the MTR to go over to Pacific Place and eat at Grappa’s. The food was yummy and it was so nice to relax and drink some wine without worrying about who needed to be able to drive home safely!

This morning I went on a short jog around Jane’s neighborhood. I’m still slowly recovering from the marathon. Jogging in Hong Kong, even in an unfamiliar area, brought back such memories! Old ladies did Tai Chi in the public parks; other ladies did their strange arm-swinging exercises. Helpers walked dogs and here and there fellow runners jogged by in various states of fitness. I can’t wait to run on Bowen Road on Monday!

Later in the morning Jane and I walked over to the Jade market. My last jade bracelet had broken quite some time ago and I wanted to replace it. I had to ask Jane what the current prices were like so that I knew how much I should haggle. She said they had gone up some, and they certainly had! Venders were starting at $500 Hong Kong and more for a single bracelet, when they used to start at $120 and you could usually get them for $80 or less! At first I was really dismayed, but I kept walking around, looking for some bangles that I really liked, and a vender than wasn’t pricing then at a ridiculous amount.

Finally one lady had several bangles I liked, and she knew how to make a westerner feel like they weren’t being cheated too much. She started at $500 for one bracelet, and I rolled my eyes, but then she pulled me aside. “Don’t tell anyone. For you, special price - $250”. I told her that was still too much, but what if I bought two? Would she give me a better price? I picked out two bangles that I liked and told her I would take them both for $200. “Ah, how can I do that?” she said. “Real Jade!” Oh come on, I said smiling. This is the Jade market! “Okay, okay she said, $380 for two, okay?” I countered at $300 and she said yes. I knew it was still more than I should pay, but I didn’t care that much. It was still a bargain by US prices. Two nice “jade” bracelets (who knows if they are really jade or not, but they are the solid ones that the light shines through, so they’re good quality, whatever they are) for around $45 US. That was good enough for me.

Then Jane got a phone call. Susan, an old friend of ours whose husband manages the Hong Kong Convention Center, wanted to know if we would like to come over to Wan Chai where the convention center is located and go to the Mega Showr. We said sure! So we hopped on the MTR, grabbed a bite to eat and walked through the show. All kinds of venders were displaying crazy products for the home. Kitchenware, decorator items, artificial flowers, you name it! There was a lot of junk and I didn’t end up getting anything but Jane bought some knives. Just another one of those crazy things you end up doing in Hong Kong!

We took the Star Ferry back to TST from Wan Chai. The harbor was beautiful, but it’s very hazy today. Typhoon Megi bypassed the island yesterday and seems to have pushed the pollution down from China. Ah well, that’s part of Hong Kong too, although this particular part is something I don’t miss at all.

Tomorrow I’m having dim sum with friends before moving into the hotel. Lee arrives tomorrow evening. Stay tuned!

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