A recent trip to Hong Kong was the perfect antidote to 9 months of relatively easy living in Australia. Not that being back home was a bore. It was more that when you’re constantly immersed in familiar sights, sounds and smells, your senses tend to take a break for a while. I guess you could say that essentially when you’re back home, your senses take a holiday. But that’s not unusual when you’ve travelled abroad and then return back to you comfort zone. While seeing friends and reacquainting yourself with the place you grew up in is nice, the flip side is that when you’re back in the bubble, it’s easy to forget that it is in fact, a bubble. And as hard as it is to imagine, once you do arrive back home, all those great memories and moments from overseas tend to feel more and more like a dream with each passing day.
The feeling of being sucked back into the monotony of life is weird when you stop to ruminate on it. On one hand it feels settling, as if that’s how life is meant to be. There is however also a deep restlessness, that borders on agitation. This yearning to get out into the world and tick a few boxes can be suppressed by distractions such as work, partying or general busyness, but it never really disappears. It just sits there smoldering until you give it the attention it deserves. To recognise this longing for a new adventure is the first step. The next step is to shovel some fuel into the furnace of your soul and book a ticket ASAP. There are not many things that put your life into perspective like an outbound flight to a new destination, which is exactly why Hong Kong ruled. I will miss bubble O'bills, home brew and watching the footy on a Sunday arvo though.
After locking down a departure date in April it was amazing how quickly the day to leave snuck up on us. And with the weather starting to irk on the cooler side, we’d probably timed it perfectly. With such a busy schedule before we left though, I think on the plane was the first opportunity I had to really let my mind wander over the realisation that I was going somewhere completely foreign, after maybe a wee bit too long on Sunnymede Farm. And after shuffling off the plane and onto the metro bound for Hong Kong city, it dawned on me that you nearly couldn’t be further removed from little Ol’ Gerringong.
A panorama shot that only captures about 20% of the entire Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong is a sensory kick to the face, with so much to gawk at in such a condensed amount of space. My first impression was that if they had built any more skyscrapers you’d probably never see the sun at street level. They actually litter the landscape for as far as the eye could see, from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and off towards the Chinese border.
Another feature that differed from my expectation is that for a buzzing metropolitan, Hong Kong isn’t even that filthy. I’d expected with so many people living side by side, and going off the Asian credo that every sidewalks a spittoon, there’d be more trash or pollution. This wasn’t the case, and even though every building looks somewhat like it’s covered in a layer of grime, the streets are quite clean, thanks to the hard work of the trolley pushing garbos that roam the city.
Not too shabby hey
Our first foray into the city was exciting, and reminded me why I love travelling so much. When everything is new you can’t help but be lead by your senses and not your mind. Chinese medicine stalls, open air fish markets, butchers and street vendors lined the sidewalk, with every new shop front or doorway giving your nose and eyes a glimpse into what merchants were selling. Most of the things I saw I could only speculate as to what they were, and while nearly everything looked borderline inedible to me, food such as intestines (see below photo), tripe and chicken or duck feet seemed popular. They don’t waste a thing when it comes to animals, which I found funny because they seem to see everything else as dispensable. Consumerism is alive and well in Hong Kong.
Beyond the food there was also the friendliness of the locals, who even though they seemed to always be going somewhere in a hurry, were more than happy to have a chat (in pretty good Engrish!). Because the island side of Hong Kong is so compact, it’s also pleasant knowing that you’re only ever 30 minutes from a beautiful walk through the countryside or stroll along a secluded beach. We sampled a couple of hikes both by ourselves and with some friends, and loved the fact that there was an alternative to the madness of city life only a short subway and bus trip away.
If you’re thinking of getting away for a week or so and really want to try something different then Hong Kong is an ideal place to visit. I used to be guilty of planning my trips around places that provided me with an opportunity to score a few waves. Sometimes though, it’s nice to change up the pace a little bit and just enjoy meandering around a foreign city for the sole purpose of taking it all in. If you buy into the whole notion of appreciating the now, somewhere like Hong Kong is perfect. Not only is it easy to get out of your head and allow yourself to be swept up in the local culture, but if you want a pint of Guinness you’re never too far away from an Irish or English pub. Or even a hooters if you’re so inclined.