[Wee Bit Scared] Turbulence. I wasn’t particularly wary of the shaking that caused my water glass to jive onto the –thankfully– empty seat beside me (oops). It was more about the 12 hour lay over in Honk Kong ahead of me, something only noticed 24 hours before in the middle of the barrage of “you are going to have so much fun,” “that is so exciting,” and “I would never be able to do that but good for you”. I also was admittedly a bit scared to be traveling by myself to a place of strangers: strangers who weren’t my age, didn’t share my interests, spoke broken English (if at all) and would perhaps not even like me. My friends were all going to college in fun, beautiful tucked away places in the US. And I, well, I wasn’t.
[So Happy Together] Hong Kong despite anything I remembered or could imagine has so much going for it. An island, the city is surrounded by greenery and even contains some within the urban city lines. The surrounding water is clean (unlike the memorable canals of Ireland) though admittedly smells a little funny. Everything is easy to understand and navigate from the Airport Express running every 24 minutes (not 20, 23 or 25) to the sign inside the shuttle stating which side is terminal one and terminal two. The whole city exists harmoniously and seemed to welcome me with stiff but nevertheless outreached arms.
[Miss-My-California-Sun Cold] After leaving the air-conditioned airport for the air-conditioned Airport Express (90 HKD for a same-day round trip) for the free air-conditioned hotel bus for East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, I ended up suiting up in my NorthFace and scarf: needless to say, it was cold (I hate being cold). I exited and headed off towards the river. You would think public transport or finding the Museum would be difficult, but it was only when I tried to legally cross the road with museum in site where I hit my first road block (literally). I ended up jumping over a 3 foot metal gate barrier, j-walking, and then sliding along a metal divider railing to the next nearest opening. After I had gone through the former shenanigans and reached the Museum, I saw a sign reading, “Please use Subway Underpass to cross Salisbury Road.” On the way back many hours later, I decided to go the less exciting path of the Subway. It was not only less fun, but it was also air-conditioned.
[Calm, Cool, Collected] I started my day with an hour of Tai Chi in the Honk Kong Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden overlooking the bay and the financial district. The free class is offered at 8 am Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday by the Honk Kong Tourist Board. So as you listen to the ever-smiling, little, Chinese lady yelp out instructions and the hum from the stringed instrumental accompaniment, you can enjoy shipping vessels skip over the water, view the neon blue Samsung sign transfigure to a unrecognizable ad, and watch as people shoot photos and videos, covetous of the opportunity (not knowing they too can join).
[Sizzling, Ouch, Burning Hot] I quickly understood the over air-condition sentiment as my Tai Chi class terminated and I began walking around underneath sun. It was hot. More hot it seemed than New York during the summer (but perhaps this was due to my backpack containing a computer, Ipad, 5 books, SLR, and other traveling pieces). I was plucking up the courage to ask someone for a food recommendation when I saw 30 Asians rush in what I thought was a museum, thinking this looked exciting, I decided to run up and follow. Luckily for my stomach, it was a dim sum and tea place that had specials starting then, 9 am, to 11 am. The place was a serenade (for which the restaurant gets its name) of steamy, delicious and perfectly flavored food. Yum. The white tea complimented the dim sum with its light, flowery taste. No one could understand me in the restaurant, which I merely took as a testament to its authenticity. 66 HKD for 2 dim sum dishes and tea.
Afterwords, back into the scorching sun for a walk along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, a Hollywood boulevard of sorts overlooking the bay. Recommendation: don’t do this at 11:30 am when it’s hot out, that is suicidal (and what I did).
[Intellectual Intrigue] I escaped the Honk Kong sun by making my way to the Museum of Art. The museum had two temporary galleries one of which was called Ink Art vs. Ink Art, which explored the use of calligraphy, ink and art in the past and modern day. Beautiful scrolls containing delicately written gibberish coated the walls alongside harsh lined, vivid colored pieces, one most notably of a frog. The simple nature of both the modern and ancient work complimented each another, and the main difference was the modern works employed more colors and techniques while ancient works focused more on the black and white written word. On the next floor, 10 foot by 1 foot tapestries with minimal words and beautiful pictures of bamboo, water, and hillsides engulfed the viewer. In some, you could play “Where’s Waldo” and attempt to find the ¼ inch by ¼ inch figure of two men canoeing or a man being chased by his horse. On the top floor, you could view a history of ceramics. As you strolled through, my favorite pieces were the ceramics of different gods guarding tombs. I couldn’t help but think their grimaces made them look they were thizzing and combat positions with fists turned out looked like dance moves. I kind of felt like I was at a rave.
[Non-intellectual + Non-approval] The art museum was a phenomenon (I am being pretty naan-challant) and since Wednesdays happened to be free admission day for museums, I decided to purchase a bookmark from the museum in order to support the institution. Excited to continue by trek in what seemed to be Honk Kong’s museum quarter, I next checked out the Space Museum. Over crowed with mediocre exhibits, the museum was hardly a stand out to any tourist though it’s hands on attractions and life-size dinosaurs seemed to draw the 13 and unders. I found myself noting as I walked through the museum how to make it more scientific and visually attractive to the Exploratorium-knowing viewer.
So the moral of the story is if you ever have a lay over for 12 hours in Hong Kong, don’t got much money, and don’t know what to do, make sure it’s a Wednesday.